Santa Fe Island is one of the oldest in the Galapagos Islands archipelago. It is thought to be at least four million years old. The island is also sometimes known as Barrington Island and it was named after an admiral called Samuel Barrington.
Santa Fe Island is relatively small, covering an area of 9.3 square miles (24 square kilometers). It is in relatively close proximity to Santa Cruz Island, and it is found to the south east of this island. The island is characterized to some degree by its vegetation. It has palo santo trees, a pear cactus that is called Optunia Echios and brush land. The cactus is particularly noteworthy as it is large, and there is a thick forest of these on the island. The island has a relatively flat surface when compared with some of the other Galapagos Islands.
Santa Fe Island weather is the same as that elsewhere in the Galapagos Islands. You may expect relatively warm, and sometimes hot weather. As with the other islands, there is also some rain during the wet season, but this rarely lasts all day long.
Santa Fe Island is located not too far from Santa Cruz Island. This is good news for visitors who opted for land-based Galapagos options, as it means that the island can be visited on a day trip from Santa Cruz Island. Day trips to Santa Fe Island are likely to last around eight hours in duration, leaving early in the morning, and the journey to the island will take around 40 minutes. Typically these trips include walking and snorkeling option as well as lunch and snacks on board the boat. There are no public transportation options for Getting to Santa Fe Island because it is unpopulated and there is no infrastructure there. Most commonly Santa Fe Island will be accessed by those visitors that decided to take a Galapagos Islands cruise. If you have your heart set on visiting Santa Fe Island be sure to check that your cruise includes the central islands, and specifically this one, since not all cruises and not even all cruises to the central Galapagos Islands go to Santa Fe.
There is no real human history of Santa Fe Island to speak of, since the island is not inhabited by people and there are no settlements here. Geologically Santa Fe Island history is somewhat different to other Galapagos Islands history, as the island is not formed from a volcano. Instead it came into existence as the result of an uplift.
The vegetation provides one of the Santa Fe Island highlights. The large cactus, the Optunia Echios which is a prickly pear variety can be very large, and the island is densely populated with these. They make for quite an unusual sight, and they make a popular subject for plenty of photographs.
Another highlight of Santa Fe Island is the chance of seeing land iguanas. There are two types of land iguanas that are only found on this island.
Santa Fe Island wildlife has some endemic species. One is the land iguana and the other is a rice rat. However, plenty more wildlife has colonized the island, so there is a lot to see. On the cliffs many different types of birds can be found. These include swallow tailed gulls, shear water petrels and red billed tropicbirds. You might also see mockingbirds, finches and the Galapagos hawk. Other wildlife you can expect to see on Santa Fe Island includes lava lizards.
As with many of the other Galapagos Islands, Santa Fe Island Activities involve walking, snorkeling and diving. There are two trails to be walked on this island – one that heads inland and one in a loop close to the beach. These are explained in greater detail below.
After a walk along the various trails, many visitors to Santa Fe Island enjoy the opportunity to swim and snorkel from the cove at Barrington Bay. For divers there are also three interesting dive sites that may be visited. Remember, if you want to dive on your visit to the Galapagos Islands you will need to be on a live aboard boat, or take a diving day trip. Regular Galapagos Island cruise boats do not offer diving activities.
Santa Fe Island visitor points that are land based include just one, which is that at Barrington Bay. The site is accessed to the north easterly side of the island. You can expect to make a wet landing here. The cove is really very pretty, and some say the loveliest in all the Galapagos Islands – though not everyone agrees.
This Galapagos Islands visitor site has two trails – one shorter and one longer. The longer of the two trails is a bit steep and heads up to the top of the cliff. From here it is possible to see further inland on this island. The shorter trail sticks close by the beach and provides lovely opportunities to view the Santa Fe Island cacti.
Aside from the land site, there are also three marine sites around Santa Fe Island. These include El Fondeador, La Encanada and Costa Este. These sites are accessible through diving. Here it is possible to see sea lions and sea turtles, as well as rays. At the Costa Este site it is sometimes possible to spot Galapagos sharks. There are not a massive number of fish at these dive sites.
Santa Fe Island is not inhabited. There are no human settlements here and no infrastructure. As a result, do not expect to find any Santa Fe Island hotels to stay in! If you are staying at Santa Fe Island at all, it will be on your Galapagos Islands cruise Some of the best selling cruises that visit Santa Fe island as part of their itineraries include the Elite Galapagos Cruise, the Grand Majestic boat and a various others. Likewise, there are no Santa Fe Island restaurants either, and any eating you do will be done aboard your boat. If you would like to taste this fantastic island for yourself contact our Galapagos Experts and start planning your trip to Santa Fe Island!