Visiting the Galápagos Islands is a bucket list trip for many travelers (myself included). It’s such a unique spot on the globe offering experiences and animals you just can’t find anywhere else.
I originally planned this trip pre-Covid and it got pushed back because of travel restrictions, so I was over-the-moon excited when it finally happened.
In this post, I’m going to answer a very important question: what should I pack for a trip to the Galápagos Islands? There aren’t many (good) Galápagos packing lists out there on the interwebs so I decided to create my own. I’ll share what I wore and give you some tips on things you’ll definitely want to pack for your trip.
My trip was a cruise on the National Geographic Endeavour II with Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions, but this packing list will apply even if you’re doing a land-based trip. Regardless of how you’re visiting the Galápagos many of the activities will be the same so you can expect to pack similar items even if you’re not visiting on a cruise.
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Galápagos Packing List: At A Glance
Here’s a list of the most important things to take on a trip to the Galápagos Islands. The quantities you’ll need will vary based on your trip length and itinerary.
- Hiking shoes
- Water shoes
- Bathing suit
- Sun hat with chin tie
- Long-sleeved shirt
- Long pants
- Quick-dry beach coverup (I use a velcro skirt from RipSkirt)
- Backpack or dry bag
- Camera (preferably with a telephoto lens)
- Underwater camera
- Mask and snorkel
- Wetsuit (some cruise lines will provide a wetsuit)
- Aqua socks
- Fanny pack (yup, I said a fanny pack)
- Lightweight rain jacket (during the rainy season)
- Binoculars (if you plan on bird watching)
What to Pack for the Galápagos Islands
Sunscreen is an absolute must on the Galápagos Islands because it’s literally on the equator. The sun is strong so you’ll want to protect your skin at all times. I prefer mineral-based sunscreens (also called reef-safe) because they are better for your skin and the environment (some tourist destinations have even gone so far as to ban some of the more harmful chemical sunscreens).
Here are some great mineral-based sunscreens to try:
- Blue Lizard Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+ (Recommended)
- Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Oxide Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 (Recommended)
- Coppertone Pure and Simple SPF 50
- Sunbum Original SPF 50
- Babo Botanicals Sheer Zinc Spray SPF 30
If you’re ever going to not be wearing a hat (such as when you’re snorkeling), use a mineral powder sunscreen to protect your scalp (the part in your hair can burn easily).
- Tarte Sea Set & Protect Mineral Powder Sunscreen (Recommended)
- Supergoop! Poof 100% Mineral Part Powder
- Mineral Fusion Brush-On Sun Defense
Backpack or Dry Bag
When I was researching Galápagos packing lists for an idea of what I needed to bring, every post I found said you definitely need a dry bag. So, I caved and bought this one.
While there were a couple of times it was handy to have, I don’t think it was totally essential. If you have fancy camera equipment that you’ll be transporting back and forth on a zodiac, a dry bag is probably a good idea. They can also be handy on the beach or if you need to pack something that’s not totally dry.
So, I would say it’s probably a good idea to bring one just in case, but know that in some circumstances, they aren’t as necessary as you might think.
Otherwise, you’ll do fine with a backpack. You can use it as a carry-on on the plane and then you’ll have it if you need to bring lots of stuff ashore with you.
Pro Tip: You’ll need some type of bag to bring with you on excursions. If you’ve got lots of camera equipment a dry bag or backpack works well. If you want to pack light, look for a fanny pack that can hold your phone, sunscreen, and a water bottle.
My 13-year-old self is dying right now because I’m recommending a fanny pack, but she’ll get over it. Often called a waist belt or waist pack these days, it’s a super useful thing to bring with you to the Galápagos Islands.
I know this because I decided to not bring mine and I regretted it every day of my trip. A fanny pack is just so convenient when hopping in and out of a boat and hiking or even visiting a town. It’s great to keep your essentials close by without weighing you down.
You can find really small and sleek ones or bigger ones that have a built-in water bottle holder.
Camera and Underwater Camera
Having a good camera is essential when visiting the Galápagos Islands. If you want to get serious about photography you’ll probably want to invest in a good camera with specialized lenses. If you want great photos but don’t want to spend too much money you can find some good inexpensive cameras and lenses.
I use this mirrorless camera with a zoom lens and I was able to get great close-up photos. Otherwise, a good iPhone camera will do the trick!
If you plan on snorkeling or scuba diving (and you should) consider getting an underwater camera — you won’t want to miss out on those moments.
You’ll definitely need sunglasses for your trip to the Galápagos Islands. I like traveling with inexpensive ones so I am not upset if I lose them. I wear these sunglasses because they come in tons of fun colors and patterns and they aren’t expensive.
What To Wear In The Galápagos Islands
A trip to the Galápagos Islands calls for casual clothes that help protect you from the sun. You’ll most likely be doing lots of active things so comfort is key. Choose fabrics that are lightweight and quick-drying when you can.
Here’s a summary of what I wore in the Galápagos Islands.
Button Up “Safari” Shirt
I call this button-up shirt from REI my “safari” shirt because I bought it specifically for my safari in Tanzania and Kenya. It’s lightweight, quick-drying, and has sleeves that button up if you want your arms exposed. It was perfect for hikes since it kept the sun off of me while not being too heavy.
If you really hate the idea of a safari shirt, you can find nice long sleeve shirts in a “performance” type fabric that will wick sweat away and control odors. The Momentum Top in Bali Green from Athleta was the one I chose and it was a great alternative to my safari shirt.
Tank Top and Short Sleeved Shirt
You’ll want some tank tops and/or short sleeve shirts to layer with your safari shirt or to wear when the sun isn’t so bright.
I always wore a tank top under my safari shirt to add a little color and to allow me to not have to button up the shirt all the way. The Renew Racerback Tank from Athleta in Ballerina Gown Pink worked out just perfectly.
For a short sleeve option, I went with the In Motion Tee in Olive Green from Athleta.
I ended up wearing the same pants I bought for my safari and they worked really well (pictured above). Even though it was hot I liked having long pants to protect my legs when we walked through paths with lots of grasses, etc. that brushed up on me. My skin is pretty sensitive so I don’t love walking through plants/grasses with bare legs. Long pants also provided sun protection so that was another plus.
Wide Brimmed Hat
The Galápagos Islands are part of Ecuador which is literally on the equator so the sun is incredibly strong. You will need a wide brimmed hat to keep the sun off of you for sure. Whether you’re kayaking, boating, or hiking near a windy cliff, having a hat that can tie around your chin is great so you don’t have to worry about losing your hat in high winds.
If you want to wear a baseball-style hat or visor, you can also use a buff or sun scarf to protect your neck from the sun. These were really popular on my cruise and many guests bought one from the gift shop after they saw the staff wearing them.
We transferred from our cruise ship to the shore every day by zodiac and many of those rides ended in a “wet landing” on the beach. This involves you hopping out of the zodiac into the water and walking up to the beach, resulting in wet feet. Having some water shoes makes these landings so much easier. Plus water shoes are great for walks on the beach and for some of the short hikes you may do.
These are the exact water shoes I bought and they were super comfy and very inexpensive.
I was so happy I had stiff-soled hiking shoes with me! We went on many walks over rocks and rough terrain and having hiking shoes versus regular athletic shoes was a huge advantage. You won’t feel small rocks or uneven surfaces through the soles of hiking shoes like you would in running shoes and it made a big difference in my comfort during the hikes.
Rash guards come in lots of different styles but most are long-sleeved and made of quick-drying bathing suit material. I brought a few with me and wore them almost every day — they are essential for trips to the Galápagos. They are great for snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, or just enjoying the beach.
I have a couple that fit tighter like a bathing suit and I also have a looser fitting one with a hood — this one was great for the days when I just wore a baseball-style hat since I could use the hood to protect my neck from the sun.
I love these quick-dry velcro skirts from RipSkirts Hawaii. They are awesome to throw on over a bathing suit when you know you may get wet. They dry really fast so they are great for beach vacations or water activities like kayaking.
I bought these aqua socks/scuba booties for an upcoming diving trip to Belize and decided to throw them in my suitcase for the Galápagos trip — and I’m so glad I did! Not only will they protect your feet when you’re snorkeling or scuba diving, but they’ll help keep you a tad warmer too. Depending on when you go to the Galápagos that can be really important! I went in May and the water temperature was 73° — which is pretty damn cold.
Pro Tip: Our cruise line provided wetsuits but if yours doesn’t I would recommend bringing one if you plan to snorkel or scuba dive. A 3mm shorty is fine in warmer temperatures but you’ll want a full suit or even a 5mm for colder waters. I wore a 3mm shorty in the 73° water and was chilly. I really wish I had brought my full-length wetsuit!
Casual Clothes for the Cruise Ship
I visited the Galápagos Islands with Lindblad/National Geographic Cruises. Our days were packed with activities like hiking, snorkeling, and kayaking and our nights consisted of a recap in the ship’s lounge followed by dinner. It was all very casual so you’ll just want to have some comfy clothes to change into after the day’s activities.
I opted for leggings, a comfy t-shirt, and a sweatshirt most nights (I told you it was casual). It’s also nice to bring extra shoes so you don’t have to wear your hiking shoes to dinner. Most nights I slipped on my waterproof Birkensock Arizona slides or my favorite Adidas Swift Run sneakers.
I teased my husband for wearing the same exact outfits he bought for our safari (even though I basically did the same)!
Here is what he wore on our Galápagos Islands cruise.
- Merrel Moab 2 Waterproof Hiking Shoes
- Sunday Afternoon Charter Escape Hat
- The North Face Echo Rock Pullover Hoodie
- ExOfficio BugsAway Monto UPF 50 Long Sleeve Shirt (No Longer Available)
- Arc’teryx Cormac Logo Shirt
- Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Shirt
- Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants
Galápagos Islands Packing List FAQs
Q: What do I need to bring to the Galapagos Islands?
In addition to clothing, don’t forget these essentials: sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, a dry bag or backpack, sunglasses, and camera/underwater camera.
Q: What should you wear in the Galapagos Islands?
The Galápagos Islands are very casual so stick to clothing that’s suitable for outdoor activities. During the day, you’ll want hiking pants or shorts with a t-shirt/tank top and a long sleeve shirt that offers sun protection. For water activities, you’ll need a swimsuit and rash guard.
Q: What is the best time to travel to Galapagos?
There are 2 seasons in the Galapagos – wet and dry. Generally, the wet season, from December to May is considered the best time to visit. The water tends to be calmer and warmer so it’s better for snorkeling and diving.
Q: What should I wear snorkeling in the Galapagos?
A: You’ll want to wear a wetsuit while snorkeling in the Galápagos Islands. Check to see if your cruise line or tour company provides them before purchasing one. It’s also nice to have scuba socks for added protection and warmth.
Q: What are the best shoes for a Galapagos trip?
A: For a trip to the Galápagos Islands you’ll need a couple of different types of shoes. I would recommend bringing a pair of hiking shoes with stiff soles and a pair of water shoes too. You’ll also want to have a pair of comfortable shoes (sandals, sneakers, flip-flops) for evenings on the ship or at a hotel.
Packing for a trip to the Galápagos Islands requires a little more planning than say, a beach trip to Grand Cayman, but hopefully this Galápagos packing list helps you out so you’re more confident preparing for the incredible adventure you have ahead of you.
I can’t recommend visiting the Galápagos enough — it is a fantastically unique place that’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime adventure you won’t regret.