One of the most popular day trips on the island of Santa Cruz is Tortuga Bay. It’s an affordable option for the budget traveler. Better yet, it’s a gorgeous destination only a short hike or boat trip from most hotels in Puerto Ayora.

How To Get To Tortuga Bay

You can get to Tortuga Bay in two different ways – by boat or by foot. Our favorite way is to hike in and to boat out. You’ll see why in a minute.

To arrange for the ferry boat, head down to the harbor to buy your tickets. It is very easy to schedule a return trip only. Or you might decide to take the boat both directions. Be warned, the water can be very choppy even though it is only a short ride. We’ve heard of more than a few seasick customers. You might want to consider using wrist bands that help guard against sea-sickness.

If you purchase a return ticket only, make sure to get directions to the pick-up location. 

My lizard identification is not up to snuff but you are almost guaranteed to see this guy on the trail to Tortuga Bay | ©Angela Drake

Hiking to Tortuga Bay

The trailhead can be found at the end of Boradados El Alquimista. There you will find a small shop with ice cream and drinks for sale. You will be asked to register (bring your passport number, not your passport!) before heading out. They don’t track who exits the park, only who enters. Because the gate is locked after hours, it means you are responsible to leave before it the trail closes!

The trail to Tortuga Bay reaches a beach with wild surf before arriving at the bay itself | ©Angela Drake

The trail is very dry and it can be hot, so carry plenty of water. Fortunately, the trail is paved so hiking is fairly easy. Plan on seeing lots of lizards and plenty of birds, especially if you hike quietly. There are a wide variety of Darwin’s Finches to be seen!

With photos and wildlife observation, plan on taking one hour to hike the trail. Faster hikers interested in the destination only will likely take half that time. 

So many Galapagos finches look alike that you'll find yourself taking pictures of all of them to identify them later! | ©Angela Drake
These small birds will flock at the sight of any snack food. Beware! | ©Angela Drake

What To Expect At Tortuga Bay

A beautiful, sandy, white beach waits at the end of the trail. The surf can be pretty choppy here. Occasionally, locals will offer surf lessons at this spot. We don’t recommend swimming unless you are aware of how to deal with rip tides and rough surf.

For those looking for calmer waters, turn right and head down the beach. You’ll likely notice lots of marine iguanas in the water closer to a small peninsula full of the Candelabra Cactus. That peninsula is where the ferry drops of and picks up customers. The trail is worth exploring even if you aren’t interested in the ferry boat.

There are other trails at Tortuga Bay. Some are closed for wildlife, so please be attentive | ©Angela Drake

Continue on to the right and you will arrive at Tortuga Bay itself. This is a protected waterway. Locals love to come with small children as they can swim with very little concern for tides or surf. The sandy bottom is also home to rays and sometimes sharks (not the dangerous kind). Snorkeling can be fun on days with few people. Unfortunately, the beach can be so busy with visitors that the sand never really settles, making the water cloudy. 

The dunes near Tortuga Bay are a fragile habitat. | ©Angela Drake

Services at Tortuga Bay

Sometimes a vendor rents kayaks in this very spot. It is fun to take out the ocean-going kayak and explore the mangrove habit along its edges. Bring a small amount of cash with you ($10 per person for kayaking, more if you did not pre-purchase your return ticket for the ferry). The kayak vendor offers dry bags to protect your camera gear.

Otherwise, there are no services at Tortuga Bay. Therefore, carry anything you think you might need. Some folks carry out surfboards (no life guard) and others carry their snorkeling gear. There are places to practice both sports.

This view from the kayak shows how the Galapagos islands are really built upon ancient beds of lava | ©Angela Drake

You’ll also want to carry snacks or a picnic lunch and drinks. There are no food sales at Tortuga Bay.

There are also no bathrooms. The shrubs behind the beach have become a makeshift restroom with signs of toilet paper. Other people likely use the bay itself. Please don’t leave toilet paper in the wild even though you will see evidence of it from others.

Finally, remember to carry out all of your garbage and don’t feed the animals! We want to keep Tortuga Bay pristine.

Iguanas loved having small finches help remove small pieces of dead skin | ©Angela Drake

Tortuga Bay

Trail Head

Boradados El Alquimista

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