If you want to visit the Galapagos Islands and wonder what to do on San Cristobal Island, we are here to help you. San Cristobal, also known as the “Beautiful Island” or the “Capital of Paradise”, is an iconic island of the Galapagos since the capital of the archipelago, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is located at the southwestern end of it. In addition to its political-administrative importance, on the island, you can find paradisiacal and unique places where you can carry out multiple activities, such as snorkeling, kayaking, surfing, experiential fishing, hiking, cycling, camping, horseback riding, bird watching, among others. For this reason, in this note, we tell you 14 recommended things to do in San Cristobal Island, and we provide you with helpful information when traveling to this iconic destination in the Galapagos Islands.
Malecón Charles Darwin in the canton of San Cristóbal. Cover photo by @capitalofparadise and Instagram.
How to get to San Cristobal Island?
If you want to know how to get to Galapagos from Ecuador, we suggest you read our note since it indicates how to get to the famous islands and what to do if you take a flight to San Cristobal.
Activities to do on San Cristobal Island
In this section, we give you a list of what we consider to be the 14 main attractions of this island, so you will know what to do on San Cristobal Island during your stay.
1. Gianni Arismendy Environmental Interpretation Center
If you are visiting San Cristobal Island, we recommend you visit the Gianni Arismendy Environmental Interpretation Center. In this place, you will find detailed information on the formation of the islands, their history in general, and the challenges they currently face. This place was inaugurated in 1998, with Natural History, Human History, and Conservation exhibitions. The Gianni Arismendy, Environmental Interpretation Center, is located 15 minutes from the center of Puerto Baquerizo, and the tour can take around 30 minutes. Along with Lobería, Mann beach, Punta Carola, and Tijeretas hill, the Gianni Arismendy Interpretation Center is part of the tourist attractions that can be explored on foot from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
2. Punta Carola
San Cristobal offers the best waves to surf in the entire archipelago, and Punta Carola is proof of this. Known for being one of the perfect places on the island for surfing, Punta Carola is located just 15 minutes from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. It is a place you can visit on foot on San Cristóbal Island. It has a beach surrounded by a dry forest where you can enjoy the company of sea lions, marine iguanas, pelicans, frigate birds, and sea turtles. Getting to know Punta Carola is another activity on San Cristobal Island that should be included in your agenda because you will find the iconic lighthouse on the site and you will be able to enjoy glorious sunsets.
3. Tijeretas Hill
Tijeretas Hill is a lookout over a rocky bay and snorkeling area, with frigate birds nesting in the surrounding trees. It is called Tijeretas “because this is the name that frigates are commonly known” (Dirección del Parque Nacional Galápagos, Cerro Tijeretas, 2016). The entrance to this site is made through the street that leads to Mann beach, the circuit is 3.5 km (2.17 miles), and the estimated travel time is 2 hours. You can enjoy the beautiful landscapes at the site, and if you are looking to snorkel on San Cristobal Island, Tijeretas is a fabulous place. People who enter the Cerro Tijeretas Visit Site can access Punta Carola through a trail.
4. La Lobería
La Lobería is an excellent site in San Cristobal because there is a large colony of sea lions who rest on the sand and rocks where they can be easily photographed and filmed. In addition, in La Lobería, you can see birds, such as: “the canary Maria, frigates, and several species of finches” (Dirección de Turismo y Cultura Municipal, GAD San Cristóbal, 2021). This beach, located 20 minutes on foot from the south of the port, has an extension of 2.5 kilometers (1.55 miles) and is ideal for surfing. It has become a perfect area for holding national and international championships for this sport.
5. Opuntias Garden
The Opuntias Garden is located in the arid zone of the island. On this site, it is possible to observe cacti or prickly pears of the genus Opuntias (Opuntia megasperma). This “is one of the few places in the Archipelago where high-altitude cacti can be seen whose fruit is the preferred food of various species of finches” (Dirección del Parque Nacional Galápagos, Jardín de las Opuntias, 2016). Access to this site is located near the agricultural area, next to the farm called El Cafetal. To get to this site, you must walk along a path of approximately 1.6 km (1 mile), and the journey takes about 50 minutes. The path along the island’s coastal part leads to a white sand beach called Veinte Varas.
Recommended reading: Things to do in Galapagos that you cannot miss.
6. Mann Beach
One of the most beautiful and well-known beaches on San Cristobal Island is Mann Beach, an unmissable spot on the island. This is the closest beach to the port and a perfect place to go snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, surfing, taking pictures, or simply sunbathing. On this white sand beach, formed by the fragmentation of shells, you will be able to find sea lions. You can access this beach by land, located 10 minutes from the center of Puerto Baquerizo, in front of the Galapagos Science Center of San Francisco University. Due to its strategic location within the urban area, you can find restaurants and sanitary batteries.
7. El Junco Lagoon
Another must-do thing on San Cristobal Island is visiting the only freshwater lagoon in the Galapagos archipelago. The Junco lagoon is located 19 km from the port of San Cristóbal and in the upper part of the island, in the El Progreso parish. It is located at 650 meters above sea level (2133 feet), “it has an area of 60,000 m2, […] its diameter is 270 m” (Dirección del Parque Nacional Galápagos, Laguna El Junco, 2016); and its name “comes from a type of plant that is common in its surroundings, called the rush (Eleocharis mutataes)” (Dirección del Parque Nacional Galápagos, Laguna El Junco, 2016).
It is recommended to take a tour to go to this place of interest because if a naturalist guide accompanies you, you will know the particularities of this lagoon. However, it is also possible to visit this site on your own, and you can get there by car, taxi, or bicycle. The drive from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno to El Progreso takes 30 minutes.
8. Kicker Rock
When we think about things to do in San Cristobal Island, the famous Sleeping Lion, also known as Kicker Rock, comes to mind. It is an “ancient and eroded volcanic tuff rock, […] formed by two rocks approximately 148 m high, named for its resemblance to a sleeping lion” (Dirección de Turismo y Cultura Municipal, GAD San Cristóbal, 2021). Between these rocks, a channel is created, ideal for water sports. In addition, at the site, you can enjoy the presence of “blue-footed boobies, masked boobies, frigate birds, pelicans, and sea lions, [while] in the sea you can see Galapagos sharks and hammerhead sharks, black tip sharks, sea turtles, rays eagles and much tropical fish” (Dirección de Turismo y Cultura Municipal, GAD San Cristóbal, 2021).
9. Cerro Brujo
Cerro Brujo is located on the north coast of San Cristobal Island and is considered “an eroded tuff cone composed of volcanic lava in which lacustrine and coastal birds can be observed” (Dirección Turismo y Cultura del Gobierno Autónomo Descentralizado de San Cristóbal, 2022). The main attraction of Cerro Brujo is the coral sand beach, crystalline blue water, and its species of flora (halophytic vegetation) and fauna. The clarity of the waters makes Cerro Brujo an ideal place to swim and practice snorkeling. In addition, in Cerro Brujo, it is possible to enjoy a great landscape richness since, from this site, it is possible to appreciate the well-known Sleeping Lion, the south of the upper part of San Cristobal, and the coast near Cerro Brujo. The journey to this site can take around 3 hours if you choose to take a boat ride.
10. Punta Pucuna
Punta Pucuna is located northwest of San Cristobal Island. It is a bay formed by three beaches, and behind these, it is possible to find lava cones, a fact that gives this place a singular beauty. From Punta Pucuna, fabulous views of the Sleeping Lion (Kicker Rock) and Cerro Brujo can be obtained. To get to Punta Pucuna is necessary to take a tour.
11. David Rodriguez Tortoise Breeding Center
This turtle breeding center, best known as galapaguera, is located 22.4 km (14 miles) from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. You must take a bus, which lasts approximately 40 minutes to get there. This breeding center “has been built to improve the state of the population of tortoises on the island, Geochelone chatamensis, within an environment with conditions similar to their natural state” (Dirección del Parque Nacional Galápagos, Galapaguerra del Cerro Colorado, 2016). This is a recommended site because there, you will learn about the differences between the giant tortoises of San Cristobal and the other tortoises that inhabit the archipelago. You will also become familiar with the efforts being made to achieve their conservation over time.
12. Puerto Chino
Puerto Chino is an ideal place to relax, swim, take pictures, do bird watching, and even camp (prior authorization from the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park). This site is located “24 km away from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and a few kilometers from the [turtle] breeding center next to Cerro Colorado” (Dirección de Turismo y Cultura Municipal, GAD San Cristóbal, 2021). To get to this site, you must take a taxi, and in 45 minutes, you will find yourself on a path through which you must walk for approximately 15 minutes; Once the walk is over, you will arrive at the beach of Puerto Chino.
13. Punta Pitt
Another thing to do on San Cristóbal Island that should be included in your visit agenda is to visit Punta Pitt. This navigable point of the visit is located at the western end of San Cristobal Island. It is a paradisiacal place because it is formed by the volcanic tuff substrate and has a 90-meter-long olivine beach and natural viewpoints. There is a 1,400-meter path that leads from the olivine beach to the top of the hill, where you can enjoy this unique setting while hiking.
Punta Pitt is a special place because it is the only place on the island where it can observe three types of boobies (blue-footed, red-footed, and masked) and two species of frigates nesting in the same area. In addition, Punta Pitt is an ideal place for experiential fishing due to its strong underwater currents that are home to large numbers of marine species. Access to Punta Pitt is done by sea, so you must take a tour to get there.
14. Bahía Rosa Blanca
If you continue wondering what to do on San Cristobal Island, we recommend you visit Rosa Blanca Bay. This bay, located east of San Cristobal Island, houses a group of small, uninhabited beaches surrounded by volcanic rock. Bahía Rosa Blanca stands out for the beach located in the center, known for the beauty of its crystalline waters. This site is perfect for snorkeling because you can see sharks, rays, and sea turtles in the area. To get to Bahía Rosa Blanca, you must go on a private tour where the visitors to this site are contemplated. It takes approximately a couple of hours by boat to reach Bahía Rosa Blanca from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
Is it worth visiting San Cristóbal Island?
One of the crucial decisions when visiting the Galapagos Islands is deciding which islands will be part of your itinerary, a somewhat complex decision since there are hundreds of places to visit in the archipelago. However, we assure you that it is worth visiting San Cristobal Island. To give you a global idea of the Galapagos Islands, you cannot miss San Cristobal, the political and administrative center of the enchanted islands. The archipelago’s capital, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, is located in the extreme southwest of the island, which is why most government agencies are concentrated there. In addition, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the second most populated city in the Galapagos Islands, after Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. Likewise, the island has an infinity of natural attractions you should not ignore during your trip. And, of course, San Cristobal has the largest sea lion colony in the Galapagos.
What is San Cristóbal Island known for?
San Cristobal Island is especially relevant for being the political and administrative center of the Galapagos Islands since the island is home to the capital of the well-known islands, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, also known as the capital of paradise and the second most populous city in the archipelago. Another peculiarity of the island is that one of the archipelago’s two aerodromes receives tourists and residents; hence, many flights that come from the Ecuadorian mainland land there.
If you continue to wonder what is unique about San Cristobal Island, you have to know that “it has the largest colony of sea lions in the Galapagos; […] in the 19th century, the island was still visited by pirates and […] it was the first island where the HMS Beagle anchored from which the famous English naturalist Charles Darwin disembarked, for this reason, we have the bay that bears its name”. (Dirección Turismo y Cultura del Gobierno Autónomo Descentralizado de San Cristóbal, 10 datos curiosos qué debes saber de Isla San Cristóbal, 2022).
What animals live on San Cristobal Island?
As in all the Galapagos Islands, San Cristobal is home to a great diversity of fauna that is unique in the world. You can find frigates, gannets, lava gulls, pelicans, and blue-footed boobies on the island. In addition, you can enjoy the presence of many sea lions, land iguanas, marine iguanas, and Galapagos tortoises, among others. Remember that San Cristobal is considered a paradise for wildlife and bird watching, an unmissable site for any nature lover.
How much time does it take to spend on San Cristobal Island?
If you wonder how much time it takes to spend on San Cristobal Island, we suggest you dedicate at least a few days to this destination while you visit the Galapagos Islands. If you choose to visit the islands on a cruise, indeed this island will be included in the itinerary. However, if you are going to make the trip on your own, you can always find passenger transport boats that will take you from the island where you find yourself towards the capital of the archipelago.
How to move within San Cristobal Island?
Within San Cristobal Island, it is easy and safe to get around as there is a taxi service and places where you can rent bicycles. While if you decide to leave San Cristobal for other islands, you can always take passenger boats that leave continuously from the pier. In addition, the airport of San Cristobal Island is only five minutes from the central hotel zone, so it is very easy to get to or from there by taxi or even on foot.
Do not miss the opportunity to visit San Cristobal, this “beautiful island” whose historical name is Chatham, “same as it was assigned by Captain James Colnett, who named it that way in honor of William Pitt, first Count of Chatham” (Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador, San Cristóbal Island, a paradise that will surprise you with its history, gastronomy, and natural attractions, 2022). Now that you know what to do on San Cristobal Island, you will be able to fully enjoy your visit to this island that is home to the capital of the archipelago and where you will find yourself surrounded by sea lions almost anywhere you are.
To be well-informed before making your trip, we recommend you read our note on the best time to visit Galapagos.
Write to us, and we will provide you with advice and continuous support during your trip to San Cristobal. For more information, check out this unique selection of the best Galapagos tours from our partner Viator (Tripadvisor).