The fabulous beaches of the Galapagos: Although they get little mention, they are among the best in South America — and maybe the world
By Katie Benson
The Galapagos Islands may be best known for the unique animals that live there and the incredible landscape, but the Galapagos beaches are pretty damn incredible too. In fact, the Galapagos Islands are home to some of the most beautiful beaches in South America, and maybe the world. I know – I wasn’t expecting that either!
We spent three weeks on the Galapagos Islands doing a mixture of land-based and cruise-based travel so we were lucky to see so many of the islands that make up the archipelago. And the biggest surprise of the trip for me was the beauty of the Galapagos beaches.
I was expecting to have incredible animal encounters and see rugged island scenery, but I wasn’t expecting to see pristine silky white sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise ocean, but that is exactly what I saw on a number of the islands we visited.
Throw in beaches teeming with sea lions, red sand and green sand beaches, beaches with nesting sea turtles, beaches where you can swim with marine iguanas, beaches with no one else on them – the Galapagos Islands are truly blessed with an abundance of glorious beaches of all shapes and sizes.
So if you are partial to a pretty beach like I am, I put together this list of my eight favorite Galapagos Beaches. I could have included many more that were lovely too but these are the ones that really stood out for me.
1) Cerro Brujo on San Cristobal Island
My absolute favorite beach in the Galapagos and one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to is Cerro Brujo Beach on the north coast of San Cristobal Island.
This stunner of a beach was one of Charles Darwin’s first landing spots and is very remote so you won’t see crowds of people here -we barely saw anyone else other than our group. The white coral sand is incredible – super fine and silky, and the water glows turquoise. The photos just don’t do justice to how incredible this beach is.
The best things to do at Cerro Brujo are watching the cute sea lions, swimming in the calm clear waters – I spent more than an hour just floating in the shallows, and walking the length of the beach to admire its beauty from every direction.
I saw a couple of turtles in the water as well as swimming sea lions and marine iguanas so make sure to bring your snorkel and mask when you visit.
How To Visit Cerro Brujo Beach: I visited Cerro Brujo Beach on my Galapagos cruise on the Golondrina and there are a number of Galapagos Cruises that come here.
Alternatively, you can visit on a full-day tour from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno that also includes diving or snorkeling at Kicker Rock. Book with a local tour operator on arrival for the best prices.
2) Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz Island
Another pristine white sand beach with bright turquoise water, Tortuga Bay is easier to get to than Cerro Brujo, it’s free, and it’s almost as beautiful.
Tortuga Bay is the best free day trip from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island – if you are prepared for a bit of a hike. It’s around 30-minutes each way from town but it’s relatively flat so it’s not too difficult.
This is one of the best places to see marine iguanas on the beach, and maybe you will be lucky enough to see turtles and sea lions too.
The currents here are strong so you are only able to swim in a small section at the eastern end of the beach and at a sheltered lagoon just over from the western end of the beach. Take a picnic and grab a shady spot in the trees at the lagoon. You are bound to see lots of Darwin’s finches here too.
How To Visit Tortuga Bay: You can walk the trail from town which takes around 30 minutes each way from the start of the trail. If you aren’t keen on walking, you can also take a water taxi here for around $10 per person each way.
3) Gardner Bay on Espanola Island
Gardner Bay on Espanola Island is a long stretch of white coral sand beach that is home to colonies of sea lions. This stunningly gorgeous beach is secluded and is the perfect place to relax and swim in the calm waters. There is also good snorkeling around the small islet in front of the beach.
The skies were stormy when we were there but I think it made the beach look even more beautiful because the water was an ethereal blue against the dark clouds. We were even treated to a rainbow.
Don’t miss strolling this beautiful expanse of beach to check out the cheeky sea lions (but don’t get too close), and the whale skeleton at the western end of the beach. This is also a great spot to see curious Espanola Mockingbirds whose inquisitive nature will bring them up close and personal, and possibly into your bag if you let them.
How To Visit Gardner Bay: A number of Galapagos cruises visit Gardner Bay – I visited on my cruise – and you can also do a full-day trip to numerous spots on Espanola Island from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on Santa Cristobal Island. Book with a local tour operator on arrival for the best prices.
4) Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island
Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island is made up of two small cove beaches with powdery sand and clear blue waters, and a large lava field that is believed to have been formed around 150 years ago.
If you are interested in the geological history of the Galapagos, this is an interesting place to explore and you can hike on the smooth, black lava.
There is excellent snorkeling around the rocks and I saw lots of colorful coral, tropical fish, an octopus, sea lions, and, best of all, Galapagos penguins (!) when we were snorkeling here.
I’m not sure if the penguins are a regular sight there but for us this was the best place in the Galapagos for penguin sightings as we had two different sightings over two hours, seeing around ten penguins in total. Even if you don’t luck out with the penguins, it is still an excellent beach lounging and snorkeling spot.
How To Visit Sullivan Bay: Many Galapagos cruises visit Sullivan Bay and you can also take a long day trip that visits Santiago Island and Bartolome Island from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. Book on arrival to Puerto Ayora for the most competitive prices.
5) Playa Dorada on Bartolome Island
Playa Dorada is a bit different than some of my other favorite Galapagos beaches as it doesn’t have white sand and turquoise water, but the reason I love this beach is for the beauty of its surroundings – with a volcano towering over it and a striking pinnacle rock jutting out of the ocean at the end of the beach.
This secluded reddish/golden sand cove beach has a rugged beauty and its calm waters are perfect for swimming. You can also snorkel around Pinnacle Rock where you may see sharks – we did when we were there – and maybe penguins because they like to hang out on the rocks around from the beach.
How To Visit Playa Dorada: Many Galapagos cruises visit Bartolome and Playa Dorada and you can also take a long day trip that visits Santiago Island and Bartolome Island from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. Book on arrival to Puerto Ayora for the most competitive prices.
6) La Playita on Isabela Island
One of the best things about staying on Isabela Island is the fact that there is a long and beautiful beach right in Puerto Villamil, but my favorite beach on Isabela Island is a small cove called La Playita.
La Playita is reached by walking a short trail just past the western end of the main beach, and because you do need to walk or bike the 2.5 km from Puerto Villamil, it doesn’t get a lot of visitors and you will likely have the beach to yourself.
There are benches and shade to sit under if it’s a hot day and this is an excellent place to see marine iguanas. We saw our first endemic lava gulls of the trip here too.
How To Visit La Playita: You can visit La Playita for free by walking from Puerto Villamil, or rent a bike and bike here, combining it with a bike ride to the Wall of Tears.
7) Playa Loberia on San Cristobal Island
Playa Loberia is another pretty beach that is free to visit and it can be easily reached from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island.
This white sand beach boasts a protected cove with clear water to swim in, a sea lion colony, and further around the rocks, you can see blue-footed boobies.
This is the best of the easy-to-reach beaches to snorkel with sea lions because they are often swimming off the beach and the rocks, and because they are so curious, it is likely they will swim right up to you. There are often turtles swimming here too so definitely take your snorkel and mask.
How To Visit Playa Loberia: Playa Loberia can be reached by walking, biking, or taking a cab from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. It is 2.5km from the city center.
8) Red Beach on Rabida Island
Of all these Galapagos Beaches, Red Beach on Rabida Island is the only one that I didn’t get a chance to visit but I had to add it to the list because there are not many places in the world where you can see a red sand beach!
The deep red color of the sand and pebbles on the beach come from the high content of iron in it as this is a volcanic island. There is a short walk you will do as part of your visit to see various endemic Galapagos birds and a viewpoint over the coastline.
I was lucky enough to see a red sand beach on Maui, but Red Beach on Rabida Island sounds even better because it is much more remote and you are likely to see a large colony of sea lions, and marine iguanas right on the beach.
How To Visit Red Beach: Unfortunately it is not possible to do a day trip to Rabida Island, you have to visit as part of a multi-day Galapagos cruise.
The Best Time To Visit the Galapagos Beaches
The best time to visit is in the warm season from December to May, with the hottest months being February and March.
You can visit these Galapagos Beaches year-round but the weather and water are much cooler during the cool season from June to November –when the Humboldt, or Antarctic Current is running the strongest– so you would need to layer up on the beach and wear a wetsuit in the water.
Credit: The World on my Necklace