“Las Grietas Galapagos” or “the Cracks of Galapagos” are a quick, fun, and refreshing day trip into a refreshingly cool and blue crack in the earth. One of the many amazing, free things to do on Galapagos, Las Grietas is a perfect way to spend a couple hours in the morning and afternoon on your own, while you’re waiting for your next tour to walk with giant tortoises or swim with sea lions and sharks.
Read on to discover how to experience swimming in the remnants of volcanic activity on Isla Santa Cruz and a refreshing way to spend a day – in the “Las Grietas Galapagos”.
Contents of this Guide to “Las Grietas Galapagos”
- What are “Las Grietas”
- The Experience
- Map of Directions to Las Grietas
- How to get to Las Grietas
- When to go
- What to bring
What are Las Grietas Galapagos
Las Grietas Galapagos, or “the cracks of Galapagos” in English, is a refreshing half day excursion on Island Santa Cruz to a cool blue refreshing grotto. This short 20 minute walk from Isla Santa Cruz’s main area of Puerto Ayora makes a great, free and refreshing, half day adventure amidst the other awesomeness of the Galapagos Islands.
Las Grietas in Galapagos is actually a wide fissure in the ground, a remnant of the volcanic activity that formed Isla Santa Cruz and the other islands of the Galapagos Archipelago. Former lava underground lava tunnels now serve as underground, freshwater streams that channel freshwater into “Las Grietas” on one side while salty seawater pours into the opposite side of this enchanting terrain feature. The result is a long crevasse with towering rock walls on both sides and filled with 10 meter deep, crystal blue brackish water that is as refreshing as a swimming pool on a summer day.
Due to the fact that “Las Grietas” is filled with brackish water, there is much life in the water and despite its dark bottom (and slightly scary depth) there are no sharks or dangerous critters…so you’re safe to enjoy.
The pool is actually a “multi-layered treat”. The first pool of Las Grietas somewhat ends as the walls narrow. Swim and climb over a few rocks and you’ll find a second pool with more fish to play with.
If you’re feeling adventurous, swim on to find a 1 meter long underwater tunnel to swim through to get to a completely private final pool in Las Grietas.
The Experience of Las Grietas
The great thing about Las Grietas is this tiny adventure is that it includes more than just diving into this crystal blue crevasse. In all, plan on taking a short water taxi ride, then “hiking” (more of a relaxed walk) past a small beach, through a desert flanked by cactuses, past a salt mine, and finally to a fantastic viewpoint of “Las Grietas Galapagos” from above. Let’s walk through this adventure step by step.
From the downtown of Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz, head for the main pier, the place where all of the boats and water taxis pickup and dropoff. From here, hail a water taxi to take you a few hundred meters to the Finch Bay Hotel or the “Ferry a Las Grietas” dropoff point – either is fine.
From your dropoff point, either the Finch Bay Hotel or the Ferry a Las Grietas stop, follow the trail towards Las Grietas.
This 20 minute walk will take you past the tiny Play de Los Alemanes, a tiny yet potentially refreshing beach. Though the beach isn’t much to look at, iguanas do nest here and can be a fun sight to see a snap pictures of.
Continuing on you’ll past the toxic looking “Lagun Salinera”, which is actually a “salt mine”. As the tide rises, the ocean comes in and fills this area. As the ocean retreats, the water level falls and the hot Ecuadorian sun evaporates the leftover water. All that remains is salt, which the locals harvest.
Continue on further along a rocky path and you’ll pass through what seems like a desert wasteland, with tall, dry brush and cactuses all sides.
At the end of your 20 minute “hike” you’ve finally come to Las Grietas. To hop in you’ll simply head on down into the pool, leave your shoes, and gear, and hop in – but first, I recommend heading to the viewpoint above to get a bird’s eye view of this pretty cool terrain feature.
Once you have your insta-worthy pic, head down the stairs to hop in.
Do beware that the entryway to the water is extremely slippery.
Las Grietas Galapagos is separated into three areas.
The first area is the initial pool you’ll get in, where everyone splashes and plays. The water is refreshingly cool and about 10 meters deep. When I visited, there were a handful of local boys hanging onto large rocks trying to see how far down they could go, which was very entertaining.
Swim the ~20 meter length of this pool into where the crevasse narrows and you’ll arrive at the second pool, much shallower with rocks to climb on and more fish swimming about.
Keep going even further and you’ll find a 1 meter long underwater tunnel that will lead you into an isolated, sectioned off place. I’ll let you find out on your own what’s on that side…
On the way back from Las Grietas…
I recommend stopping by the bar at the Finch Bay hotel if you’re coming in the evening and grabbing a cocktail by the waterfront. Every night that I sat there around sunset, I watched the birds come to the small bay in swarms, fly high upwards into the sky, and the fly straight down piercing into the water, dive bomber style, to catch fish. It was a spectacular site watch over a Margarita as the sunset – something I might have seen on National Geographic but never expected to see in person.
Map and Directions to Las Grietas
How to get there
Here’s a recap of how to get from Puerto Ayora to Las Grietas
- Take an $0.80 (one way) boat taxi from the main pier in Puerto Ayora for the Finch Bay Hotel or the Las Grietas boat taxi stop
- Follow the trail for 20 minutes past La Playa de los Alemanes, Laguna Salinera, and the tiny dessert
- To return from Las Grietas to Puerto Ayora: Hike back in the same direction and taxis will always be waiting at the taxi stop and at the Finch Bay Hotel
- Pro tip: Return to the Finch Bay Hotel around sunset to see flocks of birds dive bombing fish in the water from high above
When to go to Las Grietas
Anytime of year, “Las Grietas Galapagos” will be crisp, refreshing, and enjoyable.
I recommend heading over around noon when the sun is high and the air is hot, as it gives the perfect contrast to the cool, refreshing pool. Beware though that this trip is on many travelers list so Las Grietas is likely to be most crowded during the warm midday. If you want to avoid crowds, earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon is your best bet.
What to bring to Las Grietas
- Dry bag
- Sturdy, water worthy shoes, sufficient for walking on rocky terrain, and swimming (if possible)
- Waterproof Camera
- Water + water bottle
- Spare cash
(For a more detailed list of what you need, checkout our Galapagos Packing List)
If you’re nervous about leaving your belongings on the dock while you swim, bring a 10L to 20L dry bag. Throw your belongings in then roll and close the top leaving enough air for the bag to float, and then strap it on while you swim.
You can purchase a perfect 20L bag for cheap on Amazon
Sturdy, water worthy shoes, sufficient for walking on rocky terrain, and swimming (if possible)
Though you can be the true traveler and make the trek in flip flops, sturdy shoes will make the trek more comfortable. I personally found my Xero Trails to be perfect as I walked in them and then swam shortly after. Lunas running sandals and Chocos hiking sandals would work just as well.
Las Grietas is a fun experience with crystal clear water and a great chance for some fun photos. You should already have a waterproof camera on your Galapagos Packing List. I carry the Olympus TG-5 Tough waterproof camera and recommend it, but for most travelers the GoPro Hero is the best travel camera – don’t forget the GoPro Tripod Handle which I found to be invaluable.
Water + water bottle
A 20 minute walk, at noon, in Ecuador, through the “Galapagos desert” can be miserable. Take some water to avoid passing out. Be kind to the environment and use a reusable water bottle like a Nalgene or a Klean Kanteen instead of single use plastic bottles.
Not much…just enough for the boat taxi and perhaps a cocktail on the way back at the Finch Bay Hotel