December is the transition month on the Galápagos Islands between the dry season and the warmer wet season. The air starts getting warmer, with temperatures rising to 80 °F, and the water is warm, with temperatures around 73 °F. It is a great month to visit the islands as the Guarúa season has come to an end and the nights become warmer as well. You can expect barely any rain and not too much heat and humidity.
Due to this perfect balance, the Galápagos Islands are perfect for enjoying a wide variety of activities, such as snorkeling, hiking, diving, swimming, and sports adventures. You might experience a lot of different weather days, which is great for water-based activities one day and land-based ones the next. The skies become clearer, which is great for sunbathing on the boat deck and enjoying quality beach time.
Crowds & Costs
December starts the second peak season on the Galápagos Islands and tends to get busy across the different islands. With the Christmas holidays taking place, you can expect a lot more tourism than in the previous months. That means it gets quite a lot more expensive as well, so make sure to book your flight and hotel several months in advance. You should also book any tours, especially water-based tours, and cruises beforehand since the demand is much higher during the month. Overall, spending the Christmas time in on the islands, amongst active December wildlife and nature, is a one of a kind experience.
Where to Go
One of the December highlights on the Galápagos Islands is the hatching giant tortoise eggs, and you have a good chance of seeing baby tortoises on Isabela Island. Alternately, head to Española Island to see young waved albatross chicks gaining their wing feathers and preparing for takeoff on. It is the last month of the year to see the waved albatrosses before they fly off.
Get ready to see a lot of Galápagos green sea turtles in December, as they are highly active during the month. It is now that they begin mating, and you can spot many of them while snorkeling and diving in the waters. Some of the best places to see them are around Isabela and Fernandina Island.
Take a trip to Tortuga Bay, named for the black turtles that nest throughout the white sand beach. It is known as one of the most beautiful beaches on the Galápagos Islands, with calm turquoise waters protected by a coral reef. You will find marine iguanas here, and during December's mating season, they start showing bright colors to attract mates.
What to Do
In December, you can enjoy swimming with sea lions, watching an abundance of Galápagos tortoise eggs and hatchlings, and snorkeling among sea turtles in clear waters. Seeing the Galápagos green sea turtles and the giant tortoise hatchling is one of the most exciting things to do in December.
It is also a great time to take a cruise and visit several islands, where you can enjoy relaxing beach time, sunbathing, hiking, and scuba diving. As the wet season begins, the Galápagos transform into green land as plants and flowers start to bloom, and hills and mountains come to life with vibrant green hues. It is one of the best months for photography, with abundant wildlife, green nature, sandy beaches, and crystal clear blue waters.
Hiking is especially great this time of year. Visit La Lobería on San Cristobál Island—a coral and sand beach teeming with Galápagos sea lions. The national park protects the vast sea lion community residing on La Lobería, and you can usually spot a dominant male and about 30 females, along with adorable sea lion pups that create the harem.
Events in December
Christmas Eve (December 24). Christmas is celebrated all over Ecuador, including the Galápagos Islands, and it is one of the most celebrated holidays. Cities become decorated with the traditional lights and Christmas trees, and it creates a busy time on the islands.
New Year's Eve (December 31). Ecuador has a unique tradition on New Year's Eve. Families make or buy life-size rag or paper dolls, and burn them on the streets at midnight. The doll represents the year's ending and a known personality of the country, often the president. Before burning the doll, men dress up as widowers, collecting donations from passing cars. The donations are then used to finance the New Year's Eve party, which is organized by several neighborhoods.
Traveling to the Galápagos Islands in December? Check out these great itineraries.
Galápagos Cruise: Wildlife Watching, Snorkeling & Hiking - 11 Days. This 11-day cruise is a perfect excursion for those wanting to maximize their time on the Galápagos Islands. You'll experience around a dozen islands, although some of these are quite small, such as Chinese Hat and Bartolome. It also includes some lesser-known sights and activities, such as the unusual Rábida Island, which has a Mars-like rocky surface.
Land-Based Adventure Tour - 10 Days. Experience wildlife, culture, and a unique ecosystem of the archipelago as you see sights by bike, by foot, and in the water. This extraordinary adventure includes snorkeling with sea lions, tropical fish, and beautiful manta rays.