People may not visit the Galapagos Islands for their beaches but it would be a shame to leave without spending some time at a couple of them.  These islands are home to some of the most beautiful beaches we have ever seen.  Our absolute favourite was Tortuga Bay, Galapagos – so much so we returned 3 times!
Marine iguanas at Tortuga Bay, Galapagos

Why should we visit Tortuga Bay, Galapagos?

Here for the wildlife?  The beaches (there are actually two) are home to loads of marine iguanas.  This was probably one of the best spots to see them crawling along the sands, sleeping in the sun, piling on top of each other under the trees, swimming in the lagoon…  They were literally everywhere.

While the main beach, Playa Brava, is not advised for swimming, Playa Mansa is just past the end of this wide bay on a sheltered lagoon.  This is perfect for snorkelling.  As the name suggests, turtles are a very regular occurrence but plenty of other sea life.  Terry even saw a couple of sharks here!  If you happen to rustle a food wrapper you are sure to meet a few Galapagos finches up close too.

Loads of Marine Iguanas at Tortuga Bay Beach, Santa Cruz, Galapagos

The far end of the beach seemed to be a favourite iguana hangout spot!

Looking for that perfect Instagram shot?  The wide sweeping Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz is the perfect background.  In case the powdery white sand, black lava rocks and turquoise waters aren’t enough, there’s a good chance a marine iguana is waiting to photo bomb you too!

Pelican on a rock in Playa Mansa lagoon, Tortuga Bay, Galapagos

A pelican posing in the lagoon.

Hoping for some action?  Playa Brava, the first large beach at Tortuga Bay is a popular surf spot.  You will have to rent a board in town and carry it out here though.  A chance encounter with a shark or turtle while snorkelling in Playa Mansa may also get your heart rate up a little.  Kayak rentals are also available in the lagoon for those that want to explore a little further. Tortuga Bay Beach, Galapagos Islands

Find more activities on Santa Cruz Island:

Visit the Lava Tunnels
Snorkel at Las Grietas

How do we get to Tortuga Bay Beach?

beach image with text: Get your 2 Week Galapagos Itinerary

You will find Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz island, just outside the main town of Puerto Ayora.  Walk straight up the road from the main docks by the volleyball courts and turn left at Charles Darwin Avenue.  This road will eventually lead you to the start of the trail.

You will have to sign in at the little hut at the top of the stairs but it is complete free.  A 30-45 minute walk through the lava rock and cactus field will take you to Playa Brava.  Turn right and walk along the beach to the far end.  Follow the trail through the trees and to the right to find Playa Mansa and the lagoon. The paved trail through cactus trees to Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz, Galapagos

Alternatively, there is a water taxi available from the main dock in Puerto Ayora.  Look for the little hut with the sign.  We didn’t take this but I believe it costs $10 and the last boat leaves the beach pretty early, around 2 or 3pm.  It’s a great option for those who have mobility or health issues but otherwise we would recommend just to walk.

The lagoon at Playa Mansa, Tortuga Bay, Galapagos

The lagoon: a perfect spot to snorkel, kayak, swim or just relax! Picture taken from the water taxi pick up point.

How much time should we spend at Tortuga Bay?

This really depends on how much you like spending time at the beach.  At a minimum, allow for an hour walk each way from the centre of town plus the time spent at the beach. 

Darwin finch with growth on head, Tortuga Bay beach, Galapagos

Our favourite Darwin finch, he had some sort of growth and seemed to be shunned by the others.

It’s probably a 20 minute walk along the beach to the lagoon in addition to the hike out there.  If you are on a tight schedule or just interested in a few pictures, a visit could take as little as 3 hours.  However, if you’re a fan of surfing, snorkelling or just sunbathing with marine iguanas for company you could easily spend the whole day here (and return for more another day).


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Marine iguana walking along the shore of Tortuga Bay, Galapagos


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Welcome! I'm an elementary school teacher who loves to get out of the classroom and travel. Together with my husband, we write about traveling as a couple while keeping permanent jobs at home in Canada. Too old for hostels, we're wiling to splurge on comfort and amazing experiences but cut costs wherever we can. When I'm not in the classroom or traveling, I can be found on a squash court, beach or golf course.

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