Galapagos Islands, island-hopping is a somewhat rustic affair and requires careful packing. Activities and sights are outdoor-based in tropical humidity, intense sunlight, with potential for rain and wind. Much of the Islands’ wildlife can best be viewed from the water, so you’re going to spend a lot of time wet. Accommodation is varied, with hotels being small, boutique properties that provide for basic comfort. Don’t go expecting Hilton-esque establishment levels of amenities. With all this to consider, how do you pack for land-based adventures in the Galapagos Islands? Follow this packing guide and you are sure to nail it! For more on planning your trip to the Islands, see – How to Travel to the Galapagos Islands..
- We visited Galapagos during April, which brings some of the warmest sea temperatures throughout the year, with clear skies and tapering rainfall. Check the yearly averages below and adjust your packing according to the time of your visit.
- Pack light, neutral colours. Light colours, because mosquitos are attracted to dark tones; neutral, because wildlife is alerted to danger partially by colours that do not belong in the landscape. If you want to get up close to the animals, make yourself look as unthreatening as possible.
- Consider the challenges of disposing of rubbish on the Islands, particularly as they are a National Park. Don’t take anything to Galapagos, that you aren’t prepared to take home again. Try to minimize packaging and disposables as much as possible. This guide will help: 8 Essential Eco-Friendly Travel Products.
- Furthermore, consider the environmental impact of the toiletries you take to the Galapagos and opt for as many natural products as you can to minimize chemicals in wastewater. Most hotels treat waste water and recirculate it through toilets or use it to water crops etc.
- If you plan to take your own snacks, there are restrictions on the types of organic materials that can be taken to the Galapagos Islands. Check the official list here.
|Avg Temp High °F||84||86||88||86||82||78||76||74||76||77||78||80|
|Av Temp High °C||29||30||31||30||28||26||24||23||24||25||26||27|
|Avg Temp Low °F||70||74||74||72||72||68||66||64||62||64||66||68|
|Avg Temp Low °C||21||23||23||22||22||20||19||18||17||18||19||20|
|Avg Sea Temp °F||74||76||76||76||74||74||72||66||68||70||72||74|
|Avg Sea Temp °C||23||24||24||24||23||23||22||19||20||21||22||23|
|Avg Rainfall (inches)||1||1||2||1.5||.75||.25||.50||.25||.50||.25||.50||.50|
|Avg Rainfall (cm)||2.5||2.5||5||3.8||1.9||.635||1.27||.635||1.27||.635||1.27||1.27|
Galapagos Packing List
- Shirts – one for each day, as between the sweltering heat, sunscreen, and salty water, you will probably prefer not to recycle shirts as you might in other, cooler destinations. A mix of t-shirts and light, long-sleeved shirts with collars, will allow you to adjust your clothing to the activity and sun intensity. If you have very pale skin like myself, long-sleeve is the way to go, as there is not enough sunscreen in the world to keep the burn at bay.
- Several pairs of shorts and/or light pants that will be cool, provide sun protection, and be comfortable for light hiking. At least one pair of zip-off style cargo/khaki pants are ideal, particularly if you are doing longer treks such as the Volcan Sierra Negra walk.
- One pair of light, long pants or maxi skirt/dress for evening activities when mosquitos and other biting insects are on the hunt. I recommend packing one pair of light pants that will cover your legs while walking about town in the evenings. They can be re-worn night to night as they won’t be exposed to sweat and sunscreen in the way your day pants will.
- A light jumper (sweater) is a safe plan B for cooler, rainy evenings. I didn’t wear a jumper my entire time in the Galapagos from getting off the plane to boarding it again. However, as I have a tendency to freeze during air travel, I did have a jumper in my bag, which was a suitable warm layer if I had needed it.
- Rain jacket or poncho
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Aloe vera – doubles as sunburn relief and body moisturizer
- Vitamin E – I use pure vitamin E gel at night only (because it’s photosensitive) layered over aloe vera to prevent sun damage on my face and chest. I’ve found it very effective for fighting hyperpigmentation from sun exposure. Warning: it’s thick and sticky, another good reason to put it on at night only, right before bed.
- Face wash
- Body wash
- Hair accessories (ties and pins)
- Menstrual cup/ tampons
- Light makeup and perfume – I didn’t use either of these, but I had a small travel-sized mineral face powder and brush in my bag as a just-in-case, with my usual sample-size vial of perfume.
- Laundry soap – I pack a cake of laundry soap as a standard for all travel, so I can wash underwear and socks in the hotel basin if need be.
- A swimsuit, or two. In the humidity everything takes a long time to dry out, so if you prefer to put on a dry suit in the morning, alternate a couple.
- Snorkel, mask and flippers aren’t essential. Most day tours provide them where appropriate. We found the gear ranged in quality and condition so preferred to take our own.
- A wetsuit is another non-essential depending on the time of year and the tour provider. We took our own to wear purely for sun protection.
- Any hat is better than none, but a snug fitting wide-brimmed hat (maybe with a chin strap), is the most practical. You need the all-round protection of a wide brim and a fit that won’t blow off with a breeze or movement of a boat.
- Sarong or cover up to keep you sun protected and modest between and after snorkeling sessions.
- Sunglasses, preferably UV rated to protect your eyes and polarized to cut glare and help you spot wildlife in the water.
Day bag/ backpack
- Refillable water bottle
- Waterless hand wash
- Bandana/cloth napkin
- Toilet paper in a ziplock bag to keep it dry
- Lip balm with SPF 15+ minimum
- First aid kit
- Medications and prescriptions
- Seasickness medication is a must if a sometimes rolling, pitching boat makes you queasy. I can’t shake the experience of motion sickness tablets sending me to sleep for a good 3-5hrs when I was a kid and missing the journey. Therefore, I opt for keeping my face in the breeze, staring at the horizon and chewing on crystallized ginger as a natural alternative.
- Dry bag for keeping your camera, phone and other water sensitive valuables dry, particularly during wet landings.
- An international adapter, ideally with a USB socket, and chargers for your camera and other electronics. Too Many Adapters is great for finding reviews and recommendations on anything travel technology related.
- A camera and accessories including: charger, spare batteries; SD cards; and tripod. Polarizing and neutral density filters for your DSLR would also be helpful for the harsh Galapagos light.
- A waterproof camera is a must for diving, snorkeling, kayaking etc.
- Phone and charger
Making memories and filling spare time
- Sketch pad and pencils/paint
- Tablet device
You may also find it useful to read 5 Steps to More Sustainable Travel for tips and products that will reduce your environmental impact while exploring the Galapagos Islands. Enjoy your Island adventure and remember to take only photos, leave only footprints.
Peace, love & inspiring travel,