If you’re a fan of nature and animals, then you must visit the Galápagos Islands. Many people do this via boat cruises, which travel to each island. You can also base yourself on one island and catch ferries to other islands such as Santa Cruz or Isabella. Each island have their own varieties of animals and in Isabella in particular you can see Flamingoes and sea lions are everywhere!
We only had a short visit to the Galapagos on our around the world trip, and specially visited San Cristobal.
When leaving Quito or Quayaquil, ensure to get your entry card for the Galapagos. It is $20 and be sure to have USD. We’re not sure what it’s for, but you need one to enter.
You also need $100 USD (cash only) per person for fee upon arrival. Apparently to contribute to conservation.
When you arrive, move outside and the white pick up trucks are the taxi. To drive into town, it should cost approx $2.
If you’re planning to look around town, most places open around 10am with a few cafes open early. Most shops are also closed in the afternoon and open late.
Places advertise wi-fi, but it’s extremely weak with some good bursts in the early morning. So make sure to do any necessary research before visiting.
If you need to do laundry, it’s very cheap, nearby the Main Street for $1.50 a kg.
See our more detailed info below in regards to where to stay, visit and eat.
Where to stay
Keep in mind you’re on an environmentally conscious island and with only a certain number of occupants and travellers at one time, accomodation is pricy. It is also fairly dated, no need for Reno’s I presume, since guests are there for the animals, not fancy hotels.
We booked our accomodation through Air Bnb since many options on the Island were quite expensive. Our accomodation was called Casa Maybell, which was nice and the owner Mercedes was very accommodating. It was a small room, but had a TV, air conditioning, a private bathroom and it was cleaned each day. You are sharing the building with other guests and there is a bathroom to share. Super close to the ferry/boat terminal and restaurants. Wifi is poor but that’s throughout the island.
We later found out that hostal Emmanuel offers private rooms for $25 a night. A good cheap option and run by the same people as the point cafe (which we mention later).
Where to eat
Calypso is a restaurant, pizza shop, ice cream bar and coffee shop. We went there daily for
coffee, which we found to be the best coffee on the Island for both filtered and milk based. It was a spectacle to just watch the barista make the coffee. They dry their own beans out the back and also roast. If you like filtered coffee the syphon method is not only cool, it produces a great coffee. The staff are also very welcoming and friendly. It’s a nice place to chill, just like the seals out front next to the San Cristobal sign.
The Point Cafe
This cafe is run by a cool group of guys who moved to San Cristobal from Santa Cruz for the surf. The staff are all very friendly and Nicholas, one of the guys who runs this place has seen every inch of the archipelago, so he will send you in the right direction for any water based activities. They do a great breakfast for $5 it is one of the better omelettes that you will try. It comes with a serve of fruit salad, fresh juice, bread with house made jam and unlimited refills of coffee and tea. They also do a nice granola, with fruit and yogurt.
Kioskito puerto lobo
This is great local joint set up in a small hut and here you can try some tasty seafood including lobster.
The langosta (lobster) is well priced between $15 and $20, for a whole lobster, depending on the flavours and toppings of the dish. The Langosta del marisco, which is lobster served in its shell with a seafood sauce containg fish, octopus and prawns and is delicious. They also do a whole fish and also a coconut fish as well as a local dish called bolon. Bolon translates to ball, it is pretty much a doughy ball made with platain, corn and cheese and whatever else you decide on. Kioskito is also in a great location, right on the bay. The service here is slow but it is also very friendly and it is a popular place for the locals to hang out on a Sunday.
Midori Japanese restaurant and bar
This is a great place to enjoy an afternoon beverage. The cocktails here are excellent and is especially hard to find a good cocktail in South America, many are overly sweet. The Maracuya Mojito was amazing! The food here is also quality and the portions are large. The food is a little pricer, but this is one of the nicer restaurants on the island. The shimp salad is a good option for $8 and with lettuce, carrot, beetroot and avocado is relatively healthy, other than the fried prawns and wonton, which were very tasty and added another level of texture. The sesame coated tuna for $14 consisted of two very large portions of tuna served with rice and salad. The fire roll for $14.50 is a cool dish with some flaming theatrics. The dish is doused with a flaming shot of sake at the table, very cool or should we say hot. It is a tasty sushi roll with an interesting texture from being fried, the sake flavour is quite strong, but this can be negated with some of the passionfruit or teriyaki dipping sauce provided. Frank, the young bartender/waiter is a cool guy and his English is excellent, good for a conversation and tips on what to do on the island.
Is an upmarket restaurant situated right on Playa de Oro beach and there are plenty of seals nearby, to keep you occupied whilst waiting for your meal. It is probably the nicest looking restaurant on the Island and this is reflected in the price, which is not outrageously expensive. This restaurant is not for profit helping empower women and helping Ecuadoreans enter the Gastronomic world, with hospitality training at this venue. We stopped in for their lunch specials. We sampled the lobster soup for $6, which was delicious. The fish was served with roast vegetables and mash was also nicely prepared $12. All of the meals were beautifully presented. The A la Carte menu is a little pricier and it would have been good to try their lobster tasting menu, however we ran out of time.
Cabana mi Grande
It is a good cheap option for all meals. The Bolon with steak was a very popular choice with most diners around us, enjoying this for their meal. It is probably a good choice as the bolon on its own does not have much flavour. The black berry juice was really good. A standard breakfast set is $4.
Another restaurant specialising in local cuisine and claiming to be organic too. The atmosphere is very casual and service is friendly. If visiting at night, bring some mosquito repellant, as it is located close to the lagoon. There are plenty of seafood options. The ceviche for $10 was tasty, as was the lobster at $23. Although the lobster was not served in its shell it was a nice meal.
What to see and do
You can amuse yourself for hours simply watching the sea lions, turtles, crabs and iguanas on the rocks and in the water on the pier for free. However if you want more informative tours, then you can book them too.
We booked our tour through Darwin Scuba Dive, but you can book it though pretty much any agent. They are all pretty much the same, the tour should cost $140 which is a fair price, your hostal/hotel should be able to point you in the right direction. Our provider was great and the admin staff can speak English. This tour is a must when visiting San Cristobal. 360 tour is an all day tour with a naturalist guide. The tour starts at 7:30am from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and returns at around 5pm. The tour operator should provide you with snorkel, fins (flippers) and a wetsuit. If you are susceptible to the cold or sun, insist that the agent provide you with a full wetsuit which will cover most of you body including your arms and legs.
The first stop on the tour was the the amazing Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock), out in the ocean but visible from the island. A great spot for snorkelling. It is a little daunting jumping into the deep blue water. But it is made easier with a sea lion cub and mother playfully swimming around, whilst waiting for the whole group to jump in. Once everyone is assembled, we swam between the rocks, and saw plenty of fish, sea lions and some small Galapagos sharks (Tiburon). Following this, we swam around the rocks which are covered in star fish and sea urchins. We also come across a couple of sea turtles (tortuga). Just before getting back into the boat, we caught a quick glimpse of a larger shark that came up for a peek and quickly disappeared.
The boat then passed through the caves of Cerro Brujo and the boat driver will attempt to get you a photo of kicker rock through the cave. The water was getting a little rough for the perfect photo.
Then the tour motors to Sardinia Bay, where you enjoy the beach for an hour whilst the boats go fishing. You can explore this secluded beach or go for a snorkel. On the water you will see Sea Lions, some large sea turtles, large bait balls of fish and if you know what to look for some octopus (pulpo) Tip: look for a pile of shells near a hole or crevice in the sand.
We are the off to Punta Pitt to see some birds and some boobies of the avian variety. We spot three types of boobies including blue and red footed, along with some kestrals.
The best is saved for last with a visit to Bahia Rosa Blanca. First, we have lunch on the boat which is a simple meal of rice and meat, nothing spectacular, but we were very hungry and it quickly disappeared. Whist eating, we spotted a baby shark swimming around the boat in the shallows. Once lunch was over, we did a quick land walking tour. We got close to a blue footed boobie, that was not at all phased by humans, with us even joking that it was nailed to the rock. We spotted a couple of playful seals who were happy to pose for some snaps.
We then had a look through Darwin’s window, which is a large rock with an erroded hole. After this we cooled off with a swim in the lagoon with our snorkels, where we saw some giant sea turtles, a huge sting ray and a school of solid white tip sharks having a siesta on the bottom of the lagoon. The tour said there would then be some game fishing which didn’t eventuate as the sea was too rough. The boat ride back from this spot was about an hour boat ride back to the wharf. The swimming locations were calm but the boat ride was very bumpy so probably not a good idea if you’re prone to seasickness.
There’s plenty of companies offering highland tours but you can do most of the sites yourself with a taxi driver. We hired a local taxi for $50-$60 dollars, which took roughly 3 hours to see and do the below activities.
On our tour we visited the treehouse first. For $2 you can see this quirky place. It’s a huge that you can climb via a small suspension bridge and in the tree it is possible to stay as there is a toilet, small kitchen, two beds and a fireman’s pole to get food and drink up or even slide down. We just went to visit.
Next you will pass El Junco, a lagoon inside a crater. To reach this you will need to complete a relatively easy 700 meter hike up and back down. The landscape if much different from what you will see a lower levels. It is quite green with many ferns growing in the area. It was a nice walk, shame about the fog, we didn’t get the best view of the crater lagoon. Apparently this area is commonly prone to fog so it would need to be a very clear day for a good view.
We were then off to our the Galapaguera, which is host to many Giant tortoises and is also a breeding centre. It is another relatively easy walk up to the breeding centre, where you will see some larger tortoise along the way and tame enough for photos. They have the babies sectioned off in different areas, once they are 5 years old, the tortoise are released to roam free.
We followed this with a visit to the white sand beach of Puerto Chino. This beach is open to the ocean swell with waves and rip currents, it is recommended that you only swim here if proficient. There are Sea Lions who will playfully body surf with you. There were also a number of sea turtles swimming around.
If you are on a budget, get a map of the island from the information centre located on Av Charles Darwin which follow the forehore, the information centre is toward the Navy Base.
Hire yourself some snorkeling gear for $5 and head out toward Tijeretas. Visit the Interpretation centre along the way. The interpretation is free and has all sorts of information on the Galapagos, including Charles Darwin, early settlement of the islands and the current state of the islands, as well as conservation.
This can be followed by a 15 walking a further 15 minutes to Tijeretas Beach and view point. Tijeretas is not really a beach, more of a rocky dive spot, where you can snorkel with sea turtles, spot some fish and swim with playful sea lions. There is also the sandy beach of Playa Punta Carola and the secluded beach Playa Baquerizo both not too far away.