San Cristobal Island is also known as Chatham, is the easternmost island in the Galapagos. It is the site of the only permanent stream in the archipelago and is also where Darwin first went ashore in 1835. San Cristobal is also the site of the oldest surviving settlement in the archipelago, El Progresso, established in 1869. It has since been overshadowed by a second town, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, located on the southeast coast.
This is one of two points of departure for tour boats operating in the Galapagos islands and nearly half the islands’ 50,000 annual tourists pass through its airport, which has operated since the mid-1980s. San Cristobal island is made up of two coalesced volcanoes. The southwestern half is a symmetric shield volcano made up of gently-dipping lavas and capped by a thick, deeply-weathered pyroclastic blanket and numerous satellite cinder cones. The southwestern shield became emergent around 2.4 million years ago; activity continued up to about 650,000 years ago. The northeastern half of the island is a more recently active volcano, dominated by eruptions from NE-trending fissures. The most recent flows are no more than a few centuries old.
Like its neighbors, Santa Cruz and Santa Fe, it lavas show very considerable chemical variation, with some being similar to basalts erupted at mid-ocean ridges (this kind of basalt is often called MORB for Mid-Ocean Ridge Basalt). In stark contrast to Hawaiian volcanoes, there is no clear petrologic evolutionary trend displayed by San Cristobal lavas.
Of interest to tourists is Kicker Rock, a spectacular rock formation off the northwest coast. Kicker Rock is a remnant of a pyroclastic, or palagonite, cone, i.e., the site of a volcanic eruption that became explosive when lava and seawater mixed. Tens of thousands of years of wind and waves have carved this once conical island into the structure we see today.
- Landing: Dry Landing (Puerto Baquerizo Moreno), Wet Landing (All other docking/landing sites)
- Wildlife Highlights: Sea lions, sally lightfoot crabs, giant Galapagos tortoises, blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies, frigates, Tropic Birds, Galapagos sharks, white-tipped reef sharks.
- Activity Highlights: Dining, Hiking, mountain biking, surfing, sun and beach, birdwatching, swimming and snorkeling, scuba diving.
- Conditions: Several terrains from easy walks on the beach to walk on lava and rough terrain and high in the mountains, Beach landing swimming, and snorkeling.
- Notes: Many Galapagos day tours and short excursions can be organized from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno: San Cristobal Island
The Capital of the Galapagos Province, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the second largest city with incredible sites for an adventurous visitor. With the population of over 5,000, the city boasts of pivotal communication infrastructure and many other premium facilities that can keep you connected anywhere, anytime. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno in Galapagos is situated along the southwestern coast of San Cristobal, which is the easternmost island of the Galapagos.
Though the tourist infrastructure of this place is not as advanced as that of Puerto Ayora, sojourners do enjoy good options here. Lodgings, restaurants, stores, and travel agencies can be found in the main street, while banks, telephone centers, Internet cafes are also quite common. The place also has a police station, a hospital, and a small post office. This place allows for exhilarating snorkeling adventures along with sea lions. The pleasant city also lets you take pleasure in plenty of activities in the surrounding areas. You can make the most of your tour by visiting the small church with unique painted murals and the natural history museum showcasing Galapagos themes. You won’t be able to take your eyes off the iguanas, birds, dolphins, sea lions, whalebones, corals, crabs, and tortoises found here.
If you love surfing, the Punta Carola beach is a great place for you to enjoy the sport. For swimming, there is the Mann beach located in the north through Northia Avenue. There are various hotels in the Oro beach, where you can get accommodation.
Cerro Tijeretas is also worth paying a visit; it has a range of frigatebirds hovering and nesting around the cliff. You can visit La Loberia, a bay area abounded with marine iguanas, giant tortoises, sea lions, and birds. You can travel to the Galapagos National Park, which will take you through a walk into the history of the islands.
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.
San Cristobal Island birding and snorkeling area – Frigatebird hill
Situated just a short distance from the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island is the unique Frigatebird Hill. This large hill was, perhaps unsurprisingly, given its name because of the large numbers of visiting frigate birds. It’s a great place to witness both the magnificent frigate birds and great frigatebird species in all their glory.
Related to the pelican, these large seabirds are characterized by long wings, tails, and bills, with the males of the species having large redbreasts that inflate during the mating season. It’s rare to see both the magnificent and great frigatebird species together in the same colony, so this is a really unique experience and a great chance to compare the two.
To reach Frigatebird Hill you need to follow the trail that begins on the road just beyond Cabañas Don Jorge. Follow either of the paths there, one through the woods and one along the beach, coming back via the other. It takes about 20 to 40 minutes to reach the top of the hill, where you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the beach and the town. This park visitor site and nearby Interpretation Centre is generally open to the public but it might be worth asking park officials which is the best time to go up and see the birds.
This short trip is a perfect way to spend an afternoon and ideal for bird watchers or just those who want to get an idea of the sheer diversity of animal and bird life on the Galapagos Islands. Watching the frigate birds in mating season and interacting in their natural habitats is one of many unique and special wildlife experiences you can only get on a Galapagos Islands expedition.
Charles Darwin first visit at San Cristobal and El Progreso area
Of all of the inhabitants of the Galapagos Islands – the tortoises made famous by Charles Darwin, the magnificent albatross and the reptilian iguanas – the human residents are probably the least famous. In fact, many people are unaware that these communities even exist, hundreds of miles away from mainstream civilization.
The main settlement on San Cristóbal, the archipelago’s easternmost island, is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Here you can see the exact spot where Charles Darwin first set foot on the Galapagos Islands on the 16th September 1835 during the voyage of the Beagle. San Cristóbal is also home to the oldest surviving settlement in the Galapagos, the tiny village of El Progreso.
Originally established as a penal colony, in the mid-nineteenth century, the settlement was taken over by Manuel Cobos, a powerful but despotic man who forced the inmates to work as slave laborers on his sugar plantation.
In 1904 the workers, fed up with the abuse and poor conditions, rose up and killed their master, reclaiming the settlement for themselves. Today the village has thrown off its troubled past and is now a sleepy farming community home to around 500 people. From Puerto Baquerizo Moreno it’s fairly easy to reach El Progreso either via taxi or, if you’re feeling energetic, a swift uphill walk or bike ride.
If you have time you can travel on to the even smaller nearby settlement of La Soledad or the El Junco lagoon, one of the few freshwater lakes in the islands and a great place for spotting frigates. If you want to walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and see what life is like on this volcanic outcrop, a visit to El Progreso is well worth the effort and will leave you with a better understanding of the Galapagos and their inhabitants.
Beach and visitor site famous for its playful sea lions
A short 10-minute bus ride or a nice 30-minute walk south from Puerto Baquerizo is La Lobería. Travelers 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 mothers 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!
Galapagos Islands cruises pictures usually include Kicker Rock
Kicker Rock is also known as Leon Dormido, which means Sleeping Lion in Spanish. It derived this name due to its shape that is, in reality, the remains of the lava cone, corroded by the waves.
Situated off the west coast in the San Cristobal Island, the Kicker Rock site features two vertically aligned rocks that rise to 500 ft above the ocean. These then form a channel, small in size, which used to be easily navigated through by small boats (due to safety regulations this is now forbidden). It will just take around 3- 3.5 hours from Puerto Ayora and 1 – 1.5 hours from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Landing is just not possible owing to the sharp walls of the rocks, but there are various cruises that spend around an hour or so of their itinerary at this site to let you enjoy to the utmost. One can easily book these Galapagos Islands Cruises online within a reasonable budget.
Above the water, the cliff is inhabited by numerous frigates, tropic birds, and boobies while under the water, you will enjoy the sights of elusive Galápagos sharks. Inside the water, the rocky and sandy bottom is filled with nudibranchs that reach to around 19 meters. Travelers can also view colorful reef fishes, green sea turtles, white tip reef sharks, and spotted eagle rays that slide along the current. On the external edge, the channel slides down to a beautiful rocky reef at around 26 meters, before again dropping into the Pacific Ocean. This is a fabulous sight to view the hammerheads and Galápagos sharks, cruising along the currents.
Being both a cruise visitor site as well as a Galapagos dive site. Kicker Rock is perfect for both novices as well as advanced divers, the place is wonderful for scuba diving as the crystal water inside the sea gives a remarkable show of invertebrates and colorful tropical fish. One can also enjoy spectacular adventurous activities like diving or kayaking here. The possibility to kayak through the split of these two exquisite rocks is just out of this world.
• Length: 600 meters
• Landing: No Landing
• Spectacular Rock Formations
• Great Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, and Kayaking Options
• Enjoy Dinghy Ride
• View Frigatebirds, Hammerhead Sharks, Tropical Fish, Sharks, Turtles, Nazca Boobies, Blue-Footed Boobies
• How to Visit: By liveaboard Cruise or Day Tour
Sea Lion Island off the coast of San Cristobal Galapagos
Lobos Island, or Isla Lobos in the Spanish, is so called because of the large sea lion population that lives on the island. If you stop off here on a tour, they are really hard to miss, with these charming creatures frolicking and playing on the beach and in the waters around the island.
Even if you can’t see them immediately, you will certainly be able to hear them, as they do make a bit of a racket. These playful animals are just one of many species that live on this small island in the Galapagos archipelago. As well as the sea lion, Isla Lobos is also home to many other species. The bird life here is particularly rich, with the blue-footed boobie nesting here for large parts of the year.
The island itself is located about ten kilometers northeast of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, up the coast from Wreck Bay just off the larger San Cristobal Island. It’s a small flat island surrounded by a crust of white sand. Because it is so flat, it makes it a great place to watch the nesting boobies and frigates, as well as for catching a glimpse of the wonderful sea lion colony.
Around the island is a protected channel where you can go snorkeling in the deep blue waters. Swim amongst the sea lions and see some of the other amazing marine life that lives in the waters around this beautiful little outcrop.
It may not be the most spectacular place in the whole archipelago but it really gives you the chance to get up close and personal with some of the island chain’s most charismatic animals, the sea lion. That’s what makes it a great stopping off point on any tour of the Galapagos islands.
Visitor site on San Cristobal island – Red-footed boobies
This place is on the north of San Cristobal. Here there are endemic species such as lava lizards and red-footed boobies. The view is impressive when you walk up to the high part of the island.
You may be lucky to see the red-footed booby – the least seen of the bunch. It’s also the home of the Chatham mockingbird, only found here on San Cristobal island. Punta Pitt is an official Galapagos park visitor site and can be reached by joining a wildlife cruise, there are several boats that include this beautiful excursion in their itinerary.
White sand beach on San Cristobal Island
Ochoa beach is very close to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno airport and usuañlly is the first visit on many cruise trips. A small Island just an hour from San Cristobal Island. It’s a subtle introduction to the Galapagos Islands. It is an easy wet landing with a short trail leading to a sandy beach good for swimming.
Pelicans and other Galapagos seabirds fly up overhead. There is a small tidal lagoon behind the beach where seabirds can be observed as well as the rare Chatham mockingbird. This is a great place to practice your snorkeling skills and ask your guide for some tips on how to improve them before taking on the more exciting sites.
El Junco Lagoon
El Junco lagoon is located in the Highlands of San Cristobal Island; it is a collapsed caldera of an ancient volcano and it’s the only natural source of fresh water in the Galapagos Archipelago and this led to the first settlements on the Island and used by American forces stationed in Baltra Island during World War II. However, the Lagoon is not a fresh-water source to the Town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno as it’s located within the protected area of the Galapagos National Park.
El Junco is the Spanish word for sedges, which are endemic to the Galapagos and the Lagoon is also surrounded by endemic Miconia plants. Many species of birds inhabit the area: frigate birds, white-cheeked pintail and mockingbirds. Also it offers magnificent views of the San Cristobal.