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San Cristobal (Galapagos)

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Earth : South America : Ecuador : Galapagos Islands : San Cristobal (Galapagos)
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San Cristóbal is one of the Galápagos Islands, part of Ecuador.

Towns[edit]

  • Puerto Baquerizo Moreno - The main town in San Cristobal county is the seat of the capital of the Galapagos Province. Originally a small remote outpost known as “Puerto Chico” it became permanently settled by subsistence farmers from the highlands and became a small fishing village as fresh water became available after the US Armed Forces build an aqueduct from the highlands during the 1940’s. Starting in the 1970’s tourism has gradually become the main economic activity to a population of approximately 6.000 inhabitants as of 2018.
  • El Progreso - One of the first permanent settlements in the Galapagos that was founded in the 1880s as a sugar mill hacienda. This village is an access point to the highlands and tours stop there to help understand the nefarious past of the area. A dedicated bike lane parallel to the main road connects the village to town.
  • La Soledad - A small hamlet at the end of a paved road that connects it to El Progreso village. The road finishes on an open sports court at an abandoned school in this farming area. A short but steep climb right next to a small chapel leads to a viewpoint. Looking over the northern lea-side of the island one can spot Isla Lobos and Kicker Rock, the most outstanding landmark of the island.
  • Cerro Verde - Some 20 km. away from town it is close to the public access beach at Puerto Chino and the "Fausto Rodriguez" Giant Tortoise Rearing Center at Cerro Colorado. This tiny hamlet is surrounded by a major area used to produce vegetables and dairy products for local consumption. A couple of small eateries open sporadically mostly catering to local visitors. Restaurant "Otoy"[1] just past the hamlet opens for lunch seven days a week as of April 2018.

Understand[edit]

Get in[edit]

By Plane[edit]

from outside the islands[edit]

San Cristobal (SCY), like Baltra (GPS), can be reached from mainland Ecuador by regular scheduled flights from Quito (UIO) and Guayaquil (GYE). Flights usually originate in Quito and make a short stop (passengers stay on board the plane) in Guayaquil before continuing (see Galapagos Islands Get In for more info). Avianca [2] flies every day. TAME [3] flies on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. LATAM [4] flies on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

from other towns[edit]

EMETEBE Airlines[5] and Fly Galapagos[6] are non-schedule air-taxi services that offer flights from Baltra, (one hour north of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island) and Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island . These air services make up tentative schedules for which you can buy tickets for. And so, schedules can be modified so as to fit more flights in case of high demand or worst case scenario flights might be cancelled or re scheduled. This is definitely a more comfortable transportation option despite not being the most reliable and still it is more expensive. Travel times from Puerto Ayora are as long as by ferry (if you take into account the long transfer to Baltra airport) and much faster from Puerto Villamil (around 35 minutes direct flight or 2 to 4 hours via Baltra).

The airport is just over 1km from the center of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, a 15 minute walk or $1.5 taxi ride as of April 2018.

By boat[edit]

from other towns[edit]

Small speed boats (apx. 25 passengers) depart both in the morning (07:00) and in the afternoon (14:00) from Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz to San Cristobal. Technically a connecting ferry trip from Puerto Villamil in Isabela Island (06:30) via Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz (14:00) is possible. During the dry season (May-December) the two to two and a half hour boat ride can be particularly rough due to choppier seas, this in combination with the high speed of the boats (~20kts) makes trying moving around in the boat unadvisable or impossible since most boats have barely enough space for all passengers to sit down (take sea sickness medication half an hour before embarking if needed). Most boats offer only partial sun cover so dress accordingly, pre-apply sun cream and bring plenty of water as the small plastic water bottle that you get handed over half way through the trip might not be enough. Inter island transportation is a government sponsored oligopoly and so all one-way tickets cost $30 independent of which company you buy from. As you embark and disembark via aquatic taxi you might be required to pay an extra $0.50 to the taxi driver. Unlike on Isabela there is no landing fee or "pier tax". Starting in 2018 ferris arrive and depart at the central "Hammerhead Shark Pier" located across the street from the Police Station on the water front.

from outside the islands[edit]

Special arrangements have to be made if traveling to the islands aboard a private boat. Customs can be cleared in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno although arrival preparations have to be made 60 days prior under the representation of a local agent.

Get around[edit]

There is one major road leading from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno in the west to the beach of Puerto Chino on the west coast. On the way you'll pass the villages El Progreso and Cerro Verde. There are collectivos going to the villages or you can take a taxi. Hitchhiking is also a good alternative.

See[edit][add listing]

The following sites can be visited from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno without a guide:

  • Interpretation Center - Here you can learn more about the history of the Galápagos and the conservation of this unique piece of nature. The center is at the western edge of town, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, near the university. Admission is free. Behind the interpretation center is Pepe, a tortuga gigantus that was found in the islands in the 70s and was originally housed with the local church. There is also trails leading to Cerror Tijeratas and aditional trail to hidden beaches.
  • Playa Mann - nice beach right in town. Sealions can be seen and snorkelled with here, and there are some other fish and maybe even a ray or turtle further out if you're lucky. West-facing, so a perfect place to catch sunset. Ladies selling delicious street-food in the afternoon and evenings for reasonable prices.
  • Cerro Tijeretas - (Frigatebird hill). If you follow the trails further up you come to a set of viewpoint overlooking the a bay. Nesting frigate birds can be seen here. It is possible to snorkel in the bay below with sealions, rays and turtles. The bay is overlooked by a large statue of Charles Darwin.
  • La Loberia - This is a rocky beach, a good place to see marine iguanas, blue footed boobies, yellow canaries, and a large sea lion colony. There is also a long rocky path beyond the beach leading to some interesting cliffs. You can also do some snorkeling by yourself although take extreme caution as the currents are very strong during high tide. Sometimes it is also possible to surf. It is walkable (approx 2 km) from town (towards the airport, left at the school) or a $3 taxi.
  • Puerto Chino - A small quiet beach on the east side of the island. It's connected to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno by the only road crossing the island. Camping is possible with the permission of the national park. The permits cost $10 per person and need to be obtained at least 24hours in advance from the Park HQ near Playa Mann (March 2016). There is a public bus from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno to Puerto Chino only on Sundays.
  • El Junco - A freshwater lake at an altitude 600m. Demonstrates plants intrinsic of the micronia zone and a location frequented by the frigate birds to clean their wings. It is on the way to Puerto Chino and is typically visited on highlands tours. Alternatively a taxi can be taken - about $20 return including an hour at the lake. There is a 10-15minute walk from the car park to the crater rim on a good path, then rougher paths down to the lake and around the rim. Allow at least an hour to enjoy the lake and the frigate birds. Despite what you might read elsewhere no guide is required (March 2016). It is also possible to cycle here, although it is a long distance uphill.

The following visitor sites are only accessible by boat and/or with a guide:

  • Kicker Rock - Kicker rock (León Dormido) - a natural cathedral rising out the water. It's a good place for scuba diving or snorkeling. Scuba divers can see rays, hammerheads, schools of Galapagos sharks, turtles, depending on the visibility and luck. A tour here will include a stop at one of three beaches before or after snorkelling/diving - Cerro Brujo, Puerto Grande or Manglecito.
  • Isla Lobos - Nesting bird colonies and a sea lion colony can be seen on this island.
  • Galapaguera Natural - Giant tortoises can be seen in the wild. It's located at the northern end of the island and only accessible by boat and a short hike.
  • Cerro Brujo - (Wizard Hill) An old craterous collapsed outcrop that demonstrated the differences in volcanic rocks with a white-sand beach. It lies just north of Kicker Rock. Home to sea lions, blue footed boobies, marine iguanas, brown pelicans, frigate birdgs, Sally Lightfoot crabs, sea turtles, and rays.
  • Punta Pitt - Wet landing site on the northeast end of the island that features 3 species of booby (Blue Footed, Red Footed, and Nazca). Boobies can be seen doing their mating dance if you're lucky. The site also features lava formations, and at times, Frigate Birds. This is a great destination for scuba divers, growing in popularity. Said to be equal or better than Kicker's Rock itself.
  • Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado - A part of land reserved for the repopulation of the giant tortoises. The tortoises were moved from the northern part of the island. There is also a small tortoise breeding center and a interpretation center. It is on the road between El Junco and Puerto Chino. There are some short trails through the reserve. Admission is free but a guide is required.

Do[edit][add listing]

Be aware that many of the agencies in town merely re-sell tours. There is a benefit to booking directly with a boat operator and although it takes some legwork to find out who has a boat and who doesn't, it's worth it in order to determine what exactly is on offer. However, since each boat has permission from the Galapagos National Park to do only certain itineraries at certain times (for example, Boat X is authorized to do a trip to Beach Y or Island Z on Thursdays), an agency would be able to tell you who is running which tour which day in accordance to the time you have available.

  • Mountainbiking from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno to Puerto Chino is ambitious even for die-hard mountain bikers, but if you hitchhike the uphill parts it'll make a nice daytrip and you can see some of the sites on the way. Bike rental is expensive, but after bargaining and perhaps booking another tour with an agency should be no more than $15/day.
  • 360 Tour is a popular offering that purports to offer a full-day tour by boat around the island with four stops. However technically each boat offering this tour is only allowed by the Galapagos National Park to make two stops with 'disembarkment'; listen carefully to the person selling you the tour and you'll note that while they sell 'four sites' they only actually promise you'll get off at two, with the other two being viewed from the boat.
  • Three-Stop Taxi Tour costs $60 and is available from any taxi driver. A four-hour land-based trip stopping at the lagoon at the crater, the Galapaguera giant toirtoise conservation centre, and the Puerto Chino beach.

Snorkeling and diving[edit]

There are many diving operators to be found in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Their prices do vary and you can negotiate a better price after asking around. 2-tank dives at Kicker Rock cost between $140-160 (March 2016). The boats to Kicker Rock and Punta Pitt also take snorkellers for a reduced price.

  • Chalo Tours - A professional local agency, that will advise you well on where to dive. Daily trips to Kicker Rock and Punta Pitt. With all the permits from the Galapagos National Park. [7] . Telephone (+593)(5)2520953. [email protected] Ask for Chalo.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Camping[edit]

Camping is permitted in three locations on San Cristobal - Puerto Grande and Manglecito beaches on the west coast are only reachable by boat and a guide is required to camp with you (!) - Puerto Chino is the only place on the island where camping is possible without a guide. Permits ($10 per person) need to be obtained from the Park HQ near Playa Mann at least 24hours in advance (it says 48hours online but a friendly park ranger can be persuaded to issue a permit at 24hours notice).

Get out[edit]

From San Cristobal, 2 daily ferries only run to Santa Cruz. If you visit the island via tour you might stop off at the closest islands to San Cristobal:

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