San Cristobal Island full guide & things to do
San Cristobal is the capital of the Galapagos Islands. Next to Santa Cruz Island is the most visited since most of the commercial flights from continental Ecuador to San Cristobal airport. It is not the largest (which is Isabela) or the most populated (which is Santa Cruz), but we can say that it is the favorite island of sea lions and surfers. There are so many who will find you on the dock, in playgrounds, in restaurants and even sunbathing in a hammock.
San Cristóbal is also the favorite island to surf in The Galapagos Islands for its wonderful beaches where you can take a big wave accompanied by giant tortoises, sea lions or rays.
Do you want to visit San Cristobal Island? We tell you everything you need to know to get there, some free activities and essential tours so you can take advantage of your stay without spending a lot of money.
Things you need to know before your trip to San Crstobal
Where San Cristobal Island is located? 📍
San Cristobal is located further east of the Galapagos Islands archipielago in fronto of the east coast of Santa Cruz
The Island name honoured Sant Cristobal, the patron of the sailors, which is the main activity of the people who inhabits the islands since centuries ago. The capital of the island and of the whole archipielago is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, in the southwest coast of the island, next to the airport.
How to get to San Cristobal in The Galapagos Islands?
Flight from Continental Ecuador: Guayaquil or Quito ✈️
You can flight from Guayaquil airport José Joaquín Olmedo, or from Mariscal Sucre airport in Quito. If you take a flight from Quito, you will scale in Guayaquil, and takes longer because it is more crowded than José Joaquín Olmedo airport. So if you find flights to Guayaquil at the same price than to Quito, take the firsts ones. Anyway, from both airports you can get straight to San Cristobal airport. From San Cristobal airport you should take a taxi to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, which is the main city in the island, and where all hosts, restaurants and lounge bars are concentrated. The price of the trip is from $5 to $10 since it is very close to the city. Remember that taxis are usually white Toyota vans, forget about waiting for yellow taxis because they will not arrive.
If you are travelling to the Galapagos Islands, be aware that there are several requirements and procedures to be followed. In order to save time and problems, check our tips to go over them as easy as possible
Island transfer plane 🛬
If you want to save time and your budget allows you, you can travel by plane from one island to another. In addition, you can enjoy a wonderful view of the Enchanted Islands from the sky. The two companies that perform this service are:
Catch a boat from Santa Cruz 🛥
Between Isabela, San Cristobal and Santa Cruz, there are several boats that for approximately $ 30 and in 2 hours takes you from one island to other everyday. To travel from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal you just have to go to the port and buy your ticket. Keep in mind that these boats only leave twice a day under the following schedule:
- Departure from Santa Cruz: 7am – Arrival to San Cristobal: 9:15 am
- Departure from Santa Cruz 2pm – Arrival to San Cristobal: 4pm
If you are on Isabela Island you will first have to take a transfer to Santa Cruz and from there take another one to San Cristobal. There are no direct boats those two islands. In our post about what to do in Isabela Island we have published the schedules of the transfers from Isabela to Santa Cruz, you can see them by clicking here.
San Cristobal Island weather 🌡
San Cristobal has a smooth weather where moderate temperatures dominates most of the year. The average temperature is around 24ºC y 25ºC. In The Galapagos Islands we have just two seasons. The temperature is almost the same but the rain concentrates in the tropical season. In our post about the Galapagos Island weather here you can find out the best season to travel to Galápagos and the temperature in real time and also month by month -> go to post
What you should and what you can’t bring to Galapagos Islands
In many posts we usually say that Galápagos is unlike any other beach and summer destination. There’s a few entry requirements and rules you have to follow while you are there to protect the islands environment. So in order to be prepared to enjoy to the fullest this unique destination these are a few must pack items that will help you while you are on the Galapagos Islands.
Must pack items for your trip
Valid passport: To enter Ecuador you need a passport valid for the upcoming 6 months. So don’t forget to review the document expiratino date before you jump into the plane.
Sunscreen: Don’t let the ecuadorian sun 🌞 ruin your vacation. The sun here hits harder than in other places (remember you are in the equator) so you’ll need to be extra careful. We recommend using a high SPF sunscreen and if you can also wear a cap or a hat to protect yourself!
Cash: There isn’t many ATMs in Galápagos and most shops and restaurants take only cash as payment method. That’s why we recommend bringing enough cash and if you can book in advance your trips and accommodation so you only have to bring money for your daily expenses.
Sport and comfortable shoes: We usually think flip flips when you are packing for the beach, but keep in mind that Galápagos is a beach but also an adventure destination, meaning you’ll have to walk through volcanic landscapes, rocks and its better to have the right shoes. We recommend this water shoes to keep you safe in land and water.
Bugs and mosquito repellent: In some beaches and hiking trips there’s a lot of mosquitos and annoying bugs. So better to bring your own mosquito repellent, you’ll thank us later!
Snacks: If you are planning a low cost trip keep in mind that Galápagos being an island needs to import most of the things from the mainland and that makes it a bit more expensive. So if you can do a quick trip to the supermarket and buy snacks you can bring to your trips do so. We recommend this because sometimes beaches are so isolated that there’s no place near to buy anything. This is amazing to disconnect but if you start feeling hungry you’ll be in a hurry. So better bring cereal or protein bars or sandwiches (but don’t leave any trash behind!)
Water bottle: As we said before, in Galápagos when you go on a beach or an excursion there isnt always a place to buy or get water so better to have yours and fill in on the hotel or any restaurant before you go. We recommend this instead of plastic water to avoid unnecessary waste. That way you’ll keep yourself hydrated and also protect the environment!
Your own snorkeling mask: this is optional because if you book any tour all the equipment needed its included. But we highly recommend to buy one before your trip for 2 reasons (especially now that health safety is more important than ever). First reason is because you’ll feel more comfortable with a mask that you know how to fit well and hasn’t been used by many others. Another reason is that there are a lot of spots in Galápagos where you can do snorkel on your own with sea lions, rays and many fishes so if you always have your maks with you you’ll make the most of your trip. There’s a lot of masks at different prices but here’s the ones we recommend:
Sport camera: The best way to keep the memories from your Galápagos trip. A sport camera is small, portable, water resistant and great for diving and snorkeling pictures (the dome accessory is amazing for this). There’s a lot of cameras at different prices. Here’s some recommendations:
Forbidden items in Galápagos
Before you enter the Galápagos Islands you’ll pass to several luggage revisions, and while you are on the island on the boat transfers too. This is mainly because any tiny seed or small insect introduced by accident can cause a huge problem for Galápagos environmental balance. Here’s the full list of restricted items published by the government (is in spanish) but mostly you can’t introduce vegetables, fruits, seeds, animals, animal vaccines.
The restrictions also apply to things you can take out of Galapagos. You can’t take sand, rocks or any natural item, or you may expect a huge fine on the airport.
Free and low cost activities on San Cristobal Island
It is called Tijeretas after the name with which they commonly refer to frigatebirds. You can reach this place after a 30 minute walk from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. From the top of cerro tijeretas you get an amazing view of the island and the famous Kicker Rock.
It is called Tijeretas since this is the name with which they commonly refer to frigatebirds. You can reach here after a 30 minute walk from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. On the way there are several viewpoints where you can snorkel for free and see a variety of marine species, including tortoises and sea lions.
Going to cerro tijeretas is a great walk to enjoy a free day in San Cristobal with several spots you can stop and enjoy. You can start walking from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and on the way to a quick stop on the Interpretation center where you’ll learn more about the Islands. You can also detour a little to Punta Carola beach to rest and get more energy to continue going up cerro tijeretas later. In Cerro Tijeretas there’s also a great spot for snorkeling, is not a beach but a bay and it’s like a natural pool (see picture below). If you are planning to go, bring water shoes because as you can see it’s a bit rocky.
Interpretation Center Gianni Arismendy
The entrance is free and its on the way to Cerro Tijeretas. In this center you’ll be able to learn more about the Galapagos Islands, its origin, environment and species. Also the place is quite nice, with great views and nature.
El Junco lagoon
Walk up the volcanic crater crown and enjoy a panoramic view of the island. You can ask the taxi that takes you to the Puerto Chino beach to stop in this place, you will not regret it.
You can do this excursion on your own (no certified guide needed) and you’ll enjoy a lot of plants, birds and a refreshing breeze. On the top you’ll enjoy the view of the volcanic crater filled with water, forming a huge lagoon.
Puerto Chino Beach
Although it is not so close to the city center, it is totally worthy to visit Puerto Chino Beach and enjoying a relaxing day on this beach. To get there you should deal on a round trip with a taxi driver and walk about 15 minutes until you reach the beach. The beach is surrounded by endemic vegetacion, sand is magnificent and the sea has a wonderful turquoise colour. Another wonderful experience to have in Puerto Chino is that you’ll get to enjoy the beach along with a lot of sea lions and if you are lucky enough you’ll swim with them on the sea, but remember to be careful and always leave a safe distance.
Punta Carola, La Lobería and Tongo Reef
These are the favorite spots for surfers in Galápagos but you don’t need to be one to enjoy them. These 3 beaches are great for spending the day, relaxing, snorkeling and taking a sun and sea bath. We especially recommend La Loberia to watch the sunset surrounded by a great view and a lot of sea lions.
Here’s the full list of top beaches in San Cristobal and directions on how to get there -> go to post
Watch the sunset at Playa Mann
You’ll find this beach on the way back from cerro Tijeretas, very near to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. This is a beach where locals like to go and its a perfect spot to go after a busy day full of activities. There’s a small store there that sells beers and snacks so you can buy one and watch the sunset, do snorkeling if you want and lay just like the sea lions on the sand.
Daily Tours from San Cristobal
Even though you can always enjoy Galápagos on your own, we highly recommend taking at least one tour to get the full experience of the Islands. Galapagos, being a protected area, has a lot of amazing spots that are only reachable in the company of a certified guide. This is to make sure we keep the animals and environment safe and also because some of these areas are very remote and isolated which is great but not to go on your own. So if you are planning to go, once you are there you shouldn’t miss these daily tours, most of them include snorkeling, trekking bird sightseeing and a lifetime experience. Here’s the ones you can take departing from San Cristobal.
Kicker Rock Tour
Kicker Rock Tour is probably the most popular tour on the Galápagos Islands and for a good reason. It’s a full day tour that has a little bit of everything and you’ll get a good view of what the Galapagos Islands can offer. This tour starts very early in the morning, so you’ll need to be in San Cristobal Island from the day before to be able to take it. After we get out of the port, its a 45 minute boat ride to reach the Kicker Rock, 18km away from the coast of the San Cristobal Island. During the ride, you’ll get to see a lot of birds flying over the rocks, frigates, blue footed boobies, pelicans and a lot of fishes.
The main attraction of this tour is getting to snorkel with rays, sharks and a lot of colorful fishes that are swimming around the rocks and sea lions. But the Kicker Rock tour also goes to other places, not just the giant rock.
These are some of the spots you’ll visit during the Kicker Rock Tour.
Located 3 km north from Isla lobos, this is another stop during the tour to enjoy a perfect, calm and isolated beach surrounded with sea lions. We usually stop here before the lunch to get a moment to relax and just enjoy a refreshing bath.
This is a little islet 300 m away from San Cristobal Island. It’s a great places to stop, rest and enjoy the view of a variety of plants, birds in a thin sand and clear water. On matting season, you’ll get to see a lot of blue footed boobies and baby sea lions.
The 306º Tour is the most complete tour in San Cristobal Island. As you can see by its name, this tour circles the whole Island visiting its main highlights. In a full day you’ll get to do snorkeling on the Kicker Rock, watch endemic species, do some trekking, rest on a beach and discover everything that San Cristobal island has to offer.
These are some of the spots you’ll visit during the tour.
Is the northest point of San Cristobal island and a very particular place. It’s a big area with a lot of geological value, formed after lava sedimentation that gives the place a unique and very colorful set of vegetation. Punta Pitt its the favorite spot to several bird species, so here you’ll get to see a lot of them.
If you are a birdwatcher, this is definitely the place to visit. Blue Footed boobies, red footed boobies, and a lot of frigates have chosen this places as their place to live and form a family. The main reason for this is not only because is a beautiful area, but birds are smart enough to know that the complicated geography of Punta Pitt lets them be safe from predators and being super close to the sea, also their food is guaranteed.
In Punta Pitt you’ll also be able to see marine iguanas. Even though in other Islands in Galápagos you can see them almost everywhere, in San Cristobal there aren’t many of them and they are only located in specific places. Punta Pitt is one of them.
Bahía Sardina and Cerro Brujo
Another sport to have a snorkeling session during the 360 tour. This bay has a beautiful beach, calm water and a lot of sealife. You’ll get to see tortoises, sea lions, rays while you are swimming. After this stop we’ll go to Cerro Brujo to go through the rocks where you’ll get a magnificent view of the Kicker Rock.
As we mentioned earlier, Kicker Rock is the most popular spot in San Cristobal and this tour wouldn’t be complete without this stop. You’ll have a snorkeling session here too along with sharks and rays.
Is the northern Island of the Galápagos. San Cristobal is the nearest one to Isla Española, that’s why its the best place to reach this spot. Española Island has an 80km surface and its main highlights are Bahía Gardner and Punta Suárez.
Beautiful dreamy beach with a lot of sea lions. A great place to take a sun and beach bath.
Facts about San Cristobal Island
San Cristobal Animals
In San Cristobal island there’s 2 unique species that you can only find there.
San Cristóbal Giant Tortoise Chelonoidis chathamensis
San Cristobal Marine Iguana
Favorite Island for Surfers
If you would like to surf in the Galápagos Islands you must know that San Cristobal is the favorite spot for this sport. The waves here are perfect for intermediate and pro surfers and there’s a big community of surfers from all over the world here. If you practice surfing dont forget to rent a table and experience the lifetime opportunity to surf along in an amazing and unique place in the world.
If you are spending some days in San Cristobal, you’ll be please to know that is one of the populated island with more accessible beaches to enjoy for free. Here’s the full list of top beaches in San Cristobal for you to review and include in your itinerary.
San Cristobal is the ideal island to visit if you are looking to enjoy paradisiacal beaches where you can rest or surf. It is also the island where you can see the largest number of sea lions camouflaged in the daily life of the island. Although it is not the most charming of the archipelago, if your plane lands here take a couple of days to get to know it. It will surprise you!
LET US ORGANIZE YOUR TRAVEL TO THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
We’ll help you build and organize a personalized itinerary so that you make the most of your budget and time in the Galapagos Islands.
Leave A Comment