San Cristobal is the fifth largest of the Galapagos Islands, situated on the east side of the archipelago. The island is home to many of the area’s most stunning attractions, including Cerro San Joaquin, a remarkable volcano standing 895 meters high.
Sea lions cavort in the harbor of Puerto Baquerízo Moreno while fascinated tourists pass through, snapping photos or enjoying the spectacular scenery beyond the marine mammals. It’s a surreal scene, the whole area dominated by sea lions roaming wherever they want—on benches, under trees and even on fishing boats.
Puerto Baquerízo Moreno is the capital of the Galapagos islands, though it only has about 5500 human inhabitants. Diverse restaurants and quaint shops line the esplanade. For a family vacation in San Cristobal Galapagos, there are even two playgrounds directly beside the shores. It takes only 15 minutes, maybe less, to stroll down the whole promenade and past the pier, frequented by the speed boats, day cruiser and cruise liner. This is where you’ll want to catch the ferry to Santa Cruz or Isabela.
Attractions on San Cristobal:
- La Loberia: For only a five minute taxi ride costing roughy $3, you can reach this paradise of a beach. Dozens of sea lions lounge around, whether swimming or sunbathing. In December, we had a relaxing time there watching the sea lions, many of them only babies. During low tide it’s a bit difficult to walk into the water because of the many stones. During high tide, on the other hand, it’s easily deep enough to swim. Try snorkeling here to view the sea lions, sea turtles and many vibrant species of fish. We liked it even more than Playa Chino, although taxi drivers will try to convince you to go there.
- Playa Mann: The only beach in Puerto Baquerízo Moreno where both sea lions and humans are allowed to swim. All other beaches of the town are owned by the sea lions.
- Kicker rock: You may see this huge rock in the sea outside your plane window while flying to San Cristobal. It’s a famous spot for both snorkeling and diving, populated by hammerhead sharks and sting rays among other kinds of fish. A day trip for two, including dives, costs roughly $120-$150 (9-16h). Snorkeling is 80$. Both include lunch. Although hammerheads are supposedly dangerous and aggressive, there has never been an attack on the Galapagos. They have plenty of fish to choose from, so you won’t have to worry about becoming the first case.
- La Galapaguera del Colorado: This national park is a breeding stations for turtles. While strolling around, a well-trained guide spouts interesting facts about old times on the islands, the efforts to keep Galapagos the way they once were and their success in bringing up the turtles. It’s a very nice tour for children, lasting only 45 minutes.
- El Junco: A common attraction for tourists, El Junco is the lake inside of the volcano, and now the biggest water reservoir of the island. Hiking up takes about 20 minutes with children, but if the weather’s clear enough, it offers a spectacular view. The lake is a hub for frigatebirds, a type of seabirds that love freshwater shrimp. If you can handle the cold, you’re welcome to take a plunge into the lake. Otherwise just enjoy the view across the volcano and into the sea.
- Puerto Chino: This white sandy beach, located on the east side of the island, is a must see. Kids can play for hours in the sand without big waves to deter them. Sea lions laze in the sand or play in the water. Locals and tourists alike choose this spot to hold their weddings. If you’re planning a marriage on the Galapagos, this is the place!
Family Vacation in San Cristobal with children and toddlers:
If you want to show your children an island untouched by human civilization, retaining a respect for nature, San Cristobal is perfect. With the playgrounds next to the seaside and the sea lions lying around everywhere, this destination guarantees a relaxing holiday. The island is dominated by pedestrians, so you’ll hardly see a car during your stay. Travelling with a pram is perfect here. We were surprised by the excellent infrastructure.
You’ll find a hospital on the island and a pediatrician next to the Hostel Cactus. Pharmacies are open regularly, offering sunscreen and common medicine.
The Galapagos islands are very close to the equator, so solar radiation is much stronger than in other parts of the world. I’d never seen sunscreen with anything approaching SPF 100, but you’l find four varieties of the stuff in the Galapagos pharmacy. Be sure to take sunscreeen, sun hats and other sun-protective clothes for the beach when packing
The supermarkets offer nappies like Huggies and different kinds of baby food. No need to pack them yourself.
If you’re traveling with children, it’s nice to have a laundromat nearby in case things get messy. There are several in San Cristobal. near the ATMs or beside the police station in a back road of the esplanade. Prices are about $1 per 500 g, and their overnight service is perfect!
Many families decide to spend a few days on San Cristobal—I’d recommend three or four—before traveling to Santa Cruz or Isabela. Due to the tiny ferries and the risk of seasickness for children, I‘d recommend you pay the extra cash to fly. Flights depart everyday from San Cristobal directly to Isabela with Galapagos Airline Zab.
How to get there:
Flights arrive from Quito and Guayaquil several time each week. It’s also possible to travel by boat from Santa Cruz or Isabela. The two or three hour boat ride costs §30 each way per person. These speed boats have enough space for no more than 20 people. Unfortunately, the sea is sometimes treacherous, and seasickness often a risk.
There are departures from San Cristobal (Puerto Baquerízo Moreno) at 7 am and 3 pm. A woman sits beside the pier selling the tickets. Normally, you need not worry about getting a ticket in advance—just pick one up on the same day or the day after. Occasionally, they’ll offer free tickets for children on the afternoon ferry.
The Galapagos islands have only two airports, one in Baltra and the other in San Cristobal.
Nevertheless, you can fly in an eight-seater to Santa Cruz or Isabela every day. The prices vary between $130 and $150 per person for one way.
How to get around:
Unfortunately, there’s no car or scooter rental agency on San Cristobal. You’ll either have to take a taxi or rent a bike. Bike rental is quite expensive, usually costing $20 per bike per day. Taxis take small fees within Puerto Baquerízo Moreno, or roughly $60 for the half-day trip to El Junco, La Galapaguera and Puerto Chino.
There’s a supermarket on just about every corner, offering fresh fruits and vegetables from around the Galapagos islands. San Cristobal has huge agricultural areas, so you’ll easily find mangos, tomatoes, avocados and cucumbers.
Pasta, rice, meat and other ingredients are available for reasonable prices. If you have accommodations with a kitchen, you can easily feed yourself rather than go out.
The restaurants on the esplanade are pricier than those on the back roads. Some offer lunch and dinner for good, cheap prices. The fresh fish and seafood are highly recommended—you won’t get them that fresh anywhere else!
Our recommendation: Restaurant Rosita
Rosita offers lunch and dinner for only five dollars, which includes a special drink, soup and main course (often fish). If you’d prefer to eat a la carte, it’s about $12 to $16 per meal.
The terrace’s unique design and the friendly service make Rosita a great spot for families.
There are several laundromats next to the ATMs and the police station. They cost about one dollar per 500 grams, and offer a convenient overnight service.
Hotels and Hostals on San Cristobal:
The hotels and hostels are all located in Puerto Baquerízo Moreno.
Luckily, San Cristobal is not yet crowded with tourists. The downside, of course, is that the hotels and hostels are far from luxurious. Nevertheless, we had a good experience with Hostel Cactus, and we heard from many other travellers that their hostels were basic, but at least clean. If you don’t expect a high-class hotel here, and are satisfied with a clean room, complete with AC and hot water, you’ll have a fantastic time on a family vacation in San Cristobal.
Hostel Cactus is only a five minute walk from the beach and the adjacent supermarket and pediatrician. The hostel offers family rooms with one normal bed, one queen-size and one bunk bed. Prices are around $75 per night for a family room, which includes breakfast and accomadates two adults and two children. The basic but effectve kitchen in the room made it easy for us to cook small meals. Fresh juice, scrambled eggs, jam, tea, coffee, bread and croissants make for a great start to the day. The staff is routinely very helpful, and the owner is always nice. You won’t have to worry about your children’s safety here.
Wi-fi and internet connection:
Unfortunately the internet connection on San Cristobal and in Puerto Baquerízo Monteno is very slow. Many hostels and hotels have wi-fi reliable enough to check emails and read the news, but nowhere near fast enough to Skype or upload photos.
Why have you never been on San Cristobal Galapagos?