Tortuga bay Galapagos

Tortuga Bay, Galapagos: The Best Beach on Santa Cruz

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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!


Want more Galapagos Islands travel planning tips?  Get our Ultimate Galapagos Travel Guide to kick off your planning and our Essential Packing Guide to plan what to bring.  For more detailed information on each island, check out these posts below:

Marine iguanas at the shoreline on powdery white sand 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 black marine iguanas laying on the beach at Tortuga Bay in the shade of a tree, Santa Cruz, Galapagos, Ecuador.
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 sitting on a rock in clear water in the 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.

Looking down long empty white beach of Tortuga Bay, Galapagos.



How do we get to Tortuga Bay Beach?

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 completely 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.

Man walking along a stone path lined with tall cactus trees.


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 3 pm.  It’s a great option for those who have mobility or health issues but otherwise, we would recommend just to walk.

Looking across an emerald water bay to a long white beach backed by forest called Playa Mansa in Galapagos.
The lagoon: a perfect spot to snorkel, kayak, swim or just relax! This picture was 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.

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 white sand beach with text: Tortuga Bay, Galapagos

[/span6][span6]Marine iguana sitting on a lava rock with the white sand beach behind and text: Tortuga Bay, Galapagos.


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