Many of our YouTube Channel viewers are curious about the weather in Ecuador, the best time to visit Ecuador, and what to pack for a visit to Ecuador, so we’ll shed some light on those topics in this article.
Since Ecuador is located on the equator in a tropical region, most people expect it to be hot, wet and humid like the Congo or Indonesia. However, the weather in Ecuador is much more complicated and nuanced than that.
The weather in the Amazon Rainforest that occupies the entire eastern side of Ecuador is much different than the weather in the high Andes mountain range that runs north and south through the center of the country, which is also much different than weather in the Pacific coastal region occupying the western third of Ecuador.
And, of course, the Galapagos Islands located about 600 miles (965 kilometers) west of the Ecuadorian mainland has its own weather patterns, although similar to the Pacific coastal region.
The weather in Ecuador, the best time to visit and what to pack for your trip depends largely on what part of Ecuador you want to travel to or live in, but before we discuss that, you’ll want to understand how Ecuadorians define the seasons, which may not be what you expect.
Winter vs. Summer in Ecuador
If you’ve been watching our videos for a while, you’ve heard us refer to “the dark days of winter” and “the hot days of summer.” If you’re from the US or Canada, you have a pretty solid understanding of these two seasons: It’s cold in the winter and it’s hot in the summer.
But what if you grow up someplace where the daylight hours are always the same, and the high temperatures between winter and summer vary by less than 10 degrees F (5 C)?
We’ve received numerous comments from Ecuadorians who tell us that we have the seasons backwards. According to our native viewers, winter is from December to May and summer is from June through November. That’s the same as it is in the US and elsewhere in the northern hemisphere.
However, most of Ecuador is in the southern hemisphere, which defines its winter and summer as the opposite of the northern hemisphere.
For example, winter in Chile and Argentina is from June 21st to September 21st; that’s when it’s cold and it snows. Summer is from December 21st to March 21st; that’s when it’s hot and sunny.
The picture below of Amelia dripping with sweat in her bikini top was taken on February 16, 2020 during what Ecuadorians call “winter.”
The picture of Amelia wearing a jacket during lunch at South Indian Restaurant one block off the beach was taken on August 10, 2020 during what Ecuadorians call “summer.”
The scientific definition of “summer” states that it’s the warmest time of year, while “winter” is defined as the coldest time of year. The hot and cold season may vary by location, but the definition of winter and summer remains the same, at least according to science.
But in Ecuador, winter is defined as the rainy season, even though it’s hot and sunny most of the time, while summer is defined as the dry season, even though it’s cooler and cloudy most of the time.
These definitions of winter and summer may not make sense to us North Americans, but that’s how Ecuadorians define them. When in Rome, do as the Romans do so we will now be referring to the sunny, hot, wet “winter” season as the hot season and the cloudy, cooler, dry “summer” season as the cold season to hopefully minimize confusion with our North American and European viewers who might be planning a trip here.
Weather In Ecuador
Despite the numerous microclimates in Ecuador, for the most part, it’s hot or at least warmer from December through May, and cooler and cloudier from June through November.
It rains more from December through May, but it’s also much sunnier with most of the rain occuring at night or in spurts rather than daily. Ecuador does not have a monsoon season like other tropical regions.
Weather In Cuenca Ecuador (and the Mountains)
Moisture evaporates in the Amazon Rainforest and is condensed by the high Andes mountains, which explains why most of the mountain cities such as Cuenca and Quito are often cloudy.
Also, due to the high elevation with Cuenca sitting at 8,400 feet (2.560 meters) and Quito sitting at 9,350 feet (2.850 meters), it’s often much cooler than you might expect from an equatorial region.
In the chart above from the World Meteorological Organization showing average weather stats in Cuenca, the red line indicates the average high temperatures (64-72°F / 18-22°C) while the blue line indicates the average low temperatures (48-52°F / 9-11°C).
These are just averages. It occasionally drops below 40°F (4°C) during the cold season in Cuenca, and above 85°F (29°C) during the hot season.
The turquoise bars represent average monthly rainfall (1-5 inches / 20-123 mm). The months with the most rain are March and April, but again, it’s sunnier during those months, too.
Humidity is not very noticeable in Cuenca due to the high elevation, but the UV index is very high so remember your sunscreen, hat and/or umbrella even if you’re just taking a short walk around town.
The lower mountain cities like Vilcabamba are much warmer and drier than Cuenca and Quito, and there are several mountain micro-climates that are very desert-like. However, you can expect similar weather conditions throughout most of the high mountain region of Ecuador.
Weather In Guayaquil Ecuador (and the Coast)
The coastal region of Ecuador also has numerous micro-climates. Driving from Guayaquil west toward the coast and north to Manta, you’ll pass through deserts, jungles and rainforests multiple times. However, the general weather throughout the coastal region is similar to Guayaquil.
In the chart above from the World Meteorological Organization showing average weather stats in Guayaquil, the red line indicates the average high temperatures (84-90°F / 29-32°C) while the blue line indicates the average low temperatures (68-75°F / 20-24°C).
Again, these are just averages. It occasionally drops below 60°F (15°C) during the cold season in Guayaquil, and above 95°F (35°C) during the hot season.
The turquoise bars represent average monthly rainfall (0-13 inches / 1-332 mm). The months with the most rain are February and March.
It’s also sunnier throughout the year in Guayaquil and much of the coastal region than it is in the mountains with a few micro-climate exceptions.
For instance, due to the low mountain range east of Olón that runs about 20 miles (32 kilometers) along the coast, the towns from Manglaralto north past Ayampe experience more clouds and cooler temperatures from June through November than other areas in the coastal region. Both Manta and Salinas are much sunnier and warmer, similar to Guayaquil.
Humidity varies a lot depending on the weather and the season. During the hot season when it rains more, the humidity is much higher while it tends to be lower during the dry season.
During one of our visits to Guayaquil, it was very dry one day, cloudy and humid the next day, then dry again on the third day. Since much of the coastal region is desert-like, you won’t notice as much humidity as you might expect for a country located in the tropics.
I grew up in eastern Kansas south of Kansas City, spent a lot of time in north-central Texas, and lived in northern Virginia. The humidity in the coastal region of Ecuador is nothing like it is in the eastern and central United States when the air is so thick you can barely breathe.
Weather In Puyo Ecuador (and the Amazon)
The Ecuadorians refer to the Amazon region as El Oriente, which got its name from the original Ecuadorian government in 1861.
The province of El Oriente originally contained the two cantons (counties) of Napo and Canelos, but it was dissolved in 1920 by the local canton governments. However, Ecuadorians still refer to the region as El Oriente.
According to ClimatesToTravel.com, Puyo, Ecuador and the other cities/towns in the Amazon have similar weather throughout the year without many seasonal variations. Puyo sits at 3,300 feet (1.000 meters) above sea level, so it’s a bit cooler than the lower elevation areas in the eastern part of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
High temperatures in Puyo range from 77-81°F (25-27°C) with low temperatures ranging from 61-63°F (16-17°C). As you might imagine, it rains a lot in the Amazon Rainforest with average monthly rainfall ranging from 12-15 inches (295-390 mm). January and February have the least rainfall on average, with less than 12 inches (300 mm).
With all that rainfall in a tropical rainforest, it’s very hot, wet and humid in El Oriente.
Weather in The Galapagos Islands
In the chart above from the World Meteorological Organization showing average weather stats in the Galapagos Islands, the red line indicates the average high temperatures (79-86°F / 26-30°C) while the blue line indicates the average low temperatures (68-73°F / 20-23°C).
The turquoise bars represent average monthly rainfall (.3-4 inches / 8-107 mm). The months with the most rain are January through April, but those are also the warmest months and the best time to visit if you hope to spend time in the water.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Ecuador?
The best time to visit Ecuador in terms of weather is during the sunny season from December through May. This is especially true if you’re planning a beach vacation.
The water temperatures are mostly constant along Ecuador’s coast, ranging from 73°F (23°C) in January up to 79°F (26°C) in May. However, the cooler air temperatures combined with the ocean breeze mean it’s too chilly for most people to swim without a wetsuit during the cold season. You also won’t see enough sun from June through November to get any sort of suntan to show off when you go back home.
If your dream is to walk on miles of empty beach or go whale watching, and you couldn’t care less about swimming or suntanning, visit during the cold season from late June through early October when the Humpback Whales are passing by and the beaches are mostly empty.
If you like crowds and festivities, the best times to visit Ecuador are during the first week of November during Cuenca Days, the week between Christmas and New Years, and Carnival in mid to late February. If you prefer fewer people and cheaper lodging, you might want to avoid those times.
The best time to visit the Galapagos Islands is also from December through May when the temperatures are warmer so you don’t get too cold on those amazing boating, snorkeling and diving adventures.
If you’re planning a trip to the Amazon, the time of year doesn’t matter very much since the weather is mostly the same year round.
What to Pack for Your Visit to Ecuador
The type of clothes, accessories and supplies you should pack for your visit to Ecuador depends on the area(s) you plan to visit.
What to Pack for the Mountain Region – Cuenca, Quito, etc.
When you’re packing for your trip to the mountain cities in Ecuador, bring clothes that you can layer. The temperature can vary widely throughout the day in the mountain cities, from 40°F (4°C) when you wake up to 85°F (30°C) by mid-afternoon when the sun is out.
It can also vary widely within the span of an hour, going from sunny and warm to cool and rainy so you always want an umbrella, rain jacket, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, water and a small backpack to carry everything. Bring comfortable shoes because Ecuadorian mountain cities are very walkable.
We don’t recommend hiking shoes or boots for the cities because the sidewalks are hard and uneven so the cleats can cause you to trip on things. However, if you plan to visit El Cajas National Park or go hiking in other natural settings, you’ll want a good pair of hikers and maybe walking sticks.
What to Pack for the Ecuador Pacific Coast, Galapagos and Amazon Regions
In general, you’ll want to pack shorts, sandals, short sleeve shirts, a hat/do-rag, sunglasses, sunscreen, bug repellant and your bathing suits when you visit the warmer regions of Ecuador.
You also may want hiking shoes and pants, as well as a backpack with a camelback for water if you’re planning any jungle hikes.
If you’re planning to visit the coast or the Galapagos during the cooler months from June through November, you may want to bring a mask, snorkeling gear, a lightweight wetsuit for swimming or surfing, a light jacket or windbreaker, and some light pants.
To recap, Ecuadorians call winter “summer” and summer “winter,” but we’re guests in their country so we should use the terms they’ve been taught since childhood.
However, if your goal is to lay on the beach and get a suntan or enjoy water sports, you’ll want to come during “winter,” which is from December through May. If you want to visit when there are fewer tourists and it’s more tranquilo, or you want to go humpback whale watching, the best time to visit is from June through November. The height of whale season is from July through the end of September.
What to pack for your trip to Ecuador depends largely on when you visit and where you visit, but as a general rule, pack layers and bring good shoes because you’ll be walking a lot. But don’t worry too much if you forget something because you can always buy it in Ecuador and help out the local economy.
Ecuador is a WONDERFUL place to visit as a tourist or live as an expat/immigrant. If you’re considering a move to Ecuador, you might want to checkout our Start Here Series, which is full of useful information that will help reduce the mystery of moving abroad.
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