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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Boradados El Alquimista
Did you just take a flight over to the Galapagos or did you do a boat trip? Is it possible to just hop over to the Galapagos and do various day trips or should we invest in a cruise?
We just took a flight over and day-tripped. If you are hoping to see a lot of different islands in one trip and have only a week, a boat trip is probably the best option. However, I hate boats and get sea sick easily. The next trip we plan will be on two to three islands – probably San Cristobal for a few days and Isabella for a few days.
Day trips to different islands can be bought without needing to book in advance. Both Puerto Ayoro and Puerto Baquerizo have several ferry operators. Cost as of Jan 2023 is $30 USD per person.