As a naturalist guide certified by the Galapagos National Park and having worked for five years with National Geographic photographers and scientists, I have been lucky to deeply experience the wonderful wildlife and landscapes of the Galapagos islands. With this insider perspective, I can say without a doubt, that San Cristobal is definitely one of the best places for the independent traveler. When you arrive to San Cristobal airport, just take a 5 minute taxi ride to our hotel and you are ready to begin your San Cristobal experience. Here are the best things to do in our island:
This is the most iconic and popular beach of San Cristobal, and the reason of our name in Casa Playa Mann. It is less than 5 minutes walk. Here, you can sit and share with curious sea lions, marine iguanas and sea birds. While snorkeling and swimming sometimes you can find yourself playing with young Galapagos sea lions. You can always come to this beach and relax as it is really close to our Casa.
Another wonderful beach, lots of sea lions, very large marine iguanas and an optional hike extension to a cliff with great landscapes and seabirds sightings. You can take a taxi that will take you there and pick you up later.
PLAYA PUERTO BAQUERIZO
A long hike, with lots of rock and big boulders. At the end, after around 2 hours walk, you find a nice beach, not too many people in here.
One little jewel of San Cristobal. Walking distance from our hotel, is one of the obligated spots when visiting Cerro Tijeretas. Great place for sea lions and snorkeling with sea turtles. On low tide, chances to observe some interesting marine invertebrates.
Galapagos National Park Interpretation Center and Cerro Tijeretas (Tijeretas Hill).- With a 10-minutes walk from our hotel, you can arrive to the San Cristobal Interpretation Center. It is a nice easy trail that offers you various viewpoints where you can admire the iconic Kicker Rock to the west and Shipwreck Bay to the south. It is also a nesting spot for two species of Frigate birds. At the base of Tijeretas Hill, there is a small cove, great place for swimming and snorkeling and where is usual to see sea lions, several species of fish and even sea turtles and reef sharks.
The highlands of San Cristobal are a a great place to explore in a day tour. You can also rent a bike for the entire day and ride to the highlands, if you are really really fit!. Its fertile lands and wonderful human history are the only reason to visit this part of San Cristobal. As part of this area, you can visit El Junco lagoon, the tortoise sanctuary and go swimming with sea lions at awesome Puerto Chino beach:
LAGOON EL JUNCO
Lagoon El Junco is a crater lake located 19 km from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, providing great opportunities for landscape photography. The enormous crater was formed in the caldera of a volcano and you can do a relative easy hike around the caldera. Since this is one of the highest point of the island, you can expect it to be cloudy (which provides also a magical experience!), specially in the afternoons.
The La Galapaguera Tortoise Habitat was established in 2003. It is a Galapagos National Park program for the tortoises, and provides important information about the species.The big, adult-tortoises are not in cages; they roam in a beautiful green semi-natural habitat. You can also see the baby ones! It is a great place to get up close and personal with the tortoises, and see them behaving exactly how they have for hundreds of thousands of years.
This stunning beach is located 30km away on the far side of the island from the main port, but just 5 minutes from the Galapaguera Natural. The water can be calm, with only small waves lapping on the shore. You have opportunities to see sea turtles and blue footed boobies. Good place to learn how to surf! If you are interested, we recommend going with our friends from Lava Wave (http://lavawavesurf.com). They give great tours specialized for surfers, either advance or beginners.
A standard day trip to Kicker Rock usually departs early in the morning (around 8 am) form Puerto Baquerizo dock and ends in the afternoon (around 3 pm). Travelers usually enjoy a lunch stop and swim at Manglecito Beach or Cerro Tijeretas. Do take in mind that this spot requires open water snorkeling skills, as there will no dry landing until the end of the tour. Some previous snorkeling experience might be useful. Common to the area are also hammer head sharks, white-tip reef sharks, eagle-rays, stingrays, green sea turtles, barracudas, reef fish, eels, as well as a variety of invertebrates including octopuses. Plus, the experience of snorkelling in such a dramatic geological landscape.
Punta Pitt is located on the extreme eastern point of San Cristobal Island. You will see some of most iconic birds nesting here. Thanks for efforts of the Galapagos National Park, cats have been mostly eradicated and now red-footed boobies can be found nesting in the bushes. Also, as you walk there are good chances that you will see blue-footed boobies right in the middle of the trail. Finally, Nazca boobies can also be spotted in the cliffs. Punta Pitt is perhaps one of the best spots for birds on the island, as you can see the three species of boobies in one spot.
By far, one of the jewels in the crown in all the Galapagos! If you are curious why, check what our friends from Galapagos Conservancy can say about the history and uniqueness of Española.
To do a day tour to Española, the only departing point is San Cristobal island, so that is another reason that makes San Cristobal so special, as it is the door to visit the astonishing island of Española. It is home of some endemic species, including the Española mocking-bird, the Española lava lizard and the incredible Galapagos Waved-Albatross. By far one of the best hikes and snorkel combination for a day tour.
This uninhabited island is known as the oldest in the Archipelago. Perhaps best known for its population of endemic Waved Albatross, this day tour offers an up close and personal experience of bird-watching as well as a glimpse of the incredible life under the water.
Usually the program begins at the tourist pier at 6:30AM. Arriving to Gardner Bay, you prepare your snorkel gear (provided by tour agency) and wet-suits and jump overboard! The snorkel activity is in a protected bay. The water isn’t too deep, and it’s a good thing, because the ocean floor is littered with various species of sea stars, corals, and urchins. Schools of fish, sea lions, rays, and maybe even sea turtles and Galapagos sharks can be found in this site. Above water, the cliffs provide refuge for Nazca boobie birds, sea lions, and Sally Lightfoot crabs. Back on the boat, both hot and cold drinks are awaiting you, as well as a snack of fresh fruit. After you have lunch, and later you get ready for the second site visit in Española island: Punta Suarez Point. Disembarkation around 14:00 and begin a 2-hour hike. Closed-toe shoes are recommended for the rocky trail, and be ready for wet landing. This is the site where you can find the waved albatross, the largest wing-span of the Galapagos.