Our first introduction to the Galapagos islands was San Cristóbal and it was an unbeatable introduction! Swimming with marine turtles on a secluded beach, gazing at sea lions lounging about the marina and beaches, and spotting red and blue footed boobies. First up, it’s totally worth the money and secondly, it can be done on the cheap. Check out our San Cristóbal Galapagos guide below on free, cheap and other things to do on this amazing island.
Sealions are everywhere on San Cristóbal Galapagos
San Cristóbal is the oldest geological island of the Galapagos located on the eastern side. It is also commonly referred to as Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, as this is the main town here. The good news is it has an airport on the island making getting there very easy.
Overall we spent $630.25 for 6 days in San Cristóbal for a breakdown of prices check here. We did as many cheap and free things we could find, one boat tour and the highland tour.
San Cristóbal Galapagos Guide and top things to do
Overview: history of the islands, humans influence, busy
This was the best Interpretation Center we visited in all the islands. There is a lot of information on history including Darwins arrival and what we as humans did to the animals here in the past. It is a really good introduction to the islands making it worthwhile going on day 1. Only downside is if you visit when a cruise tour is being guided through as it gets busy, but it’s close to town so can be easily visited again without the hoards of people.
To get to the Interpretation Center:
Head past Playa Mann and continue walking. The center is on the right.
Overview: Marine turtles, quiet beach, 1.5hr walk
Aching for seclusion then make this beach your priority. When we went there was a total of 3 people on the beach for the day, including us two. Now the bad news, it’s about an hour and a half walk from the Interpretation Center but due to this not many people go so you have the distance to thank for the peace and tranquility. We swam with lots of marine turtles at this beach, like 6 to 8. Visibility wasn’t the greatest due to the waves but we still loved it.
Beautiful and secluded; Playa Baquerizo
Make sure to bring snacks, water, sun-cream, hat, food, walking shoes (flips flips are not good enough). There is only one tree for shade. It gets very hot on the walk to the beach so it’s probably best to head early before mid-day sun at least.
To get to Playa Baquerizo:
Walk from the Interpretation Center towards Tijeretas mirador at the split in the path head upwards towards the stairs. At the mirador continue straight ahead through the slightly more overgrown path. There are some white wooden posts along the way so follow them to reach the beach.
Overview: lots of fish, only a few seals, walk to cliff
Cost: Free to walk (or Cheap if go by taxi)
After a 40 or so minute walk, past the airport and a snake on the road (!) we arrived at Playa Loberia. It is a busier beach as you can also get a taxi to it! There is a protected cove where you can swim and snorkel, the further out you go the stronger the waves are. We saw lots of fish here, one eel and marine turtles but not too many seals as the name would suggest. If you are bored with lounging on the sand, there is a walk out to the cliffs where you spot some birds, marine turtles (in the water!), and lots of lounging iguanas. It’s nice and not too far.
The snake we passed on the way to Playa Loberia
This sealion was loving the attention!
The walk to the cliff
The views are amazing!
We even spotted a turtle in the water from on top of the cliff!
Its a good chance to spot some marine iguanas!
As we were leaving the beach we met a guy and he excitedly asked if we had seen the dolphin, “Omg no”. So off we walk over to a family who were trying to take a selfie with a large floating object in the water. God it’s a really quiet one isn’t it, posing for pictures and all. Nope it was DEAD! So don’t believe everything that people say.
To get to Playa Loberia:
The walk to the beach takes 30 – 40 minutes. We followed the way according to Maps.me . The other option is to take a taxi for under $5. The taxi can also come back to collect you at an agreed time.
Tijeretas \ Darwin’s Cove
Overview: some seals, biting fish, marine turtles
Darwin’s cove is a very pretty area with lounging seals relaxing around you and frigates flying above your head. As with everything you can get lucky and see loads or unlucky and not see much. We heard this was the place to swim with seals but it didn’t live up to our expectation. We saw one or two seals swim past but there were but they weren’t in the form for interaction. There were two seals sunning themselves on the platform though so they are never too far away.
Darwins Cove as seen from Tijeritas Hill
The water was very cold so after 40 mins we had enough and needed to warm up. As we were getting out, a pretty fish with blue lips and a black body came to say hi and bite Alan on the toe drawing blood!! Watch out for those guys!
It’s still definitely worth going to as you never know what you might see on the day. It may also depend on the tide. I think we went at high tide.
Don’t forget to go take your picture with the statue of Darwin too!
The Darwin Statue on San Cristóbal Galapagos
To get to Darwin’s Cove:
Walk through the Interpretation Center and follow the sign to Tijeretas. When the path splits head downwards until you reach the platform.
Overview: seals, sunset, boobies, no shade
After snorkeling in Darwin’s cove it was time for some beach action. This beach should be called loberia as there were so many seals here. It’s a nice beach with a lighthouse only a short walk away. Snorkeling wasn’t too great but its the place to go if you want to admire and be entertained by seals. Most people come to watch the sunset which is really pretty especially with the seals soaking up the last of the sun. We found the seals here to be territorial with one gently nipping Alan’s leg as we were trying to leave the water! Second attempt on poor Alan, what will be next.
Playa Carola and all the sealions!
Plenty of sealion entertainment here!
If you walk out to the lighthouse you might be lucky and see some blue footed boobies and a seal resting on the stairs of the lighthouse. On the way back to the beach to the left there might see some pelicans resting in their nests.
Head to the lighthouse for the chance to spot some blue footed boobies!
To get to Playa Carola:
There are two ways a) head through the Interpretation Center and walk until you see the sign on the left for Playa Carola and follow the path. The other option b) is to continue walking on the road which passes along the front of the Interpretation Center. It’s probably quicker to go this way. You reach a barrier and walk until you see the entrance on the right and follow a small path which leads you to the beach.
Overview: swim with sharks, full tour of the island
Tour company: Galapagos Eco Fishing
Tour Lenght: 7.30am to 4.30pm
Want to swim with turtles, seals, tropical fish and sharks while also seeing more of the island? Try the 360° tour. The tour involves exactly what it says, a trip around the entire island by boat, who needs a cruise!?!
We decided to do the 360° tour over Kicker Rock or Punta Pitt tours as it is better value for money in our eyes and there is a better chance of seeing more. Not putting all our eggs in the one basket type thing. With the 360° tour; wetsuits, nice lunch, snacks, snorkeling gear was provided and an English speaking guide. It includes snorkeling at Kickers Rock (León Dormido), and Rosario beach, sail past Punta Pitt to see red footed boobies, viewing the amazing landscape of San Cristóbal, and some fishing. We saw blue and red footed boobies and the Nazca boobie so we were very happy.
Kicker’s Rock – where we went snorkeling!
Full snorkeling mode
We found the snorkeling at Kickers Rock to be really bad and cold, which is down to luck but thankfully our tour included more stops so all was not lost. In saying that we did see the shadow of a Hammerhead shark, a seal, some fish, Galapagos sharks and a marine turtle. It is a real pretty lava cone which reaches 140m in height and has a small channel to swim through which is shallower.
A male frigate bird displaying his red neck!
Some of the amazing views of San Cristobal
On some of the other stops we snorkeled and played with some friendly seals, swam with white tipped sharks, enjoyed the volcanic landscape of San Cristóbal and relaxed on a beach where we spotted some baby pelicans. Overall it was a great day.
Spot the sharks – why NOT go snorkeling with them??
Galapagos Eco Fishing
We picked Galapagos Eco Fishing as they had good reviews but in reality it didn’t matter as people who had booked with other companies were on our boat also. The company told us that $140 is the price, and that there is no negotiation which we respected and went with them. It is less stressful and fairer if everyone pays the same price. Good policy but we are not sure if the others paid the same or not as they had booked through different agencies. One issue with the company was it didn’t properly set us novice wet suit wearers up with tight enough wet suits (as he was late), so make sure you try on a few to get the right fit.
Overview: seals, crowds at weekends, small, easy to get to
This is a small beach located in town on the road towards the Interpretation Center. Seals and humans are equally welcome. It is mad to see the seals lying in between people with not a bother on them. Snorkeling wouldn’t be the best here but the beach is nice to chill out in and it is easy to get to. There is food right next to the beach as well.
You can check out this lighthouse near Playa Mann too!
Highland \ Taxi Tour
Overview: Tortoises, Puerto Chino, Crater lake, 4 hrs
Cost: $50 in total
Rate: Miss (if tight on time)
We enjoyed the tour as it was something a bit different to do but it is expensive as it is a taxi service and we as tourists pay more than locals for a taxi which I don’t really agree with as we have paid a lot to enter the Galapagos. However we know people have paid up to $90 for this tour so we were luckier than them! Try and find other people to share the cost.
As part of the taxi tour you can visit El Junco Crater Lake, La Galapaguera tortoise habitat, Puerto Chino and El Ceibo Treehouse.
El Ceibo is a 300 year old tree with a tree-house built ontop. It costs $2 to enter. We didn’t bother going in. There is a café on site and some ducks from what we could see. You also can spend the night in the tree-house for something different.
The treehouse from the outside
El Junco crater lake is a nice 30 minute walk around to admire the lake, surrounding views and frigates birds. It is the largest fresh water lake in the archipelago making it pretty important.
El Junco Crater Lake
The surrounding views are incredible!
Puerto Chino is a beautiful white sandy beach. It is not safe to swim there only paddle. We stayed and admired the views for an hour before heading back to the taxi.
Puerto Chino on San Cristóbal Galapagos
La Galapaguera Tortoise Reserve was our first time witnessing this gentle giants. We were in awe. The tortoises roam freely in the reserve and you must stick to the path. When we got there it was feeding time so they had grouped together and kind-of happily munched together.
The amazing tortoises of San Cristóbal Galapagos
Overview: lounging seals, relaxed area, nice walk, sign
We loved walking along the malecón every day in San Cristóbal. With seals found in the strangest of places, and birds flying about it was a perfect evening stroll. Head to the end of the malecón to find the San Cristóbal sign, and to watch seals relax on the sand go to Playa Oro. We spotted a lava gull, iguanas, a tiny mouse and even a blue footed boobie on our walks so keep your eyes peeled at all times.
The San Cristóbal sign on the Malecon
You will spot all kinds of wildlife on your walk
This lazy sea lion is one of many that you can spot
Cheap Food Supplies
Panaderia Sabor Cuenceña
Looking for cheap pastries?! Then look no further, croissants and small bread rolls for 25c and some treats (yum mora or piña jam inside) were 60c. Each day we bought more and then some, so watch out.
We went to the market everyday and bought 6 bananas for 50-60cents. Apples are 50c each and 6-8 mandarins for $1.
Brief overview of our 6 day itinerary
- Day 1 – Interpretation Center and Malecón
- Day 2 – Playa Baquerizo and organise tour
- Day 3 – 360° Tour
- Day 4 – Playa Loberia
- Day 5 – Darwin’s Cove, Playa Carola
- Day 6 – Highlands Tour, Playa Mann, Playa Carola
Other thing to do in San Cristóbal
- Tongo Reef – Military Station, we unfortunately didn’t realise you could walk through this area while we were there. Supposedly a good place to surf and watch surfers! You need your passport to enter.
- Diving tours – Kickers Rock
- Punta Pitt to see Red footed boobies up close and go for a short hike.
Where we stayed
We stayed in Air BnB Casa de Elkin in the Manzillo area which is about a 15-20 minute walk into the town, and we ate our dinner ($5) with the family each evening which saved us a walk back into town in the evening. The family only spoke Spanish so it’s a good chance to practice. The internet was in and out but other than that all was good.
Learn all about Darwin’s voyage on San Cristóbal Galapagos
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