Snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands

No Galapagos vacation is complete without some quality time spent snorkeling in one of the world’s most vibrant marine sanctuaries. On par with the other magnificent turquoise snorkeling destinations of the world, the Galapagos promises travelers an underwater world of discovery – from elaborate coral structures to curious fish to fascinating submarine geology and even plenty of sharks and rays!

How to Prepare for Snorkeling in the Galapagos

  • Relax – you’ll always be accompanied by trained instructors.
  • Practice before you leave, by putting flippers and a snorkel on and swimming around a local pool.
  • Keep a safe distance from the fish- in your nightly briefings your guide will tell you which animals you’ll likely see the next day when snorkeling, so make sure to keep your distance from any of the more dangerous fish.
  • Buy a waterproof camera or camera casing so you can capture the memories underwater.

Where to Snorkel

Most cruises feature snorkeling at least once every day, and if the boat is anchored, you can always request a snorkel from the crew so that you can explore around the boat independently.

Most of the snorkeling sites are accessible only via dinghy – you’ll motor right up to the spot and push off the side backwards into the water! Don’t worry – you’ll have time to practice in gentle water towards the beginning of your trip. There are also a few beaches that are great for snorkeling, so after your hike, you can cool off in the water and snorkel!

Here’s a list of the best snorkeling sites in the Galapagos and what you might see:

Fernandina Island

  • Punta Espinosa – Sea lions, Marine iguanas, Sea turtles, Penguins, Flightless cormorant, Dolphins, Humpback and Orca whales (in season).

Isabela Island

  • Tagus Cove- Floor of green algae, Sea turtles, Marine iguanas, Penguins, Flightless cormorant, Seahorses, Port Jackson shark, rockfish
  • Punta Vicente Roca- Moonfish, Frogfish, Seahorses, Hinge beak prawns, Red-lipped batfish, Sea turtles, Sea lions
  • Los Tuneles- Interesting submarine rock formations, Penguins, Sea turtles, Blue-footed boobies, Rays, Tropical fish, Sea lions, White-tipped reef sharks, Seahorses, Sally Lightfoot crabs

Genovesa Island

  • Prince Philip’s Steps- Manta rays, Hammerhead sharks, Tropical fish, Angelfish, Parrotfish, Hogfish, Unicorn fish, Surgeonfish, Butterfly fish, Perch

Floreana Island

  • Devil’s Crown – Coral reef, Tropical fish, Various sharks, Manta rays, Sea turtles, Blue-footed boobies, Red-footed boobies, Pelicans, Moray eels, Pencil sea urchins, Scorpion fish, Yellow tailed grunts, Amberjacks, Sea lions

Bartholomew Island

  • Pinnacle Rock – Penguins, Tropical fish, White-tipped reef shark, Sea lions

Santiago Island

  • James Bay – (Shore access) California sea lions & fur seals, Sea turtles, Penguins, Spotted & Golden rays

North Seymour Island – White-tipped reef sharks, King angelfish, Damselfish, Hogfish, Parrotfish, Black-blotched rays, Box fish, Sea lions

San Cristobal

  • Isla Lobos – One of the best spots to snorkel with sea lion colonies
  • Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock) – White tipped reef sharks, Sea turtles, Rays, Sea lions, Hammerhead sharks

Chinese Hat Islet (from Santa Cruz) – Sea turtles, Sea lions & their pups, White tipped reef sharks, Penguins

Espanola Island

  • Gardner Bay – Sea lions, Parrot fish, White tipped reef sharks, Stingrays, Sea turtles

Best Time to Go Snorkeling in the Galapagos

If your goal is to see the most marine species, you should plan your trip for the Galapagos dry season, from June to December. Note that during this time, water temperatures are generally a bit colder, around 22°C (72°F), which might be uncomfortable for long periods of time without a wetsuit. If you’re hoping to enjoy warmer water temperatures, plan a trip for January to May, when the water is around 25°C (77°F). You might not see as much marine life as if you travel during the dry season, but you’ll still see plenty!

Are there diving options?

The Galapagos Islands has some of the world’s best SCUBA diving, but in order to do so, you must be on a special liveaboard diving trip. Regular cruises do not offer diving opportunities. Since liveaboards tend to focus almost exclusively on diving, if you’d also like to include stops at some of the major visitor sites while you’re in the Galapagos, consider combining your liveaboard with a land-based extension tour or a short 4-day/ 3-night cruise.