Ever since I moved to Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands figured at the very top of my Ecuador Bucket List. Dreamy beaches, volcanic landscapes, wildlife everywhere… it’s no wonder why. I couldn’t wait to go but I was waiting for the right moment. When my sister came to visit me in the summer, I decided it was time to make it happen! While I was researching Galapagos, I found out that there are three islands you can explore on your own: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela. So we decided to organize our own island hopping tour starting in… San Cristobal! From how to get there, what to see and do to where to stay, here’s a complete guide to visiting San Cristobal.
How to get there
San Cristobal is the closest island to mainland Ecuador, and one of the oldest in Galapagos. You can fly in directly from Quito or Guayaquil with Latam or Tame. San Cristobal Airport (SCY) is conveniently located near town, at a 10-minute walk or short taxi ride away from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. If you’re already in the Galapagos Islands, you can take a ferry boat from Santa Cruz that costs $30 to reach the island.
Best Things to Do in San Cristobal
Hiking across volcanic landscapes, snorkeling with sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, and relaxing on pristine beaches, San Cristobal has a lot to offer. In this section, I am going to share with you the best things to do on the island, including free activities and daily tours, because while there are many activities you can do for free, I would recommend booking at least one day tour to make the most of your visit to San Cristobal.
Hike up Cerro Tijeretas
Cerro Tijeretas owes its name to its famous great and magnificent inhabitants… The frigatebirds! Located near town, it’s one of the only places where you can observe both species of frigatebirds at the same time and learn to differentiate them. Enjoy the view over the pacific ocean and Kicker Rock from the viewpoint and take a dip with sea lions at the snorkeling spot.
Watch the sunset with Sea Lions at Playa Punta Carola
For me, Punta Carola was one of the highlights of our trip. Maybe because I didn’t really know what to expect, probably because I had never seen so many sea lions chilling on the beach at the same time! We went there at sunset which added to the magical feel of the place. However, if you go a little earlier, you might see marine iguanas sharing the beach with the sea lions, soaking in the sun.
Hang out with the locals at Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado
Did you know that San Cristobal has its own giant tortoise species? If you want to encounter the local Geochelone Chatamensis, head to Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado to observe them in their natural habitat. The reserve was built to help restore the tortoise’s population so you will see young and older tortoises. Located in the highlands, about 20 km south of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the entrance is free.
Snorkel at Kicker Rock
If you enjoy snorkeling or diving, this is the snorkeling tour to book! Kicker Rock is an imposing, vertical tuff cone about an hour boat ride away. It is referred to by the locals as León Dormido because its shape resembles a sleeping lion. The most interesting part of Kicker Rock is what is going on underwater. Sea turtles, colorful tropical fishes, and hammerhead sharks share the cold waters surrounding Kicker Rock. The water was very cold and the current somewhat strong but it was the best snorkeling experience we’ve had right after Los Tuneles in Isabela.
Relax at Puerto Chino
Fancy a break? Go to Puerto Chino beach, situated near the Giant Tortoise Reserve. You will have to walk 15 minutes on a trail bordered by cacti and local fauna to get to the small but beautiful white sand beach. Puerto Chino is a great place to enjoy the afternoon with sea lions while watching sea birds feeding. Don’t forget your snorkeling gear (sea turtles are frequently spotted), and everything you need for the day as there are no shops around.
Take the 360° Tour of San Cristobal
If you don’t have a lot of time on San Cristobal, then I would highly recommend booking the 360° day tour. As its name suggests, you will go all around the island in just one day, stopping at some of its most beautiful hidden spots like Sardine bay, Punta Pitt and Kicker Rock!
(Read more: 6 Best Day Tours in the Galapagos)
Where to stay
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno may be the capital of the Galapagos Province but it doesn’t feel like it. On the southwestern coast of San Cristobal, the town is actually the oldest settlement in the Galapagos Islands. Although the tourism industry keeps growing on the island, fishing is the main economic activity for locals. There are a few housing options distributed around the picturesque town. Nevertheless, those are the ones I would recommend checking out.
- Galapagos Sunset Hotel – Great Location
- Casa de Jeimy – Where I Stayed
- Hostal Romy – Best rated on Booking.com
San Cristobal is one of my favorite islands in Galapagos so I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. If you have any questions regarding your stay on San Cristobal or in the Galapagos Islands, feel free to ask them in the comments!
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