Tortuga Bay is a pristine, gorgeous white sand beach located within walking distance from Puerto Ayora. Itâ€™s part of the park system, but itâ€™s free and you donâ€™t need a naturalist guide to go there. Itâ€™s popular with locals and often youâ€™ll see families there on weekends.
The trail to get there leaves town not far from the Ninfas Lagoon. Just head further outside of town until you see signs for the Miguel Cifuentes Arias Community Centerâ€”the trail is right behind it. There are restrooms at the community center, but none at the beach, so plan ahead.
Youâ€™ll have to pass through a sort of checkpoint where youâ€™ll sign in and out; this will also be your last chance to buy water, snacks, etc., as there is nothing at the bay. There are no trash cans there either, so plan on bringing back any empty bottles, chip bags, etc.
The trail itself is easy and paved. The sign says itâ€™s a 45-minute walk, but I was able to do it in 30 by myself, walking briskly. Thereâ€™s no need to hurry, though, because youâ€™ll most likely see some interesting bird life as you go, including mockingbirds, finches, flycatchers and Smooth-billed Anis. I also saw a feral cat on the trail once: theyâ€™re shy so keep your eyes peeled. Itâ€™s the only feral cat Iâ€™ve ever actually seen, although theyâ€™re quite numerous on Santa Cruz.
The trail goes through some thick scrubland, and before long youâ€™ll have some respect for whoever made itâ€”it must have been some hard work over the rough rocks and through the thorny trees! About halfway along the trail there is a little gazebo-looking structure where you can sit down and have a rest.
The trail emerges at Playa Brava, a wide and lovely beach that stretches for over a kilometer. You can surf thereâ€”several places in Puerto Ayora will rent you any gear you need. The mounds behind the beach are off-limits. That is where sea turtles nest. On a clear day, CarmaaĂ±o Islet (the LoberĂa) at the mouth of Academy Bay, Santa Fe Island and Floreana can be seen on the horizon.
The west end of Playa Brava, pools form at low tide. These are popular snorkeling spots for local school kids. The beach seemingly ends at a rocky point. A trail goes around this spit of land, full of marine iguanasâ€”some of the largest youâ€™ll see so close to civilization. (Stay on the path, because this is also their nesting grounds). Offshore, youâ€™ll see sea turtles hanging out. The path loops around to the other side of the peninsula to Playa Mansa. Along this stretch, Blue-footed Boobies dance.
Playa Mansa is a perfect piece of paradise. The turquoise waters are perfectly tranquil. At times, even sea lions, Eagle Rays and mating sea turtles come to enjoy this warm cove. Between dips, rest on the makeshift benches beneath the trees. Occasionally there is a guy there who rents out kayaks, but there are no other vendors of any sort.
At the far end of Playa Mansa, past the mangroves, are some salt flats and marshes where a variety of waterfowl and shore birds, including flamingos, are seen.
Some petty theft has been reported at Tortuga Bay. Be sure to take care of your valuables.
Trail Difficulty: 2/5
Itâ€™s paved, but long, and it can get quite hot. There are a few ups and downs. Bring bottled water for sure. Trail length: 2,500 meters (8,202 ft).
Open Hours: 6 a.m.-6 p.m.
Highly Probable to See:
* GalĂˇpagos Flycatchers
* Galapagos Mockingbird
* Lava Lizards
* Marine Iguanas
* A wide variety of shorebirds
Probable to See:
* Noddy Terns
* Brown Pelicans
* Blue-footed Boobies
* Lava Gulls
Possible to See:
* Feral Cats
* GalĂˇpagos Dove
* Spotted Eagle Rays
* Sea turtles
GalĂˇpagos Island Visitor Sites, Puerto Ayora, Ecuador
Beach, Surfing Types:
Kayak, snorkel, surfing.
Relative price: Free
Open Hours from:6 a.m.
Open Hours to:6 p.m.