Garrapatero beach (Playa El Garrapatero) is a 3km stretch of gorgeous golden sand on Santa Cruz island at Galapagos. Even better, this site is so secluded that you’ll often have it all to yourself during the week. Of course you will be sharing the beach with sealions, flamingos and blue-footed boobies, but that’s part of it’s unique charm. Garrapatero Beach is a top spot to snorkel, swim or just kick back and enjoy the sunny skies. If you have a free half day or more on Santa Cruz island then El Garrapatero is definitely a recommended trip out.
Read on for everything you need to know to plan your visit to Garrapatero Beach Galapagos. How to get there? What wildlife can you see? Which activities to do there? Plus lots more practical information about Playa El Garrapatero.
Garrapatero is one of the prettiest Galapagos islands beaches, and in our opinion the best beach to visit from Puerto Ayora town on Santa Cruz. Tourists don’t even need to include it into a cruise or Galapagos land tour itinerary, just head there under your own steam on a free day, no tour guide or planning required.
Garrapatero Beach is on the east coast of Santa Cruz Island, north-east from Puerto Ayora town. The trail head lies 19km out of town, so you’ll need to arrange transport to get there – taxis in Puerto Ayora are happy to make the journey, and return later to collect you. From the trail head it’s a 15-minute gentle walk to the beach. In truth the walk is rather pleaasant, passing by huge Opuntia cactus plants, Palo Santo trees, and poison apple trees, with Galapagos finches and lava lizards to keep you company. It is also possible to arrive straight onto the beach via a 20 minute water taxi ride from the port if you prefer to skip the hike.
El Garrapatero is home to a nice variety of Galapagos birds and animals. Along the beach the usual suspects to look out for include playful sea lions, colorful sally lightfoot crabs, skittish ghost crabs and dragon-like marine iguanas. Blue-footed boobies, Frigates and other marine birds also often pass through looking for food. If you follow the trail through the mangroves to a brackish pool visitors can also see Greater Flamingos sifting for crustaceans in the shallow water, accompanied by other wading birds like herons, stilts and oyster catchers.
In the water try to spot sea turtles and colorful reef fish, especially around the tidal pools just off shore. If your luck is really in then a Galapagos penguin might make a guest appearance, although this is less common. Playful sealions are also sometimes attracted to humans in the water, so don’t be surprised to be joined by an unusual swimming companion.
Garrapatero is a day out that offers something for everyone. Of course visitors can enjoy regular beach activities like sunbathing, swimming and leisurely beach strolls. For the more inquisitive tourist, try following the trail to the flamingo pool, do some beach combing, and explore the tidal pools – you never know which creatures you’ll find. Garrapatero Beach is also a great spot for snorkeling, sometimes together with sealions or turtles.
As with all Galapagos visitor sites, there really is no best or worst month to visit.
From January to May it’s generally sunny and hot, with occasional showers. The sea temperature is also pleasantly warm.
June to December is the cool and dry season, so skies are cloudier, temperatures cooler, and there is usually no rain. Sea temperatures are cooler too, but this attracts more marine life for better snorkeling action.
Check out our special Galapagos weather blog for more detailed information about the Galapagos climate through each month of the year.
• Garrapatero Beach is a pristine natural site and has no tourist facilities. So go prepared with food and water for the day, because there are no cafes or shops here. Similarly there are no beach facilities, so take your own beach towel and umbrella for shade. Also please remember to take all of your litter back to Puerto Ayora with you.
• Remember to book your ride back home to avoid being stranded. Usually the same taxi driver that brought you here will be happy to collect you again at a pre-set time. Of course only pay for the return journey once you arrive back to Puerto Ayora, not when he drops you at the beach.
• Snorkel gear (snorkel, mask and fins) can be rented cheaply for the day at most agencies in Puerto Ayora. Wetsuits are also a good idea if you plan to spend time in the water during the latter Galapagos months (June to December) when the sea is cooler.
• El Garrapatero beach is open daily from 7am to 6pm. We recommend setting out early as it tends to get hot and toasty by late morning, with little shade.
• It is best to visit this beach during the week when it is often deserted. Weekends tend to become much busier with locals.
• There is a public BBQ area, just bring your own food and charcoal. It’s also possible to camp at the beach – a special permission needs to be pre-booking through the Galapagos National Park.
• Even on cloudy days the sun is strong and can quickly cause sunburn. So remember to frequently apply sunblock, and use a hat and sunnies. Other things to bring along with you include: money (for transport), food, lots of drinking water, swim gear, beach towel, walking sandels, camera and a decent book.
For more information about your options for land-based and cruise trips through the Galapagos Islands, contact a member of our team using our toll-free numbers or the contact form on this site.
In conclusion, Garrapatero Beach makes for a fun day out from Puerto Ayora. It’s easy and cheap to do by yourself – no reservations, tour guides or pre-planning are required. Just fit some free time into your busy Galapagos vacation schedule, and follow the steps in this blog. El Garrapatero is a lovely spot to relax in seclusion, enjoy nature, and see amazing Galapagos wildlife close up. A guaranteed cheap and fun day out for all the family.