Galapagos Islands travel advisor - San Cristobal island attractions
San Cristobal Island visitor sites
San Cristobal is an Island worth visiting - beautiful beaches and amazing wildlife -, here we include information on visitor sites that are close to Puerto Baquerizo and can be seen on a 1 day trip easily done by land or by powerboat without the need of long navigation or overnighting on board a yacht.
Magical sunsets over one of the most beautiful bays of the Galapagos archipelago. Gorgeous white sandy beaches stretch along the coast. Delightful sights of lazy sea lions lounging on the deck of a fishing boat anchored in the harbor. The mystery of freshwater lakes. Bewitching dawns. Welcoming indolence of its inhabitants. The old Chatham (as San Cristóbal was called in the past) is a truly charming place. An island which will discretely bewitch you if you are not careful, as it has done with so many travelers before. Pioneers, mystics, scientists, ordinary people, who never left its shores again.
San Cristóbal is also a port, a fishing harbor, and a naval base. A town whose legends talk about long journeys, about mariners, about sprays, about tides, about wrecks and deaths. An island intimately interlaced with the sea. An island forever immersed in the timeless mystery of the Galapagos islands.
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno offers all the facilities of a small town; schools, an international telephone center, a post office, internet access, a hospital, a bank, travel agencies and a good selection of shops and stores.
Restaurants in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno serve both Ecuadorian and international dishes, with a special emphasis, naturally, on sea products like “ceviche”. You will find food for all tastes and budgets here. San Cristóbal’s highlands are a nice place to have a meal and to relax. The area around El Progreso is very popular with local people, particularly on weekends.
There are plenty of restaurants, bars, discos and peñas with live music open at night in San Cristóbal, most of them being concentrated in streets along or just off the “Malecón”.
Land Visitor Sites
Situated on the north eastern tip of the island there is a wet landing onto the beach. The trail is a steep climb up a cliff path and starts through a narrow ravine. A number of different birds can be seen here, in particular all three species of boobies. Frigatebirds are present, as are swallow-tailed gulls and storm petrels
El Junco Lake
This site is reached by road and is about a half hour drive from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The road goes through the small farming settlement of El Progreso. The lake itself is the caldera (collapsed cone) of an extinct volcano and is about 300 metres wide.The name El Junco is Spanish for sedge, which is present along the banks of the lake.
After a ride into the highlands of San Cristobal, you will tour one of the Galapagos National Park's tortoise breeding centers. You can see the giant tortoises in their natural habitat and learn more about their origin and evolution. If you prefer to walk this is a 4-6 hour fairly strenuous hike, but the reward is an excellent opportunity to get a look at a large number of giant tortoises in the wild.
One of the first sites visited by Charles Darwin, Cerro Brujo is a beautiful white sand beach where brown pelicans, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, and marine iguanas are all found. An onshore version of nearby Kicker Rocks, Cerro Brujo is a very striking, eroded tuff cone.
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the provincial capital of the Galapagos and the second largest settlement area in the islands. It originated as a penal colony more than a hundred years ago. Now a sleepy town overlooking the harbor known for its relaxed attitude.
The beaches near town are one of the few places where visitors are allowed to camp in the islands, the National Park Information Site located just outside of town is happy to provide information. There are a number of hotels and restaurants available for those interested in staying a few extra days in the area to explore some of the local visitor sites.
An Interpretation Center 's new buildings, lush gardens and sweeping ocean views are a strong contrast to the 1960's style buildings at the Charles Darwin Center . Visitors to the Interpretation Center can learn about both the geological and human history of the islands, conservation issues, and natural history. The older Museum of Natural History attempts to preserve the natural history of the islands.
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno has one of the island's two airports.
A small short beach that offers some great snorkelling just in front of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The site has changing rooms, bathroom facilities and a refreshment bar that is available on weekends when it is required by the local population.
There are schools of "pig" fish in the snorkelling site and there is a large population of lava lizards.
Cape Horn beach / Carola Point
An attractive yellow sand beach with the shape of a half moon framed within Punta Carola rocky formation. To the right of the beach there is a lighthouse that can be climbed for a birds-eye view of the area.
From the beach it is possible to admire the rock formations known as Sleeping Lion and Five Fingers. It is a good spot for snorkeling eventhough the area has a rocky shore on low tide.
It is a small pacific bay with a small in-land lake. It is a great location to watch blue-footed boobies dive into the sea and come out with fish in their beaks. Lava gulls are found along the shoreline making a lot of racket.
Galapagos Mockingbirds can be found as well as a great variety of beach plants like the Opuntia cacti and Mangroves. Other species found at this site are Brown Pelikans, small ground finches and sea turtles.
Colorado Hill lookout
Upon a small hill there is a wooden platform that offers amazing views of the tortoise rearing center "La Galapaguera" as well as the south and eastern coasts of the Island. It is home to unique plant life found only on San Cristobal: Calandrinia Galapagosa and Lecocarpus darwinii.
It is also possible to find the San Cristobal mockingbird and Canaries.
A small beach surrounded by dry lava, rocks and mangroves. On high tide the entire beach is covered by the sea.
Puerto Chino can be accessed by foot on a 2 mile trail from Cerro Verde. Upon arrival one is greated by the sounds of many sea birds including blue footed boobies and brown pelikans that rest after diving for fish. Lava lizards and sally-light-foot crabs run around the lava.
Frigate Bird Hill
At a short distance from the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and close to the interpretation center is Frigate bird Hill.
To reach Frigatebird Hill the trail begins starts just on the road beyond Cabañas Don Jorge. At the end of the road there are two paths one leading through the woods and along Playa Mann Beach and the other up a rocky path. A pleasant journey goes up one way and returns along the other path. The trip to the Hill takes approximately 20-40 minutes. Once there, visitors are treated to a spectacular view of the white beaches on one side and the roofs of Puerto Baquerizo on the other.
The hill is often visited by Frigatebirds, giving it its name. Both Magnificent Frigatebirds and Great Frigatebirds can be seen. The birds are not always present, making it is best to ask park officials as to the best times to see the birds when planning your trip. Here it is possible to see Magnificent Frigatebirds and Great Frigatebirds in the same colony. This is the perfect place to compare and learn to distinguish them.
Located up the hill up the main road from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is El Progreso, a small village, with the original settlement on the island.
About 500 people live in El Progresso which has a rather sordid past. In the mid-1800s a penal colony was established there for prisoners from Ecuador. This was later taken over by Manuel Cobos who treated the convicts as slave laborers and developed a sugar cane and coffee plantation. Unsurprisingly, the convicts murdered Cobos during an insurrection. El Progreso, is the oldest surviving settlement in the Galapagos Islands, established in 1869. Today the town is a sleepy farming community.
El Progreso is easily accessibly by bike (as long as your gears work, as it is uphill!), or a sturdy walk or an inexpensive cab/truck ride.
Nearby El Progreso is La Soledad - a very small settlement not too far beyond El Progreso...not much there except a nice mirador (view point) up above a little church, looking out onto the sea on the southwestern side of the island.
The road that passes by El Progreso takes you to El Junco lagoon.
A short 10 minute bus ride or a nice 30 min. walk south from Puerto Baquerizo is La Lobería. Traveler's frequently note the unusual color of the plants as they near the beach.
La Lobería is home to a large sea lion colony and nursery. There are frequently dozens of sea lions visible at any time. Low tide is one of the best times to visit however, since it is when the mother's bring the pups into the tide pools for swimming lessons.
Here you'll enjoy the sea lions, marine iguanas, bird watching, and even Galapagos giant tortoises. You have to always stay on the path and try not to disturb the wildlife!
San Joaquin Hill
Traveling to San Joaquin Hill is best done by bus or by truck. It is important to remember to bring rain gear with you just in case. The journey offers visitors a glimpse of the Galapagos island's many zones and their eco-systems. The summit at nearly 2400 feet (720 m) brings visitors above the tree line.
Lobos Islet is a seasonal nesting location for the blue footed boobie, although the basalt island outcropping is named for the sea lions sometimes present there.
Isla Lobos is located heading up the coast from Wreck Bay and Puerto Baquerizo north of San Cristobal Island also known as Chatham, 1 hour across a small channel. Isla Lobos means ”Sea-Lion Island”, and the name is certainly appropriate because they frolic, leap and make a racket here. It is also a good place for snorkeling.
Ochoa beach is very close to Puerto Baquerizo moreno airport and usually is the first visit on many cruise trips. A small Island just an hour from San Cristobal Island. A subtle introduction to the Galapagos Islands. It is an easy wet landing with a short trail leading to a sand beach good for swimming.
Pelicans and other Galapagos sea birds fly up overhead. There is a small tidal lagoon behind the beach where sea birds can be observed as well as the rare Chatham mockingbird.
This is a great place to practice your snorkelling skills and ask your guide for some tips on how to improve them before taking on the more exciting sites.
Surfing visitor sites
This spot can reached by powerboat from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the wave breaks to the left and allows for 100 mt. runs. The best waves are found from December through february.
Acces by foot from the interpretation center. This place offers a perfect right wave with a hight up to 1.5 meters with various tube sections.
This spot is considered to have one of Ecuador´s best waves! Very powerful waves also that have split many boards... the run is 150 mts. long. Wave season is from December through February
Access is from the naval base, you can arrive by foot or by car through the base. You must leave some form of ID with the guard a passport or cedula will do. The place has a rocky shore. The wave runs left and it is a "majestic wave" very consistent and well formed. Several international championships have been held here since 1998. The run is about 50 mts. long. The wave season runs from May through November. Surfers are often joined by playfull sea lions.
This site is located by the airport, you must reach the end of the paved road and walk a full Km. to the sandy beach. Waves are quite big between 2 and 4 meters and they run both left and right offering 50 mts. runs in either direction. This place is best for surfing during high tide may through november. You will find many sea lions in this area.
You can access the waves here through the naval base or through the cemetery, it is a 1.5 km. walk on an old road until you reach the shore. This place offers a left wave with 150 mts runs depending on the wind and swells. Best visited from May through November.
To access this site you need to hire a powerboat from Puerto Baquerizo or walk through the naval base on an old road down to the shoreline and swim with your board out to the low spot. The wave here is known as a South or Southwest wave that brakes both left and right offering a 50 mts. run. Best visited May through November during lowtide.
Marine Visitor Sites
No landing - marine site
A panga ride around this tuff cone formation gives you the opportunity to see masked boobies, blue-footed boobies, and frigatebirds along the cliffs.
Located about an hour and half to the northeast of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Kicker Rock is remnant of a vertical tuff conformation, abruptly rising almost 500 ft from the ocean. Erosion has split the rock and given it its characteristic shape, which some see as shoe, the origin of the name Kicker Rock. Others see it as a sleeping sea lion or Leon Dormido in spanish.
This is also a very intersting dive site perhaps the best in the central Islands of the Galapagos archipelago, equivalent to the famous Gordon Rocks. There are two vertical walls 148 mts. in height with a channel in the middle that gives a haven for sharks and many other species of fish.
The walls are amazingly colorful almost sure sightings of great marine fauna including octopus and many sharks including scalloped hammerheads, silver tipped and Galapagos sharks. Other sea creatures are turtles, eagle rays and sea lions.
This is an interesting dive site that has a small rock flowering that runs by the shore of the formation. The site is an enclosed haven for fish and is full of fauna. Certainly one of the best sites for diving at San Cristobal Island.
There are large schools of fish with an incredible variety of species. It is possible to see rays and large creatures, Galapagos sharks and sea turtles among others.
Five Fingers rock
It is an amazing calm dive site, it has a colorful horizontal bottom that changes into a vertical wall. An incredible variety of multicolor sponges and Coral are part of the fauna. There are large schools of fish including unusual species that can be found as you go around the rock. Sea turtles, tropical rock lobsters, octopus among other intersting creatures.
This site offers some safe diving without strong currents. It is great for begginers. It is not a very interesting spot speaking of fauna or geology in comparison to other Galapagos sites. Nevertheless you can find sting rays, barber fish and butterfly fish.
This dive site offers a large submarine platform with large volcanic rocks that have allowed the creation of small caves and holes inhabited by several species of fish. There is a good variety of Coral and sea stars. It is a calm dive spot since there are no marine currents, there is the possibility to find sea turtles, several species of rays and Galapagos and ocassional White tipped reef sharks.
The dive site is located by the rocky point of this islet, this is where the immersion starts, you swim around the shore until you reach the side that leaves out into open sea. A great variety of small fish can be found as well as sea turtles, rays and sea lions. There is a rocky landscape in the bottom and there are no strong currents.