Just the mere mention of the Galapagos Islands brings about thoughts of sandy beaches, striking waters and magnificent wildlife that is exclusive to the archipelago. With these features, it is very easy to term the Galapagos as one of the best wildlife vacation destinations. A perfect getaway for anyone who needs a break from the usual hustle of modern life. But given that the Galapagos is an archipelago and not a single location, making a choice between its various islands can sometimes be quite challenging.
A visit to San Cristobal in the Galapagos also falls under this category of destinations. Being a part of a popular set of islands, San Cristobal enjoys the widespread popularity that is signature to the Galapagos. But this popularity also works against it in the sense that its own name often gets drowned out in the larger recognition of the Galapagos.
So what exactly do you gain from visiting this specific island?
What kind of activities can you participate in?
And most importantly, how expensive is it to visit it?
Seeing that finding the answers to these questions isn’t as easy as spotting a turtle in the Galapagos, we thought to be of help.
The following information answers some of the most burning questions pertaining to San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands. The details intend to help you learn more about the destination and ensure that you are making an informed decision about your vacation destination.
San Cristobal is located in the east of the Galapagos archipelago. In fact, it is considered the easternmost island of the archipelago. Spanning an area of approximately 215 square miles, it is the fifth-largest island in the Galapagos – which collectively hold an area of approximately 3,040 square miles.
With that being said, San Cristobal holds major significance in the history of the Galapagos. In fact, it is the first island visited by Charles Darwin during his visit to the Galapagos, after which he came up with his theory of evolution.
Apart from essentially being the birthplace of one of the most prominent theories in the world, San Cristobal is also known for being home to not one, not two, but three volcanoes, which are now all extinct.
With around 5,500 permanent residents, San Cristobal is also considered to have the second-largest human population in Galapagos. But that’s not all, it is also home to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the state capital of the islands of the archipelago, which makes it boast of major facilities such as its own airport. Most public flights to San Cristobal are connected through major cities in Ecuador, such as Quito or Guayaquil.
San Cristobal is in the red circle on the map
Apart from being one of the most accessible locations in the Galapagos, San Cristobal is also known for being one with the most activities for tourists.
Since 97 percent of the Galapagos archipelago is part of a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, residential activities on most of the islands are restricted to one or two locations. San Cristobal is no different. At this island, your center of operations is the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno for the most part.
Booking accommodations in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is easy as long as you find a reliable vendor. You can also book guided tours from here in order to get the most out of your trip. With it, finding ferries to the popular island of Santa Cruz is also easy if you want to explore the Galapagos archipelago further.
At San Cristobal, the activities that you can take part in include but are not limited to the following.
The San Cristobal Interpretation Center is a must visit if you want to learn more about the history and significance of the island.
Visiting this prime tourist spot doesn’t only provide you with a background of the island, but also gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect during your visit.
With its foggy surroundings, still water, and lush green lands, El Junco Lagoon is one of those tourist spots that seems surreal to visit. But fortunately for you and the rest of the world, it is very real and very accessible. It is the only fresh water lagoon in the entire archipelago.
Home to one of the extinct volcanoes on the island and actually classified as a volcanic crater lake, El Junco Lagoon is one of the most visited places in San Cristobal. The lagoon offers unforgettable views and provides a one of a kind experience, which makes this scenic location a top spot on anyone’s tour list.
Known for being one of the prime spots to see frigate birds, this scenic shore is located at walking distance from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
Apart from being named after frigates, it is also popular for its hiking trail and magnificent tree formations that guard the trailing path from either end. If you enjoy unique tree formations, as well as the chance to spot endemic birddlife, then starting your wildlife expeditions from this spot, might be the best thing to do.
San Cristobal is also known for snorkeling and allowing you to see species such as turtles, sea lions and various fishes from a few inches away. As long as you have snorkeling gear, you can snorkel just past Cerro Tijeretas. You can also rent it from a nearby spot.
If snorkeling is something that really excites you, then the shore of La Loberia will be another prime spot. Here, you cannot only watch sea lions in their natural habitat, but also swim with them to your heart’s content (just make sure not to get too close beyond a specific distance to them).
If La Loberia is great for snorkeling, then Kicker Rock excels at providing both snorkeling and scuba diving spots. Also known as Roca Leon Dormido, the site itself is made up of volcanic substance that has evolved into two rock-like formations, which is another cool thing to experience in the area.
Although one of the most famous tourist destinations in San Cristobal, Kicker Rock is never really crowded. The scenic location and the chance to see endemic wildlife in the form of birds as well as sea creatures is something that you don’t want to miss. The excitement of spotting hammer head sharks while you snorkel or dive is overwhelming.
Interested to see what sea lions do when they are not swimming with tourists? Head out to Playa Mann where these fuzzy swimmers veg out on the beach and provide a sight that is too adorable for words.
Due to this reason, the sandy beach makes for a prime tourist spot. If you want to do one thing during your visit to San Cristobal, make it this one simple trip to the beach. You would not regret it.
If you don’t get a chance to spot a turtle at Galapagos, then what even are you doing on the trip? In order to make sure that you have no regrets, you can simply head to this beach spot which is home to a large population of turtles in the area.
Take pictures or walk among the magnificent creatures, and make lots of memories on the way. As with the other parts of the town, you are bound to see some sea lions here as well. Other endemic wildlife can also be easily spotted at the location.
Seeing turtles in Galapagos is one thing. But meeting giant tortoises that are endemic to the islands is another. Thankfully, you don’t have to move mountains to see these gentle giants. You can simply head to the Natural Giant Tortoise Reserve to see them in their natural habitat.
Also called the Reserva El Chapo, the spot is going to make some of the most unforgettable memories that you can make during your trip. This is a must visit if you are one to enjoy seeing any wildlife thrive in its natural home.
Apart from wildlife, one of the most popular things that Galapagos is known for are its scenic views. You can get your own fair share of these sights by visiting Cerro Brujo.
With clear waters and sandy beaches, this island mountain provides some of the best views all over San Cristobal. If going for the wildlife and staying for the views is on your agenda, then you will mightily enjoy this location.
To calculate the costs of a San Cristobal vacation, it depends on where exactly you are visiting from.
For instance, tourists from the U.S. can expect to spend anywhere from $750 – $1,200 on plane tickets per person. The cost depends upon the class you are traveling.
Apart from that, you can also expect to spend anywhere from $100 – $230 per person per day including accommodations, meals, and experiences. Once again, this also depends upon your travel style and whether you are being careful with your budget or going all out for a luxury experience.
Due to being a tourist-friendly spot, San Cristobal doesn’t provide any major risks or dangers that you need to worry about.
Just make sure that you plan your trip ahead to avoid any last minute mishaps with travel plans. If possible, book guided tours in advance, so you enjoy your Galapagos vacation with everything planned out.
Due to its sandy beaches and plenty of sun, and equatorial location, it is safe to recommend that the best time to visit the island is year round. This lets you enjoy lots of activities and keeps you from stopping to enjoy outdoor excursions such as snorkeling or scuba diving due to cold water or weather.
With this in mind, it is best that you pack lightweight and casual clothing that allows you to make the most out of your beach visits.
Ideally, you should pack light but have the following items in your luggage.
You can get snorkeling and scuba diving gear from local vendors, since packing it and taking it on the plane may make your luggage heavier.
From its endemic wildlife to its magnificent sights, San Cristobal is definitely worth the visit even if you are traveling from thousands of miles away. Since the island offers one of a kind sights in a very safe environment, it is recommended that you visit it at least once.
The island is family friendly, best for couples who travel rarely or even frequently, and it is also great if you are a solo traveler looking to enjoy the world on your own. No matter which category you fall into, you will enjoy what San Cristobal has to offer. With that being said, it is recommended that you do your own research and make a final decision according to what suits your needs the best.