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 

South Plaza Island

Travellers’ Top Galapagos Experiences

Here at Insider’s Galapagos we have been asking travelers who have been to the Galapagos Islands what their favourite experience was – we think it’s a great way of inspiring other travelers who are planning a trip. Here we pool their answers to give you our top Galapagos Experiences!

Galapagos memories

  • “Visiting Kicker Rock [located off the coast of Isla San Cristobal], snorkeling on Isabela (we got to swim with turtles and penguins). We loooooved Tortuga Bay [on Santa Cruz]”. (Miriam Ventimilla, Galapagos land-based tour).
  • Our favourite island was Isabela. We preferred the laid back, quieter atmosphere there to Santa Cruz.” (Annie Crowley, Galapagos land-based tour).
  • “I loved the contrast of the lava formations with the beautiful bright green and red plants on South Plaza. Isabela was beautiful, and a cruise that visits it lets you see so much incredible variety of terrain and animals. The hikes were just amazing at every turn.” (Lisa Hartland, Galapagos Cruise Archipell II).
  • “I loved snorkeling. Seeing hammerhead sharks was amazing.” (Myriam Gallegos, Galapagos land-based tour).
  • “Top three…Kicker Rock, Volcan Chia [Isabela Island] and the Highland tour [Santa Cruz Island]. Swimming/snorkeling with the white sharks, tortguas and the sea lions was priceless”. (Lynn Min, Galapagos land-based tour) 
  • “Discovering the nature and the wildlife, and swimming in the amazing Pacific Ocean.” (Cécile Clavel, Galapagos land-based tour). 

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