San Cristóbal Island

San Cristobal Island

San Cristóbal is the fifth largest and easternmost island of the Galapagos. It is comprised of three or four fused, extinct, volcanoes. Its name comes from the Patron Saint of seafarers, “St. Christopher.” San Cristóbal is home to the oldest permanent settlement of the Galapagos and was the first island visited by Darwin in 1835. El Junco, a small lake located near the top of the island, is the only source of permanent fresh water in the archipelago which resulted in the very early settlement of San Cristóbal. In 1858, Manuel Cobos and José Monroy formed the Orchillera Company to harvest orchilla moss (a lichen), which was used at that time as a dye. Cobos later formed an agricultural center called “El Progreso” inland from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, which produced leather from feral cattle, and fish and tortoise oil. A penal colony was built on San Cristóbal Island in 1880 for prisoners from mainland Ecuador and was eventually run by Cobos. By 1891, sugar cane plantations were established and a sugar factory began operating. Cobos ruled “El Progreso” with an iron fist, treating convicts as slaves. On January 15, 1904, Cobos was assassinated by a group of his workers and the prisoners escaped.

San Cristobal Island

Today the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal is the capital of the Galapagos province. It is home to many government offices, an Ecuadorian Navy facility, and an airport with daily flights to the mainland. There are approximately 5,400 residents, making it home to the second largest human population in Galapagos, after Santa Cruz. The majority of inhabitants make their living in government, tourism, and artisanal fishing. The city of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno was founded by the colonist General Villamil in the mid-nineteenth century, the town was named after Alfredo Baquerizo Moreno, who in 1916 was the first Ecuadorian president to visit the islands. It is the second largest community in Galapagos, after Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. The majority of the residents of San Cristóbal live in the port city. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the capital of the Galapagos province. It has two main streets, the Malecón Charles Darwin, which runs along the waterfront, where restaurants, souvenir shops, and hotels line the coast. El Progreso is San ‘s second city with a farming population of only 500 and the oldest surviving settlement, established in 1869, of the islands.

There are many visitor sites on the island. Sea Lion Rookery is a coral sand beach located about 10 minutes from the airport. A large number of sea lions rest in the sand and rocks along this coast. In addition to sea lions, birds such as Yellow Warblers, frigatebirds, and numerous species of finches can be seen. Frigatebird Hill is reached by a trail leading off from the Interpretation Center, a center established to document the history of the Galapagos and its flora and fauna, up a small slope. Here it is possible to see Magnificent Frigate Birds and Great Frigate Birds in the same colony. This is the perfect place to compare and learn to distinguish them.

San Cristobal Island

Isla Lobos Islet is a one-hour boat ride from San Cristóbal and is a seasonal nesting location for blue-footed boobies, although it is named for the colony of sea lions sometimes present there. Fur seals are also sometimes present and Frigatebirds have joined the nesting area in recent years. The islet has a tranquil and scenic atmosphere and is also a great place for snorkeling. Ochoa Beach is a great place to head to after Isla Lobos. Ochoa is a small rocky beach with white sand and calm waters. Migratory and coastal birds mess about in the nearby lagoon and Ghost and Hermit Crabs scurry about the beach. Sea urchins are also very abundant and snorkeling is excellent.

Cerro Brujo is a very popular coral sand beach and an excellent place to swim and snorkel as. Cerro Brujo is the remains of a tuff cone. It was one of the first sites visited by Charles Darwin and boasts an impressive landscape. Coastal and migratory birds, including pelicans, Blue-footed Boobies, and Swallow-tailed Gulls all nest here as well as being home to sea lions and marine iguanas. At times the lagoon is completely dry and deposits of salt may be found in the bottom.

Sapho Bay is a cove located opposite Kicker Rock, a popular spot for Hermit Crabs and a Blue-footed Booby feeding area. The cove has been a favorite site to anchor sailboats for centuries. There are many stories about buried treasures and the people that have come in search of them, some say with success.

San Cristobal Island

The visit to the Tortoise Reserve is the longest hike on San Cristóbal. The walk from the beach to the Media Luna Cone is approximately 5 km one way and may be quite hot. This is an excellent site to see giant tortoises in their natural habitat. Many of the species endemic to San Cristóbal can be seen on this hike, including the giant tortoise, lava lizard, gecko, and mockingbird.

El Junco is one of the few permanent fresh water lakes in the Galapagos. It is located in the highlands of San Cristóbal at an altitude of 700 m, about 45 minutes by bus from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. It is an ideal spot for bird watching as well as taking in the beautiful landscape. From the crater there is a view over most of the island, including the 900 m peak of Cerro San Joaquin. El Junco is a great place to see White-cheeked Pintail Ducks, Common Gallinules, Miconia bushes, and endemic tree ferns.

Established by the National Park in 2003, the Cerro Colorado Tortoise Reserve, is a man-made breeding program for tortoises and an information center for visitors. Visitors can both observe giant tortoises living in a semi-natural habitat as well as learn about their origin, evolution, and threats by introduced animals.

For the dive enthusiast, San Cristóbal boasts four dive and/or snorkeling sites located on the northwestern edge of San Cristóbal. These include: Kicker Rock or León Dormido, named for its characteristic shape of a sleeping lion, Isla Lobos, Islote Five Fingers, and Whale Rock. Kicker Rock is the most dramatic of the sites, with its vertical tuff cone, rising almost 148 m straight up out of the ocean. Tuff cones are created when boiling lava encounters a very cold ocean, resulting in an explosion. Erosion has split the rock into two parts, forming a narrow channel that small vessels can pass through. Blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, frigatebirds, and sea lions line the shore. This is an excellent location for snorkeling and diving; Manta Rays, sea turtles, and sharks are often spotted. At the other sites, divers can see sea lions, large numbers of pelagic fish species, Galapagos sharks, eagle rays, sea turtles, and at Islote Five Fingers, there are an abundant display of very colorful benthic organisms.


Registered Seller of Travel License # 602 127 852.    •   

All rights reserved. Nothing contained on this website may be reproduced without express written permission. African Safari Company does not assume responsibility for errors or omissions in the content of this website.