Chinese Hat Island, close to the southeastern shores of neighboring Santiago Island, is one of the archipelago’s smallest islands.
It was formed when a fierce eruption of a volcano on Santiago spewed lava into the seas offshore, creating a volcanic mountain.
Over the centuries, the sea carved a channel through the mountain, separating the two islands by two hundred yards. Chinese Hat is a local’s favorite for snorkeling, bird watching, and the views from its panoramic lookout.
The islands name comes from its shape. Gentle hills covered with green flora slope upward from the sandy coast to a rock pinnacle in the center of the island.
From cruise ships anchored in the channel, the island resembles a traditional Chinese hat. A trail from the beach leads inland, passing a colony of bachelor sea lions. As you continue, you reach a lava field where the landscape changes from green to black. At the end of the path is an exotic lookout, where waves crash into the sea below and Galapagos penguins take refuge on the rocky outcrops and cliffs on shore.
The snorkeling off the white-coral beach is a favorite spot for many Galapagos visitors. Sea lions and turtles, white-tipped reef sharks, and even the elusive Galapagos penguin are often seen underwater. The shallow waters, a variety of coral, and the stunning diversity of colorfully marked reef fish make it a great place to hone your underwater photography skills.
The island’s small size presents difficulties for conservation efforts by the Galapagos National Park. The lava flows and fields of the island are delicate and brittle. To prevent the erosion of the island by too much traffic, only smaller cruise boats are allowed to visit Chinese Hat Island.
For those that do, the tiny islet becomes a highlight. The hike to the lookout is an immersion into the origins of the Galapagos, winding through centuries of eruptions that shaped the island.
The sightseeing and snorkeling are epic-putting you face to face with the land and marine creatures of the central islands.
On land, the path that explores the island’s interior leads past sea lion colonies, through eerie lava fields, towards far off lookouts over the horizon. On the coast, land and marine iguanas, sea lions, sally-lightfoot crabs, and Galapagos penguins are active on the shore and the rocky outcrops overhanging the ocean.
The cooler waters off the coral beach shores attract animals that migrate from the other islands once the Humboldt Current wanes at the end of the guara season. Galapagos penguins, sharks, and rare appearances of dolphins, whales, and whale sharks make snorkeling here an adventure for all levels of swimmers.
This site is often combined with visiting Santiago Island across the channel-where trails and marine sites include pirate bays, black and purple volcanic beaches, fur seal grottos, and islets where volcanic cones rise over the sea.
Activities-Sightseeing, birdwatching, hiking, snorkeling, and swimming
Wildlife-Sea lions, sally-lightfoot crabs, land and marine iguanas, lava lizards,
Marine Life-Galapagos penguins, sea lions, rays, and sometimes whales and dolphins.
Highlights-Snorkeling with sea lions and Galapagos penguins, hiking to an amazing lookout overlooking the island and sea, relaxing on a white-coral beach with a view of Bartolome Island.
Note: All information is intended as a general guide of what you might be able to see or do on this island. In reality, wildlife sightings are by nature unpredictable, and activities may be subject to change by your guide or the National Park Authority.
For more information about your options for land-based and cruise trips through the Galapagos Islands, contact a member of our team using our toll-free numbers or the contact form on this site.