The laid back island of San Cristobal is a fantastic place to spend a free day in the Galapagos Islands. The main town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is a fun spot to mix and mingle, find a bite to eat or grab a drink at sunset.
On top of that, some of the finest Galapagos beaches are to be found dotted along the San Cristobal coast; the perfect spots to surf, snorkel or relax a few hours away. Keep reading for some of the hot spots and hidden gems to stumble upon during a free day in San Cristobal, Galapagos.
A ten-minute walk from town, across the Street from the university, Playa Mann Beach is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing and snorkeling, or just to have a beer while enjoying the sunset in the company of the cutest sea lions that usually rest there. There are also food stalls here that serve set menus with views out over the sea.
Half an hour walk from town (or a short taxi ride), La Loberia Beach is named for its friendly ambassadors: Galapagos sea lions. The bay is protected by a ring of rocks, and sea lions and sea turtles are often seen in the clear waters, waiting for snorkelers to join them in the surf. La Loberia is also a renowned spot to surf (for advanced surfers). A marked trail goes further past the beach to El Barranco cliffs where blue-footed boobies and frigate birds feed and nest.
A marked trail goes past the beach, skirting the coast that leads to cliffs where blue-footed boobies & frigates amongst others birds feed and nest. Along this trail, you can also see lots of lava lizards and marine iguanas (some huge ones that can easily be confused with rocks).
At the end of the trail, you can stop to relax and look down at some nesting birds. If you’re lucky you may see some sea turtles, sea lions or other animals swimming in the water below too.
A popular place for surfing (suitable for beginners) Punta Carola, is easily reached by a trail from the interpretation center. It’s a great spot to relax, snorkel, and watch the Galapagos sunset with sea lions and blue-footed boobies. Along the same path, you can stop off at Las Tijeretas (Frigate Bird Hill) to see nesting Frigates, as well as fine views across the whole island.
A bit farther away from town, reached by bike or taxi, you will find Puerto Chino, a favorite haunt of locals. The trail to get there is through prickly pear cactus where warblers, mockingbirds, and finches are easily spotted. The secluded bay beach is home to sea lions, and there is a trail that takes you to higher ground where blue-footed boobies and sometimes tortoises meander.
El Junco, up in the highlands, is the only freshwater lake at the Galapagos Islands. The lake itself is an ancient volcanic crater, and popular with Frigate birds who frequently dive in to wash the salt from their feathers. The site is easily reached by taxi, with a short hike from the parking lot. If you hike around the lake then it can be muddy, so go prepared.
On the western side of the island, along a 45-minute trail from Tijeretas Hill, you can find this horseshoe-shaped cove with a white sandy beach and shallow water that’s great for snorkeling. Sea lions, frigate birds & sea turtles are often found here, and sometimes blue-footed boobies too.
Located on the outskirts of Puerto Moreno, is San Cristobal’s interpretation center, one of the few places in the islands that focuses on human history as well as the natural evolution. Displays tell the story of the island’s creation and the history of the first visitors and settlers to the archipelago.
This site is named for the abundance of prickly pear cacti of the genus Opuntias (Opuntia megasperma). The Opuntia fruit is a popular food for the Cactus finch, and it is common to spot other land birds along the 2km trail, such as the San Cristobal Mocking Bird, small ground Finch, spotted Flycatcher, and small tree Finches.
The restaurants in San Cristobal put a new spin on gastronomy. There are burger bars and pizza joints, seafood spots and hip hangouts, and cafes and sandwich counters that check all the boxes for most appetites. Many are found along the waterfront on Charles Darwin Avenue.
One of the most popular meeting points for tourists and locals alike, with a laid-back environment perfect to relax after a day tour. The menu is mostly seafood, but vegetarian dishes and international cuisine are also available, as well as exotic cocktails mixed by the friendly bar staff.
Considered one of the best places on the island for its commitment to hiring locals and allowing them to learn service skills in a high-end setting, innovative dishes, and beachside setting, Muyu is a favorite amongst travelers. One of the first farm and sea to table restaurants, the menu heavily features seafood. Set lunches and specialty tasting menus are popular choices as is the breakfast fare.
A local favorite for the best burgers in town, Cri’s Burger Factory has big burgers with lots of choices for toppings, Mexican food, and pizza.
A great place for pizza, burgers, and vegetarian food, Calypso does the basics well. In addition to the dinner menu, the coffee and desserts here hit the right spot for a snack after exploring.
A fun spot overlooking the water, Nativo Bar and Café has 2×1 specials, fresh ceviche, and a great view-making it a go-to spot for a cocktail before heading to dinner.
San Cristobal Island has no shortage of activities that take you away from the ordinary without putting a hole in your budget. Surfing, biking, hiking, and snorkeling off the coast puts you center stage to cool breezes, far off vistas, and an underwater world that is second to none. Check-in town for rentals, many places have bikes and snorkeling gear and can help with recommendations.
For more information about what to see and do in San Cristobal, read Happy Gringo’s in-depth guide here. To find out your options for both land and sea travel in the Galapagos Islands, contact a member of our team.