Best places to visit in Galapagos free, or close to it

May 26, 2020

If you book a diving or land tour package with us you will have a little free time in the afternoons after the dive trips, or a free day here or there if moving between the islands due to ferry times.

To see all the packages we have available please click here.

Of course you can take this time to relax on the beach or by the pool with a good book, but if you prefer to squeeze in as much as you can into your stay in Galapagos, here are the sites you can visit by yourself, or with the help of a local taxi.

ENJOY!

You can see a few more photos here on our website here.

ISLA SANTA CRUZ

Tortuga Bay

Location: 2km west of Puerto Ayora along a 2km walking path, or take a 20 minute boat ride that departs from the main pier.

Open from 6am to 6pm.

This white sandy beach rivals the best throughout South America, and is an excellent place to swim, surf, walk, or just lay taking in the beautiful surroundings. It is called Tortuga Bay due to the green sea turtles that use it as a nesting site throughout the breeding season.

If you roll out of bed early enough you can see the tracks left by females overnight crossing the beach to lay their eggs in the dunes. As well as the turtles, the bay is home to hundreds, if not thousands of marine iguanas which can be seen lying in piles sunning themselves throughout the day. Sharks, pelicans, and the occasional flamingo delight visitors all year round, and if you want somewhere with no waves at all, just continue walking around the point to a secluded lagoon where it is possible to snorkel.

There is no drinking water or toilet facilities at the beach, so remember to take all you want with you. Forgotten sunscreen and hats have left many a tourist pink and sore the next day!

Tortuga Bay is also the main surf spot on Isla Santa Cruz. The main break is to the left as you arrive to the beach from the walking path.

 

 

 

German Beach

Location: 2 minute water taxi ride across the bay.

I like visiting German beach at High tide, more water, less rocks!

This small shallow beach is the closest swimming spot to Puerto Ayora and a nice stop on the way to las Grietas. You will need to take a short water taxi ride from the main pier, then walk around 5 minutes to relax in the warm sand.

 

 

Las Grietas

Location: Take a water taxi from the main pier to Angermeyer Point, approx 2 min, and then follow the signs along the walking track for approx 20 minutes past the Germans Beach in front of Finch Bay Hotel. Water taxi`s operate 24/7

Las Grietas is a large water filled crevice in the rocks that is a mix of salt and fresh water. The water is cool and clear and great for snorkelling, to see the large parrot fish that make Las Grietas home. Just don`t take anything you can afford to lose. It is a tempting place for thieves and many cameras and cell phones have gone missing there.

Garrapatero Beach

Location: 30 – 40 minute taxi ride east of Puerto Ayora, followed by a 15 minute walk onto the beach.

Garrapatero is a wide bay with multiple sandy beaches and tidal pools, good for

exploring and snorkelling on calm days. You can also rent kayaks there to get out further for better visibility. There is also a fresh water lagoon behind the beach, which is occasionally the home to the amazing pink flamingos!

Giant Tortoise Reserves & Lava Tunnels – El Chato, Las Grietas

Location: There are 2 private Giant tortoise reserves in the highlands near the small town of Santa Rosa. You can take a round trip taxi ride or rent bikes and ride the 22kms up the hill!

These reserves are some of the only places where you can observe the ancient creatures up close in the wild. They look old, they smell old and they even sound old when they suck in their necks and heads and let out a hiss of air, like an old leather cushion. The reserve is also a great place to see the short eared owls, Darwin`s finches, yellow warblers and paint billed crakes. After you return to the current century you will be taken to the lava tubes, where you can walk more than 1km underground. They were formed by the solidifying of the outside skin of molten lava flow. When the lava flow ceased, the molten lava inside the flow kept moving, emptying out of the solidified skin thus leaving tunnels.

Tunnel of Love – Bellavista

Location: Bellavista, a small town approx. 7km out of Puerto Ayora. You can go there by taxi or rent a bike and ride up the bike path that runs from Puerto Ayora to Bellavista and beyond.

These are the longest Lava tunnels on the island of Santa Cruz. Sign in and receive your torch to make your way through the 1km tunnel of Love!

Los Gemelos

Location: You can reach Los Gemelos by a 30 minute taxi drive, or if you are feeling energetic you can ride a bike all the way up the hill!                                                               The twin craters are actually sink holes surrounded by Scalesia forest. Vermillion flycatchers and often seen here, as well as short eared owls on occasion. It is a beautiful place to take in the greenery of Galápagos and walk along the small paths around the craters to spot some of the bird life. This site is usually visited in conjunction with the Giant Tortoise reserve.

Cerro Crocker & Media Luna

Location: North of Bellavista.                                                                                                    North of Bellavista is the national park land known as the highlands. A path from Bellavista leads towards Cerro Crocker (864m) and other hills and extinct volcanoes. The walk is appox 1.5-2 hours up to the Cerro Crocker lookout. This is a good chance to see the vegetation of the Scalesia, Miconia and fern sedge zones and to look for birds such as the vermilion flycatcher, the elusive Galàpagos rail and the paint billed crake. The area can get very wet and muddy if it has been raining so make sure you check with the locals before you go and let someone know where you are going. You would not be the first person to get lost up there!

Charles Darwin Station

Location: A 20 – 25 minute walk east down the end of the main drag, Av Charles Darwin.

Open 6am – 6pm.

More than 200 scientists and volunteers are involved with research and conservation efforts, the most well known of which involves a captive breeding program for giant tortoises. It contains a national park information center, a baby tortoise house with incubators, and a walk through an adult tortoise enclosure. Other attractions include a small enclosure containing several land iguanas and explanations concerning efforts to restore their populations on islands where they`ve been pushed the brink of extinction. You can even visit the late Lonesome George in his own climate controlled museum area.

Station Beach

Location: A 20 – 25 minute walk east down the end of the main drag, Av Charles Darwin.

Open 6am – 6pm.

This beach is small but great on a hot day. It is on the way into the Darwin Station and is nice on low or high tide. Many locals swim laps here when the water is clam and the mornings are hot. It’s a great place to see the marine iguanas swimming in the water during the hottest times of the day.

On your way out of the Charles Darwin station stop for a refreshing swim at the station beach

 

ISLA ISABELA

The Main Beach!

The town in Isbaela is located just across the road from a long, White, deserted, beautiful beach. Just take your towel, a good book and some sunscreen, walk a few minutes up the beach and you will be alone in your Galapagos Paradise.

Photo taken by Caroline Marmion. Isabela main beach

Flamingo Lagoon & Giant Tortoise Breeding Center (wetlands)

This site is known for its marine iguanas and migrant birds, and most famously, the flamingos. A trail a little over a kilometer long begins as a wooden boardwalk over the lagoons and passes through mangroves and dense vegetation, ending in the Crianza de Tortugas (the giant tortoise breeding center). Sometimes you can see 2 flamingos, sometimes 20, cross your fingers fro some good luck!

Flamingos resting in Los Humedales (the wetlands) Isla Isabela

Concha de Perla

Concha de Perla is located just near the main pier in Puerto Villamil, about 15 minutes walk from the town. It is a naturally formed lagoon frequented by sea lions, marine iguanas, eagle rays, and if you are very lucky the Galapagos penguins. Get up early and take a dip in the crystal clear waters early in the morning to beat the crowds.

Photo by Caroline Marmion. Penguins taking in the sun.

Wall of Tears

From 1945-1959, a penal colony hosted prisoners who were forced to build this wall, stone by stone, in isolation. This now an historical site (El Muro de las Lágrimas), towering at 65 feet (25m) high, which took the lives of thousands during its construction. Locals claim to hear cries emanating from the heavy energy surrounding the site.

It is located about 2 hours walk out of town, or about 1 hour bike ride. You can rent a bike in many agencies in town. Along the track you may run into the local Giant tortoises, and don’t miss the small tracks that run off to the beach where you will be all alone with the iguanas, or up to spectacular look outs over Puerto Villamil.

El Estero

Photo taken by Caroline Marmion

El Estero is a beautiful secluded beach surrounded by an endemic mangrove forrest. You can find the sign for the entrance  along the path near the Wall of Tears. It is the perfect place to cool off after the walk or bike ride to the historical site. Don’t forget to keep your distance from the local sea lions!

Photo taken by Caroline Marmion

La Playita

Photo taken by Caroline Marmion

La Playita is also located on the path to the Wall of Tears. With the beautiful beaches and lookouts along the way, it’s better to make at least half a day excursion to make sure you make the most of these amazing sites!

 

 

 

Photo taken by Caroline Marmion

Playa del Amor

Playa del Amora is another secluded beach along the Wall of Tears path. It is a bit more rocky, and has a crystal clear tide pool with many fish. It’s a nice spot for the kids to swim also.

Photo taken by Caroline Marmion

 

ISLA SAN CRISTOBAL

La Loberia

Location: Approx 2.8km from the main pier – you can walk (30 minutes) or take a short taxi ride.

The beach is named for the large number of Lobos Marinos (sea lions) that you will find there. Take your mask and snorkel and don’t be afraid to jump in the water. You will most likely see some turtles also. Just remember, if you see a large male, noticeable by the bump on his head, stay clear. They are very territorial, and you don’t want to get too close to their large teeth.

If you walk to the end of the beach and follow the marked trail you will reach the top of a small cliff where you can spot some of the local sea birds. You might need shoes for this section over the rough lava rock.

Experienced surfers can also enjoy the break behind the bay. Due to the rocks and the large waves, it’s not a great spot for beginners.

Come and visit the sea lions in Isla San Cristobal – La Loberia

Interpretation Center

Location: Approx 1.5km/ 15 minutes walk from the town center towards Playa Mann.

The interpretation center is one of, if not the best place in Galapagos, to read about the biology, geology and human history of the islands.

It is also the starting point for the walking path to Las Tijeretas lookout and lagoon.

Las Tijeretas – Tijeretas Look out

Location: Approx 2.5 km/ 40 minute walk from the town center

You will probably need at least half a day for this trip if you want to take your time and make the most of the swimming spots and beaches along the way. There is a circular path that begins at the Interpretation Center and continues to the Tijeretas lookout, the natural made lagoon with it’s crystal clear waters, and finishes coming out onto the beach at Punta Carola.

From the look out you get a stunning view of Kicker Rock, and as it’s a nesting site for the Frigate birds, you might be able to see them puffing their red chests out in their mating ritual. The Lagoon below is a beautiful place to snorkel on a hot day, and is frequented by green sea turtles, Galapagos sea lions and many colourful reef fish.

 

 

 

 

Playa Mann & Punta Carola

Location: Approx 2 km from the main pier – you can talk or take a taxi to the entrance near Playa Mann, then walk into Punta Carola – about 7 minutes.

If you are walking from town you will arrive to Playa Mann first, it is just past the largest hotel/ resort on the islands. You can sunbathe here with the sea lions, then follow then into the water to cool off.

Punta Carola is a little further down the road and is one of the better surf beaches in San Cristobal, but when it’s flat it’s also a great place to snorkel with the sea lions, turtles and sometimes marine iguanas. Half way along the beach is the track that goes up to the right to Las Tijeretas.

Sea lions everywhere at Punta Carola

Puerto Chino

Location: Take a taxi up and over the highlands to Puerto Chino. The beach visit is often combined with a visit to the Highlands – Galapaguera Tortoise reserve and and El Junco Crater Lake. You can ride a bike, but it’s up hill there and back!

Puerto Chino is easily one of the most beautiful beaches in Galapagos, with It’s fine white sand, blue waters and contrasting black lava rocks, it’s a great spot to take in the sites and swim.

To the right of the beach there is a short trail that leads around the headland where you can sometimes spot some Blue footed boobies nesting or diving into the water to collect their next feed.

It is a popular spot with the locals on the weekends, so to beat the crowds a week day visit is best.

There are no services or shops on the beach so make sure you take drinking water, hat, sunscreen and some snacks. You will need to organize with your taxi driver how long you want him to wait or when to come back and pick you up.

Highlands (La Galapaguera & El Junco)

Location: The Highlands of San Cristobal – taxi ride approx. 20 minutes up the hill.

El Junco is the biggest natural fresh water source in the islands.

From the parking you will need to walk about 10 minutes up a not too steep incline to reach the lake. On a clear day you will have a breathtaking 360 degree view of San Cristobal Island, but take the 2km walking trail around the lake to make the most of the views. You can frequently see the frigate birds and other sea birds swooping around the fresh water also.

Remember if there has been rain the area will be a little muddy!

The Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado is the tortoise breeding center on Isla San Cristobal. There is a trail that will take you past the breeding center where all the younger tortoises are housed until they are large enough to fend for themselves.

Further down the track you will be able to meet the larger adults who roam freemly around the reserve.

Playa de Oro – Golden Beach

Location: In town near the main pier – to the left if you are facing the water.

Here on the beach you can see sometimes hundreds of Galapagos sea lions, though you most surely smell them before you set eyes on them!

Make sure you go past there at night when everyone comes in to get a nights sleep on the beach!

 

WHEN VISITING THESE SITES PLEASE REMEMBER THE NATIONAL PARK RULES

  1. Keep a distance of 2 meters from wildlife, including your camera
  2. Do not touch or feed the fauna
  3. Do not remove elements of the ecosystem
  4. Do not smoke, drink or make campfires in the national park
  5. Walk on marked trails
  6. Camp in designated areas with prior authorisation
  7. Use authorised tour and fishing boats
  8. No flash, professional photographers and drones need special permission
  9. Do not introduce external elements into the ecosystem
  10. Do not use motorised watercraft, submarines and air tourism
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