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The Galapagos Islands may be well known for the unique animals that live there, 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. 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.
The Best Galapagos Beaches
You can find my interactive map of the best Galapagos Beaches here.
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 comes 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.
Plan Your Trip to the Galapagos
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 so you would need to layer up on the beach and wear a wetsuit in the water.
Where To Stay in the Galapagos
There are four inhabited islands in the Galapagos, although Floreana is hard to get to and doesn’t have many accommodation options so I have only included where to stay on the other three islands: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela.
You will be staying on at least one of these islands if you aren’t doing a Galapagos cruise.
Santa Cruz Island
There are a number of solid budget options in Puerto Ayora, we stayed at Hospedaje Germania and were really happy with it. Hostal Casa Cascada is a good budget option too.
Great mid-range options include Hotel Coloma Galapagos, La K-leta Boutique Guesthouse, and La Peregrina Galapagos B&B. More luxurious options include Hotel Cucuve and Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.
The best vacation rentals are this deluxe two-bedroom suite, this lovely home surrounded by beautiful gardens, and this ocean view two-bedroom suite.
San Cristobal Island
San Cristobal is more expensive than Santa Cruz and Isabela but there are still some good budget options. We stayed at La Casa de Jeimy and it was excellent for the cost. Palma Del Mar 2 and La Casa De Mi Sub are highly rated budget options as well.
Great mid-range options include Galapagos Eco Friendly, Hostal Romy, and Cucuve Eco Hostal. More luxurious options include Galapagos Casa Playa Mann and Casa Opuntia.
The best vacation rentals are this penthouse with spectacular sunsets and this colorful two-bedroom house.
Isabela has a lot of good budget options. We stayed at Hostal Villamil and I recommend it. Hostal Punta Arena and Hostal Insular are great budget options too.
Great mid-range options include Hotel Star Fish, Hostal Galapagos by Bar de Beto, and Hotel La Laguna Galapagos. A more luxurious option is The Isabela Beach House.
The best vacation rentals are this two-bedroom vacation home and this amazing beachfront house.
I did A LOT of research on the best lower-cost cruises around the northern, southern, and eastern islands, and the three that I thought had the best itineraries and that visit a lot of these beaches are the below:
To get a great deal, it’s best to have some flexibility and book once the prices drop which is usually a couple of weeks before departure. The two websites that had the best deals that I saw are Lastminute Galapagos and Galapagos Last Minute Deals.
Tips For Visiting Galapagos Beaches
- The sun is fierce in the Galapagos so make sure to wear sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and cover up as much as you can when you are snorkeling, swimming, and sitting on the beach.
- If you are visiting one of the beaches you need to walk to, I recommend taking a small umbrella for shade if it’s hot outside.
- Take lots of water with you, especially in the hotter months. I recommend packing a LARQ self-cleaning and purifying water bottle with you on your travels – I love mine. It is insulated to keep your water cold, it cleans itself, and if you do end up needing to drink out of a tap, it will kill 99% of bacteria.
- Don’t touch or get too close to any of the wildlife
- Leave no trace – pack out what you brought in
- Bring your own snorkel and mask with you because you never know what you will see
The Best Insurance For Your Galapagos Trip
Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your Galapagos trip, just to be on the safe side. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with.
Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.
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