Galapagos Islands Beaches
Galapagos Islands beaches are truly world-class, right up there with the best sand & surf on the planet! So the Galapagos is not just for wildlife, it’s a great beach vacation too. As well as pristine white coral sand beaches, sun lovers have unexpected surprises waiting for them. How about Galapagos Islands beaches with red, green, and even black sand?
Galapagos beaches have even won prestigious awards. CNN voted Gardner Bay beach into their “Top 20 beaches in the world”. The Galapagos Islands also won South America’s Leading Beach Destination at the 2018 World Travel Awards. To put that award into perspective, other leading contenders included: Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Mancora in Peru, and Colombia's San Andres Island.
Most Galapagos beaches are deserted, so visitors can enjoy miles of sand to themselves. But you might find some unusual sunbathers by your side. Lazy Galapagos sea lions like nothing better than to snooze the day away on the sand. You might also be sharing the beach with Marine iguanas, or perhaps even a blue-footed booby or two. It's fair to say that Galapagos Islands beaches are not your typical resort vacation.
Keep reading to discover where to find the very best Galapagos Islands beaches – for both sun lovers and intrepid adventurers.
The 7 Best Galapagos Islands Beaches
A common question that we get asked is: Where is the best beach in Galapagos?
With so many Galapagos beaches to choose between, it's no easy task to narrow the list down. After many hours of deliberation, we settled on a list of our top 7 picks. So grab your beach towel and swim gear, and slip your sunnies on. Let’s go catch some Galapagos sun!
1. Tortuga Bay Galapagos Beach - Santa Cruz Island
Tortuga Bay Galapagos is a dreamy stretch of white sand with clear turquoise waters. This Galapagos beach is frequently highlighted in international publications for its stunning beauty. Imagine a long windswept stretch of sand, great snorkeling in shallow, turquoise waters, and kayaking too.
The best thing about Tortuga Bay Beach is that you don’t even need to take a guide along with you. It's walkable from town, and you’ll have complete freedom to explore by yourselves. Just remember to go prepared with everything that you need for the day – Tortuga Bay is a pristine beach with no cafes, shops, or restaurants.
Tortuga Bay Galapagos Beach is easy to find, just ask for the trailhead in Puerto Ayora town. From there it's impossible to get lost. The path winds through some pretty Opuntia Cactus forest, for around 30-45 minutes, and is a flat easy walk.
At the end of the trail, you’ll arrive at Playa Brava. The water currents here are very strong, so we recommend heading further to the right. A path leads through the mangroves to Playa Mansa, a more protected beach ideal for swimming and sunbathing.
If you like to snorkel then bring equipment along with you. Snorkel, mask & fins can be rented cheaply from most agencies in Puerto Ayora. Tortuga Bay beach is a great Galapagos snorkel site. The clear waters of the beach attract schools of Galapagos fish, Whitetip reef sharks, Sealions, Sea Turtles & Blue-footed boobies. Kayaks are also available for rent.
The protective cove is also home to a Marine iguana colony. These endemic reptiles grow to a considerable size and their jet-black color contrasts wonderfully with the white sand. You might also see Galapagos birds like Darwin’s finches, flying overhead or nesting in the brush behind the coastal waters.
Tortuga Bay is without a doubt the best of the Santa Cruz Galapagos beaches. It makes an easy and fun day out without hurting your wallet.
2. Red Beach, Rabida Island
The unusual red sand color is caused by the iron-rich volcanic rocks found on Rabida island. The rocks have been slowly ground down by the waves into smaller stones and red sand. This Galapagos Islands beach is especially spectacular for photography. We recommend a visit in the early months of the year (January to April) when the red sand contrasts beautifully with the lush green mangroves.
Rabida Island is to the north of the archipelago, close to Santiago Island. To visit Red Beach you’ll need to take a Galapagos Cruise and check that the itinerary includes a stop at Rabida.
3. Gardner Bay Galapagos Beach – Española Island
Gardner Bay is arguably the very finest Galapagos Islands beach. Here visitors find a long stretch of pristine white sand and irresistable turquoise waters. It is certainly not hard to see why this beach was voted among the top 20 beaches in the world by CNN (recently updated to top 100).
Espanola Island is to the southeast of the archipelago. It is recommended to visit as part of a cruise itinerary but is also a possible day tour destination from San Cristobal. During cruise itineraries visitors can enjoy a couple of free hours here to relax and explore. It really is an idyllic spot. The highlight for most is the sleeping sea lions who dominate the white sands and happily pose for photos. The clear, shallow waters also make for great snorkeling or kayaking.
If you only spend time at one Galapagos Islands beach during your visit, then this should be your top choice!
4. Green Beach, Floreana Island
Another unusual Galapagos Beach is found on Floreana Island, with distinctive green-colored sand. This Galapagos beach is one of the island’s most visited attractions, as its olivine crystals shine in the sun against the turquoise backdrop of the tropical waters.
At the nearby lagoon, it is often possible to find flamingos searching for shrimp in the shallow waters. A short walk away also takes you to a white sand beach where sea turtles lay their eggs during their nesting season.
The green Galapagos beach is located at Cormorant Point, on the northern coast of Floreana Island, a site commonly visited by cruise ships.
5. Puerto Villamil Beach, Isabela Island
For an easy-to-visit Galapagos Islands Beach, look no further than Isabela's Puerto Villamil. This is the longest stretch of white sand on the Galapagos Islands – perfect for relaxing strolls or swimming in the calm waters.
Puerto Villamil Beach stretches in front of the small portside town of the same name on Isabela Island. We highly recommend spending a few days here as part of a Galapagos Land Tour itinerary. There are some great Galapagos visitor sites on Isabela, that can be combined with free time on the beach.
The first part of this Galapagos beach is developed with small hotels, open-air bars, and hammocks. The beachfront hotels are pricier than those in town but perfect for a few days of R&R. Walking past the final hotel (Iguana Crossing) you’ll usually have the rest of the beach all to yourself.
Puerto Villamil Galapagos Beach is also home to a small colony of Marine Iguanas, they often hang out close to Iguana Crossing Hotel.
This Galapagos Islands Beach is a favorite spot of those who live on the islands as it is less crowded than Santa Cruz and San Cristobal and retains its remote charm.
6. Black Beach, James Bay, Santiago
We've already covered red and green Galapagos beaches, and now here's another unexpected treat - a beach with black sand.
James Bay is a popular landing point for Galapagos cruises and is easily recognized by its jet-black sand beach and curious lava formations. In fact, Charles Darwin himself wrote about his landing at this precise spot, so you are following in very important footsteps.
Here you will find wonderful examples of both types of lava flow that occur at the Galapagos Islands: sharp and brittle A’a lava, and smooth, ropy Pahoehoe flows. It is erosion from sea and wind that grind the black lava down into the sand that created this unusual beach.
James Bay is also one of the few sites where you can see Galapagos Fur Seals. The little fellas like to group together in shaded grottos to escape the strong tropical sun.
7. Punta Carola Beach, San Cristobal Island
There is a lot of competition among San Cristobal Galapagos beaches. From Playa Mann to La Loberia and Baquerizo Moreno beach visitors are spoiled for choice. But we had to pick just one winner and opted for Punta Carola.
Punta Carola is located on San Cristobal island, north of the main town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. This spot is also known locally as Lovers Beach, no doubt thanks to its romantic, secluded location.
This pretty sandy cove is certainly less trafficked than other beaches closer to town. Galapagos sea lions make friendly companions for those who make the short trek. Punta Carola is a great spot to kick back & unwind. The sunsets here are renowned for their beauty, and make the perfect end to an active day. For more adventurous types, hit the surf break off of Punta Carola rocks (not for beginners), or snorkel from the shore.
Punta Carola wildlife highlights include sea lions lazing along the beach, Marine Iguanas, Pelicans, and sometimes even sea turtles swimming up to the shore.
Galapagos Islands Beach Resorts
The Galapagos islands do not really have beach resorts as such. Remember this is a protected national park, so every effort is made to keep the wildlife safe. Beaches lined with thousands of tourists would scare many of the animals away, and affect the pristine status of the islands. The advantage of this is that Galapagos beaches remain untouched. There are few people, the beaches are clean, and visitors get to share the space with some remarkable creatures.
The one Galapagos Beach Resort worthy of mention is Finch Bay Hotel. Located across the bay from Puerto Ayora town, Finch Bay is secluded and quite exclusive. The resort is not very large compared to many international resorts elsewhere. They offer all-inclusive resort packages with meals and tours thrown in.
Happy Gringo Travel specializes in creating customized trips to the Galapagos Islands as well as cruises that work with your budget, style of travel, and interests. Contact us for a FREE GALAPAGOS TOUR QUOTE to start making plans for your next beach adventure.
In conclusion, Galapagos Islands beaches are among the most beautiful in the world. They are secluded, pristine, and clean. They come in the most unusual colors. The crystalline Galapagos water makes them a top spot for snorkeling. And you even get to share the sand with some amazing wildlife. So, when planning your beach vacation, why not try something a little different? Take a Galapagos Islands Beach holiday, with incredible wildlife and volcanoes thrown in too.