Paul Schicke
Written by Paul Schicke Senior Expedition Designer

Updated: February 14, 2023
Published: July 24, 2017

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Galapagos Sea Lion coming out of the sea to a white sand beach in the Galapagos

What a lot of people don’t know about the Galapagos, is that its' beaches offer the same sort of variety and beauty that its wildlife do. From long stretches of pristine white sand to hidden coves of black, green and red sand beauties, the beaches of Galapagos are some of the world’s most special. If you’re planning on visiting the islands, make sure you spend some time exploring as many of these top 5 Galapagos beaches.

Gardner Bay, Espanola Island

p>Gardner Bay, located at the northern end of Espanola Island was voted as one of the top 20 beaches in the world by CNN in 2016 (recently updated to the top 100 beaches). Here, instead of sharing the sand with hordes of sunbathers, you’ll find sea lions sleeping and playing in the shallow waters of this bay. There’s also manta rays, albatross and blue-footed boobies on display. Whether you feel like relaxing on the sand or heading out to kayak, snorkel or dive, Gardner Bay exemplifies everything that is the Galapagos!

Sea Lions resting on the white sand beach of Espanola Island, Galapagos

James Bay, Santiago Island

Charles Darwin describes his visit to Santiago Island and James Bay in The Voyage of the Beagle. This landing site welcomes us with one of the most outstanding volcanic sites in the Galapagos, with intriguing eroded rock formations that surround a fascinating jet-black sand beach. As opposed to white sand beaches that are made up of churned reef coral, the black sand at James Bay is a result of the erosion over thousands of years of solidified lava flows. James Bay is also the access point to the famous Fur seal Grottos, one of the few places in Galapagos that allow you to see these beautiful marine mammals during a land excursion.

Black sand beach slopes to a rocky sea floor at James Bay on Santiago Island, Galapagos

Rabida Beach, Rabida Island

At the geologic center of the Galapagos and with its striking colors, Rabida Island presents a very different look from the other islands around the archipelago. The volcanic rock of the Island is so high in iron content that the rock rusts when exposed to air, turning beaches and soil red. Its reddish beach and cliffs, and steep, sloping volcanic cinder-cones are home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including Flamingos, sea lions and Darwin finches. Visitors to Rabida are greeted by a noisy colony of sea lions that have made its mesmerizing red sand beach their home. A thin bush line behind the beach hides a small hyper-saline lagoon where flamingos are frequently found. Snorkeling along the rocks at the east end of the beach reveals many reef fish common to these waters around Rabida Island in the Galapagos.

Rabida Island's red sand beach

Cormorant Point Beach, Floreana Island

Cormorant Point Beach is one of the most peculiar Galapagos beaches due to the distinctive green color of its sand. Located on the Northern side of Floreana Island, the sand at Cormorant Point is rich in olivine crystals, which give it that greenish tint that glitters in the sun. Floreana Island is one of the archipelago’s most colorful with its rich history. Pirates, whalers, convicts, and a small band of somewhat peculiar colonists called this island their home in the past, including a self proclaimed Baroness among them, who chose a Robinson Crusoe’s existence that ended in mystery and death. In Floreana we also find the famous Post Office barrel set up in 1793 by British whalers, to send letters home on passing ships. The tradition continues to this day, simply by dropping a post card into the barrel without a stamp. The catch is you must take a post card from the barrel and see that it gets to the right place. That is how the system began and continues to this day.

Olive green beach sand of Cormorant Point Beach in the Galapagos Islands

Darwin Bay Beach, Genovesa Island

Far-removed from the inhabited Islands of the archipelago, Genovesa Island is one of the most exclusive and pristine Islands in Galapagos due to its remote location. On the southern side of the island we find Darwin Bay Beach, set into a collapsed, shielded volcanic crater. It is a bird haven! With soft white sand, guests who visit Darwin Bay can enjoy watching great frigates, red-footed boobies, lava herons and more. It’s a great spot for snorkeling as well, as the nutrient-rich waters attract sea lions, turtles and manta rays. And if you are brave enough, you may even be able to snorkel with sharks along the volcanic inner wall!

Darwin's Bay coral white sand beach

Galapagos Beach Hopping

While the world’s got plenty of nice beaches, there’s nothing like the unique beauty and wildlife experience of Galapagos beaches. To visit one of these top 5 Galapagos beaches, cruise with us on M/V Evolution or M/Y Grace. To start planning your trip today, simply send us an inquiry below!

Paul Schicke
By Paul Schicke
Senior Expedition Designer

Hello! My name is Paul. I am a photographer, traveler, teacher and writer. I have extensive experience in travel to Galapagos, Peru, Patagonia and the western seaboard of South America specializing in ways travelers can experience these once-in-a-life destinations like locals on the road. Lover of wine, chocolate, travel, coffee, and helping others plan vacations of a lifetime!

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