Exploring Tortuga Bay Galapagos with Kids – New For 2024

Tortuga Bay is paradise—gleaming white sands, clear blue waters, and, best of all, stunning and abundant wildlife. Visiting Tortuga Bay Galapagos with kids is a gateway to sights and experiences as a family you will never forget.

Reaching the bay and the adjacent Playa Mansa is an easy walk through the tropical forest from Puerto Ayora. Best of all, you can explore at your leisure once you reach the pristine sands. Unlike many of the attractions on the Galapagos, no guide is needed.

For us, Tortuga Bay Galapagos was our first stop on our three-week visit to the islands. After a rather hellish journey from Santiago, involving a night on the Guayaquil airport floor with our two children due to civil unrest, visiting the beach was the salve we needed.

We had arrived.

Exploring Tortuga Bay Galapagos with kids. Kirsty and the girls walking across the white sand beaches with the sea in the distance.
Kirsty and the girls enjoying the incredible beach.

Our Map For Exploring Tortuga Bay Galapagos with Kids

Planning a family vacation to Santa Cruz, Galapagos? Don’t miss our complete guide to making the most of this extraordinary island. Whether it’s wildlife encounters, stunning beaches, or adventure activities you’re after, our guide has it all covered.

Discovering Santa Cruz Galapagos With Kids

Getting To And From Tortuga Bay Galapagos With Kids

There are two ways to get to Tortuga Bay with kids, either by walking or taking a water taxi.

Walking To Tortuga Bay

The path to Tortuga Bay Galapagos is very easy to find; head out of Puerto Ayora on Charles Binford, and you will soon reach the entrance to the park, which is up a short climb.

Entrance is free, but you do need to sign in at the office. The staff fill you in on what to expect and what to do. Simply put, no drinking or smoking, bring your rubbish out with you, don’t get too close to the wildlife, and take plenty of water.

The trail to the bay is about 4 km and is an easy walk with kids or even a pram. It takes you through the pristine tropical forest, where you will see many scuttling lizards and a variety of birds.

The first beach you arrive at is Tortuga Bay, which is everything you expect from the Galapagos, a genuine tropical paradise.

Pristine white sand beach of Playa Mansa disapearing into the distance, sandwiched between trees and the blue sea with Georgia and Eva walking along the waters edge.
Beautiful seas and white sand beaches.

However, the sea at Tortuga Bay is as dangerous as it is beautiful and unsuitable for kids. When we visited, the waves were rough, the current was strong, and the entire beach had red flags, meaning swimming there was forbidden.

Instead, head right and along Tortuga Bay to Playa Mansa. Playa Mansa is far more sheltered, has gentle waves, is home to some incredible wildlife and is the perfect spot to introduce children to snorkelling.

On the way there, you pass large numbers of marine iguanas basking in the sun and seemingly totally unbothered by your presence!

When you are ready to go home, you can walk back to town or take a water taxi.

Two large, black marine iguanas stood alert on the white sand beach of Playa Mansa, Santa Cruz, Galapagos.
Marine iguanas warm themselves on the hot sands to recover energy after hunting.

Catching a Water Taxi

If you don’t fancy the walk, you can catch a water taxi to Tortuga Bay from the Gus Angermeyer Pier.

Check the taxi company for deaprture times as they vary with the tide. When we visited departures were at 9am, 11am and 2pm. Returns were at 10.30am, 11.30am and 4.30pm.

Tickets costs $20 return or $10 one way with no discount for children.

If you have walked to the beach and want to catch the ferry back then this is no problem. The ticket agent walks up and down the beach and you can buy your return ticket from him. It’s hard to miss him as he does shout about it. He also alerts you when your boat is due to arrive.

After a day on the beach, taking a water taxi beats walking back down that hot path!

When it is near departure time, you will see the boat pull into that bay, and the captain will sound the horn. Head along the path to Playa Mansa’s entrance to find the boarding point. Note that it isn’t a proper jetty; you hop on and off the rocks. Once onboard, the journey takes around 15 minutes.

If the tide is too low, you may have to wade out to the boat to board.

Once under way be ready for a bit rough water, especially as you go past Tortuga Bay!

Kirsty, Georgia and Eva sat in a row on the water taxi still in their beach gear looking slightly bedraggled
On our way home in a water taxi after an incredible first day.

When To Visit Tortuga Bay Galapagos With Kids

We visited early in the morning, arriving at the beach at about 08.20 before it got too hot. This worked really well for our daughters as it was quieter and cooler.

One thing to check is the tide times. One local man we met on the beach said at high tide, there is not much sand left, so this needs to be factored into your plans. You can see the tide times here.

What to Take to Tortuga Bay Galapagos With Kids

In short – all the sunblock, sun hats, long-sleeve rashies, snacks, bug spray, and plenty of drinking water!

Once you go past the main entrance, there is nowhere to pick up anything to eat or drink, so be sure to take plenty of water and food with you.

The sun on the beach and in the water is strong, even on an overcast day. We arrived with a good base tan from our travels in Patagonia, slathered ourselves in factor fifty multiple times, and still came away with our faces looking like beetroots! 

Fortunately, we all had our long sleeve rash vests on that protected our bodies and arms from the worst of the sun.

Adrian, Georgia and Eva playing a game of frisbee in the shallow waters of Tortuga bay. There are mangroves and a water taxi in the background.
Not vital, but a lot of fun: a frisbee!

The beach is so calm it is perfect for learning to snorkel; in fact, it was our girls’ first experience of this, and they took to it really well! Just remember to put sun cream on the bottom of your kid’s feet. If they are swimming around with their snorkels on, their soles will get a lot of direct sun.

The only thing that lets the snorkelling down is that the water is quite sandy, so visibility is not great, but it is still worth a splash!

Eva Snorkelling in the shallow edge of Tortuga Bay with Adrian floating next to her with the go pro filming a baby reef shark.
A great place for a first snorkel experience!

If you don’t have a snorkel with you, you can hire them in town.

The only nasty bugs we encountered were horseflies that had a savage bite. They are particularly attracted to you after you have been in salt water. Keeping some bug spray with you should help keep them at bay.

What Wildlife Can You Expect To See?

We were blown away by what we saw! This was our first day on the Galapagos Islands, and it lived up to every expectation! 

Marine Iguanas

These beautiful creatures like to bask here on the corner between Tortuga Bay and Playa Mansa. Due to the lack of predators, they are largely unbothered by human presence but don’t get too close.

You might also get lucky and see one of them swimming out to hunt!

Baby Black Tip Sharks

They hunted very close to the shore of Playa Mansa and were there when we arrived at 9 am, but By 10 am, they had vanished. Get to the beach early if you want to see them up close.

Baby Hammer Head Sharks

Again, they like to hunt on the edge of Playa Mansa but stay around much longer than the black-tip sharks. We saw them there all day.

A top down shot of a baby hammerhead shark swimming in the shallow waters of Tortuga Bay above a bed of white sand.
The most incredible creatures!


We were very lucky on our two trips to Tortuga Bay to see three different types of rays.

On our first visit, we saw two eagle rays. At first, we thought they were birds splashing about, but it turns out it was mating season when we visited, and they were courting. They are very timid creatures, but we were lucky enough to get close to them.

On our second visit, we spotted two large sting rays and a diamond ray, which had been caught in a tidal pool. This was an utterly amazing and very rare experience!

A large sting ray swimming along the sea bed whilst exploring Tortuga Bay Galapagos with kids.

Galapagos Brown Pelican

These huge birds are far more graceful in the air than they look! You will see plenty of these in the trees and on the water around the bay. They may well make you jump as they swoop down into the water next to you while grabbing a snack!

We hope you have an incredible time at Tortuga Bay Galapagos with your kids!

Tortuga Bay was our perfect first stop, so much so that we returned later that week. We hope you have an incredible time there, too!

If we have missed anything or any information here needs updating, please let us know in the comments below.

The Spencer Family

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About the authors

Our lives have been intertwined with a passion for exploration and a shared love for travel. Our adventures began long before we met, as we individually embarked on daring expeditions across the globe. Our paths finally converged, and we soon realized that our adventures were much more meaningful when shared!

After a brief hiatus to start a family, we eagerly embarked on a new chapter of our travel saga. Determined to instil in Georgia and Eva the values of discovery and open-mindedness, our goal is to embark on exciting escapades and explore breathtaking landscapes, bustling cities, and remote corners of the world. From hiking through mist-laden forests to snorkelling in turquoise seas, every adventure is an opportunity to create lasting memories as a family.

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