South America > Ecuador > Galapagos Islands > San Cristobal (Galapagos)
- 1 Puerto Baquerizo Moreno - is the capital of the Galapagos Islands and the main town on the islands with tourist facilities.
- El Progreso - Nothing more than a collection of farms. There are a few small shops and a restaurant, which probably only opens when you reserve ahead.
- Cerro Verde - A tiny hamlet. A restaurant is present, but probably only opens when you reserve ahead.
- 1 San Cristóbal Airport (SCY IATA). Avianca and LATAM also have flights directly to San Cristobal from Guayaquil and Quito. Inter-island flights are available from EMETEBE Airlines, which operates nine seater aircraft to transport passengers and their luggage from San Cristobal Airport to Isabela, Santa Cruz and Baltra islands. Bookings can be done directly through EMETEBE's website or a travel agent.
Avianca flies to San Cristobal 5 days per week and LATAM 5 days. (see Galapagos Islands Get In for more info). Inter-island flights are available from EMETEBE Airlines, which operates nine seater aircraft to transport passengers and their luggage from San Cristobal Airport to Isabela, Santa Cruz and Baltra islands. Bookings can be done directly through EMETEBE's website or a travel agent.
The airport is within the urban area of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and taxis cost $1.50 into town. It's even possible to walk if you don't have much luggage.
The terminal has four souvenir shops open for outgoing flights. There is a cafe landside selling a small range of food. The cafe airside is closed. There is an ATM landside.
There are twice daily speedboats from Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz. The two hour boatride can be rough and noisy and costs $30 one-way. Boats to Santa Cruz leave in the morning and boats returning to San Cristobal leave in the afternoon.
The island is small enough that unless you want to go to Puerto Chino, El Junco or La Galapaguera for the day or don't feel like hiking to El Progreso, you can walk wherever you need to be. From one end to the other Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is about a 20-30 minute walk. If you don't feel like walking, hail a taxi (hold your hand out, palm sideways and point your arm towards the ground). It should be $1 anywhere in town (including the airport). El Progreso, Puerto Chino, La Galapaguera, and El Junco cost more and official prices have been established by the local government, check the board on the Tourist Pier for information on costs to these places. Since official prices have been established, no additional tax are allowed and Ecuadorians and foreigners are charged the same.
There is one road leading from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno in the west to the beach of Puerto Chino on the west coast. On the way you'll pass the villages El Progreso and Cerro Verde. There are collectivos going to the villages or you can take a taxi. Hitchhiking is also a good alternative.
Officially, you need a guide to visit anywhere within the Galapagos National Park with a group larger than eight. Some other areas are restricted to visiting with a guide online.
- Interpretation Center lies near the entrance to the National Park on the western edge of town. About ten minutes walk from the town centre. Here you can learn more about the history of the Galápagos and the conservation of this unique piece of nature. Follow the waterfront west to Playa Mann, and follow the signs. Admission is free.
Starting at the Interpretation centre there is a loop walk that will take around an hour. It passes:
- Las Tijeretas - (Frigatebird hill). If you follow the trails further up you come to a set of viewpoint overlooking the a bay. Nesting frigate birds can be seen here. It is possible to snorkel in the bay.
- La Loberia - This is an uninviting rocky beach, but a good place to see marine iguanas, blue footed boobies, yellow canaries, and a large sea lion colony. Sometimes it is also possible to surf. It is about 1 km east of the airport along a dirt path.
It's common to take a taxi to see three sites along the road out of town. A taxi will generally take you to the three sites, allowing around an hour at each for $60.
- El Junco - A freshwater volcanic lake at an altitude 600m. There is a set of steep steps up from the parking to the crate edge. From there, you can have 360 degree views of the island.
- Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado - A part of land reserved for the repopulation of the giant tortoises. The tortoises were moved from the northern part of the island. There is also a breeding center and a interpretation center. There are pens for animals to the age of 5. It is on the road between El Junco and Puerto Chino. There are some short trails through the reserve. Free admission.
- Puerto Chino - A small quiet beach on the east side of the island. It's connected to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno by the only road crossing the island. Camping is possible with permission of the national park. The beach is around 600m from the end of the road. Take insect repellent to deter the horseflies. There are no facilities here, no mechanism to call a taxi, no waiting taxis, and poor mobile reception.
The following visitor sites are only accessible by boat and with a guide:
- Kicker rock (León Dormido) - a natural cathedral rising out the water. It's a good place for scuba diving or snorkeling. You will see turtles, white tip reef sharks, sea lions, galapagos sharks, and occasionally a hammerhead shark here. It perhaps isn't the best place for inexperienced snorkelling, as the water is deep and there are some waves that crash against the rocks.
- Isla Lobos - Nesting bird colonies and a sea lion colony can be seen on this island. The island is on the way to Kicker Rock, and can be visited on a daytrip.
- Galapaguera - Giant turtles can be seen in the wild. It's located at the northern end of the island.
- Cerro Brujo - (Wizard Hill) A collapsed volcano with a white-sand beach just north of Kicker Rock. Home to sea lions, blue footed boobies, marine iguanas, brown pelicans, Sally Lightfoot crabs, sea turtles, and rays.
- Punta Pitt - Wet landing site on the northeast end of the island that features all 3 species of booby (Blue Footed, Red Footed, and Masked). The site also features lava formations, and at times, Frigate Birds.
From Puerto Baquerizo Moreno you can walk to Playa Mann, the beautiful local beach, although it can be quite crowded on weekends with locals and the occasional sea lion. It's right across from the campus of GAIAS, the Galapagos Institute for the Arts and Sciences of Universidad San Francisco de Quito. Just up the road is the Interpretation Center, with some great displays on the environment and history of the Galapagos. From there you can walk to Punta Carola, another popular beach, or hike the trail up to Las Tijeretas (Frigatebird Hill), which has a gorgeous view of the island and overlooks the bay where Darwin first arrived in the Galapagos. The bay has excellent snorkeling, but be careful, it can be dangerous depending on the tide and waves.
- Mountainbiking from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno to Puerto Chino is ambitious even for die-hard mountain bikers, but if you hitchhike the uphill parts it'll make a nice daytrip and you can see some of the sites on the way.
There are several tour agents offering boat trips and snorkeling to Kicker rock, Isla Lobos or other visitor sites. You can rent equipment to hike, camp, bike, or snorkel at many of these places. It's also possible to do scuba diving. There are three scuba shops on the island; GalaKiwi, Chalo Tours, and Galapagos Expeditions. GalaKiwi is better for experienced divers, the guide tends to swim fast and not point out too many things. Chalo Tours speaks English, Spanish, Danish, and German. They have reasonable prices and all the guides are great. The main guide for Galapagos Expeditions is trained by Chalo Tour's main guide.
Renting a mountain bike is also possible and cost around $10 per day. Most bikes are not mountain but are sufficient for around town and on the roads up to El Progreso (the other town on the island).
A taxi (pick-up truck) can be rented to drive to Puerto Chino, one of the best beaches on the island. It will cost between $40-50, but you can always grab a crowd and split the price. This is a gorgeous beach with soft white sand and is the furthest point into the island that one can go without naturalist guide.
While you're in the highlands, you may want to stop by the Galapaguera to see the breeding center of the San Cristobal variety of tortoises, which is right near Puerto Chino. El Junco, the only large freshwater lake in the Galapagos, is also a popular site.
There are several excellent places to surf around the island as well. During off season there are frequently waves at Punta Carrola and Tonga Reef. As the season picks up, El Canyon and a few other places have "buenas olas". Check with the locals about where the waves are daily and to ask for directions. IF there are waves, someone is almost guaranteed to be going surfing and most will invite you to follow them!
As in most of Ecuador, you can pay by cash or by credit card in most major places, although cash is preferred at most small shops and transportation. There is a Banco de Pacifico with ATM. Depending on your banknet, it may or may not accept your bankcard. If not, walk in the bank and talk to David about a Visa advance. He's a nice guy and speaks English.
There are many souvenir shops on the Malecón (Av. Charles Darwin) and the surrounding side streets. Galapagos coffee is always a popular item with prices ranging from $6.50/lb for vacu-packed coffee to $15/lb if you want it in a cute tin or box. Several talented local artists have a gallery in the upstairs of Casa Blanca, also on the Malecón.
Remember, never buy handicrafts made with local natural resources, it is forbidden by the Galapagos law, it is a National Park!
There are a variety of restaurants along the main waterfront strip with English menus, and local and international cuisine.
There are several excellent restaurants in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and many smaller places that serve a good setmeal of soup, rice and chicken, typically around $3.
- Mockingbird Cafe, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. For a snack or internet. Diana, the owner, speaks English and makes a mean batido (milkshake). It's a family run place with great service and fun conversation.
- Calypso (Plaza Civil), Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Restaurant , has more western food like pizzas, hamburgers, sandwiches and delicious desserts. Not cheap though.
- La Playa, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. a favorite with great shrimp and seafood dishes and a good variety of food offered.
- Miconia, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. is popular with tourists, upstairs and with a great view. Offers a variety of traditional and western dishes and has a good salad buffet, although prices are on the higher end.
- Sheanovi, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. looks expensive, but has decent prices and good food (vegetarian lasagne!).
- Tropic Bird, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (located just past the local hospital). is a little harder to find but well worth the walk! They are usually only open for lunch, ask a local.
- Mi Grande (a.k.a. "The Happy Man"), Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. has decent breakfast for $2.50, delicious fruit juices and batidos and real espresso. It's opposite of the Hotel Leon Dormido on the first floor.
- Several places offer a set meal with a choice of chicken, beef, or fish along with juice, menestra (beans), rice, and the daily soup for $3. It's quite a deal, especially at Albacora or Bambu.
There are three main bars on the island; Polo's Bar, Iguana Rock, and Voqui Bar. Generally people start at Polo's (directly up the street from Calypso) and then head to Iguana Rock to dance (up the street from Polo's, hang a left when you hit the market). When Iguana's closes, head to Voqui for some late night pool (located in the back room of Calypso) or the discoteca above Calypo's.
Instead of a discoteca above Calypso, there are now two discotecas in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno: La Isla (the island) and Neptune. Both are located on the main road and will sometimes charge a $1-3 entrance fee on the occasional Saturday.
- Orca Hotel, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. is clean, comfortable, and quite popular with tourists (so long as you're not on a tight budget). It's located right on the beach, you will often find a friendly sea lion napping on the front porch.
- Mar Azul, Av. Alsacio Northia Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Rooms are clean and have fan, private bathroom with hot shower and television. Price $20 pppn..
- Hotel San Francisco, Av Chales Darwin, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. This hotel is conveniently located at the Malecón and is a cheap option if cleanliness isn't your highest priority. Uninviting rooms have television, fan and private bathroom with cold shower. Price $5-15 pp..
- Hotel Albatros, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. right next to hotel San Francisco is about the same price ($7), but the conditions are worse.
- Leon Dormido, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. has good rooms for $15-20 pp..
- Casa de Nelly, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. has a beautiful garden, plenty of hammocks and is popular with foreign volunteers. Price about $15 pp..
- Hotel Northia, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. is popular with volunteers, includes breakfast, hot shower and wireless internet from $10pp.
Closest islands to San Cristobal are: