Galapagos island beaches are world class, right up there with the best beaches on the planet! So 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. You’ll also find Galapagos beaches with red, green and even black sand. Many galapagos beaches are deserted, so you can enjoy miles of sand to yourself. 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. So Galapagos islands beaches are not your typical resort vacation.
Galapagos beaches have 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 San Andres Island in Colombia.
Keep reading to discover where to find the very best Galapagos Islands beaches – for both sun lovers and intrepid adventurers.
With so many Galapagos islands beaches to choose from, it was no easy task to narrow the list down. Below are our top 7 picks of our favorite Galapagos beaches. So pack your beach towel and swim gear, and put your sunnies on. Let’s go catch some Galapagos sun!
Tortuga Bay Galapagos is a dreamy stretch of white sand with clear turquoise waters. This beach is frequently highlighted in international publications for its stunning beauty. Imagine long windswept stretches of sand, great snorkeling and kayaking, and some cool wildlife too.
The best thing about Tortuga Bay is that you don’t even need to take a guide along with you. It is 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 is easy to find, just ask for the trail head in Puerto Ayora town, and follow the trail. The path winds through pretty cactus forest, for around 30-45 minutes and is a flat easy walk. At the end of the trail you’ll arrive to 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 or sunbathing.
If you like to snorkel then bring equipment along with you. Snorkel, mask & fins can be rented cheaply from agencies in Puerto Ayora. Tortuga Bay beach is a great Galapagos snorkel site. The clear waters off the beach attract schools of Galapagos fish, Whitetip reef sharks, Sealions, Sea Turtles & Blue footed boobies. Kayaks are also available for rent here.
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 doubt the best beach on Santa Cruz island. It makes a fun day out without hurting your wallet.
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 beach is spectacular for photography. We especially 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 Island.
Gardner Bay is arguably the very finest beach at the Galapagos islands. 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 inside the top 20 beaches in the world by CNN (recently updated to top 100).
Espanola island is to the south east of the archipelago. It is recommended to visit as part of a cruise itinerary, but is also a 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 are the sleeping sealions who dominate the white sands and happily pose for photos. The clear, shallow waters also make for great snorkelling or kayaking.
If you only spend time at one Galapagos beach during your visit, then this should your top choice!
Floreana’s green beach is one of the island’s most visited attractions. Its olivine crystals shine in the sun against the turquoise backdrop of the tropical waters. At the nearby lagoon it is often posible 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 beach is located at Cormorant Point, on the northern coast of Floreana Island, a site commonly visited by crusie ships.
You’ll find Puerto Villamil Beach 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. This is the longest stretch of white sand at the Galapagos Islands – perfect for long strolls, or swimming in the calm waters.
The first part of the beach is developed with hotels, open-air bars, and hammocks. The beach front hotels are pricier, but perfect for a few days of R&R. If you walk past the final hotel (Iguana Crossing) then you’ll usually have the beach to yourself.
Puerto Villamil Beach is also home to a small colony of Marine Iguanas, they often hang out at the far end of the beach. It is a favorite spot of those who live in the islands as it is less crowded than Santa Cruz and San Cristobal, and retains its remote charm.
James Bay is another unusual Galapagos islands beach. It is a popular landing point for cruises, and is easily recognised by it’s 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 sand, and created the beach.
James Bay is one of few sites where you can see Galapagos Fur Seals, where they group together in shaded grottos to escape the strong tropical sun.
This spot is also known locally as Lovers Beach, no doubt thanks to it’s 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 trek.
Punta Carols beach 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 sealions lazing along the beach, Marine Iguanas, Pelicans, and sometimes even sea turtles swimming up to the beach.
The Galapagos islands does 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.
In conclusion, Galapagos beaches are among the most beautiful in the world. They are secluded and clean. They come in the most unusual colors. The crystalline seas make top spots for snorkeling. And you get to share the sand with some amazing wildlife. So when you plan your Galapagos vacation, be sure to include some quality beach time!