Tortuga Bay at Sunset (Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos)

Places to See, Santa Cruz Island

With its sandy white beaches, mangrove trees sheltering the coast, and marine iguanas the size of cats, Tortuga Bay is one of the best beaches in the Galapagos!

And for those looking to get away from the standard Galapagos tour, you can go completely independently – there are no entrance fees. The beach is a 45 minute walk away from town, and no naturalist guide is required to visit this amazing place.

My advice for fellow travelers: go in the afternoon and stay for sundown.

Check out our Tortuga Bay Photo Gallery

Path to Tortuga Bay

You start walking (or take a taxi) through town until you reach the trail turnoff. From the trail-head, you will walk about 25 minutes along a stone walkway, surrounded by the endemic cactus trees.

If you walk slowly you can observe some of the different finch species in the trees. One day I saw a finch fly down onto the walkway to scare off another finch who was apparently trespassing on his territory. Luckily he let me pass through his territory with no problems.

Path to Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz island

Relaxing at the Bay

After the trail ends you reach a long, fat stretch of white sand beach. Some visitors simply stop here and enjoy the sun and sand, but the main attraction is the bay.

Take off your sandals and walk along the waves for another 20 minutes and you will reach the turnoff for Tortuga Bay. The bay is a large expanse of turquoise water, fringed by mangroves, and higher up on the cliffs – cactus trees.

Sometimes blue footed boobies nest on the cliffs, other times flamingos take a dip in the water, but mostly you will find a bronzed or sunburned group of very relaxed travelers.


Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz Island

Stay Until Sun Down

You can go in the afternoon and stay for an absolutely spectacular sunset.

The park closes at 6pm, so at about 5:30 the park ranger pushes the visitors back towards the trail. Walking back along the beach at sunset is fantastic. The water forms a mirror on the shore, reflecting fluffy clouds drifting through a golden sky.

Sunset at Tortuga Bay beach – I waded into the water for this view

It might be my imagination, but the marine iguanas seem to be more active as the sun goes down, swimming in the tide pools rather than sunning themselves on the beach.

Tortuga bay is a spot not to be missed, don’t forget to make plans to visit while you are in the Galapagos.

Have you been to Tortuga bay? Please share your thoughts by commenting on this post.

Meet the Author

Lisa Cho is an expat living in Ecuador, originally from San Francisco, California. She writes about the Galapagos Islands on this site and about her mainland Ecuador adventures on

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