While it is practically impossible to choose a favorite island among the Galapagos Islands, San Cristóbal easily makes my shortlist. This island has a little bit of everything a tourist needs, like quality lodging and good restaurants, while retaining a small town feel. What’s more, this single island is home to all of the iconic Galapagos wildlife you want to see: the Booby trifecta (Blue-footed, Red-footed, and Nazca), Galapagos Tortoises, Marine Iguanas, Red-billed Tropic Birds, Hammerhead Sharks, sea lions (up-close and personal) as well as stark volcanic landscapes and beautiful highlands. In fact, you could make this single island a vacation all its own.
I have been lucky enough to tour San Cristobál twice. My recommendations include visiting the Tortoise Reserve, called the Galapaguera, and Puerto Chino. On the way, ask your driver about hiking to the only freshwater lake in the Galapagos, El Junco. Or make reservations for lunch at an organic farm that overlooks the water on the east-side of the island.
Avid bird watchers should take the tour out to Punta Pitt at the far northern end of the island. This all-day trip might include close-views of nesting Red-Footed Boobies, snorkeling or diving among the schools of brightly colored, darting tropical-fish, and spotting a Hump-backed Whale.
For snorkeling and diving, the iconic Leon Dormido is a must-see. While its name means Sleeping Lion in Spanish, we call it Kicker Rock in English. Interestingly, this towering formation is a geologic remnant of an ancient volcanic eruption. A boat tour around its height is spectacular, but snorkeling is even better. In this location, we’ve swum with sea lions and Spotted Eagle Rays.
If you love Frigate Birds and hope to see one with its scarlet-throat pouch fully inflated, take a tour to Isla Lobos. The island is home to nesting Frigate Birds, Blue-footed Boobies, and lots of sea lions.
Finally, don’t forget to hike the trails at the Interpretation Center where you can make a pilgrimage to the huge Charles Darwin statue. His famous voyage in the Galapagos began on San Cristóbal. The trails are best hiked in the early morning or late afternoon. Look for animals like Darwin’s Finches, the Galapagos Warbler, the Galapagos Mockingbird, and the Lava Lizard. Watch out for the Marine Iguanas that may be guarding the trail near Punta Playa Carola.
Great Photos of San Cristóbal
I hope these few photos might compel you to read more about San Cristóbal and consider planning a trip to this less-visited but lovely island.
The following photos were published in the book, Ecuador Por Mis Ojos, a joint project between the Ecuadorian Military Geographic Institute and myself.