Hungry sea lion pup on Playa Punta Carola, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Galápagos: San Cristóbal

Dec 26, 2017 - Julie

We used San Cristóbal as our second base after Santa Cruz. Having seen most of the wildlife we wanted to see already on North Seymour, Bartolomé and Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal was all about the other natural wonders around the islands… and some wildlife, too. There is literally wildlife everywhere in the Galápagos.

Julie amongst a colony of sea lions on Playa Mann, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Julie amongst a colony of sea lions on Playa Mann, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the San Cristóbal equivalent of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, but much smaller and even more laid-back. Most days are pretty sleepy, though the weather is always pretty sunny.

Street of Puerto Baqeurizo Moreno, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Street of Puerto Baqeurizo Moreno, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

There were not nearly as many housing or food options as Puerto Ayora, and prices seemed higher. However, the town was newer and cleaner, and the pier area is close to everything, while nice beaches are never far away.

Beaches of San Cristóbal

Playaman is the closest one to town – so close it’s practically in town. On weekends this is a hip and happening place, filled with locals and food vendors. We even had reality singing/karaoke in the background to complete the ambiance.

Pup nursing on Playa Mann, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Pup nursing on Playa Mann, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

It was here at Playaman where we saw an orphaned sea lion pup who couldn’t find its mom. This orphan kept going round and round to all the other sea lion moms asking to feed. All of the sea lion moms refused, often biting and throwing the orphaned pup away. It was heartbreaking… but a reality of nature. The poor pup was so hungry at one point it was chewing on a branch.

Hungry sea lion pup on Playa Punta Carola, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Hungry sea lion pup on Playa Punta Carola, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Playa Punta Carola was similar to Playaman, just a bit further away and more deserted. There were lots of sea lions here as well, and it was at this beach a sea lion pup slowly crawled its way right up to me and then right past me. It was adorable! I was in love.

Sea lion pup walking right next to Julie on Playa Punta Carola, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Sea lion pup walking right next to Julie on Playa Punta Carola, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Bahia de Rosa Blanca was the first stop in our 360 tour of the island. On the eastern side of the island unprotected from the ocean waves, Bahia de Rosa Blanca was located in a protected bay, providing refuge from rough seas. The sand was so white and incredibly soft, gently sloping into the water.

View of Playa Rosa Blanca, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
View of Playa Rosa Blanca, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Right next to the beach was a shallow lagoon. Isolated from the ocean due to the low tide, it trapped dozens of white-tipped sharks and a sea turtle in a small, shallow and confined space. We really enjoyed snorkeling here and getting close to these creatures.

Swimming with sharks at the lagoon next to Playa Rosa Blanca, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Swimming with sharks at the lagoon next to Playa Rosa Blanca, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

The second beach stop on our 360 tour was Bahia Sardina, another spectacular beach with wide stretches of soft white sand and breathtaking scenery. Here, we saw many pelicans diving to catch their lunch.

Playa Bahía Sardina, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Playa Bahía Sardina, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Similar to Bahia Sardina, Cerro Brujo is a yet another beautiful white sand beach on San Cristóbal, dotted with black volcanic rock and lush green bushes. Part of the beach was formed by volcanic activity while another part was created organically through exposed ocean floor.

Sea lions on Playa Cerro Brujo, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Sea lions on Playa Cerro Brujo, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

All of the beaches around San Cristóbal Island were amazing. Who knew the volcanic Galápagos Islands had such stunning white soft sand?

Punta Pitt

The easternmost point of San Cristóbal Island, Punta Pitt is known for its wild birds. There are red-footed boobies here! Recall the blue-footed boobies on North Seymour? These ones are very similar, but with red feet instead of blue ones.

Red-footed booby at Punta Pitt, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Red-footed booby at Punta Pitt, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

We saw several of them flying back and forth from their nests, cohabiting the same cliff with blue-footed boobies as well as nazca boobies.

Red-footed booby flying from its nest at Punta Pitt, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Red-footed booby flying from its nest at Punta Pitt, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

It was also around Punta Pitt where we got really lucky and had the chance to sail with hundreds of dolphins! There were so many pods everywhere around us, it was hard to pick a direction to look at.

Boat chasing the dolphins pods at Punta Pitt, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Boat chasing the dolphins pods at Punta Pitt, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Sometimes they were so close we felt like we could touch them.

Close up dolphins swimming at Punta Pitt, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Close up dolphins swimming at Punta Pitt, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

They jumped and flipped and gave us a private acrobatic show in the rough and choppy Pacific Ocean.

Dolphin flying towards our boat at Punta Pitt, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Dolphin flying towards our boat at Punta Pitt, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

We had thought we saw plenty of wild dolphins in the Maldives, but this blew that completely out of the water.

Kicker Rock Snorkeling and Diving

Kicker Rock is one of the most famous snorkeling and diving spots in all of the Galápagos. Its unique formation of compacted volcanic ash eroded to the shape of a sleeping sea lion (hence the name Léon Dormido in Spanish), which attracts a vast array of wildlife, both above and below the water.

Kicker Rock (León Dormido) framed by the sea arch at Cerro Brujo, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Kicker Rock (León Dormido) framed by the sea arch at Cerro Brujo, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

The small channel formed in between the two monoliths is what makes this place so special for underwater activities – schools of white-tipped and Galápagos sharks, rays, sea turtles, sea lions and even hammerhead sharks can be seen in the channel.

Sea turtle swimming next to us at Kicker Rock (León Dormido), San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Sea turtle swimming next to us at Kicker Rock (León Dormido), San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

We visited the (very) cold waters of Kicker Rock twice during our stay in San Cristóbal – first for snorkeling as part of our 360 tour and another time for scuba diving. Both days provided us with similar visibility at around 15 meters and pretty much the same wildlife sightings – we saw Galápagos sharks, white-tipped sharks, as well as sea turtles.

Galápagos shark swimming at Kicker Rock (León Dormido), San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Galápagos shark swimming at Kicker Rock (León Dormido), San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

What made the Kicker Rock diving experience stand out was the sheer scale and proximity of marine wildlife. While we spotted a few turtles and only three sharks far away during our snorkeling visit (the channel is 20 meters deep), we got up close and personal with hundreds of them during the dive.

Carlos among the school of Galápagos sharks at Kicker Rock (León Dormido), San Critstóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Carlos among the school of Galápagos sharks at Kicker Rock (León Dormido), San Critstóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

The sharks swam right beside us, completely ignoring our presence. It was one of the most incredible underwater experiences that we’ve ever had!

School of fish at Kicker Rock (León Dormido), San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
School of fish at Kicker Rock (León Dormido), San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Unfortunately, we missed the hammerhead sharks this time – they are a migratory species and needed a few more weeks (and warmer water) until they reached the area. Nonetheless, swimming with sharks was an unforgettable experience.

Tijeretas / Frigate Hill

Back in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, we did a short hike to the local interpretation center, where many displays about the history and current challenges of the Galápagos Islands showed us how difficult it is to explore yet preserve such a special place.

Julie walking by opuntia cacti on the way to the Interpretation Center, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Julie walking by opuntia cacti on the way to the Interpretation Center, San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

After the interpretation center, the trail continued to an overlook point called Frigate Hill (or Tijeretas in Spanish). At the top, we could see the Pacific Ocean extending into the horizon, while a small bay protected the delicate reef.

Overlook view from Frigate Hill (Tijeretas), San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Overlook view from Frigate Hill (Tijeretas), San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

On the way back, there was a vantage point overlooking Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. We stopped to admire the view and reflect on our visit to the archipelago, as our time here was coming to an end.

Overlooking Puerto Baquerizo Moreno from the path to Frigate Hill (Tijeretas), San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Overlooking Puerto Baquerizo Moreno from the path to Frigate Hill (Tijeretas), San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

San Cristóbal was our last island in our tour of the Galápagos and it presented us with incredible scenery as well as a few last days with all the wonderful wildlife. We will miss this place!