San Cristóbal Island | Galapatours
San Cristóbal

San Cristóbal Island, Galápagos

Sea Lions and Surfboards

Information about San Cristóbal

San Cristóbal is the most easterly island of the Galápagos archipelago. It was formed when three or four volcanoes, all now extinct, joined together into one landmass. Named after the Spanish version of St Christopher, the Patron Saint of seafarers, it’s original English name was Chatham Island.

San Cristobal boasts the oldest permanent settlement in the Galápagos, and it’s the island Charles Darwin first visited when the Beagle arrived in the archipelago in 1835. The reason for the island’s early settlement is its freshwater lake, El Junco, which is the only source of water for the entire island, and it was home to the Governor’s residence at the time of Darwin’s visit.

Over the years, the island has been home to a company that harvested orchilla moss (a native lichen), used at that time as a dye for fabric, a tannery that produced leather, and the production of fish and tortoise oil, as well as sugar canes and refining. There was even a penal colony for prisoners from the mainland until the early 20th century, when after a prisoners' revolt they all escaped! As well as abundant bird life, sea lions can often be found basking on the sun-warmed rocks around the shoreline. The town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal Island is the official capital of the Galápagos province, and it's home to most of the government offices, as well an Ecuadorian Navy facility, and an airport with daily flights to the mainland.

The permanent population is about 5,400 strong making it the second most populated island in Galápagos, after Santa Cruz. The majority of residents are employed in tourism, civil service or fishing. The port town is home to the Galápagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences and often hosts Ecuadorian and overseas students who come to study the wonders of the islands. The Galápagos National Park Service Interpretation Center is near the town and is a popular destination for visitors. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno has also become the centre for the Galápagos’ growing surfing culture. The waves are best at the beginning of the warm season when you usually don't need a wetsuit. Tongo Reef, west of town, is one of the best places to enjoy the surf.

Interesting facts about San Cristóbal

The centre of Galápagos' growing surfing culture

San Cristobal is the official capital of Galápagos

Home to the oldest human settlement in the Galápagos

Sea lions bask on the the sunny rocks around the shore

Pictures of San Cristóbal

San Cristóbal
San Cristóbal
San Cristóbal

Highlights in San Cristóbal

El Junco Lagoon
El Junco Lagoon

El Junco Lagoon is one of the very few permanent sources of fresh water in the whole Galápagos. It avoids evaporation thanks to its elevation - some 2,300ft above sea level in the moist highlands of San Cristobal. The journey to visit is via a 45 minute bus ride from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The name comes from the many sage or "junco" plants that can be found around the lagoon. El Junco covers some 72,000 square yards and holds over 7 1/2 million gallons of fresh water.

The lagoon formed because this is the site of a collapsed cone of a long-extinct volcano. The source of water here is purely rain, and so the depth of the lake varies throughout the year, but it has never dried out in living memory. In fact scientists think the lagoon may have stayed filled since the end of the last ice age.

On your way to the lagoon itself you'll climb up through several different vegetation zones before you reach this wonderful viewpoint. As well as a superb place to drink in the wonderful landscape, it's also a great place to observe a wide variety of bird species, including rare mockingbirds, pintail ducks and even frigatebirds, who come here to bathe their feathers in the fresh water. Surrounding the lagoon are tree ferns and Miconia bushes.

Tijeretas Hill
Tijeretas Hill

Translated, this is "Frigatebird Hill", and it's well named! This is a place where both endemic species of frigatebird, the Great Frigatebird and the Magnificent Frigatebird, share a colony.

The hill itself offers a wonderful view of Wreck Bay to the south and to Kicker Rock to the west, but it also provides the perfect opportunity for your Galapatours guide to tell you more about the two species of frigatebird to be found in Galápagos, and how you can tell them apart. There's also a range of native plant species here.

The beach at the bottom of the hill is a nice place to relax, and the waters here are safe for swimming and snorkeling - perfect for cooling off after your climb!

Puerto Chino
Puerto Chino

This small, pretty beach is across the other side of the island from the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and it can be accessed by a walking trail from the road that runs past La Galapaguera at Cerro Colorado.

With its white sand and turquoise water, Puerto Chino is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Pacific Ocean. It's good to swim and snorkel here, and if you do, you may see Galápagos green turtles and stingrays. Sea Lions also sometimes bask on the rocks beside the beach, and you can often see Blue-Footed Boobies.

Here at Galapatours, this is one of our favorite spots as it's out of the way and takes a little effort to get to - but that effort is rewarded with a wonderful location, perfect for a relaxing sunbathe or snorkeling adventure.

La Galapaguera "Jacinto Gordillo Breeding Center"
La Galapaguera "Jacinto Gordillo Breeding Center"

Also known as Cerro Colorado, this is one of the newer visitor sites in Galápagos and was opened in 2003. Previously accessible only from the coast via a long hike, it's now possible to travel by road from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where the trip takes about an hour.

This breeding station has an informative visitor center that allows you to learn about the origins and evolution of the Galápagos Giant Tortoises, and about the steps being taken to preserve the species from threats such as habitat destruction and introduced species.

In the center you will see baby hatchlings and young tortoises. After they reach 4 months old they are taken out to be released into the natural habitat in the area. There is a short hiking trail where you may be able to spot giant tortoises in the wild.

Pitt Point
Pitt Point

Pitt Point, or Punta Pitt, is at the far eastern edge of San Cristobal. Following a wet landing directly onto the beach you'll be welcomed by the friendly and noisy barking of the local colony of Galápagos Sea Lions! This is actually a bachelor colony of males who haven't held a breeding territory, and they can sometimes be the worse for wear if they have been fighting on one of the breeding beaches elsewhere.

After the noise of the beach, a quieter path takes us up the cliffs to a breeding site used by all 3 resident species of booby - the Blue-Footed, Red-Footed and Nazca Boobies. Nowhere else in the Galápagos do all three species nest side-by-side like this.

As well as this unique booby colony you can also see Galápagos Frigatebirds and petrels. In addition to the wonderful bird life, the view down to the beach and across the island from this high vantage point make the climb worth it.

The hiking trail lets you get a close look at the Saltbush and other tough shrubs that manage to survive in this sometimes eerie volcanic landscape. Your Galapatours guide will be able to explain in detail how hardy plants such as these colonise the lava fields all over the Galápagos.

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

The town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno was founded in the mid-1800s and is the oldest settlement in the Galápagos, as well as being the capital city of the Province. It's the second-largest population centre in the islands.

This pleasant town is home to over 6,000 residents and has two main streets, including Malecón Charles Darwin along the waterfront where there are restaurants, souvenir shops, and hotels. Its main sources of revenue are from fishing and from tourism.

The small town beach is reserved just for the local population of Galápagos Sea Lions, which the locals seem to treat almost as equal citizens! You can often see them lounging on benches by the waterfront or lying on the decks of boats.

Further along the coast to the north are public beaches for the human residents and visitors, and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is gaining a reputation as a South American "surfing hotspot", with Tongo Reef to the west of town being a particularly popular surf location.

Lobos Island
Lobos Island

Lobos Island is named after the colony of Galápagos Sea Lions that live here, but they aren't the only native Galápagos species that calls this narrow island home. You can see Galápagos Fur Seals basking here, and there is a nesting colony of Blue-Footed Boobies that come to Lobos each year to raise their chicks.

There are one or two short hiking trails that lead into the center of the island, and this is always a peaceful place to visit. Galapatours visitors tell us it's one of their favorite visitor sites to just sit and soak up the Galápagos atmosphere.

Back on the beach, the swimming and snorkeling is wonderful, and thanks to the island's position close to the main shore of San Cristobal, the channel between them is sheltered and the turquoise water is crystal clear.  This is a Galapatours favorite spot, so speak to one of our Galápagos specialists if you want help choosing an itinerary that includes a visit to this special place.

Animals in San Cristóbal

Our trips to San Cristóbal

Price
Min Price

USD 900

Max Price

USD 23000

Duration (days)
Min Days

3

Max Days

19