The Ultimate Galapagos Packing List: 50 Essential Items

Sea Lion on Beach

Last updated on February 17th, 2024 at 07:44 pm

Ah the Galapagos, a magical archipelago of islands located off of Ecuador’s coast that is home to unique wildlife and landscape. It was once a pipe dream to visit, but thankfully, I took the opportunity to spend 10 days on the islands during my two months of living in Quito. It was the trip of a lifetime! This comprehensive Galapagos packing list details everything that I packed for my 10 day DIY trip around the Galapagos Islands. 

Before we get to the essential items to include on your packing list, let’s first discuss the timing of visits and the weather as this may dictate whether or not to pack certain items.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

When to Visit the Galapagos

As the Galapagos Islands are located near the equator, the weather is pretty steady throughout the year making it an awesome year-round destination. However, there are two main seasons the islands experience: the warm, wet season and the cool, dry season.

Warm, Wet Season (December to May): This period is characterized by higher temperatures and occasional rainfall. Average temperatures range from 77°F to 88°F (25°C to 31°C), creating a warm and tropical atmosphere. Although there may be some light rain, it is an excellent time for underwater activities such as snorkeling and diving when the waters are warmer.

Cool, Dry Season (June to November): During this season, temperatures are cooler, ranging from 70°F to 82°F (21°C to 28°C). The air is drier, and the sea is cooler, providing optimal conditions for land-based activities like hiking and exploring the diverse landscapes. The cooler ocean temperatures also attract marine life, making it an excellent time for wildlife enthusiasts.

The most popular time to visit is during the warm and rainy season. However, I spent 10 days there in January and it didn’t rain once! That being said, if you do visit in the rainy season – plan for rain and if it doesn’t rain you’re lucky!

Sun Safety

Another weather concern to note is the strong equatorial sun. Thanks to the Islands’ location near the Equator the sun is quite strong. Combine that with being out in the sun and in the water all day long, sun protection was my number one concern when visiting the Galapagos. 

I kept in mind that any type of sunscreen I put on my skin would end up affecting the water and animals I came to visit, so I did my best to use reef-safe sunscreen and wear clothing that would decrease my use of sunscreen.

Galapagos Packing List
Roxy board shorts, rash guard, hat, buff and Nikes for a walk to Las Grietas

The Ultimate Galapagos Packing List

If you’re doing more than the Galapagos while in Ecuador, you likely have a bigger backpack or suitcase. Leave what you can at your hostel or hotel in Quito and only take what you need. For example, I left two packing cubes filled with things I didn’t need for the Galapagos but would need later for Machu Picchu!

Galapagos Packing List: Travel Documents

There is a fair bit of documentation, and money, required for visiting the Galapagos. Make sure to read my post about the practical tips you need to know to plan your trip to the Galapagos Islands

Passport – A passport is required upon entering the Galapagos and the majority of tour companies will ask for a photo of your passport, or at least the number. Take a photo of it so you have it readily available to provide tour companies while leaving your actual passport safely in your hotel room. 

Visas – A visa, or transit card, is required for entry to the Galapagos. You’ll purchase this upon departing the airport in Guayaquil or Quito. The transit card costs $20 and is cash only.

National Park Entry Fee: When you arrive in the Galapagos Islands, there is a $100 cash-only National Park entrance fee. You’ll pay for this when you arrive in either Santa Cruz or San Cristóbal.

Cash – Cash is king on the Galapagos Islands. There are only ATMs on Santa Cruz Island and San Cristóbal, but Isla Isabela and the other remote islands do not have ATMs. Tour companies typically only take cash or charge a hefty fee for credit card use. Additionally, make sure to have the appropriate amount to tip your tour guides.

The currency on the Galapagos Islands, and Ecuador as a whole, is USD.

Travel Insurance: As you’ll be spending quite a bit of time doing outdoor activities and coming close to wildlife, make sure you’ve purchased travel insurance. In most cases, you won’t have to use it, but if you do, make sure to have the policy number on hand. 

I use World Nomads or Safety Wing for my travel insurance needs.

Boat in Galapagos
Protect your skin from the Galapagos sun

Galapagos Packing List: Clothing

When you’re planning out your clothing for the Galapagos make sure you have the appropriate outfits for the activities on your itinerary. Also, ensure that you choose breathable, lightweight, moisture-wicking, and UV-protectant clothing whenever possible.

If you’re wondering what to wear in the evenings, casual clothing is perfectly acceptable in town and for dinners. 

Swimsuit: Most Galapagos itineraries include amazing water activities. Pack at least two swimsuits so that you can wear one while the other dries. This way each day you can put on a dry swimsuit.

Board Shorts: A pair of black board shorts are perfect for long walks to Tortuga Bay and to wear while snorkeling to protect your legs from the strong sun. I packed this pair of old Roxy board shorts that I wore almost every day! 

Rash Guard: A long-sleeved rash guard with UV protection is an absolute necessity for your trip to the Galapagos Islands. A long-sleeved shirt will provide added protection from the sun. They’re lightweight enough to wear while walking around the islands and protect your back while snorkeling at Los Tuneles!

Dress: A lightweight dress or jumpsuit is a perfect swimsuit cover-up or to wear out for dinner.

Tank Tops & T-Shirts: Pack 2-3 tank tops and t-shirts. 1-2 of them should be suitable for hiking or a cover-up, while the third can be a bit nicer to wear to dinner. You can always do a bit of sink laundry if they get particularly stinky during your visit. 

Shorts: Pack two pairs of shorts, one for hiking and activities, the other a pair of jean shorts to wear around town. 

Jeans/Long Pants: The weather does cool off in the evenings and there is just something about putting on a pair of jeans while traveling that makes me feel instantly comfortable. I got my jeans from Athleta and wore them daily for the past year until I wore holes in the inner thighs. They had the perfect amount of stretch without losing their shape. I miss them. 

If you don’t want to pack jeans, a pair of long pants like linen pants would be a good idea for the Galapagos Islands.

Lightweight sweater: A lightweight fleece, quarter zip, or any jacket you prefer is nice for the evenings to help decrease a bit of chill.

Rain Jacket: If you’re visiting during the rainy season, consider adding a lightweight waterproof shell jacket to wear if needed. To be honest, my trip was during the rainy season and it didn’t rain once! A travel umbrella may be a suitable alternative.

Buff: Buffs are amazing for protecting your neck from the sun, and keeping dust out of your mouth and eyes. I wore one around my neck for the hikes to Las Grietas and Tortuga Bay. This helped protect the back of my neck from the sun and gave me a convenient sweat rag! Since the pandemic, you might have one lying around.  

Undergarments: My FAVORITE travel undies are Exofficio. They don’t ride up and dry quickly between washes. They can also be used as bikini bottoms in a pinch! And to be honest, they have become my everyday underwear. 

Pack at least two sports bras so you can keep them on rotation, in addition to your regular bra of choice.

Pajamas: Don’t forget something cozy to sleep in. I love this set!

Wide-brimmed Hat: A wide-brimmed hat will protect your face, ears, and neck from the strong sun rays!

Sunglasses: Sunglasses will protect your eyes from the sun bouncing off the bright white sand and clear water!

picture of feet at the bay
Just before I took these shoes for a swim

Galapagos Packing List: Footwear

Footwear can make or break a good vacation! If I’m being honest, I packed the wrong shoes for the Galapagos! The only sandals I had were Birkenstocks and a cheap pair of flip flops. I wish I had proper water sandals. 

There are many times on the island that you’ll walk across lava rocks to get into the ocean. You need to protect your feet from cuts and scrapes with the appropriate footwear. 

I ended up swimming in my sneakers many times so I could get into the water without hurting my feet! 

Sneakers/Hiking Boots: Pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes whether those are sneakers or hiking boots. If you’re not planning on any hikes, you could probably leave the hiking boots at home and get away with a good pair of sneakers with good tread. 

Waterproof Sandals (Keens/Teva): Keens, Chacos, or Tevas are a must on your Galapagos packing list. Try to pack ones that come with a buckle instead of velcro so salt water or sand doesn’t get stuck in the velcro. You can also wear these for walks through town and shorter hikes.

Flip-flops: A pair of cheap flip-flops are great for shared showers in hostels. 

Galapagos Packing List: Electronic Devices

The main electronic device you’ll need on the Galapagos Islands is a camera. You will want to take thousands of photos of every single seal, marine iguana, and blue-footed booby. You’ll end up with so many awesome photos from the Galapagos – if you pack the right gear. 

GoPro: I’m not an underwater photographer, but the BEST underwater camera is the GoPro. Trust me you’ll want photos or videos of snorkeling with sea turtles, sharks, and sea lions! 

Make sure to bring a waterproof housing for the camera (the camera itself isn’t waterproof) and attach it to a floating handle that wraps around your wrist so the camera doesn’t end up on the bottom of the ocean!

DSLR: If you want to put your photography skills to work, now is the time to pack your fancy camera equipment. These cameras can be a bit clunky to carry around, but they’re worth it for the quality of photos you’ll go home with. I recommend packing a zoom lens in addition to your favorite walk-around lens. 

Extra Memory Cards: To accommodate the thousands of photos you’ll take! 

iPhone: The iPhone camera has seriously improved over the years. Make sure you have enough storage on your phone so you don’t miss a shot! Also, consider a waterproof phone case that floats just in case it goes in the water with you.

Tripod: As a solo traveler, a tripod is a must to get photos of myself traveling solo.  Also, it’s a great tool if you’re taking nighttime or long exposure shots of the water to stabilize the camera. This is the tripod I use for both my camera and phone.

Kindle: If you’re a reader, pack your Kindle! Few things beat a day at the beach reading a good book and the Galapagos Islands have plenty of beaches for this relaxing activity!

Adapters: plugs in Ecuador are the same as in the US so if you’re coming from the US there’s no need for adapters. If you’re coming from elsewhere an adapter for a US plug would work. I love this universal travel adapter.

Portable Charger: While you’ll charge your devices overnight, a portable charger will ensure you have enough juice so your phone doesn’t die and you can capture all of the photos. This Mophie portable charger can power up devices about 3-4 times with one full charge.

Galapagos packing list
Learning how to make water flow in photos from my friend and his tripod

Galapagos Packing List: Medication/Toiletries

While there are shops on the Galapagos for last-minute necessities or replacements, it’s better to bring what you need with you.

Medications: If you require prescription medication, make sure that you have more than enough for the entirety of your trip. I recommend keeping them in the bottle that the pharmacy gives you. There are pharmacies located in Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal if something comes up. I had to use one at one point, and they are helpful for anything that pops up! 

Sunscreen: Sunscreen is another essential item to bring with you to the Galapagos Islands. Make sure to use reef-safe sunscreen as most sunscreen includes chemicals that are harmful to the environment. I love SunBum!

Lip Balm: Don’t forget to protect your lips from the sun with SPF lip balm. SunBum also makes a great one that tastes like coconut!

Insect Repellent:  It sounds crazy, but I’m one of those people who has never been bitten by a mosquito. In fact, I can’t remember the last bug bite I’ve had. That being said, generally, bugs aren’t an issue on the islands. But if you must, I found these mosquito repellent wipes that worked well for my friends on the trek to Machu Picchu. 

Dramamine: If you’re prone to motion sickness, Dramamine or other motion sickness medication is a great idea as boat rides can be quite rocky. 

Immodium: As careful as I was with the water, I needed Immodium once or twice thanks to new foods and just the basic traveler’s diarrhea issues. I’m glad I had it on hand!

SteriPEN – The water in the Galapagos, and Ecuador, is not drinkable. To decrease the number of plastic water bottles I purchased, I used a SteriPEN to clean the water before drinking it.

First Aid Kit: A pre-packed first aid kit is a great idea to include. Make sure it has a few different sizes of bandaids, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, ibuprofen, and Tylenol. 

Toiletry Basics: Don’t forget the basics like deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, contact lens equipment (plus extra lenses), glasses, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion.

Sea Lion Pup
How Could You not take a million photos of these guys!

Galapagos Packing List: Miscellaneous Items

Reusable Water Bottle: I loved my Hydro Flask on the islands. It kept my water cold and refreshing in the hot weather! Most hotels in the Galapagos Islands will have drinking water so you can fill up before you head out for the day.

Snorkel Mask & Fins: If you want to always have the opportunity to snorkel, bring snorkel gear with you or purchase it when you get to the islands. A snorkel mask rental costs about $4/day from any of the shops on the islands.

Wetsuit: The water in the Galapagos Islands is very cold. Most tour operators will include a wetsuit in the cost of the tour. But on the days that you choose to snorkel without a tour, you will just have to brave the cold water. It’s pretty refreshing. If you already have one, I’d suggest bringing it, but if not just be prepared for goosebumps while you snorkel!

Dry Bag: A dry bag comes in so clutch for keeping your electronics safe on boats or anywhere near the water. Plus at the end of your trip, if anything is still wet, you can put it in the dry bag to keep it from getting everything else wet….and smelly.

Day Pack: Pack a small backpack that you can store what you need for your daily activities. This 16L backpack is super cute and perfect for hikes, the beach, and exploring.

Towel – A lightweight, quick-dry towel is essential. Many tours will provide towels, but some will not. You can use it at the beach, in your hostel, and as an extra shawl for sun protection.

There you have it, everything you’ll need for an epic Galapagos adventure! If you want this in checklist form, ’cause it’s so satisfying to put a check in a box, right?, drop your email below and I’ll email you this in printable checklist form! Feel free to leave me a comment with any questions you have about packing for the Galapagos!

Like this post? Pin for later

4 thoughts on “The Ultimate Galapagos Packing List: 50 Essential Items

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.