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Las Grietas: Our Favorite Place to Swim on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

I love to swim! I especially love swimming in places where I know there is nothing too big that’s going to come out and try to get a piece of me. 😉 Las Grietas is just such a place, but it’s much more than that!

las grietas galapagos

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Swim at Las Grietas on Santa Cruz Island

Growing up in Nova Scotia, Canada I loved going camping in August and swimming in the lakes. There was also a cool spot in the woods called Three Pools, where a little river ran down over waterfalls and pooled in three different areas, each at the bottom of a different waterfall.

While I love those places, Las Grietas is even better.

Las-Grietas-Santa-Cruz-Island-Galapagos

What is Las Grietas?

Las Grietas is a stretch of inland crystal clear emerald green water at the bottom of an earth fracture! It’s found on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands.

It’s over 10 meters deep, 7 meters wide and 100 meters long.

It’s fed underground by a river from one end and ocean water from the other.  The water is cool and brackish.

There are cliffs of dark volcanic rock rising up on each side which make a dramatic contrast against the emerald green water.

Why I Love Las Grietas

Las Grietas is so ruggedly beautiful!

Las-Grietas-Galapagos-Islands

The path to Las Grietas took us across volcanic rock and through scrubby bushes. I was not expecting to see such clear emerald water that far from the ocean.

I had never seen anything like that before. I’m so glad the sun was shining that day, I think the color of the water would appear really different on a dull day.

Las-Grietas-Santa-Cruz-Galapagos-Islands

Crystal Clear Water

The water was so clear! It was an amazing sight to put on a mask and see the jagged cliff walls going down, down, down… I could see all the way to the white sand bottom!

There were some large fish hanging around near the cliff sides but the water was so clear and deep that I couldn’t really tell how big or how far down they were.

My perception was thrown off because there was nothing down there to judge anything against. There were just the dark cliff sides and a long clear water-filled canal going down the middle.

Swimming-at-Las-Grietas-Santa-Cruz-Galapagos

The water was also very calm, at least it was when people were not climbing up the cliffs to jump in.

Swimming the length of it and then stopping in the middle to just float on my back was wonderful.

And because I knew the water was fed underground from both sides, I knew there were no large critters in there which really added to the relaxing experience. I’m a little (or maybe a lot) paranoid of sharks…

Jumping-in-Las-Grietas-Galapagos-Islands

One Of My Favorite Swimming Spots

Las Grietas is definitely the most unique place I’ve ever swam in. It’s also one of my favorites… so far. The atmosphere was really neat the day we were there.

There were travelers from all over the place, we could hear a number of different languages and accents. Everyone seemed to feel the same way we did about being there.

A lot of people were climbing the cliffs to jump in. That looked like so much fun and it was very tempting, but the jagged volcanic rocks looked too imposing for me. I could just see myself slipping…

Las Grietas is a special place where you can go for a swim in brackish water in an earth fracture – with no ocean in sight. The water is cool and very clear.

Rocks-at-Las-Grietas-Santa-Cruz-Galapagos

Getting to Las Grietas on Santa Cruz

Las Grietas is on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands. It’s a place you can go without a guide, unlike many of the other areas on the Galapagos.

You’ll need to take a water taxi across Academy Bay to Angermeyer Point. You’ll walk by the Angermeyer Waterfront Inn, a small beach, then down a path that takes you out by a salt lake and across some lava rock, and then through a small wooded area.

We went with a guide because we were working with Red Mangrove Galapagos Lodges at the time. I would recommend going with a guide especially if you have children and are concerned about getting lost.

Along the trail by the salt lake, watch for Darwin’s cotton. If the season is right – we saw it in April – you might see mature cotton balls on the bushes.

Directions to Las Grietas

Here are the step-by-step directions to Las Grietas. On the way, you’ll pass Playa de los Alemanes (German Beach).

  1. Go to the main wharf in Puerto Ayora. It is directly behind the volleyball courts in the center of town.
  2. On the wharf, hire a water taxi to take you across Academy Bay to Angermeyer Point. The ride lasts just a few minutes and you’ll get off on the other side of the bay.
  3. Now on foot, you’ll pass the Angermeyer Waterfront Inn (on your right). There is no road – just a footpath. Although the sign states a distance of 662 meters to Las Grietas – my measurements put it at just over 1 kilometer (1050 meters) – one way.
  4. After 150 meters, the path will split. Go left. To the right, you’ll see homes and developments. Follow the path to a boardwalk – roughly another 150 meters.
  5. The boardwalk wraps around Playa de las Alemanes (German Beach) – a small white sand beach. It is also known as Playa Punta Estrada.
  6. To continue on to Las Grietas, walk to the far end of the beach. You’ll see a sign and a path that goes to the right. Follow the path to the salt lake.
  7. Depending on the time of year, the salt lake may be full or almost dry. Continue walking with the lake on your right. The path gets rougher from here to the end. You’ll walk across lava fields full of cactuses. Just 250 meters across the lava fields and a small section of woods until you arrive at Las Grietas.
  8. You should now be able to see the fracture full of crystal clear water. To the right, you’ll find a wooden staircase down to the water level. Be careful on the rocks – lava rocks are extremely sharp.

Tip for Parents: If you have small children, be sure to hold their hands as you approach the fracture. It is an actual cliff and a child could run right off.

Really, once you pass the beach, it would be a good idea to either carry them or hold their hand. The lava rocks are very sharp – and unforgiving.

Angermeyer-Waterfront-Inn-Santa-Cruz-Galapagos-Islands

Getting-to-Las-Grietas-Santa-Cruz-Galapagos

Playa de los Alemanes

Playa de los Alemanes – or German Beach – is located on the way to Las Grietas and is a nice white sand beach. It isn’t what you’re used to seeing in the Caribbean – it is small and there are a few rocks.

And it isn’t as nice as Tortuga Bay (which is almost perfect). But it is easy to get to, with significantly less walking.

And it makes a great spot to cool off on your way to Las Grietas.

Getting-to-Las-Grietas-Galapagos-Islands

It would be best to wear good quality hiking sandals, the kind with a good tread that you could also swim in.

Having to mess around with sneakers while trying to balance on lava rocks in bare feet was not all that much fun. Everything else was amazing!

Las-Grietas-Santa-Cruz-Island-Galapagos

Have you been to Las Grietas? Where is your favorite swimming spot? Please share your experiences by commenting on this post.


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10 Natural Swimming Holes to Add to Your Bucket List - Camille Styles

Tuesday 9th of February 2021

[…] Las Grietas, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador […]

Aaron

Wednesday 9th of April 2014

I loved Three Pools growing up. Of course it was practically my back yard! I long for the long hot summers spent there...falling freely from the cliffs into the cool water!

pat wood

Monday 31st of March 2014

Swimming in the Dead Sea - Israel with the salt as sand, mud for your body outsie self smeared, rinse with sulperic water, Red Sea - Egypt....also super salty..talk about colorful saltwater fish...but I did it at sunset WOW. The mosr exciting well into the Sea of Cortez snrkling with the sea lions. I'm an excellent swimmer but these cute and fuzzies on land are a different territorial, hungry creature in the wild. the bull is 2,000 pounds and the protective mothers come at you with sharp teeth bared as their babies. I thought Lord take me now this how I want to go!

Jon Poland

Saturday 29th of March 2014

Thanks for posting this! There is a place similar to this in Oregon except it is a river with three 8 foot waterfalls and three pools. It is actually called "three pools park". The rock cliffs on either side range from 4ft to 45ft and are so much fun to climb and jump off. I really miss how much fun I had there as a kid with my dad and siblings. I'll be spending May - July in Cuenca with my wife and son. We will definitely make plans to visit this spot!

Lee (Doug) Spotswood

Saturday 29th of March 2014

What does it cost to travel to the Golopagas Islands? Also if you are not a resident of Ecuador, is there special requirements?