Do I need a wetsuit for snorkeling or swimming in Galapagos?
The very short answer: It is not ultimately necessary to wear a wetsuit when swimming or snorkeling in Galapagos, but for the most enjoyable experience we stongly recommend you use one.
The longer answer: Snorkeling is one of the top activities that passengers look for during a Galapagos Cruise, and rightfully so! The wildlife under water is as unafraid of humans as the wildlife on the islands themselves. You won't need much luck and you might find yourself swimming with sea turtles, schools of rays, sharks, dolphins or even endemic species such as the amazing Galapagos penguins, marine iguana or flightless cormorant. It would be a shame if you had to get out of the water then because you were too cold! So, should you use a Galapagos snorkeling wetsuit?
Galapagos Water Temperatures:
From late May/June to December, the Humboldt Current brings cold, nutrient-rich waters to the Galapagos Islands. This water (especially during La Nina conditions) is a lot cooler but also more bountiful, so you might be able to see more animals under water. A wet suit is highly recommended for snorkeling sessions during this season.
- Surface Water Temp. June – December: 70°F – 74°F (19°C - 23°C)
- Air Temp. Highs June – December: 75°F – 80°F (23°C - 26°C)
- Air Temp. Lows June – December: 66°F – 70°F (19°C - 21°C)
January through May is generally considered the warm season in Galapagos. Waters from the Panama Basin flow to Galapagos and bring along warmer temperatures, occasional rain and generally a bit more turbid waters. If you're used to swimming in a bit cooler waters you might not need a wetsuit during this season (although it does not hurt!)
- Surface Water Temp. January – May: 73°F – 78°F (22°C - 25°C)
- Air Temp. Highs January – May: 80°F – 87°F (25°C - 31°C)
- Air Temp. Lows January – May: 70°F – 76°F (21°C - 24°C)
Click here for more information about the weather of the Galapagos.
Inquire about the cost: If you're thinking about going on a Galapagos Cruise, please do inquire with our staff if the wetsuits on board are included or not. Some ships charge a small rental fee. In any case, please let us know your size so we can make sure to have a suit ready for you that fits you perfectly.
Gentlemen, shave the space between upper lip and nose! From our experience, waring a beard is usually not a problem when wearing a snorkeling mask. Masks will only start leaking water if hair gets under the lip that presses the mask against your face, meaning on your temples, under your nose and on your front. A common trick is to wet-shave the bit under your nose every day, the rest of your mustache can stay as it is.
Ask if the Galapagso Cruise Ship of your choice offers weight belts: The neoprene material in wet suits contains air and is therefore highly buoyant (floating). It is much harder to dive down when you are wearing a wet suit. If you're a good swimmer and are keen on diving down to explore cracks in the coral or to say hello to sleeping sharks, ask us for a weight belt.
Bring your own mask: Most Galapagos Cruise ships provide free mask, tube and fins (only a few budget cruises in Galapagos charge a small daily rental fee for this). If you want to avoid this fee or have a mask yourself that fits perfectly take it so you can enhance your underwater vision and be more comfortable in it! Read the full answer
Bring your own wetsuit: If you want to use a wet suit after or before your Galapagos Cruise, you could also consider bringing your own suit. A 3mm wet suit is enough and won't blow up your luggage uncecessarily (no need for 5mm). If you should decide to bring your our wet suits to Galapagos you could consider selling it off after your stay. We have heard that it is hard and expensive for dive shops to to purchase neopren suits from the mainland, so you might even do the locals a favor!
- Full Face Masks: In case you like full face masks, they're great! Some ships (please inquire) even offer them for free of for a small rent. Just be aware that those masks are made only for surface snorkeling, not for diving deep down. You'll feel immense pressure on your face because of the increased surface of the glass and will not be able to dive deeper than 1-2m.
Interested in Scuba Diving in Galapagos?
If you long to dive before or after any naturalist Galapagos Cruise, please inquire with our team. We can gladly help you organize a trip or find you a good diving school. Diving in Galapagos is highly recommended! If you're really serious about diving and have 50+ hours of experience (ideally in currents), then have a look at our Galapagos Diving Liveaboards - all visit the famous islands Darwin and Wolf which are widely considered to be two of the best spots in the entire world for diving!
Picture above: Snorkeling instruction on board the Samba in Galapagos. Note: The Wet Suits and Masks are on the floor, ready for the passengers to try on.