A Galapagos Packing List – Essential Items You Will Need

If you are visiting The Galapagos Islands, you may already know that this archipelago is unlike anywhere else in South America, or indeed, in the world. Situated over 600miles from mainland Ecuador, close to the Equator, The Galapagos Islands have their own unique climate and ecosystem. This makes packing for The Galapagos Islands slightly tricky as many people are expecting year round tropical weather and often pack the wrong things!

In this Galapagos packing list, we’ll cover everything you will need for a Galapagos Adventure be that an island hopping cruise or a land-based budget Galapagos trip.

We’ll also be talking about what the weather is like, what clothes you should wear and what photography equipment you’ll need to capture the beautiful Galapagos Islands in all their glory.

Not ready to start packing for the Galapagos? Then read these articles instead…

  • Galapagos Island Hopping Trips which won’t break the bank
  • Galapagos cruise with G Adventures – A review
  • The Galapagos on a Budget – A Complete Guide
  • The Galapagos Central Islands
  • The Galapagos Eastern islands
  • The Galapagos Southern Islands
  • A South America Packing List for Hot and Cold Climates

No time to read it now? No worries, you can pin it for later!

What you can expect from this article…

  • 1 Things to know about visiting the Galapagos Islands
  • 2 What is the weather like in the Galapagos?
    • 2.1 What to wear in the Galapagos
  • 3 Packing tips for the Galapagos
  • 4 Your Galapagos Packing List
    • 4.1 Swimming and snorkelling Galapagos Packing List
    • 4.2 Photography Gear for your Galapagos Packing List
    • 4.3 General Travel gear you will need on your Galapagos Packing List
    • 4.4 What clothes to pack for the Galapagos
    • 4.5 What shoes to pack for the Galapagos
    • 4.6 Toiletries to pack for The Galapagos
    • 4.7 Reading Material for your Galapagos packing list
    • 4.8 Travel Insurance
    • 4.9 Read Next – Other articles you may enjoy…

Things to know about visiting the Galapagos Islands

  • The Islands are spread out and there are 20 of them. Each with it’s own unique landscape and wildlife. You should try to visit as many as possible to experience everything The Galapagos has to offer.
  • There are three inhabited islands with ferries linking them. These are San Cristobal, Isabella and Santa Cruz.
  • Visiting The Galapagos islands on a budget is completely possible with a little careful planning.
  • Cruises in The Galapagos can be expensive but not always. Don’t immediately discount the idea that you can afford a budget Galapagos cruise too – it’s simply the best way to explore the Galapagos Islands.
  • If you visit Isabella and plan to stay there, take plenty of cash – there is no ATM on the island and many places only accept cash.
  • Drones are forbidden in the Galapagos because it is a National park so leave yours at home.

What is the weather like in the Galapagos?

The weather in the Galapagos Islands is variable throughout the year. It is hot and humid from January to April. May and June are warm but dry. It starts to get windier and cooler from July onwards.

No matter what time of year you visit, you always need to keep in mind how close to the equator you are. It may seem cool and overcast but the chances of burning are high. ALWAYS wear high factor sunscreen.

The water temperatures rise from January onwards and are at their best by May/ June time.

There is always the chance of rain in The Galapagos Islands no matter what time of year you visit. You should always pack a rain coat and warmer clothes for the evenings. Especially if you are on a Galapagos cruise – it can get chilly out on the water in the evenings.

What to wear in the Galapagos

With this is mind, you should always pack plenty of layers for visiting The Galapagos Islands. You will be in and out of the water constantly so bring plenty of swim wear.

You can then layer up over the top so you are ready for any weather – windy rainy days or gloriously sunny ones. Also, make sure you have some decent footwear and a waterproof jacket. Clothes which dry off quicker are preferable to things like jeans!

No one dresses up smart in The Galapagos so you may want to leave your high heels at home…

Read next: Travel essentials for long haul flights

Packing tips for the Galapagos

  • Pack layers for all weathers
  • Don’t overpack – you’ll likely spend most of your days in a wet suit anyway!
  • Bring plenty of sun screen as it can be expensive to get on the Galapagos Islands
  • Don’t scrimp on your photography gear – it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and you will want the epic photos to remember it by.
  • A backpack will be better than a suitcase, especially if you are taking a cruise. You will need to get it on and off the boats and this will be much easier with a backpack.
  • You may want to consider lining your backpack with a waterproof bag just in case you bag decides to take a dip in the ocean at any point! This is especially important for any of your photography gear when getting in and out of the panga boats
  • Roll your clothes instead of folding them to prevent creases. You may not have access to an iron in a hostel or on a Galapagos cruise!
  • If you plan to island hop, you will be packing and unpacking a few times. Make this a breeze by investing in some packing cubes. I’d be lost without them now! Also, great for cruises as you might not have a lot of cabin space so you’ll need to keep organised.

Your Galapagos Packing List

Swimming and snorkelling Galapagos Packing List

It may come as no surprise that you’ll be spending a LOT of time in the water on a Galapagos trip. The underwater world is just incredible. From colourful fish to preserved coral to hammerhead sharks, penguins and friendly sea lions, you will want to experience everything the Galapagos has to offer under water!

Here are a few things you should consider including in your Galapagos packing list for snorkelling…

  • Swimwear x 3. Many days will involve more than one snorkel or swim so pack plenty of swimwear so one set can be drying off whilst wearing another set.

  • A snorkel mask and fin. If you are doing a budget DIY trip then you will want to make the most of the free snorkel opportunities. You can save money by taking your own. If you are taking a Galapagos cruise, they will often (but not always) provide equipment. However, trying to find a snorkel set that fits well and doesn’t leak can be tricky – I wished I had taken my own with me. If you’re confused about which to get see this Scuba mask buying guide.
  • Flippers. If you are taking your own snorkel and mask then you might want to consider taking your own flippers too. That way you can be guaranteed to find a matching pair that fits and doesn’t rub blisters!
  • A rash vest. The UV rays are pretty strong so close to the Equator and you’ll be in the water a lot. Protect your skin by wearing a rash vest. It’ll also help to keep you warm in the cooler months when swimming in the sea can be a little nippy!

  • A wet suit. I travelled to The Galapagos in October and the sea was actually pretty cold. We were given short sleeved wet-suits on my cruise but I wished I could wear a longer wetsuit. If you’re visiting in the warmer months you probably won’t need one. If you’re there from July onwards and will be spending a lot of time in the water (especially on a dive trip) then it might be worth considering.

  • Reef safe sunscreen. Regular sunscreen can be really damaging to the coral so make sure you limit the damage by using reef safe sunscreen and help protect the underwater environment. Make sure it’s longlasting and water resistant like this one.
  • Anti-fog spray. Your eyes will thank you for this anti-fog spray when you are the only one with a snorkel mask which does not fog up.
  • Travel towel. You’ll need an anti-bacterial travel towel which will dry fast and stay smelling fresh all week. If it’s a sand-free towel, that will be extremely useful. I love these fun towels by Dock and Bay.

Photography Gear for your Galapagos Packing List

A camera is absolutely the number one most important thing on your Galapagos packing list! You will have so SO many opportunities to take amazing photos of these unique volcanic landscapes, stunning beaches with azure water and white sandy beaches and, of course, the curious wildlife which the Galapagos is famed for.

  • Camera. I used my Nikon D5500 which worked well and I was pleased with my pictures. (There’s now an updated D5600 available.) These days I’ve upgraded to a flashy full-frame Sony A7iii Mirrorless camera after years of lusting after them. I’m still learning about it but loving it so far. If you’re looking for an entry-level mirrorless camera then the Sony A6000 or A6500 are great little cameras. Check out this article if you need more help choosing a camera for travel.

  • A Telephoto lens and a landscape lens. You’ll need two types of lenses, a fairly wide landscape lens to capture those beautiful beaches and a telephoto lens with a good zoom length so you can take some awesome wildlife shots. I used a Nikon 55-300mm lens for most of my wildlife shots and an 18-140mm for landscape shots. Sony also has some great affordable options like the 70-300mm telephoto lens and the 16-50mm lens great for landscapes.

  • An underwater action camera. Since some of the most exciting wildlife experiences are underwater in the Galapagos Islands, you’ll want to capture it on camera. “I wish I took a waterproof camera” is the number one regret I hear from people who have travelled to The Galapagos. It doesn’t have to be expensive – you can get great action cameras for under $50 these days like this one. I’ve now upgrade and love my GoPro Hero 6  (the quality is fantastic) but if you’re only getting it for this one holiday then stick with a budget one – you’ll still get some great photos and video footage!

  • A floating action camera pole/handle. I totally regretted not having a floating, extendable action camera pole. I could have got some amazing footage of the sea lions but I was reluctant to get quite as close whilst holding my camera in my hand!
  • A Polariser. These filters are pretty much constantly screwed onto any of my lenses. When you turn the polariser filter slightly, it cuts out reflections hence boosting saturation and preventing ‘blown out’ skies. Hence you’ll be able to capture the bright azure ocean and deep blue skies in your beach photos.
  • Waterproof cover. I’d recommend a waterproof cover for both your phone and your regular camera. It’ll help protect it if you get rain but also if you accidentally drop your camera whilst in the panga boats!

Read Next…

How to make your wildlife photography awesome

How to take Instagram-worthy landscape photos

The best camera lenses for travel as voted by travel bloggers

The best cameras for travel as voted by travel bloggers.

General Travel gear you will need on your Galapagos Packing List

  • A Plug Adapter. The Galapagos and the rest of Ecuador use a 2 flat pin plug as is also commonly used in the USA. However, I always carry a worldwide adapter so I know I’ll be fine in any country I visit. Plus I can charge a few things at once with the USB ports.
  • Ipad or laptop or external hard drive. It doesn’t matter which you choose but you’ll need some way of storing all your millions and zillions of Galapagos photos. Remember to take an SD card converter too. Read my guide for the best laptops for travel bloggers.

  • Binoculars. Whilst you’ll see a lot of wildlife up close, if you are looking for certain birds, you may want to consider a pair of lightweight travel binoculars for your trip to the Galapagos Islands.
  • A Kindle. Perfect for evenings on your cruise boat or for reading whilst doing a spot of sunbathing when you are travelling between destinations. Sailing holidays are one of the few times when I can actually relax and enjoy reading. The latest Kindles are now waterproof too so you can read without worrying about splashes.

  • A Travel Journal. A trip to The Galapagos Islands is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so you will want to document the trip somehow. Writing in a travel journal is a great way of relaxing and reflecting on your day.

  • A Pack of cards. Playing cards is a great way to make some new friends in your hostel or on a Galapagos cruise. We spent many an evening playing cards on my Galapagos cruise. It doesn’t always have to be traditional card games, there are plenty of fun alternatives out there such as ‘What do you meme?‘ ‘Cards against adulting,’ ‘unstable unicorns,’ and ‘cards against humanity.’

  • A Dry Bag. This is super important for your Galapagos packing list! When you are transferring from your boat to the beach, you will travel by a panga boat. There’s a lot of spray and you will get wet. You’ll also have to hop off the boat a few feet from the dry sand so there’s a risk you’ll drop your belongings in the sea. Protect them with a dry bag! So so important. Try and get a floating one too in case you drop it in deep water.

  • Water to go bottle.  This clever water bottle filters the water as you drink making tap water safe for consumption in The Galapagos. It’s said you can drink water straight from the Ganges in this bottle and it’s great for the environment. You can get a discount by using the code GLOBETROTTERGP at the checkout. Get yours here.
  • A clothesline. You’ll be in and out of the water all day so you’ll need a travel clothesline to dry your wet clothes each day.
  • A carabiner. This will come in useful if you go kayaking as you can secure your dry bag with all your belongings to your kayak with a carabiner.
  • Earplugs. Usually, you will be paired up with a roomie for your Galapagos cruise unless you are travelling with someone. They may be a snorer so take some noise cancelling earplugs just in case!

What clothes to pack for the Galapagos

The following Galapagos clothing list is based upon 1 week in the Galapagos Islands – you may need to adapt as necessary for your trip duration.

  • 3-4 T shirts – if possible choose quick dry material.

  • A Beach dress. A beach dress is great for throwing on over a bikini in the day time or for dressing up a bit for dinner at night. When you’re wearing practical clothes all day, it’s nice to have something a bit more feminine with you too. I’m absolutely in love with this dress.

  • Jeans x 1. Jeans might not be so practical in the daytime but I loved putting mine on in the evenings when it was a lot cooler. I also always wear jeans on flights as some planes get really cold.
  • Quick dry active leggings x 2. I live in leggings when I travel. Active leggings are designed to keep you warm in the cold and keep you cool in warmer weather so they are great for changeable climates. They also dry quick and you can get some pretty ones which can jazz up your otherwise plain active quick dry t-shirts.

  • Shorts x 1-2. In the hottest months, you may want to pack 2 pairs and ditch 1 of the pairs of leggings as you will no doubt live in your shorts. Stick to quick dry shorts where you can as again, they’ll be getting wet on the panga…
  • PJs x 1. Remember you’ll likely be sharing a cabin, possibly with a stranger so pack something to sleep in!
  • Lightweight cardi or long sleeved jumper. You’ll need something to throw on over your t-shirt or beach dress when it gets cooler in the evening. Try and get something in a neutral colour so it’ll go with all of your outfits.
  • 1 warmer jumper. Take one warmer jumper for colder evenings at sea. Especially in the cooler months from July onwards. I was surprised by how cool it could be in the evenings even though we were so close to the equator.
  • Waterproof jacket. As I’ve mentioned before, it can get cool and it can rain in the Galapagos islands. Pack a lightweight raincoat for days like this. I have this Patagonia jacket.

  • A sunhat. This goes without saying really – you are after all going to be close to the Equator.
  • UV safe sunglasses. Make sure you wear quality sunglasses with decent UV protection to protect your eyes from the harsh rays.
  • Underwear x 7
  • Bras 1-2 x (you’ll be wearing swim wear most days)
  • Socks x 2-3. You’ll be living in beach shoes so you’ll only need a few pairs of socks for any hikes you take.
  • A neck buff. This will help keep the back of your neck protected from the sun on a panga ride. Hats might blow off in the wind so a neck buff will come in handy instead.

What shoes to pack for the Galapagos

  • Water shoes. You’ll be jumping in and out of pangas on the beach then going for nature walks along rocky paths. Flip-flops won’t cut it and hiking boots will get wet. Beach shoes or a hiking sandal are going to be your best bet.

  • Trainers or hiking boots. If you’ll be doing any more serious hiking on your trip then take some good quality trainers or boots with you. I use Salomon boots which are incredible. I usually get so many blisters but not a single one with my Salomons and they have built-in arch support which is great for my flat feet.
  • Flip flops. If staying in hostels these can be handy for showering. You won’t need them on the boat as most boats have a no-shoe policy to protect the ship deck.

Toiletries to pack for The Galapagos

Try to keep your toiletries to a minimum. You’ll be in and out of the ocean so you won’t need much, if any, make-up. Though I still like to take a bit of mascara for the evenings.

  • Sea sickness medications. Most of the time you won’t need these but have some sea sickness meds just in case you get a rough night at sea. Seasickness acupuncture bands can also be effective.
  • Sunscreen. And lot’s of it. As we mentioned before, make sure it’s water resistant and reef-safe.
  • A basic first aid kit. All ships should have a basic first aid kit but it may be worth having a few supplies yourself, particularly medications. I always take Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Loperamide anti-diarrhoea medication and antihistamines whenever I travel.
  • Biodegradable soap. If you are travelling for more than 5 days, you may wish to do a little clothes washing along the way. The easiest way is to do small amounts in the sink with some biodegradable soap.
  • Silicone containers. Help save the environment by reducing your plastic use. These silicone squeezy travel-sized bottles are great for your shampoo, conditioner and shower gel.

  • UV lip balm. Many people forget to protect their lips from sunburn but actually, your lips are really sensitive and need protecting just as much.
  • After sun. Let’s face it, you are near the equator, even if you are really careful, you’re likely to miss a patch somewhere and get burnt. So make sure you have some aloe-vera based after sun to ease the pain.
  • Leave in conditioner. All that sea salt and sun won’t be kind to your hair so I recommend taking a good leave in conditioner to use after showering. You may also want to consider a keratin blow dry before travelling – my favourite travel hair solution.

Reading Material for your Galapagos packing list

The following books might be a worthy addition to your reading material for your Galapagos trip.

  • A Galapagos Travel Guide
  • The Rough Guide to Ecuador and The Galapagos
  • Wildlife Photography: Proven Techniques for Capturing Stunning Digital Images
  • Galapagos National Geographic Adventure Map
  • Wildlife of The Galapagos
  • Galapagos – Islands born of fire

Travel Insurance

Make sure you don’t forget about travel insurance. It will need to cover you for adventure activities like kayaking, snorkelling and diving. Nomad’s offer great adventure travel insurance at very reasonable prices. If you have a medical problem and find it hard to get affordable travel insurance then check out Travel Insurance 4 Medical.

Read Next – Other articles you may enjoy…

  • Galapagos Island Hopping Trips which won’t break the bank
  • Galapagos cruise with G Adventures – A review
  • The Galapagos on a Budget – A Complete Guide
  • The Galapagos Central Islands
  • The Galapagos Eastern islands
  • The Galapagos Southern Islands
  • A South America Packing List for Hot and Cold Climates

I hope you feel better prepared now for your big trip with this Galapagos Packing list. But ultimately, as long as you have your swimming cossie, a decent camera and a sense of adventure, you can’t go far wrong…

Is there anything I’ve missed? Please tell me in the comments below!

I travelled to the Galapagos with G Adventures and had the most amazing trip – make sure you read my review.

Click here to see the G Adventures trip I took

In the meantime, here are some pretty pins for your Pinterest boards…

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