Wondering what to pack for your Galapagos vacation? Whether you are taking a Galapagos cruise or island hopping, packing for Galapagos can be a little tricky, as the adventurous activities you’ll take part in, the climate of the islands, its varied terrain, and even the islands’ famous endemic wildlife can all affect the contents of your suitcase. Moreover, the last thing you want to be is unprepared on your excursion of a lifetime to some of the most remote and biodiverse islands in the world.
For the more laissez-faire amongst you, you may think you might be able to just pick something up at the airport or one of the local shops there if you forget to pack it, but this isn’t always the case in Galapagos. Given its extreme isolation, many items are not available, or if they are they can be rather expensive. Ensuring you have all of the right clothes, gear and medicines packed and ready in advance for your trip will ensure you spend less time worrying and shopping, and more time focusing on enjoying your time on the islands.
That’s why we’ve compiled the ideal Galapagos packing list to make your suitcase stuffing, and your vacation, as pain-free as possible. We’ve broken it down into 4 sections to make it a little more manageable: clothing, footwear, travel gear, and health & toiletries.
Galapagos Packing List
- Two swimsuits: If you are taking part in water activities you will want to bring more than one bathing suit to ensure you always have a dry one to wear.
- Hat: Even if you are used to the sun the rays this close to the equator can be extremely strong and can damage your skin even when the sun isn’t shining. Bring a hat and wear it as often as you can when you are outside. Ideally, it should have a chin strip, to avoid it coming off in the breeze or when the boat hits a wave. While it may not be the most fashionable look you will grateful not to lose it to the wild Pacific sea.
- Long-sleeved tops: In the evenings can be a little cool and you are at risk of being bitten by mosquitoes. Make sure you choose light material, such as cotton, and that it is a light color, such as cream or white to cover your arms.
- T-shirts: On warmer days and long hikes on the Islands you may prefer to opt for a short-sleeved T-shirt to keep you cool. Just make sure your exposed areas of skin are covered in sunscreen and that you continue to regularly apply it throughout the day. Light colors are best to avoid heat absorption..
- Long pants: You may choose to take part in an evening hike or sit out on the deck at night when the weather can become a lot cooler. For these occasions, like with the long-sleeved top, it’s best to wear a pair of long pants that are a light color.
- Shorts: Light-colored shorts that absorb the light will become your staple clothing item for your daily land-based activities on the Galapagos Islands. If you have the packing room you may even want to bring two pairs of shorts just in case a pair gets wet!
- Rain jacket: A lightweight rain jacket can really come in handy when the Galapagos experiences an occasional heavy downpour. The rain does, however, usually stop very abruptly, so make sure there is room for the jacket in your day bag.
- Wetsuit: A wetsuit and rash-guard shirt with UV protection is the ultimate way to protect yourself from the sun when you are snorkeling or swimming, as well as protect you from the cold ocean (which can feel very cold, particularly during the dry season). If you do not have the room in your case. Some cruise ships provide wetsuits for free or at least for hire a wetsuit. To ensure you have one that fits well it is best to bring your own, or if not, ring ahead to ensure size availability.
- Hiking socks: The Galapagos Islands rarely get cold enough to need a pair of thick hiking socks, but at least one pair of thin and comfortable socks is a good idea for everyday use, especially for the visits to the highlands of Santa Cruz where the undergrowth can be a little damp. Brands that use materials like cool-max have great breathability and are perfect for the climate of the Galapagos.
- Hiking boots: The Galapagos is full of a number of different terrains, you could be faced with sand, slippery rock and lava all on one hike. If you are an amateur hiker it is a good idea to invest in some high-top walking boots, these give you better balance and traction. With the right shoes you will be prepared for anything.
- Sandals: Waterproof shoes, such as Tevas, Chacos or Keens, or even just a good pair of sandals, are great for wet landings, walking on sand, lava and rocky beach areas. They can also be useful on the boat itself for areas that do not permit bare feet. It’s tempting to bring an old pair of sandals and throw them away at the end, but the terrain is so unforgiving that your old pair may not make it through the trip, so it’s best to bring a brand new strong pair of sandals to face the rugged Islands with.
- Comfy deck shoes: Whether aboard a cruise, or on the terrace of your lodge, give your feet some breathing room by bringing along some comfy deck shoes, sandals, or you can even bring flip flops or thongs if you prefer. Note you won’t be able to wear your hiking shoes onboard cruise vessels.
Telephoto lens for your wildlife shots
- Day backpack: For days on the Islands you will need a good-sized backpack to carry your necessities. Make sure this isn’t too big, but that is has room enough to keep your sunscreen, camera, a bottle of water and any other items you will need for the day.
- Dry bags and ziplock bags: Bring plenty of zippable plastic bags to protect your valuables from getting wet in your day bag and for storing your liquids, and prevent any leaks from making their way into the rest of your bag.
- Flashlight: You never know when you might need one: To guide your way to your cabin at night, to find something in your bag, or even to make a midnight trip to the bathroom without disturbing your room-mates. Having a flashlight to hand is always handy.
- Snorkel: If you want to snorkel a lot, it is a good idea to bring your own. They are very reasonable to buy, and while it is possible to hire them if you plan to snorkel a lot it’s always handy to have your own.
- Binoculars: With so much wildlife around you during the cruise and on tours of the island you will want to see the animals as close as you can in their natural habitat, binoculars can help you to see the creatures without disturbing them too much.
- Camera AND Underwater camera: If you don’t already have them, investing in a good digital camera and underwater camera, which will set you back around $150 each, is well worth it. Those magical close-up photographs of sea lions and turtles swimming underwater, or those far away shots of soaring Galapagos Hawks or playful dolphins will truly capture your experience of the Islands. Alternatively, you can buy waterproof casing for your digital camera to achieve even better quality photos underwater. Note: Whilst on cruises, if you store your camera and binoculars in your air-conditioned cabin you may find when you grab them to capture a rare bird they may be cloudy or foggy. Store them outside of your cabin or in one of the humidity-free compartments that can be found on some of the boats to ensure your lenses stay clear.
- Telephoto lens: If you have come to the Galapagos to capture the unique wildlife of the islands then it may be worthwhile investing in a telephoto lens. While most of the creatures on the island are generally unafraid of humans for the best photos attach a good zoom to your camera and get great photos without disturbing them.
- Extra camera memory: This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and you are going to take a LOT of photos. Don’t get caught out without enough memory – you will regret it!
- Water bottle: Whenever you decide to visit the Galapagos Islands it can be very hot, particularly during the days and when you are hiking, so it is vital that you stay hydrated. A Nalgene or aluminum sports bottle is the best option and allows you to refill your bottle daily.
- Sunglasses: When visiting the Galapagos Islands you will be exposed to the equatorial sun throughout the day, and so a good pair of dark sunglasses are essential. If you can, invest in polarized lenses to help you see into the water better and spot turtles and rays! Sunglasses that come with a security strap are also handy if you don’t want to lose them. Another precaution would be to take a spare pair of sunglasses with you, just in case.
- Cash: You will need cash for guide (and crew) tips, bar bills, souvenirs and other personal purchases. It is important to note that all transit control cards and national park entrance fees must also be paid in cash only upon departure from the mainland airport and arrival in the Galapagos Islands respectively. Therefore it is important to bring enough cash ($US) with you to avoid any possible disappointments. Small-denomination bills are best. There are ATMs at the Quito and Guayaquil airports, but only a handful of ATM machines can actually be found on the islands, namely in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on the island of San Cristobal, and they often run out of bills.
Health & Toiletries
- Medicines: Be sure to bring any prescription medicines you need for the entirety of your vacation – especially if they are specialized – and it is wise to pack extra for any unexpected delays. There are some pharmacies on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal islands and common prescription medicines can be found there, but most will not accept foreign prescriptions. A handful of cruise vessels have a doctor on board who can provide common prescription medicines.
- Sunscreen: As we’ve already mentioned a few times, the sun of the Galapagos is extremely strong, and wearing sunscreen that is factor 30 or above is a must. Ensure you buy a variety that is also water-resistant and reef safe for when you are snorkeling or swimming.
- Motion sickness tablets: If you are taking a cruise, motion sickness is a consideration. It may not affect you, but the Pacific Ocean can be very choppy and can leave you feeling a little seasick. Do not leave it to chance, bring along some store-bought motion sickness tablets or patches and be prepared.
- Diarrhea tablets: Traveler’s diarrhea is still very common across South America. Whilst unlikely in Galapagos given the strict hygiene standards in upscale accommodations and cruise vessels, it’s always wise to bring some Imodium or equivalent to have on hand just in case.
- Insect repellent: Whilst not so much of an issue in the highlands or on a cruise, mosquitoes and other pesky insects often come out at night in this region, and can even sting and bite through some light clothing. Pack some insect repellent to prevent uncomfortable bites spoiling your adventure.
- Earplugs: Boats and the surrounding seascape, and even some of the larger towns can be a little noisy, and if you have trouble sleeping you should bring along some earplugs.
- Snacks: Snacks such as Granola bars or other cereal bars are great for an energy boost. Just be extra careful with your litter.
Hopefully, this Galapagos packing list has provided you with some suitcase serenity, and the once formidable task of packing for Galapagos is that little bit less daunting now you know exactly what to pack for your Galapagos vacation. Should you need any more tips, or have any queries at all about our packing recommendations, our destination specialists will be more than happy to help.
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