Sea lions on a Galapagos beach

Best islands in the world? The Galapagos!

The Galapagos Islands have been named the best islands in the world in Travel + Leisure’s 2015 World’s Best Awards.

Hall of Fame

The awards – which have been running for two decades – gave the Galapagos a score of 90.82, placing the islands in the top spot and beating other exotic destinations such as the Maldives, Bali and Fiji. The score is compiled from votes from Travel + Leisure readers (travel industry professionals are excluded from voting), who score the islands on various characteristics such as natural attractions, beaches, activities, food, value, friendliness and romance.

This is the second time in 10 years that the archipelago has been named the best islands in the world by Travel + Leisure. In addition, the islands have been featured in the top 10 islands in the world every year for the last 10 years, meaning that the Galapagos is now a proud member of Travel + Leisure’s Hall of Fame.

With an utterly unique array of endemic wildlife, an amazing underwater world, astonishing landscapes and world-class snorkeling and diving, we couldn’t agree more with Travel + Leisure’s choice!

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Photo credit: Flickr/Scott Mathias

Tortuga Bay

Spotlight: Tortuga Bay, Galapagos Islands

A vast expanse of brilliantly-white sand. A perfectly preserved beach, unspoiled by man. Curious sea lions, marine iguanas, white-tipped reef sharks. Where in the world is this dreamy place?

The answer? It’s the Galapagos Islands’ beautiful Tortuga Bay. It’s a must-see for anyone visiting the island of Santa Cruz, or for anyone visiting the Galapagos for that matter – it’s consistently called the best beach in the whole archipelago.

The beach is part of the Galapagos National Park, but tourists can visit independently (though plenty of agencies also offer tours), and there is no entrance fee.

How to get there: 

  • Tortuga Bay is located 1.5 miles (2.4 km) outside of the town of Puerto Ayora, the Galapagos Islands’ main residential and commercial hub on the island of Santa Cruz. The beach can only be reached on foot, on a paved trail that weaves its way through cacti and palo santo trees. It’s a relatively easy walk, though there are some small hills and it gets hot under the strong sun – bring a hat!
  • The trail starts from Puerto Ayora’s main street and takes around 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Along the way, you’ll spot a number of birds, including Galapagos mockingbirds and finches. Note that the trail and beach are open from 6 a.m – 6 p.m. 

What you’ll see:

  • Tortuga Bay consists of two beaches, Playa Brava and Playa Mansa. Playa Brava is a wide, lovely expanse of beach that stretches for half a mile; note that the currents here are strong and swimming is prohibited, though you’ll often see sufers. A path leads west from Playa Brava to a beautiful cove, Playa Mansa, where the waters are calm and sea lions lazily hang out. There’s also a lagoon here which is ideal for snorkeling.
  • Along with sea lions, you’re likely to see marine iguanas, lava lizards, a variety of shorebirds, lava gulls, pelicans and blue-footed boobies. If you’re snorkeling, you can spot sea turtles, reef fish, rays and white-tipped reef sharks.

What to bring:

  • Plenty of sun cream
  • A sun hat
  • Comfortable shoes that are suitable for walking on rocks. A pair of sandals is also recommended
  • Swimming and snorkeling gear
  • Plenty of drinking water
  • Snacks (there are no trash cans, so be sure to bring back any trash with you to dispose of)

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Photo credit: Francisco Laso 

Traveler Spotlight: island-hopping in the Galapagos

In the second of our monthly Traveler Spotlights  where we interview tourists about their experiences of visiting the Galapagos Islands – we spoke to Lynn Min, who visited the islands on an island-hopping tour.

  • What type of trip did you go on in the Galapagos Islands? A land-based tour.
  • Where did you say? We stayed at the Crossman Hotel (Santa Cruz island), Paraiso Isabela (Isabela island) and Blue Marlin (San Cristobal island). We liked all of them; Blue Marlin was our favourite.
  • How long was your trip? 8 days, 8 nights.
  • Which islands did you visit? Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristobal.
  • What was your favorite experience? Many, top three being Kicker Rock [off San Cristobal Island], Volcan Chico [Isabela island] and the Highland Tour [Santa Cruz island]. Swimming/snorkeling with white sharks, tortugas and the sea lions was priceless.
  • Would you have done anything differently? We are glad that we chose the land based tour rather than a cruise. In addition to being more affordable it gave us far more flexibility, enabled us to enjoy great local food (the kiosks in Puerto Ayora), absorb local culture (we also took the Christmas train ride in Puerto Ayora; husband/son played soccer on turf with local men at Puerto Villamil), and sleep in late if needed.

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Photo credit: Flickr/Allan Harris