Highlights and main attractions of San Cristobal Island

The easternmost and one of the geographically oldest islands of the Galapagos Archipelago, San Cristobal Island, or Chatham Island, is also host to the capital of the Galapagos, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and is a popular stop on most of the Galapagos cruises. Despite the popularity of the island, and the infrastructure which has been built to accommodate tourists, the island still boasts some breathtaking scenery and wildlife.

The highlands of the island are worth a visit, as here you will find the San Cristobal tortoise reserve, where not only tortoises, but also the endemic Chatham mockingbird can be found.

Where is San Cristobal?

Location and Activities

Eroded Volcanic peaks in the North of the island, and lush vegetation in the South combine to create yet another unique landscape of these diverse and fascinating islands. A lot of the main attractions of the island are to be found in the South Western tip of the island, near the provincial capital of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. A short walk from the provincial capital takes you to the Interpretation centre, which complements the information at the Charles Darwin research centre on Santa Cruz. At the centre you have the chance to learn the history of the islands; both about their formations and the species that inhabit them, including human impact.

If history isn’t your thing, don’t worry, also close to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is Frigate Bird Hill, where both magnificent and great frigate birds can be seen at the right time. But bring your hiking boots, the walk can be steep! Also only a 10 minute drive away is the town of La Loberia, a place distinguished by the unusual coloured plants near the beach. This is where you can watch or snorkel near a large Galapagos sea lion colony and nursery, where dozens of sea lions can often be seen at any one time. Low tide is the best time to visit as you may catch mothers bringing their pups to the tide pool for some swimming practise. Besides these cute mammals, other species such as yellow warblers, Darwin finches and marine iguanas can be found here, and the flora includes a variety of mangroves, cotton, morning glory, chala, palo santo, tiquilia, and the cacho de chivo plant, whose seeds provide the main source of food for several species of finches.

Although San Cristobal was originally home to two sub-species of Galapagos tortoise, only one remains, so the tortoise reserve proves an important aspect of the preservation of these fascinating animals and allows visitors to get up close and personal. Also in the highlands you can follow a steep road climbing the side of El Junco, an extinct volcano. At the summit visitors can see the El Junco Lagoon, an incredible natural phenomenon where rainwater and condensation have combined in the caldera to create one of the Galapagos’ only freshwater lakes, which is a haven for frigate birds and also a water source for the human population of the island.

Birders also won’t be disappointed, with the most eastern point of the island also proving the most unique. This area, Punta Pitt, is the only area in the whole Galapagos archipelago where all three of the booby species of the islands can be found in the one spot! 

With all of this diversity, and no loss of things to see and do, it’s no wonder San Cristobal Island is one of the most popular stops on the Galapagos cruises, and features in most of our itineraries.

If you journey by boat to the more northern regions of the island, you have the chance to visit some amazing snorkelling and dive sites, swimming in the same waters as sea lions, spectacularly colourful tropical fish, sharks, rays and lobsters.


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