Travel Guide to San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands
San Cristobal is called the capital of paradise. Not without reason, since the city of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the political center of the Galapagos Islands. San Cristobal is the fifth largest island of the archipelago and one of the four inhabitated islands with the second largest population. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is – unlike Puerto Villamil on Isabela – a very busy city. Nevertheless, the island is much quieter than Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz.
From the main pier and the airport of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno you can walk to all accommodations since both are located directly in the city. The highlight of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is certainly the promenade, where you can stroll along and watch sea lions on the beach and crabs on the rocks. This is the place where most of the tourist life takes place and several easily accessible visitor locations are close by.
Why should you go there?
Our favorite things to do on San Cristobal
Snorkeling at Kicker Rock / Leon Dormido (guide necessary, possible during cruise and land based trip)
Hiking at El Junco Lagoon (no guide necessary, possible during cruise and land based trip)
Relaxing at Playa Mann (no guide necessary, possible during cruise and land based trip)
Relaxing at Playa Baquerizo (no guide necessary, possible during cruise and land based trip)
Snorkeling at Las Tijeretas (no guide necessary, possible during cruise and land based trip)
Some places that you might want to visit but we didn't have the time to
Cerro Brujo (no guide necessary)
Ochoa Beach (no guide necessary)
Galapaguera (no guide necessary)
La Loberia (no guide necessary)
Los Galapagos (guide necessary)
Punta Pitt (guide necessary)
Turtle Bay (guide necessary)
Cerro Brujo (guide necessary)
Espanola which can only be reached by speedboat from San Cristobal (guide necessary)
A few practical tips for booking a tour
There are many things you can do without a guide. However, if you want to go somewhere where a guide is required, we recommend booking your tours as soon as you arrive on San Cristobal. We do not recommend booking tours online, though, as they are much more expensive. You can ask your hotel staff in advance if they can organize the tour for you.
Most tour operators only accept cash. Some operators accept credit cards as well, but only with a huge additional fee of up to 20%. Therefore, make sure you bring enough cash.
Let the tour operators know in advance if you have any special requests. We asked for vegan/vegetarian food that we got on all tours.
How long should you stay?
We recommend that you stay at least 3 days to explore San Cristobal, but even with 5 days here, you won't run out of great things to do.
How to get there?
When you visit the Galapagos Islands, it is possible you arrive at the airport on San Cristobal. Once you have landed, you will enter the airport building and need to queue up, have your luggage checked and pay the entrance fee of 100 USD. This fee is used to conserve the Galapagos Islands.
After you have left the airport building, you can get a taxi or walk to your hotel if you are going on a land based trip or the pier if you are going on a cruise. Although the airport is very close to most hotels, we preferred to take a taxi because we didn't want to carry our luggage. Keep in mind that everything from entrance fee to taxi has to be paid in cash.
You can also reach San Cristobal by speedboat from Santa Cruz or by plane from Santa Cruz/Baltra or Isabela. Note that there is no direct connection between San Cristobal and Isabela by speedboat.
The speedboats run twice a day (in the morning and in the afternoon) from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal to Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz and cost 30 USD each way. It is also possible to reach Puerto Villamil, Isabela. However, you have to take one speedboat in the morning to Santa Cruz and one from Santa Cruz to Isabela in the afternoon because there is no direct connection. There are also water taxis in Puerto Baquerio Moreno and the other cities, which take you from the pier to the speedboat and back on land and cost 1 USD.
San Cristobal to Santa Cruz at 7am and 3pm
Santa Cruz to San Cristobal at 6.30am and 1.30pm
It is recommended to buy the tickets one day in advance. Also, note the name of your boat, as all boats leave around the same time and you have to find yours. Tickets can be bought at the main pier or your hotel staff might be able to organize the tickets for you.
You start at the main pier in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal, and you will arrive at the pier in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz. The journey takes two to three hours and the sea can be rough. If you are sensitive, take some Dramamine with you and make sure you have a seat in the shade.
Two operators, Emetebe and Fly Galápagos, connect San Cristobal with Santa Cruz/Baltra and Isabela and offer daily flights. Booking is a bit complicated and it is more expensive than the speedboats. However, the view is incredible and it is so much more comfortable.
Where to eat?
I was pleasantly surprised by the restaurants in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. I expected it to be much more difficult to find vegan food but you can definitely find good vegan food and my favorite restaurant on the island. Restaurants might offer vegan options or can customize their meals.
Here are some recommendations, although many other restaurants had vegan options on their menu as well
Muyu: This is the best (vegan) restaurant on the Galapagos Islands. They offer great food and I mean really great food and delicious cocktails. Besides, this is the restaurant with the most impressive view. It is just behind a small beach, Golden Bay, where lots of sea lions chill in the evening. Some are even at the restaurant and blocking a seat.
Calypso: There is a small pizza place with vegan options at the main square right next to the San Cristobal sign. It is a great place to grab a bite and for people/sea lion watching as it is close to the beach. Several sea lions might pass by while you are enjoying your pizza.
If you want to cook or just grab a snack, there are some smaller supermarkets on the main street. They offer a few vegan options, like granola and snacks, as well as a little selection of fruits and vegetables.