Snorkeling in the Galapagos is one of the most breathtaking experiences you'll ever have. The huge variety of marine species and crystal clear waters makes snorkelling here simply unmissable.
Whether you're taking a cruise, a day boat trip, or a land-based holiday, snorkelling should be at the top of your list of things to do here. Because the wildlife is so unafraid of humans, you'll have epic underwater encounters with seals, iguanas, sea turtles and sharks!
Choosing the the best spot to snorkel in the Galapagos can be difficult. The archipelago covers a large area and there are plenty of islands and underwater landscapes to choose from. To help you out, we have written this guide on Galapagos snorkeling.
Although you'll have great snorkelling experiences on day trips and land-based trips, you'll need to take a live-aboard cruise to experience the full variety of sites! See below.
Below we provide more detailed information and facts on the most commonly asked questions regarding Galapagos snorkeling. We also provide our top 10 list of best snorkeling spots in the Galapagos.
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Because of its location on the Equator, there is no bad time of year to visit the Galapagos. However, the warm and rainy season from December to May is the better time for snorkeling in the Galapagos.
The warm season offers warmer water temperatures (20-25°C) and better visibility. Thanks to the strong currents, nutrients are washed into the Galapagos during the cold (dry) season which reduce visibility. Scuba divers often prefer this time though as it draws in larger marine species such as whale sharks and humpbacks.
Don't be put off by the rain in the warm season. Rain showers only come in short, sharp bursts that won't ruin your Galapagos snorkeling adventure. Remember, always follow your guides instructions as currents can often get quite strong in certain places.
All live-aboard cruise in the Galapagos offer daily snorkeling trips at no extra cost. You'll also get guided walks and, depending on the boat you choose, daily zodiac trips included.
All snorkeling equipment is provided for by your operator. This includes wetsuit, fins, mask, and snorkel. If you have your own equipment then your are welcome to bring it.
Most snorkeling in the Galapagos takes place in very safe areas with limited currents. However, once or twice you will be given the opportunity to swim in stronger current areas. This is completely up to you depending on your confidence levels. Your boat will always be near by in case you wan to get out of the water early.
If you plan on taking a day trip to Los Tuneles or North Seymour, then you should expect to pay between $50-125 depending on the boat, food quality, and guide experience.
As noted above, all cruise itineraries in the Galapagos include daily snorkeling trips as standard. However, if you have a particular snorkeling site that you wish to swim, you will need to make sure that your cruise itinerary visits that site.
Galapagos cruise itineraries are generally separated into compass regions; north, south, east, and west. Occasionally on longer itineraries you may visit several regions. For instance, if you wanted to snorkel at Kicker Rock, you would generally need an Eastern Galapagos itinerary. If you wanted to snorkel at Devil's Crown you would need a Southern Galapagos itinerary.
There are several sites mentioned below that cannot be snorkeled on a cruise. Los Tuneles for example can only be snorkeled as part of a day trip to Isabela island.
For a detailed page on choosing the best Galapagos cruise itinerary, please click here.
Because there is no guarantee when it comes to wildlife, weather, and water visibility, the below list of top Galapagos snorkeling spots is in no particular order.
If pushed to say what is the 'best' Galapagos snorkelling site, then Devil's Crown and Kicker Rock would be at the top of the list.
For people staying in Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island, a day trip to Los Tuneles is a fantastic option. This snorkelling site can only be reached by a day trip and cruise goers will have to add this to their itinerary afterwards should they wish to snorkel here.
As the name suggests, Los Tuneles is a warren of rock formations that look like open-topped tunnels. These tunnels offer crystal-clear water, rock arches, and a wide array of species including rays, sea horses, reef sharks, sea turtles, penguins, marine iguanas, and much more.
The rocky shore provides a fabulous sanctuary for blue-footed boobies, crabs and iguanas.
Lying off the Coast of San Cristobal Island, Kicker Rock is named for the resemblance the rock formation has to a shoe or boot. Kicker Rock can either be visited as part of a cruise or single day trip. Check your cruise itinerary carefully though as not all cruises actually snorkel here!
The steep rocks provide deep channels that are perfect for wildlife watching. The area is a haven for sharks including hammerheads and Galapagos sharks. You'll also see plenty of reef fish, rays, iguanas, sea turtles, and sea lions.
An eroded volcano crater, Devil's Crown gets it's name from the crown shaped crater that snorkelers swim in. The crater acts as a buffer, creating a coral reef haven of reef fish, reef sharks, large manta rays, and sea turtles.
The beautiful coral and crystal waters make the perfect backdrop for seeing these wonderful creatures. Once again, check your cruise itinerary to make sure you actually atop here to snorkel. The currents can be quite strong, so you need to be aware of this prior to entering the water. Your boat will stay close though in case of any worries.
Pinacle Rock is one of the most photographed locations in the Galapagos. The tall rock juts out of the sea on Bartolome Island, creating a dramatic landscape scene.
Below the waters though, the landscape is just as dramatic with towering rock formations, arches and secret passages. This is also one of the best spots to see penguins! There is also a colony of sea lions here that take to the water frequently to hunt. Look out for schools of fish and reef sharks also.
North Seymour is one of the most popular snorkelling sites in the Galapagos. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the current is weak, making it ideal for beginners. Secondly, the area is quite shallow and the crystal waters make it incredibly beautiful with great visibility.
The volcanic landscape is home to an incredible variety of reef fish including king angelfish, hogfish, parrotfish, box fish, and plenty more. You'll also spot sea turtles, reef sharks, sea lions, and rays. On the Northern side of the flat island there is some great steeped rock formations that lead down to a sandy bottom.
Named after the British Monarch's visit to this area many years ago, Prince Phillip Steps is potentially the best spot in the Galapagos to see coral fish. It's also one of the few snorkelling locations in the Galapagos that is better seen in the cold season when the nutrient-rich water attracts large amount of fish.
The Steps are part of a half-submerged volcanic crater that forms a deep section of water. Fish commonly seen here include angelfish, parrotfish, unicornfish, and hogfish, along with schools of perch, surgeonfish, and butterfly fish. Hammerhead sharks are frequently seen on the other side of the island.
Located just off San Cristobal Island, Lobos Island is a protected cove that offers calm waters, sandy bottom and tons of sea lions. People only come here to swim with these beautiful creatures. You can visit Lobos Inlet either as part of a cruise or day trip to the island.
Get ready to play with the seals! They frequently sneak up behind you, chew on your fins, blow bubbles in your face and sprint at you full speed before making a sharp U-Turn. This makes for great photo and video opportunities and the kids absolutely love it.
Located on the west side of Isabela Island, The two aquamarine coves of Punta Vicente Roca offer an incredible variety of marine creatures. Everything from reef sharks and sea lions, to mola mola and whale sharks have been spotted here. Even the rare Port Jackson shark is spotted here occasionally!
The volcanic landscape with it's green reed bed is the perfect place to spot sea horses, sea turtles, and marine iguanas. There are also plenty of fish species seen here and Galapagos penguins that swim in circles around you.
If you want to see a wide variety of marine species, then Tintoreras is probably the spot for you! Known as the 'mini Galapagos' thanks to its small size and mega biodiversity seen here. Tintoreras offers everything from sea turtles and rays, to penguins, iguanas and sea lions. Standing on the shoreline you'll also see plenty of cute Blue-footed Boobies!
The tiny inlets are also the breeding ground and nursery for white-tipped reef sharks. You'll see lots of these beauties in all vary sizes! Tintoreras can either be visited as part of a cruise or day trip.
If you're staying in Puerto Ayora, Las Grietas is the perfect place to snorkel. Located just 20 minutes walk from the town, Las Grietas is a shallow volcanic depression. Because the area is relatively protected, the currents are not strong here, making the water visibility excellent.
Schools of salema fish are common here, as are parrotfish. You may even spot the odd sea lion or two. Because you're close to town, we suggest heading to Las Grietas earlier in the day before the crowds start gathering!
If you have any queries or questions regarding snorkeling in the Galapagos, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below.
Thank you and happy travels!
Expedition Cruise Team
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