San Cristóbal is the most easterly island of the Galapagos 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 Galapagos, 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 Galapagos 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 Galapagos, after Santa Cruz. The majority of residents are employed in tourism, civil service or fishing. The port town is home to the Galapagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences and often hosts Ecuadorian and overseas students who come to study the wonders of the islands. The Galapagos 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 Galapagos’ 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.
Photos of San Cristóbal Island
Fast Facts about San Cristóbal Island
- The centre of Galapagos' growing surfing culture
- San Cristobal is the official capital of Galapagos
- Home to the oldest human settlement in the Galapagos
- Sea lions bask on the the sunny rocks around the shore