Galapagos Travel Guide: San Cristobal Island by ChokoTrip
In this travel guide for San Cristobal Island, you’ll find information on what to do, how to get there and where to stay for 5 days without depending on a tour.
San Cristobal Island is the capital of the Galapagos Islands. Even though it’s not the biggest nor the most populated, for me it’s one of the most interesting. You’ll find sea lions on all the beaches here but you need to be very careful with the Alfa males as they can get very aggressive. If you’re traveling with kids, this is THE island to visit.
Something else that San Cristobal has is good waves. It receives most of the northern and southern swells which create good surf conditions. The only bad thing is that you’ll have to share waves with sea lions, turtles and sharks.
GALAPAGOS LOW COST: COMPLETE GUIDE TO TRAVELING INDEPENDENTLY TO THE ISLANDS
5 days and 4 nights on San Cristobal Island
If you’re thinking of going to the Galapagos, I recommend you spend 5 days of your itinerary to enjoy San Cristobal Island.
DAY 1 – If arriving by ferry from Santa Cruz
06h45 – Baggage check at Santa Cruz pier
Be sure that the tour operator that sells you the ferry ticket gives you a receipt with the name of the boat on it. When you’re approaching the pier, you’ll see people holding signs with the name of the boat. Give them your name to then go to get your baggage checked.
07h00 – Ferry departure from Santa Cruz Island
The ferry costs $30 and the motorboat taxi to get to it is $0.50.
09h00 – Arrival to San Cristobal Island
There’s no extra fee for entering the islands, nor is there a motorboat taxi fee.
09h30 – Check-in at the hotel
More hotels in San Cristobal: here
10h00 – Car (Pickup truck) tour of the higher, upland region of San Cristobal
Before getting the car, find out if there are other tourists at your hotel who might want to share the ride and the cost of $60. The car can seat up to 4 people.
All the drivers giving the tours will know the route to take. It takes about 4 hours. Whenever you want to stop, the driver will wait for you, so don’t worry if you think they might leave; they won’t. You can pay them at the end of the trip.
You’ll start by going to the Junco Lagoon. If it’s cloudy, ask the driver to go there on the way back. The second place you’ll visit is the ‘Galapaguera’ where you’ll see the famous, giant Galapagos tortoises and the farm in which they are bred. The third place you’ll visit is Puerto Chino where, with a bit of luck, you’ll have the chance to swim with turtles and sea lions. This beach is also ideal for surfing. Finally, on the way back, go up to the Junco lagoon which provides fresh water for the whole island.
Before you go to the last place of interest during the tour (the tree house or ‘la casa de arbol’), ask the driver to take you to a restaurant to have a delicious traditional Ecuadorian dish of either hornado de chanco (roast pork), fritada de chanco (fried pork), seco de gallina criolla (chicken stew) or aguado de gallina (chicken and rice soup). Restaurants are only open at the weekend.
14h00 – Return to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno
On the return trip, you can go on a 2-hour walk (not part of a tour) to the Centro de interpretación (Interpretation Centre), Cerro Tijeretas (‘Frigatebird Hill’), Puerto Tijeretas (‘Frigatebird Habour’) and then finish up in Punta Carola (‘Carola Point’).
The interpretation centre has lots of information about the history of the islands. Take your time looking around and taking it all in.
Once you’ve finished at the interpretation centre, follow the path that takes you to the frigatebird viewpoint. After that, go down to a small habour where you can do some snorkeling and finally, go to Punta Carola beach, where you’ll see lots of sea lions.
The quickest way back to Puerto Villamil is via a hidden path among trees at the end of Punta Carola.
DAY 1 – If you’re coming on a direct flight from Guayaquil or Quito
12h00 – Direct flight to the Galapagos from Guayaquil or Quito.
The arrival time can vary depending on the airline.
12h30 Go to your hotel/hostel.
13h00 Car (Pickup truck) tour of the higher, upland region of San Cristobal.
07h00 – Breakfast
Most hotels/hostels have breakfast included
08h00 – Kicker Rock + 1 opcional beach: Manglecito, Tortuga, Cerro brujo o Puerto grande
Start tour of ‘el León Dormido’ which is small, uninhabited island 30 minutes from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. It’s a refuge for many marine birds like the Blue Footed Booby as well as sea lions. The waters surrounding the island are home to numerous species of fish, sea turtles, rays, and hammerhead sharks.
15h00 – Return to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno
You can finish up the day at Playa Mann (Mann beach).
06h30 – Breakfast.
07h30 – Espanola Island
Isla Española is the only island in the world where the majority of the 12,000 mating pairs of Albatross come to reproduce. Due to its dryness and lack of sources of fresh water, it’s a paradise for marine birds. Here, there are trails for a 1400m walk which takes approximately 2.5 hours. You can also go snorkeling in Gardner Bay.
17h00 – Return to Puerto Baquerizo
06h30 – Breakfast
07h30 – 360 Tour
This is one of the newer tours we offer. The idea is that you take a tour of the whole island starting at 7.30am from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno pier and visit Rosa Banca and its lagoon, the Sardina Bay beaches, Punta Pitt for fishing, Roca Cerro Brujo for taking photos and finally, snorkeling at the famous Kicker Rock.
17h00 – Return to Puerto Baquerizo
DAY 5 – If you came by ferry from Santa Cruz
07h30 – Breakfast
09h00 – La Loberia Beach
To get there, you need to take a taxi which costs $3 one way. I recommend you make an arrangement with the taxi driver to drop you and pick you up and you then pay at the end. This will cost you $10. You can also come back on foot but the walk will take you 45 minutes in the sun.
14h00 – Return to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno
Once you get there, use this time to get your bags, go to the pier and get them checked, ready for the ferry back to Santa Cruz.
14h30 – Ferry boarding
Return to Santa Cruz. (Travel time: 2 hours)
DAY 5 – If you came directly from Guayaquil or Quito
07h00 – Breakfast
08h00 – Check-in at the airport
You can take a taxi and pay $2 to the airport. What we propose is that you check your bags in at the airport and then take a taxi out of the airport again to the Sea lion beach.
09h00 – La Loberia beach
To get there, you must take a taxi which costs $3 one way. I recommend you make an arrangement with the taxi driver to take you and pick you up and you then pay at the end. This will cost you $10. You can also come back on foot but the walk will take you 45 minutes with no shade.
12h00 – Return to the airport
Make sure you allow enough time to catch your flight so you don’t miss it.
The best daily Tours on Santa Cruz Island:
I can help you looking for availability in the following daily tours that leave from San Cristobal Island:
What else can you do in San Cristobal Island?
Surf & Bodyboard
Due to the variety of surf spots San Cristobal Island has to offer, it has become a favourite for surfers. Among places to surf, there’s Punta Carola, Tongo Reef. You get there by water taxi. There’s also El Cañon (in the Naval Base), Puerto China, Manglecito and La Loberia.
Camping in Puerto Chino
You can go camping in Puerto Chino for a maximum of two nights – the price is $10 per person. To do this, you must get permission from the Galapagos National Park office. The campsite has places for BBQ-ing.
Tour of Lobos Island
It takes 30 minutes by boat from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno to get to Isla Lobos. There’s a small population of Blue Footed Boobies and Nesting Frigate birds. On the shorelines of the coast you can find marine iguanas, sea lions, brown pelicans and various species of seabirds.
Tour of Punta Pitt (Pitt Point)
If you’ve been to Bartolome island, this place is similar, but with a more adventurous trail walk which takes you to the top of a hill to see some out-of-this-world views. Along the way, you’ll see booby species, not of the blue-footed variety, but of the red.
Scuba diving at Kicker Rock in San Cristobal.
There are lots of dive spots from San Cristóbal such as Española, el León dormido, Predial, Tijeretas, Caragua and las Cuevas. The last 4 are all at San Cristóbal Island.
AVERAGE COST: $180 to $280 (USD)
INCLUDES: All diving gear and 2 dives.
How to get to and around San Cristobal Island?
To get to San Cristobal Island, you can take direct flights from Guayaquil or Quito. I recommend you fly with LATAM, TAME or AVIANCA. You can also get a Ferry (which are essentially fast, motorboats) from Santa Cruz Island.
Ferries between Santa Cruz and San Cristobal Island.
Cost: USD $30
Travel time: 2 hours
Recommendations: Buy tickets a day in advance for the motorboats ferries. Take seasickness medication one hour before traveling. The further forward you sit on the boat, the stronger you’ll feel the bumps of the ride so try to sit towards the back. If you’re traveling with kids, ask to sit up top with the captain.
What should I bring according to the weather on San Cristobal?
In the months between November and May, it’s very sunny. Between February and May it’s the rainy season. June to October are the cool, drizzly months and the sea temperature gets very cold.
What you should definitely take, regardless of the season: a waterproof jacket, closed-toe shoes, seasickness medication (Anutin), refillable water bottle, sunglasses, hat, pen drive – most of the tour operators take photos and videos with their cameras on the daily tours so you’ll need a pen drive to transfer them. Don’t count on them sending them to you via email or google drive because the Internet connection is terrible on all three islands.