Tortuga Bay Galapagos (Bahia Tortuga) is a dreamy stretch of white coral sand with clear turqouise waters. It is an easy beach to visit on Santa Cruz island, making a fun day out without hurting your wallet. The best thing about Tortuga Bay is that you don’t even need to hire a guide or transport. The beach is walkable from Puerto Ayora town, and you’ll have complete freedom to explore by yourselves. The Tortuga Bay Galapagos wildlife is varied and plentiful. Visitors can enjoy activities from sunbathing to snorkeling and kayaking. We highly recommend a trip to discover Tortuga Bay beach.
Read on for everything you need to know to plan your visit to Tortuga Bay Galapagos. How to get there? What wildlife can you see? Which activities to do there? Plus lots more practical information about Tortuga Bay Beach.
Tortuga Bay is without doubt one of the very best Galapagos islands beaches. Tourists don’t even need to include it into a cruise or Galapagos land tour itinerary, just head there under your own steam.
Tortuga Bay beach is located on the south coast of Santa cruz island, just a few kilometers away from Puerto Ayora town.
The Tortuga Bay trailhead starts at the end of Charles Binford Avenue, a few blocks behind the main tourist dock area close to Las Ninfas and hotel Fiesta. Just follow the path for about a mile and a half (30-45 minutes from the trail head) to arrive. The trail is paved, flat and easy, leading through an old lava field colonised by Palo Santo trees and Opuntia cacti. It is a pleasant walk, accompanied by Darwin’s Finches and Galapagos Mockingbirds flitting between the trees, and the melodic tunes of Yellow Warblers. Don’t forget to look to the ground too, where red throated lava lizards scurry around the dry brush habitat.
It is also possible to take a boat ride to Tortuga Bay beach from the Puerto Ayora docks. The journey takes about 20 minutes at an approximate cost of US$10 per person. Check at the dock for information about daily departure times.
Tortuga Bay Galapagos is split into two parts: the angry (brava) beach, and the calm (mansa) beach.
As you reach the end of the trail arriving to Tortuga Bay, your first sight of white sand will be Playa Brava. The water currents here are very strong and most suitable for surfing. This is a strictly no swimming zone as it can be dangerous.
So we recommend heading on to Playa Mansa, which is a more protected beach, ideal for swimming or sunbathing. A path leads to the right hand side through the mangroves for around 20 minutes to reach Playa Mansa, or just follow the beach. Playa Mansa begins with a peaceful tidal lagoon at the far end of the bay - these calm & protected waters are often a great spot to snorkel with small reef sharks and marine iguanas. The main Mansa beach is further round to the right from this lagoon. Snorkeling and swimming is also fun at Playa Mansa, and kayaks can also be rented by the hour. You’ll also find a short self-guided tourist trail through a pretty forest of Prickly Pear Cactus, and heaps of interesting Galapagos birds and animals around the mangroves.
As with all Galapagos visitor sites, there really is no best or worst month to visit.
From January to May is 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. The sea temperatures are colder too, but this in turn attracts more marina life for better snorkeling action.
Check out our special Galapagos weather blog for more detailed information about Galapagos climate through each month of the year.
• Tortuga Bay beach is a pristine natural site and has no tourist facilities. Go prepared with food and water for the day because you will not find shops or cafes once you begin the walking trail. Similarly Tortuga Bay beach does not have bathrooms or a changing area. There are no beach umbrellas or chairs/loungers for rent.
• If you enjoy snorkeling then bring equipment along with you. Snorkel, mask & fins can be rented cheaply from most travel agencies in Puerto Ayora. Tortuga Bay Galapagos is a great Galapagos snorkel site so you won’t want to miss out!
• Tortuga Bay beach is open from 6am to 6pm every day. We recommend setting out early as it does tend to get hot there, without much shade.
• All visitors need to sign in at the small national park hut at the trail head before setting out.
• Things to bring with you: money (for kayak rental or to take the boat back home), food, drinking water, sun protection, insect repellent, swim gear & beach towel, comfortable walking shoes or sandels & camera.
Contact us for a FREE GALAPAGOS TOUR QUOTE, or for more information to help plan your Galapagos vacation.
Tortuga Bay is not your typical beach. Here you’ll be sharing sand and sea with some of the most iconic Galapagos wildlife!
A large marine iguana colony call this beach home, and can easily be spotted catching the sun, or swimming in the ocean. They are the only iguana species on the planet to have learnt how to swim, diving to feed on green algae. If you watch closely you can often observe them sneezing our sea salt through their noses.
Colorful Sally Lightfoot Crabs hide in the crevasses of black lava, while Blue footed boobies and pelicans dive for fish. Galapagos sea lions and Green sea turtles are also a common sight in the crystal clear lagoon. Seasonally sea turtles like to nest on the dunes of Tortuga Bay Galapagos, try to spot the tell-tale markings in the sand.
Inland the mangroves are habitat for Galapagos Finches and Mockingbirds. Flamingos are also occasional visitors to the brackish lagoon behind the beach.
The Tortuga Bay habitat is a mix of mangroves, historical lava flows, palo santo forest, opuntia prickly pear cactus, and salt brush shrubs. The contrasts in color can be stunning. Jet black lava combines with pure white sand, lush green vegetation and turquoise waters to form a wonderful palette of complimentary tones. Landscape photographers will have a wonderful time here.
The underwater action is spectacular too. Colorful Galapagos reef fish enjoy the protected waters around mangrove roots in the lagoon. Peaceful sea turtles drift on the currents, and inquisitive whitetip reef sharks also enjoy the tranquility of this perfect spot.
There is certainly no shrotage of activities at Tortuga Bay.
Galapagos bird watchers will enjoy the tame behavior of the finches and mockingbirds, who show no fear around humans. They will often come right up to check you out! A variety of sea birds and seasonal waders can usually also be spotted.
Swimming or snorkeling in the calm waters of the bay is a great way to get closer to the marine wildlife. Kayaks can also be rented by the hour to explore further afield. But don’t forget that you can only swim at Playa Mansa (not Playa Brava).
Of course, if that all sounds like too much effort, then sun bathing or beach strolling along the sand are also great ways to relax and enjoy this amazing beach.
Finally, surfers can catch waves at Playa Brava, but do take care of those strong ocean currents. This is not a place for beginners.