Backpacking the Galapagos, Part 2: San Cristobal Island

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Backpacking the Galapagos:

  1. Backpacking the Galapagos, Part 1: Introduction
  2. Backpacking the Galapagos, Part 2: San Cristobal Island
  3. Backpacking the Galapagos, Part 3: Isabela Island
  4. Backpacking the Galapagos, Part 4: Santa Cruz Island

The first island we arrived at was San Cristobal. Both Santa Cruz and San Cristobal have airports with flights to the mainland, and having flown into both, we can definitely say San Cristobal (SC) is easier to get to. It’s about a 5 minute drive into the main town, Puerto Moreno, or you could walk. SC is the “mid-sized” island – it’s not as big or touristy as Santa Cruz, and it’s much bigger than the small town feel of Isabella. Most of the residents of the Galapagos live here, mainly because SC is the only island with a freshwater lake.

So many sea lions! It was great!

So many sea lions! It was great!

The center of town is based around the malecon, or the boardwalk near the port. This was one of our favorite parts of SC. There were hundreds of sea lions here, including two beach/play areas just for the sea lions. They also had a couple of slides which the sea lions could use to climb up on the boardwalk, so it was not unusual to see several of them just laying around on benches or blocking a sidewalk. It was our first real taste of what a natural zoo the Galapagos really is, and how well the people and animals are able to co-exist.

Our first night, after getting settled, we went to the Playa Mann beach, which was about a 10 minute walk from town. It was a beautiful beach, and in the evenings, many of the locals descend to go swimming with their families. Within minutes, we were swimming next to sea lions – it was very cool.

At the tortoise sanctuary

At the tortoise sanctuary

We hired a taxi our first full day to do an island tour, which took us to the fresh-water lake (El Junco), a tortoise breeding ground/sanctuary (Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado), and a beautiful white sand beach (Puerto Chino). We enjoyed it all, especially seeing the turtles, but the beach had a lot of horse-flies so it was tough to stay long. We went with a new friend of ours, Loreta, who we met at our hostel. The cost to hire the taxi for the day is $60.

The second day there was the highlight, SCUBA diving at Leon Dormido, otherwise known as Kicker Rock. This was easily the best dive site we’d ever been to. Within minutes of our first dive, we saw a school of ~12 white-tipped reef sharks, and the highlight, a hammerhead. Very cool (and also a bit scary) to see one so close and in person. We also dove with a sea lion, who had fun chasing Sara’s hair, a few sea turtles, and a massive school of fish which, if you swam in the middle of them, you could literally only sea fish in any direction around you.

Amazing SCUBA diving at Leon Dormido

Amazing SCUBA diving at Leon Dormido

Our last few days we took a nice hike to Frigatebird Hill (Cerro Tijeretas) and visited the Interpretation Center, which was interesting to read more about the history of the Galapagos and the conservation efforts being made (it was turned into a national park and protected area in the 1970s). We had some great views from Cerro Tijeretas, and walked down to a beautiful snorkeling area and beach (Punto Corona), although we didn’t go swim. It was incredibly hot and humid while we were there, so we should have! The remainder of the day we headed over to La Loberia, which means sea lion beach, although there were a lot fewer sea lions there than in town. We did do some great snorkeling there as well, and we saw another sea turtle, sea lions, and a spotted ray!

We stayed at a homestay/hostel that we never knew the name of, but it was pretty far out of town. If we were to go back, we’d get a hostel or hotel right on the malecon, since seeing the sealions and walking around the pier was one of our favorite parts of the island (and all of the Galapagos).

Our next stop was Isabella. There is no direct boat there, so you have to take two boat rides, first to Santa Cruz, and then from Santa Cruz to Isabella. That makes the cost $60/person for the ferry rides – super expensive. There is also a flight, but we’re not sure how much it cost because we forgot to check. As you’ll read, after our two ferry rides from hell, we wish we’d have checked!

Here are the rest of our pictures from San Cristobal. It was amazing:

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