San Cristóbal Island, home to around 6,000 people, is the second most populated of the Galápagos Islands and the easternmost island in the archipelago – around 965km (600mi) off the coast of mainland Ecuador. It’s where Charles Darwin arrived in September 1935, providing the initial foundation for his theory of evolution.
Discover the very best of the Galapagos on Culture Trip’s exclusive five-day adventure. Led by our Local Insider, you’ll explore the many natural wonders of the islands with a small group of culturally curious travelers.
Characterized by sandy beaches, secluded coves, lava fields and fertile highlands, San Cristóbal features some of the most diverse landscapes in the Galápagos – along with an extraordinary variety of flora and fauna. Giant tortoises, sea lions, blue-footed boobies and magnificent frigatebirds are just a few of the species you’ll find here.
You can get to San Cristóbal by plane from Guayaquil – a direct flight takes one-hour-and-50 minutes – or by ferry from Santa Cruz, which takes around two hours. To help you plan your trip, we’ve picked out the best things to see and do on San Cristóbal.
Around a 10-minute walk north of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the Interpretation Center is a fantastic place to learn about the history of the Galápagos. You’ll gain an insight into the volcanic origin of the archipelago, its diverse ecosystems, the arrival and evolution of many different species – and the human discovery and colonization of the Galápagos. There’s also a section dedicated to conservation and development of the islands, highlighting the various environmental threats they face today. Admission to the Interpretation Center is free.
Kicker Rock – locally known as ‘Leon Dormido’ or the sleeping lion – is a volcanic ash formation that juts out almost 150m (492ft) from the Pacific Ocean, 45 minutes northeast of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno by boat. The waters around it – especially in the channel which splits Kicker Rock in two – are rich in marine life, including sea turtles, marine iguanas, eagle rays, Galápagos sharks and white-tipped reef sharks. As such, it’s one of the best places to go scuba diving or snorkeling in the Galápagos – an ideal day or half-day excursion from San Cristóbal.
Galápagos giant tortoises are the largest tortoise species in the world, growing up to 1.82m (6ft) in length and often weighing over 500 pounds (227kg). The islands were once home to over 200,000 of them, but only around 10 percent of the original population remains today due to human overexploitation and habitat destruction by invasive species. La Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado – on the south side of San Cristóbal – is a reserve and breeding center which protects and grows the population of giant tortoises, while educating visitors and providing an opportunity to see this endemic species up close. Admission is free.
Although the abundance of wildlife and beautiful landscapes are the primary appeal of visiting San Cristóbal, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno – the main town and the capital of the Galápagos province – is worth checking out while you’re there. Stop by the Catedral Inmaculada Concepción – a modern church with stained glass windows depicting Galápagos nature – to sample delicious, locally sourced dishes at Muyu Galápagos – one of the best restaurants in the archipelago. Or sip a craft beer at Galápagos Republic Brewing Company and take a stroll along the Malecón San Cristobal – the beachfront promenade, which is invariably dotted with sea lions.