The Ultimate Guide to Diving in the Galapagos: The Best Dive Sites, Liveaboards, and Diving Centers

Striking rock formation in the turquoise waters of the Galapagos Islands, surrounded by vibrant marine life

Welcome to the ultimate guide to diving in the Galapagos Islands! The Galapagos are known for their unique and diverse marine life, and offer some of the best diving experiences in the world. With crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and a wide range of sea creatures, including hammerhead sharks, sea lions, and manta rays, diving in the Galapagos is a truly unforgettable experience. Whether you're an experienced diver or just starting out, our guide will help you discover the best dive sites, liveaboards, and diving centers for your dream dive trip. So join us as we dive into the underwater wonders of the Galapagos!

Recommendations - Diving at the Galapagos

Depending on your needs, we recommend to explore the Galapagos with a Liveaboard during the months December to May. During these months, you'll have the opportunity to explore the underwater world of the Galapagos with clear, comfortable conditions with the possibility to encounter Manta rays and Hammerhead sharks.

Best Galapagos Liveaboard

The Calipso Liveaboard is a state-of-the-art diving vessel that offers year-round diving expeditions in the Galapagos National Park. Completely renovated in 2019, the liveaboard features a fresh and modern design that is both comfortable and inviting. With 8 spacious cabins, each equipped with en-suite bathrooms, panoramic windows, AC, TV, safety deposit box, USB charging ports, and laminate flooring, the Calipso can accommodate up to 16 guests.

Price: A trip with the Calipso Liveaboard starts at EUR 513 / USD 547 per day. The latest prices and availability of the Calipso Liveaboard can be checked here.

Calipso Liveaboard - A modern and spacious diving vessel in the Galapagos
The Calipso Liveaboard at the Galapagos

Best Galapagos diving center

In case you decided to explore the Galapagos dive sites with a local diving center, we recommend to check the diving center ''Scuba Iguana''. Scuba Iguana, located in Puerto Ayora, Galapagos, was founded in 1995 by two friends with a love for diving and the Galapagos. Known for its experienced and safe diving, Scuba Iguana offers day trips for divers of all levels and aims to showcase the unique Galapagos ecosystems. See our section ''Diving centers'' below for more information.

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Best diving centers in the Galapagos

Although we highly recommend to discover the Galapagos underwater world by a Liveaboard, we have outlined below two recommended Galapagos diving centers.

Diving center 1: Scuba Iguana

Scuba Iguana is a renowned dive center based in Puerto Ayora, Galapagos. Founded in 1995 by two friends with a passion for diving and a love for the unique ecosystems of the Galapagos, the center has become the most experienced dive center in the area. Known for its commitment to safety and professionalism, Scuba Iguana offers day trip diving for divers of all levels. The team has extensive naturalist knowledge and many years of Galapagos diving experience, helping to bring a deeper understanding to the wonders of the underwater world. At the heart of Scuba Iguana's mission is the protection and preservation of the Galapagos ecosystems. The center works closely with the National Park and Charles Darwin Center on various conservation projects and runs an ongoing volunteer program to develop a community in harmony with its surroundings. When diving with Scuba Iguana, you become part of ensuring the preservation of the Galapagos for future generations.

They provide various scuba diving services such as scuba diving courses (ranging from PADI Open Water to PADI Divemaster), daily diving trips to various dive sites, and night dives.

Diving center 2: Academy Bay Diving

Academy Bay Diving is a family-owned dive center that has been operating in the Galapagos since 2006. They offer Galapagos diving tours and island tours with the aim of providing an unforgettable experience and spreading their passion for the local environment. The center is run by experienced guides who are knowledgeable about the area, and committed to preserving the Galapagos for future generations. They also prioritize customer service and dive safety.

They provide several scuba diving services such as PADI courses, Galapagos scuba diving day trips, Galapagos scuba diving packages and Galapagos island tours.

Best Galapagos Liveaboards

With over 50 liveaboards available, exploring the Galapagos by liveaboard is an unforgettable experience. To help you choose the perfect liveaboard for your trip, we've selected the three best liveaboards in the Galapagos to feature below. Each offers a unique itinerary and diving experience, so read on to find out which one is right for you. More available Galapagos liveaboards can be checked here.

Liveaboard 1: Calipso

Experience the ultimate Galapagos diving adventure with the Calipso liveaboard. Specifically designed for diving enthusiasts, this custom-built vessel offers a range of boat amenities and creature comforts to make your diving trip comfortable and convenient. The boat features en-suite bathrooms, air-conditioned saloon, aircon cabins, and a sun deck with stunning views of the surrounding waters. With daily housekeeping, free internet access, and dedicated charging stations for your electronics, you can relax and focus on diving.

The Calipso liveaboard offers an array of amenities for your relaxation, including a leisure deck, a library, an indoor saloon, and a hot tub. The seaview cabins are fitted with televisions, and there is an extensive collection of audio and video entertainment available for your enjoyment.

The large dive deck is complete with rinse tanks, warm water showers, and camera charging stations. There is a separate rinse area for underwater cameras, and Nitrox is available for those who require it. With the aid of the vessel's tender boats, the divers can reach even the most remote dive sites in the Galapagos. The Calipso offers a hassle-free diving experience to explore the depths of the Galapagos.

The liveaboard offers a delicious range of food and drinks to cater to any preference. Guests can enjoy international and Ecuadorian cuisine, vegetarian and vegan options, and an extensive selection of fine wines, beer, and free soft drinks. The liveaboard also features a BBQ area, a bar, and an al fresco dining space.

Price: a trip with the Calipso liveaboard starts at USD 548 / EUR 511 per day. The latest prices and availability can be checked here.

Picture of the dive deck on the Calipso Liveaboard, with several scuba tanks neatly lined up
The dive deck of the Calipso Liveaboard

Liveaboard 2: Galapagos Aggressor III

Indulge in the ultimate luxury liveaboard experience aboard the Galapagos Aggressor III. Immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of the Galapagos Islands and explore the world-renowned dive sites, all while enjoying unparalleled comfort and exceptional service. With room for up to 16 guests, the yacht offers eight spacious staterooms that include 4 deluxe staterooms with twin beds on the lower deck and 4 master staterooms with twin or double beds on the upper deck. Each cabin comes equipped with en-suite bathrooms, individually controlled air conditioning, TV monitors with media players, and hairdryers. The master staterooms offer large picture windows with stunning sea views.

Socialize in style in the yacht's large salon and dining area, where you can savor a delicious array of American and local cuisine. Enjoy buffet-style breakfast and lunch, as well as chef-prepared and plated dinners. On the top deck, indulge in ultimate relaxation in the large shaded solarium, complete with a hot tub, chaise lounges, deck chairs, a bar, and a grill.

The Galapagos Aggressor III's dive deck provides ample storage space and personal lockers, as well as a swim platform, air and nitrox fill stations, rinse tanks, a three-tier camera table with low-pressure air hoses, and 2 warm freshwater showers.

Price: a trip with the Galapagos Aggressor III starts at USD 873 / EUR 814 per day. The latest prices and availability can be checked here.

Luxury liveaboard Galapagos Aggressor III cruises through Galapagos dive sites
The Galapagos Aggressor III

Liveaboard 3: Galapagos Sky

Galapagos Sky liveaboard is the ultimate choice for divers seeking a luxurious and unforgettable diving experience in the Galapagos Islands. The yacht was custom-built for diving to provide unparalleled comfort and convenience to its guests. With eight private en-suite guest cabins that accommodate 16 passengers, the Galapagos Sky offers ample space for rest and relaxation. Each cabin is fully air-conditioned, has marine-safe toiletries, comfortable beds, and seaview windows. Daily housekeeping ensures that the cabins are always kept clean and comfortable.

Guests can unwind and relax in the yacht's main salon equipped with audio and video entertainment systems, a library, and an air-conditioned indoor saloon, perfect for dining and socializing. The outdoor dining area provides an opportunity to enjoy meals with a view of the stunning Galapagos Islands. Expert chefs prepare Ecuadorian and international cuisine, and a fine plated dining service with a selection of fine wines and beverages is included.

The Galapagos Sky's spacious sun deck, shaded diving area, and leisure deck provide a perfect place to relax and enjoy the islands' stunning views. The observation deck offers an ideal spot for stargazing at night, while the BBQ area is perfect for guests who want to grill up a tasty meal.

Divers will appreciate the custom-built dive deck that comes complete with rinse hoses, DIN adaptors, and nitrox available for those who require it. The yacht offers tenders for hassle-free transport to and from the dive sites, and the shaded diving area ensures that divers can stay cool and comfortable during surface intervals. The Galapagos Sky offers everything that divers need to have a comfortable and enjoyable experience while exploring the wonders of the Galapagos Islands.

Price: a trip with the Galapagos Sky starts at USD 757/ EUR 706 per day. The latest prices and availability can be checked here.

The Galapagos Sky liveaboard yacht anchored in crystal clear blue waters of the Galapagos
The Galapagos Sky liveaboard

Best dive sites of the Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands offer some of the best dive sites in the world, with crystal clear waters, abundant marine life, and breathtaking landscapes. Here are some of the best dive sites to explore:

Dive site 1: Darwin's Arch

Darwin’s Arch is one of the most popular dive sites in the Galapagos Islands. This underwater pinnacle rises from the depths of the ocean to just below the surface, creating an underwater bridge that divers can swim through. The arch provides a unique diving experience, as divers can pass through its natural opening and explore the underwater world on both sides.

The dive site is located off the northern tip of Darwin Island and is known for its clear, turquoise waters and abundant marine life. Schools of hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, and silky sharks are frequently seen in the area, along with sea turtles, mantas, and schools of tropical fish. The depth of the dive site varies, but in general the average dive depth is 18 – 24 meters.

Darwin’s Arch is a must-visit for any experienced diver visiting the Galapagos Islands. Its unique geological formation and abundance of marine life make it one of the most sought-after dive sites in the world.

Dive site 2: Wolf island

Wolf Island is considered one of the best dive sites in the Galapagos, and for good reason. Located at the northern tip of the archipelago, this remote island offers divers a unique and thrilling experience unlike any other.

The dive depth at Wolf Island ranges from 6 – 25 meter, making it ideal for both beginner and experienced divers. The island's location also makes it a hotspot for pelagic species, including hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, and sea lions.

Wolf Island is particularly famous for its incredible shark encounters, with large schools of hammerhead sharks often seen swimming around the island's rocky pinnacles. The clear and rich waters of the island are also home to an abundance of other marine life, including eels, moray eels, dolphins, and sea turtles.

In addition to the island's incredible marine life, the dive sites at Wolf Island also offer a range of different landscapes, from sheer drop-offs to shallow reef systems and caves. Each dive at Wolf Island is an adventure, with new and exciting experiences waiting at every turn.

Dive site 3: Gordon Rocks

Gordon Rocks is considered one of the top dive sites in the Galapagos Islands and offers a unique and thrilling dive experience for advanced divers. Located near the island of Santa Cruz, Gordon Rocks is a volcanic cone that rises from the depths of the ocean and creates a series of underwater channels and caves. The site is known for its strong currents and surge, which attract a wide variety of marine life, including schools of hammerhead sharks, rays, and several species of pelagic fish. Gordon Rocks is also home to large schools of fish and Galapagos sharks.

The dive depth at Gordon Rocks ranges from 20 to 40 meters and the currents can be challenging, making it a site recommended only for experienced divers. At the bottom of the cone, divers can explore the intricate network of caves and channels, observing the diverse marine life that has taken refuge from the strong currents. The site is also famous for its unique rock formations, which provide an ideal backdrop for capturing stunning underwater photos.

Overall, Gordon Rocks is a must-visit dive site for those seeking a thrilling and unforgettable dive experience in the Galapagos. With its combination of strong currents, diverse marine life, and breathtaking underwater landscapes, it is no wonder why Gordon Rocks is considered one of the best dive sites in the region.

Dive site 4: Punta Vicente Roca

Punta Vicente Roca is a well-known dive site located in the Galapagos Islands, known for its incredible underwater landscapes and abundant marine life. With a depth range of 10 – 30 meters, this site is suitable for divers of all levels, from beginners to experienced divers.

The dive site is located at the base of a towering volcanic cliff, which creates a stunning underwater backdrop. The area is known for its diverse range of marine life, including schools of colorful tropical fish, sea lions, and sea turtles. In addition, Punta Vicente Roca is home to several species of shark, including hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, and white-tipped reef sharks.

Visibility at this dive site is generally good, with crystal-clear waters allowing for excellent views of the marine life and topography. However, currents can be strong at times, so it is important to be prepared and follow the guidelines set by your dive guide.

Overall, Punta Vicente Roca is an amazing dive site that offers a unique and exciting experience for divers in the Galapagos Islands.

Dive site 5: Cousins Rock

Cousins Rock is named after the abundance of yellowtail grunts, or “cousins”, that can be found here. This dive site is comprised of two large rocks that rise up from the ocean floor, offering divers the opportunity to explore a diverse array of marine life. The shallow reef surrounding the rocks is home to a variety of colorful tropical fish, including angelfish, parrotfish, and butterflyfish. Divers can also spot sea lions, fur seals, and playful sea turtles. The average diving depth ranges between 15 – 30 meters.

The dive site is also renowned for its abundant marine vegetation, including colorful sponges, gorgonians, and soft corals. With crystal-clear waters and excellent visibility, Cousins Rock is an ideal location for both novice and experienced divers. Whether you're looking for an awe-inspiring dive experience or a chance to encounter some of the Galapagos' unique and fascinating marine creatures, Cousins Rock is a must-visit dive site.

Dive site 6: Bartholomew Island

This small island is home to one of the most unique dive sites in the Galapagos, characterized by a shallow lagoon surrounded by a steep underwater wall. The island is famous for its unique geology, which includes a volcanic cone and a rocky shoreline. The dive site itself is located at the base of the cone and is characterized by its crystal-clear waters, abundant marine life, and diverse topography.

The area is known for its large schools of colorful fish, such as damselfish, angelfish, and surgeonfish, as well as its population of sea lions and marine iguanas. Divers can explore shallow rocky formations and dive down to a depth of around 20 meters to witness the beauty of the volcanic cones up close. Whether you're an experienced diver or just starting out, Bartholomew Island offers an incredible underwater experience in the heart of the Galapagos.

Dive site 7: San Cristobal Island

San Cristobal Island is known for its exceptional diving opportunities and is one of the top dive sites in the Galapagos. This island is home to a diverse range of marine life, from colorful schools of tropical fish to charismatic creatures like sea lions, rays, and sea turtles. Divers can expect to encounter a wide variety of species, including several species of shark and ray, as well as sea horses, octopuses, and many other fascinating creatures.

The dive sites around San Cristobal Island offer a range of experiences, from drift dives along the island's coast to wall dives that drop down into the deep blue sea. Some popular dive spots include Kicker Rock, which is a stunning underwater pinnacle, and Lobster Bay, where divers can explore a calm, sheltered bay filled with an abundance of marine life.

The dive depth around San Cristobal Island varies, with some sites shallower than 10 meters and others plunging down to more than 30 meters.

Dive site 8: North Seymour Island

North Seymour Island is located in the northern part of the archipelago and is known for its diverse marine life and crystal-clear waters. The island is surrounded by a shallow reef that attracts a variety of marine creatures, including sea lions, tropical fish, and colorful coral formations. With a maximum dive depth of around 25 meters, North Seymour Island is suitable for divers of all levels, and its clear waters provide excellent visibility, making it ideal for underwater photography.

The highlight of diving at North Seymour Island is the opportunity to encounter large schools of hammerhead and Galapagos sharks, as well as other pelagics such as marbled rays, eagle rays, and mantas. With its unique landscape and abundance of wildlife, North Seymour Island is a truly unforgettable dive destination in the Galapagos.

Best time to visit the Galapagos

The best time to visit the Galapagos is during the dry and warmer season, which lasts from December to May. During this time, the weather is mild with minimal rain and temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to low-80s F (24-29 C). With clear skies and calm waters, it's an ideal time for outdoor activities such as hiking, snorkeling, and diving. The conditions also make it easier to spot wildlife and enjoy the island's stunning natural beauty. However, it's also the peak tourist season, so it's essential to book your trip well in advance to ensure availability and to avoid over-crowding.

Depending on your diving bucket list, you may consider diving in the dry and warmer season (December – May) or during the colder season (June – November):

Dry and warmer season

The dry and warmer season, from December to May, is considered the best time for diving by many as the water temperature is warmer and the visibility is usually good, ranging from 15-30 meters (59-98 feet) and averaging at around 20-25 meters (65-82 feet). The average water temperature during this season is around 23-25°C (73-77°F) and air temperatures that average between 25-30°C (77-86°F). During this time, visibility is usually good and there is less rainfall, making for ideal diving conditions. Divers can expect to see a variety of marine life including hammerhead sharks, sea lions, marine iguanas, Galapagos penguins, and a wide range of colorful fish. It should be noted that during the dry season, you will have the possibility to spot Manta rays!

Colder season

On the other hand, the colder season from July to November, while the visibility may not be as good as in the warmer months, offers the chance to encounter whale sharks and other migratory species. The average water temperature during this time is around 20-22°C (68-71°F). While the water may be cooler and the visibility lower, the chance to encounter whale sharks, schools of hammerhead sharks, and large schools of other pelagic species, make the colder season a unique and exciting time to dive in the Galapagos.

In conclusion, the best time to dive in the Galapagos depends on what you're hoping to see and experience. Both seasons offer different advantages and conditions, so it is recommended to research the specific marine life you would like to encounter and plan your trip accordingly.

How to get to the Galapagos

Option 1: By airplane

Getting to the Galapagos Islands can be done in several ways. The most common way is to fly from mainland Ecuador to one of the two main airports on the islands, the Baltra or San Cristobal airport. These airports are the main entry points to the islands and are located near the main town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island and Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, respectively. Both airports are served by daily flights from mainland Ecuador, including Quito and Guayaquil. From the airport, you can take a taxi or shuttle to your hotel or liveaboard, or continue your journey to other islands.

Option 2: By boat from Ecuador to the Galapagos

Another option is to travel to the Galapagos by boat from Ecuador. This is a great choice for those who want a more immersive and adventurous experience. Boats departing from Ecuador usually stop at several islands in the archipelago, allowing visitors to explore more of the islands' diverse landscapes and wildlife.

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