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The Best Scuba Diving in the Galapagos Islands

Diving in the Galapagos Islands

The best scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands—where does one start when planning a trip to one of the world’s most incredible island chains, both topside and underwater?

The Galapagos Islands are on just about every single diver’s bucket list due to their isolation, incredible biodiversity, and magnificent flora and fauna. Not to mention, the Galapagos are where Darwin first hypothesized his world-changing Theory of Evolution.

The Galapagos Islands are located 600 miles (1000 km) west of Ecuador, are spread out over 17,000 square miles, and would require many trips to visit all the incredible dive sites available. There are 17 main islands that make up the archipelago. The water temperatures range from a chilly 55 F (12 C) in the south, to highs reaching 79 F (26 C) in the north. There are two main seasons for scuba diving in the Galapagos, with the year split into two—whale shark season and manta ray season.

Scuba diving in the Galapagos

Scuba diving in the Galapagos tends to be best for advanced divers, who are comfortable in deep water and changing conditions. There are many dive sites that have varying conditions, and strong currents can occur. Some of the southern dive sites also have cold water, strong currents, surges, and occasionally poor visibility, which could be dangerous for novice divers.

Whale sharks visit the Galapagos Islands when there is more plankton in the water, and the waters range from 60–75 F. It is common to see several of these enormous fish swimming around per dive during the months of June through to November.

Manta ray season is roughly from December until May, when the temperatures are generally warmer, and the rays arrive in large numbers. The schools of rays that gather around the islands include schools of mobulas, spotted eagle rays, golden rays, cow-nosed rays, and marble rays.

However, throughout the year, the amount of iguanas, sea snakes, sea turtles, and massive variety of shark species makes diving any time during the year unforgettable! Because the islands are so spread out and many are unreachable via shore dives, a liveaboard dive trip is one of the best ways to dive the Galapagos.


Due to the isolations of the Galapagos islands, getting there is slightly complicated. You will first need to travel to Ecuador from where you can book a flight to Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra Island or San Crostobal on the Galapagos. The best way to see most of the islands, is to hop onto one of the many liveaboards which do tours around the islands

The 15 Best Dive sites in Galapagos Islands?

Recommended Level
Dive Type

Darwin’s Arch

The most famous dive site, named after the world’s, most famous naturalist, is the Darwin Arch located offshore of Darwin Island. This island is on the far outer reaches of the Galapagos archipelago, and is one of the prime destinations every liveaboard aims to visit during dive expeditions.

  • Most famous dive site in the Galapagos due to the schooling hammerheads
  • Strong current bringing together massive schools of sharks
  • Whale sharks frequent this dive site during whale shark season

What you will see:

What won’t you see? Manta rays, sea turtles, dolphins, eagle rays, whale sharks, and more are all frequently spotted at this dive site. The iconic images of hundreds of hammerheads schooling in the strong currents are also taken at this dive site. You also have the chance to spot hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, silky sharks, blacktip sharks, and whale sharks.

Shark Point

Located next to Darwin Island, Wolf island is another island on the far reaches of the Galapagos archipelago only accessible by liveaboard. This dive site is one of the most popular due to the frequency of shark interactions during dives. There are strong currents, and great depths, so it is advisable to have an advanced certification. The visibility is not always ideal, and the dive spot does experience strong surges.

  • Strong currents which attract many sharks
  • Popular dive spot for whale sharks during the months of May to November
  • Large groups of hammerheads are also seen here

What you will see:

During whale shark season, these graceful giant fish frequent this dive site regularily. Their incredibly thick back skin, unique spotted camouflage, and impressive 32ft (10m) length makes them unforgettable. There are also many other sharks which can be seen including hammerheads, Galapagos sharks and black tip sharks.

Gordon Rocks

This Volcanic Crater descending to a depth of 104ft (32m) is another famous dive site in the Galapagos. Many times, enormous schools of hammer head sharks have been spotted and filmed here. The currents here are frequently strong, and the depth of the dive site means it is best suited for experienced and advanced divers.

  • World famous dive site for hammerhead sharks
  • Impressive underwater topography featuring a volcanic crater
  • Enormous variety of megafauna

What you will see:

On top of the opportunity to see the massive schools of hammerhead sharks, this dive site attracts a variety of other megafauna. Keep your eyes in the deep blue to see if you can spot white and blacktip reef sharks, sting rays, eagle rays, schools of barracuda, manta ray, or more! Sea turtles and sea lions are also common residents in the area, and while occasionally shy, they do make excellent photography models.

Tijeretas Hill

This fantastic dive site offers good visibility, minimal currents, and conditions that even novice divers can enjoy themselves. The consistent great visibility means it’s a prime location to take photos, and underwater photographers enjoy the challenge of capturing the myriad of marine life.

  • Great dive location appropriate for beginners
  • Sea lions enjoy playing with divers
  • Consistently good visibility and mild currents

What you will see:

This dive spot features an extraordinary amount of sea life swirling around the blue water. You will be able to spot Galapagos Garden Eels, massive schools of fish twirling in the light, angel fish swimming around the rocks, rays in the deep blue, and green sea turtles having afternoon snacks. The highlight of Tijeratas hill, is the curious dogs of the sea. Sea Lions are attracted by bubbles and movement and will often swim up to investigate divers for a play. If you want to keep the sea lion’s attention, keep blowing bubbles and dance around in the water with them!

Daphne Manor

Another dive site that allows less experienced divers to enjoy the beauty of the Galapagos, Daphne manor features a stunning wall dive and a smooth current. Wall dives are spectacular sites as they allow you to combine the viewing of vibrant coral, sponge, and fan structures on one hand with the other side opening to the deep blue.

  • Spectacular wall dive well suited for all dive levels
  • Magnificent array of sharks and pelagic fish
  • Healthy and thriving coral reef

What you will see:

The wall side of the dive has extensive cavern and slope structures hidden amongst the boulders, rocks, and coral growths. These usual topographic features provide ample hiding spaces for masters of camouflage, eels, invertebrates, and more! Grab your torch and see what critters you can find hiding in the deep cracks in the rock. The deep blue on the other hand, gives you the opportunity to spot Galapagos sharks, white tipped reef sharks, eagle rays, and the occasional passing manta rays swimming past divers!

Whale Rock

This is a relatively relaxed drift dive that brings you to explore the well-known Whale Rock. It is located a short boat ride off of San Cristobal Island and offers great visibility of 50 ft (15m) with mild to moderate currents. The water temperatures typically stay around 70 F and provide plenty of stunning marine life to check out.

  • Easy drift dive around the famous Whale Rock
  • Common dive site to spot plenty of sea turtles
  • Massive schools of fish congregate at whale rock and swim in the current.

What you will see:

Whale Rock attracts massive schools of fish such as grunts, snapper, and pelagic species which swim into the current. There are also plenty of rays swimming in the deep blue or hiding below on the rocky bottom under ledges. Turtles are commonly spotted in this dive site, so keep your eyes peeled for the graceful creatures flapping through the moving water.

Bartholomew Point

This dive site promises some of the most diverse marine life encounters in al of the Galapagos. The lava formations make the topography by itself a fascinating place to explore, and provide ample opportunities for sea creatures to hide in. There are moderate to strong currents, therefore it’s a great idea to tackle this dive site once you have logged a few dives.

  • Opportunity to swim with penguins
  • Extraordinary variety of marine species swim around here
  • Chance to spot hammerheads and manta rays in the deep blue

What you will see:

Along with the usual suspects of massive schools of fish, sea turtles, and rays, there are also chances to spot some white tipped reef sharks, Galapagos sharks, and silky sharks. If you turn your gaze into the blue, the majestic manta ray and occasional passing hammerhead can also grace you with your presence.

Cape Marshal

Cape Marshall is a dive site located on a volcanic wall which descends down from the Island of Isabela. The rich volcanic rock has an abundance of algae growth and therefore has attracted many species to make this area their home. The currents can be quite strong, therefore this dive site is recommended for experienced divers.

  • Sea lions are often spotted playing beneath the waves at Cape Marshal
  • The largest bony fish in the world occasional makes an appearance (Mola Mola)
  • Strong currents mean this dive site is best for advanced divers

What you will see:

Beneath the waves of the volcanic Isabela Island, the Sunfish, Hammerhead sharks, Galapagos Sharks, Marbled Rays, Mobula Rays, and massive schools of fish. Large aggregations of Black-striped Salema can be found in this area. Sea lions, sea turtles, and the occasional Manta Ray also make an appearance.

The Caves

Wolf Island located many miles northwest of San Cristobal Island is a triangular island that will give you everything you have ever dreamed of in the Galapagos. There are three distinct dive sites at wold island, with The Caves featuring some of the best options. Unfortunately, the water around wolf island tends to be quite choppy with strong currents, therefore extensive experience is required.

  • Extraodinary marine biodiversity and beautiful diving
  • Strong currents and choppy surface conditions
  • Can explore underwater caves

What you will see:

The waters around wolf island area teaming with just about every creature which calls the Galapagos their home. Whale sharks, Galapagos sharks, hammer heads, eagle rays, sting rays, manta rays, and even bottlenose dolphins can all be spotted. The topography underwater also makes it a dive site where sea lions like to play, eels hide, and the barnacle covered rock walls provide ample camouflage for other reef dwellers.

Camaño Islet

Another easier dive site better suited for divers with fewer dives. It is a shallow dive, however, provides great visibility up to 49ft.

  • Great spot for an opportunity to see Galapagos Marine Iguanas
  • Easy shallow dive site for novice divers
  • Consistently good visibility between 33-49ft

What you will see:

This dive site is the home to many species of grouper, batfish, sea horses, frolicking sea lions, angel fish, and more. If you are lucky you will be able to spot the famous marine iguana’s who dive beneath the waves to search for their food. These extraordinary marine dweller’s bodies shrink in size due to low food availability to decrease their energy expenditure! This was never seen before in such a fashion and is just one of the many examples of how remarkable the Galapagos are.

Another easier dive site better suited for divers with fewer dives. It is a shallow dive, however, provides great visibility up to 49ft.

  • Great spot for an opportunity to see Galapagos Marine Iguanas
  • Easy shallow dive site for novice divers
  • Consistently good visibility between 33-49ft

What you will see:

This dive site is the home to many species of grouper, batfish, sea horses, frolicking sea lions, angel fish, and more. If you are lucky you will be able to spot the famous marine iguana’s who dive beneath the waves to search for their food. These extraordinary marine dweller’s bodies shrink in size due to low food availability to decrease their energy expenditure! This was never seen before in such a fashion and is just one of the many examples of how remarkable the Galapagos are.

Tortuga Island

Tortuga Island is located a short distance off of Isabela Island, and is a great dive site for advanced divers with deep dive certification. The wall at the dive site descends to 40 meters, and the strong currents will whisk you along giving you plenty of opportunity to see a variety of sea creatures.

  • Deep wall dive
  • Opportunity to see hammerheads and other sharks
  • This dive site has been known to have passing orcas

What you will see:

This Galapagos dive site is the home to plenty of native species including Galapagos sharks, Galapagos sheep head, Galapagos Groupers, along with plenty of mantas, stingrays, and more. There are also passing hammer heads, white tipped reef sharks, sunfish (Mola, Mola), and more! Some divers have also had the enormous luck of seeing a passing Orca.

Punta Vincente Roca

One of the most unique and beautiful dive sites in th, it is located on the North eastern coast of Isabela Island. It is one of the coldest dive spots in the Galapagos so make sure to bring at least a 7mm wetsuit, hood, and gloves. Despite the cold, it is well worth it.

  • Cold waters throughout the year with diverse marine life
  • Large variety of native Galapagos sea creatures
  • An incredibly unique dive site worth visiting

What you will see:

These chilly waters attract the Ocean Sunfish, the rare Galapagos bullhead shark, and plenty of penguins, sea lions and more. If you are patient, you might be able to spot some sea horses hidden amongst the sea grass along with slipper lobsters, spider crabs, and moray eels.

Punta Carrion

This is a great dive site for beginners or divers who have not been in the water for a long time. The mild currents and good visibility allows divers to ease into the diving adventure in the Galapagos. Much of the fish life in this area, can be seen in as little as 40 ft of water, meaning you can have a nice long and shallow dive.

  • Shallow dive site with plenty of sea life
  • Great Beginning dive for the start of your adventure
  • Located between Baltra and Santa Cruz Island

What you will see:

The reef flat has plenty of creole fish, striped sea slugs, nudibranchs, invertebrates, and other reef fish. The shallow waters also often have groups of sea lions playing in the chilly waters, who love to check out divers and their bubbles. If you cast your gaze into the deep blue water, there are reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, and Mobula crays cruising past the dive site almost constantly.

Santa Fe Island

This shallow dive site is ideal for beginner divers, as it tends to be well protected and has minimal current. The waters remain calm and clear and allow divers to experience the beauty of the Galapagos sub marine environment. There is a cave at a depth of 16m which has interesting cave dwelling creatures hiding within it. It is a good idea to bring a dive torch to be able to see the invertebrates and unique fish species hiding in the dark.

  • Great dive site for novice divers
  • There is a shallow cave to explore – Sea Lions frequently frolic around this island

What you will see:

This shallow dive is teeming with sea lions, turtles, eels, and the occasional white tip reef shark. The sea lions hunt and play in the area and are often fascinated by divers and will stop by to check you and your bubbles out.

Cousin’s Rock

On the eastern coast of Santiago, there is a sloping coral covered volcanic rock which attracts plenty of fish and provides ample hiding space for the smaller habitats of the reef. There are plenty of rocky outcrops, over hands, and crevice’s where small creatures such as frogfish, octopus, nudibranchs, and various invertebrates hide. The current can be moderate; therefore some experience is advisable.

  • Moderate current commonly occurs on this dive site
  • Great spot for macro photography

What will you see:

There are plenty of Galapagos sharks, reef sharks, along with massive schools of barracudas and ray species gliding through the water. Sea lions also frequently swim in these areas and can be spotted hunting Salema fish for their dinner.


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Torben Lonne
Torben Lonne
Reply to 

It really depends on the trip you’re going for. I’d recommend you do the refresher from home and do diving once you’re there.

Reply to 

We would like to do a fresher course one day, and a two tank dive to Darwin the next. Is this offered?