San Cristobal Island is found at the furthest east point in the Galapagos Islands. It is named after St Christopher, who is the patron saint of people travelling by sea. San Cristobal Island is one of the oldest Galapagos Islands from a geological perspective. It is made up of a few extinct volcanoes that are fused together with one another. The island is fairly large, and it covers 215 square miles (558 square kilometers). The highest altitude of the island is 2,400 feet, or 730 meters. San Cristobal Island weather is similar to the weather in the rest of the Galapagos Islands archipelago.
San Cristobal Island is one of the few that is home to a human population in the Galapagos Islands. It has the second largest population in the islands, and approximately 6,000 people call San Cristobal Island home (Santa Cruz has the largest population). The main settlement on San Cristobal Island is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and this is also the capital of the Galapagos province of Ecuador.
Importantly for tourism, the island has its own airport, San Cristobal Airport, and flights arrive and depart to and from mainland Ecuador. Given that tourists can fly directly to this island, it is a starting point for many Galapagos Islands tours. While getting to San Cristobal Island is most easily achieved by airplane, there are also some ferry services from Santa Cruz Island. San Cristobal Island is also a common stop on many Galapagos Islands cruises, and so it is possible you might visit it on your cruise. It is possible to visit San Cristobal Island as part of a land-based Galapagos Islands trip that is based in Santa Cruz Island as well.
San Cristobal Island has the oldest permanent settlement in the Galapagos Islands. The reason for this island being settled the earliest was due to the fresh water availability on this island, which is limited elsewhere. The fresh water comes from a small lake on the island, called El Junco. It was also the island that Charles Darwin first visited in 1835. Later, a penal colony was established on San Cristobal Island, and this was used to accommodate prisoners from the mainland. Later still, the island became an Ecuadorian military base. By the late 19th century, sugar cane plantations had been established on the island, and a sugar factory was operational. Convict labor was used to run this, and the convicts were treated as if they were slaves.
San Cristobal Island highlights include visits to the breeding program and the interpretation center. In fact, one of the most interesting highlights on San Cristobal Island activities is paying a visit to La Galapaguera. This is a sanctuary for giant tortoise species, and there is a breeding program to learn more about giant tortoises there.
Another very worthwhile visit, and one of the San Cristobal highlights for some is the Interpretation Center. This Galapagos visitor site provides a full history of the Galapagos Islands and examines the flora and fauna as well as the ecosystems. There are geological explanations of the formation of the landscape which help in understanding the islands.
San Cristobal Island has plenty of interesting wildlife to observe. Wildlife on San Cristobal Island includes some of the larger creatures such as Galapagos sea lions and Galapagos tortoises. Dolphins may also be seen in the waters around the Island sometimes. Birdlife on San Cristobal Island includes frigate birds, red footed boobies, blue footed boobies, tropicbirds and swallow-tailed gulls. This makes it a Galapagos Island worth visiting in its own right either on a Galapagos Islands cruise or during a Galapagos land-based trip.
Other than those visitor sites already mentioned, Galapagos visitor sites on San Cristobal Island include:
Snorkeling is a San Cristobal activity that many visitors engage in, as it can be done at a number of the visitor sites. This allows excellent opportunities to observe the fascinating marine life around the island.
Given that San Cristobal Island is populated, there are hotels on this island. San Cristobal hotels cater for many budgets from high end or luxury down to much cheaper options. Many of the San Cristobal hotels available are located in the island’s largest settlement, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
As a base for a Galapagos land based option, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno can be good for those seeking a more relaxed location than Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. However, the island is not so centrally located, so this might be less appealing for some. As there are plenty of accommodation options, there are also a fair number of San Cristobal restaurants to choose from too. There are plenty of restaurants offering seafood, and a decent number providing international options and non-seafood choices too.
For tours to San Cristobal island and any of its visitor sites contact Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders, our local team based on this island will be happy to offer a custom-made program based on your wishes and ideas.