Charles Darwin made his first landing in the Galapagos archipelago in Ecuador on San Cristóbal Island and it might be your first stop as well. Use our San Cristóbal Island Travel Guide to make the most of your time including a beach that locals love and hotel recommendations.
Things to do on San Cristóbal Island
The capital city of Galapagos province, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (named for the first Ecuadorean president to visit the Galapagos), is on San Cristóbal Island which formed from a series of fused extinct volcanos. It’s the fifth-largest and most eastern island in the archipelago.
The oldest still-inhabited settlement in the Galapagos is also on San Cristóbal Island and the island is now home to the second-largest population in the Galapagos after much-busier Santa Cruz Island. Though San Cristóbal is more laid back than Santa Cruz, it’s still a major tourist hub because one of the two airports in the Galapagos Islands is located here.
But there’s still plenty of room for the island’s wild inhabitants too. Sea lions often take over the benches along the waterfront in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, flop into unattended boats in the port, take over streets, and generally commandeer any other comfortable place to sun themselves.
Many areas of San Cristobal Island are only reachable by boat, however, here are some things to do in and around Puerto Baquerizo Moreno that don’t require a boat.
Explore Puerto Chino
Puerto Chino (Chinese Port) is a beach about 15 miles (24 km) from the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The taxi or land tour vehicle will drop you off at the parking area and from there it’s a 1 mile (1.5 km) walk to the beach itself where white sand, calm water, and lazy sea lions await.
Locals love this beach and camping is also allowed here with prior authorization from the Galapagos National Park.
Relax on Playa de Oro
This somewhat golden color of the sand here gives this beach, just a few minutes on foot from central Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, its name. Sea lions love it as do students from the nearby satellite campuses of San Francisco University in Quito in affiliation with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
This beach is especially lively and lovely at sunset.
Visit the Interpretation Center of San Cristóbal
For a good overview (in English and Spanish) of early Galapagos inhabitants, Darwin’s visit and influence, human inhabitation today, Galapagos wildlife, and modern conservation efforts and challenges in the archipelago, visit the Interpretation Center of San Cristóbal. Expect a lot of maps, historical photos, and dioramas as you move through this well-laid-out and never overwhelming center. which is about a 20-minute walk from town.
Hotels on San Cristóbal Island
For style, location, and green initiatives you can’t beat the 21-room Golden Bay Galapagos. Located on the edge of central Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, this hotel is just a few feet away from the water. It’s common to walk past Galapagos sea lions on your way to or from the hotel lobby and you will certainly hear their grunts from your room.
The stark and sleek decor lends a Miami-like look and feel to common spaces and the hotel’s large rooms, most of which have a sea view. Corner suites overlooking the water are worth the splurge with spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows that open completely and elegant bathtubs with a view.
Eco measures at the hotel include the use of wood reclaimed from palettes used to ship goods to the Galapagos, an on-site water reclamation system that turns grey water into water for the toilets, 100% solar hot water, paper straws, and more.
The hotel restaurant, called Muyu, uses mostly local, sustainable, and organic ingredients to turn out polished plates, creative cocktails (such as a cosmopolitan made with aguardiente), and a great breakfast spread including homemade granola. In 2019, Muyu (which means seed in the Quechua language) was honored as a 50 Best Discovery by the organization behind the list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Casa Iguana Mar y Sol is a luxury B&B with character. Within easy walking distance to central Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, this five suite hotel is the creation of owners Luis and Patricia. The 3-level building which was built by Luis and Patricia handled the decor including hand-carved wood shutters, hand-made wooden beds, and playful touches like leopard print sheets. The result is a laid-back beach-chic atmosphere with sea views and gracious hosts.
Bonus for families or groups traveling together: you can rent the whole house.
Bonus for coffee lovers: Luis and Patricia grow their own organic coffee on the island and there’s usually a small amount drying in the sun at the hotel, ready to be fresh ground for you to enjoy at breakfast.
See more of San Cristóbal Island in our Galapagos travel video, below.
More Galapagos travel tips
- Part 1 in our Galapagos Islands Travel Guide series gives you the facts you need to plan your trip to the Galapagos Islands.
- Part 2 is our Santa Cruz Island Travel Guide including what to do and where to sleep on this tourist hub island.
- Part 3 tells you what to expect during boat trips to landings around Santa Cruz Island.
- Part 4 covers highlights from North Seymour, South Plaza, and Daphne Islands.
- Part 6 covers what to expect during boat trips to Cerro Brujo, Punta Pitt, and Kicker Rock around San Cristóbal.
- Part 7 reveals highlights of visiting Santa Fe Island.
- Part 8 tells you what to expect on Genovesa Island.
- Part 9 gives you travel highlights from Fernandina Island.
- Part 10 helps you explore Isabela Island.
- Part 11 takes you around Santiago Island.
- Part 12 tells you what to expect on Floreana Island.
Here’s more about travel in Ecuador
Here’s more about Island Travel
Here’s more about Galapagos Travel