When you google “What to Wear in the Galapagos Islands,” this is the top ranking image.
But after spending one week in the Enchanted Islands of Ecuador, I’m here to report that khaki shorts, bucket hats and fanny packs are not the only acceptable forms of fashion. Ahead is my guide for what to wear on this bucket list trip.
There are two distinct seasons in Galapagos: garúa (wet season) from June to November, and the hot/dry season from December to May. Average temperatures range from the high 60’s/low 70’s in the wet season and 80’s in the hot season, although our guides told us it’s been getting way hotter than that.
The key to packing for the Galapagos Islands is to bring a variety of clothes for heat, rain and cool days. Mornings tend to be chilly, even in the hot season and if you are on a ship, the winds will pick up while you’re on the move. But as soon as those clouds break, the heat is intense.
Make a stop in Guayaquil or Santa Cruz and pick up some locally made ponchos. I got this one for about $20 USD! They are the perfect extra layer to throw on when exploring the islands and ideal for sunset cocktails on the Ecoventura MV Origin.
SPF 50 or higher sunscreen
You are literally cruising along the equator for much of your Galapagos trip. Even my Sicilian skin was starting to burn with SPF 50 sunscreen. Don’t be fooled by the cloud cover. You will still be exposed to powerful rays so re-apply your sunscreen often. For this trip I packed the eco-luxe size of Coola’s Guava Mango Sport SPF 50 and I nearly went through the whole thing in seven days.
The Galapagos garúa is a very fine mist that hangs over the higher elevations in the Galapagos Islands. It creates damp conditions, especially in the highlands of Santa Cruz where you will see dozens of giant tortoises. A lightweight windbreaker is all you’ll need to stay dry when you’re outside in the garúa. In my seven days in the Galapagos, we didn’t have any heavy rain.
If you’re cruising, you’ll have some “wet landings” ashore and some “dry landings,” so pack both sandals and sneakers. The hikes weren’t too rigorous so Converse or running sneakers will be enough. Also bring flip-flops and if you have super sensitive feet, aqua shoes as there is some sharp coral.
Ecoventura provided wetsuits and snorkel gear for their guests, but your hotel may not come equipped with them. Trust me, you’ll need a wetsuit for warmth if you are swimming in the Western islands where you’ll be met by the South Equatorial current, and probably some penguins too! How great is Cynthia Rowley’s gorgeous line of wetsuits?
While mochila bags are traditionally Colombian, they are found in Ecuador too and they make the perfect beach bag for your Galapagos trip. You can buy them sell them at the Mercado Artesanal in Guayaquil and I bought this one at the artisan market in Bogota, Colombia. I also recommend packing a waterproof backpack or dry bag for damp days.
Even after you slather your body in sunscreen you should still wear a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap on the days that you’ll be out during peak daytime hours. You see me wearing this hat a lot. It’s one of my favorites from Free People. It doesn’t get ruined when I pack it, and it blocks UV rays. You can also pick up a genuine Panama (toquilla) hat at the Guayaquil artisan market.
The MV Origin has an awesome little gym and a gorgeous sundeck with Gaiam mats for morning yoga. There’s nothing quite like waking up surrounded by palo santo trees and doing some vinyasa while you watch sea turtles and seals swim up to the ship.
When you’re not in your bathing suit, you’ll want to be in some comfy denim shorts, jeans, cotton tees and tanks. You should pack a couple of maxi dresses or dinner outfits too. You never know which night you’ll be invited to the captain’s table.
Other things to pack
A few extras to bring: insulated water bottle, binoculars, zoom lens, natural insect repellant and some books, although there is a library on the ship where you can read about Darwin and become an expert on Galapagos birding!