We like to think of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal as a mixture of the towns on Santa Cruz and Isabela Island. It has a more laid back feel, as it’s not very crowded and the main area of town is still within sight of beaches, similar to Puerto Villamil on Isabela. However it is definitely more built up than Puerto Villamil, and has lots of restaurants, hostels, tour agencies and souvenir shops to choose from. However it’s not as busy as Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is basically the best of both worlds, and it’s a great place to visit. Do you need another reason? It’s known as the sea lion capital of the world AND it’s the first place Charles Darwin made land in the Galapágos. Pretty Cool!
How to Get There
San Cristóbal is one of two Galápagos Islands that has an airport (the other being Santa Cruz). The airport is a ten minute walk from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. We recommend you fly into Santa Cruz and out of San Cristóbal if you’re visiting both islands as it makes the transportation side of things easier. Check out our Guide to Visting the Galápagos Islands Without a Cruise post for more info on flying to the Galápagos!
You can also get to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on a ferry from Santa Cruz. The ferries are smaller 28 passenger boats and multiple boats depart at 7am and 2pm each day. Book a ticket at any tour agency, the price is always $30 USD. Arrive about 30 minutes before your departure time and try to find your boat captain. There’s a good chance you’re put on a different boat (we were all three times we took a ferry) so ask for the boat, but realistically try to find someone with your name on their clipboard. Keep your receipt of purchase handy and you’ll be fine! They’ll give you a pass that says your boat name on it. You’ll have to get your packs inspected before leaving, then once your boat name is called, you head down to the water taxi. The water taxi is $0.50 USD/person, and it transports you to your ferry in the harbour (make sure you have exact change!). When you arrive in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno your ferry will pull up to a dock, so no need to pay a water taxi there. Our trip in calm waters took about 2 hours.
Where to Stay
- Hostal San Francisco – This is a decent budget hostal along the main strip. We stayed two nights for $25 USD/night in a private double room with an ensuite bathroom with hot water. Wifi was spotty and only available in the common area.
What to Do
- Hike to Darwin Bay – This is also known as the hike to Mirador Cerro Tijeretas (Frigate Bird Hill Viewpoint) and is a great way to spend a day exploring the island for free. Head north out of town along the main road to the Centro de Interpretacion. Walk through the centre to get to the start of the trail, but we recommend a short stay to check it out (more info below). Continue along the path for 10-15 minutes until you get to a fork. One way takes you to the viewpoint on top of Frigate Hill, the other takes you down to Darwin Bay. If you want to see both go up Frigate Hill first as it’s a dead end, whereas the path to Darwin Bay continues on. Darwin Bay is not only the first place Charles Darwin set foot in all of the Galápagos Islands, but also a great spot for a quick snorkel (rent snorkel gear for $5/person at a tour agency before heading there). We saw a marine iguana feeding on algae underwater here! Continue along the path to the Darwin statue for a quick photo op and then around to Playa Punta Carola. This beach is a sea lion hotspot, and has a cool lighthouse to check out too. From there it’s a short 20 minute walk back to town.
- Centro de Interpretacion – Also known in English as the Interpretation Centre, this is the best information centre we visited in the Galápagos. It had a very informative historical timeline of the good and bad happenings in the archipelago, as well as information on the biological importance of the isolated islands. Easily the best place to get a real insight into the islands.
- Playa Mann – A short 5-10 minute walk from town, Playa Mann is the closest beach you can swim at. Like pretty much every beach on San Cristóbal, there’s a population of sea lions that live here, so just make sure to keep some distance while swimming. Playa Mann is also a great place to watch the sunset although it does get a little crowded.
- Playa Loberia – This is another sea lion hotspot a little farther from town. It’s a 40 minute walk past the airport, or a $3 USD taxi ride one way. We were told it is the biggest sea lion colony you can visit without a guide, but it didn’t seem that much bigger than the colony at Playa Punta Carola. Still, we definitely enjoyed hanging out with the baby sea lions!
- Española Island – Before 2016, Española was only seen via expensive cruises. Now you can travel to the island from San Cristóbal for $150-$170 USD. This is a long 9-10 hour day, but from what we heard is very worth it. The day trip includes a 2 hour hike past endemic bird nesting sites, and is one of the best places to see waved albatross. You’ll also snorkel off a beautiful white sand beach with a chance to see sea turtles, sea lions and Galápagos sharks. One drawback is that upwards of 4 hours of the trip is taken up by travel, as Española is pretty far away.
- 360 Tour – This is another new tour that takes you all the way around the island, stopping at different interesting spots for $150-$170 USD. It’s technically a fishing tour, so you’ll get the chance to try some ocean fishing off the coast. It boasts snorkels at the well known Kicker Rock and other spots around the island, as well as a stop to see the only colony of red footed boobies in the Galápagos. However, we heard some sketchy reviews about the trip. They often skip snorkel spots that are in the itinerary to save time, and only spend a short time at each spot. The best spot by far is Kicker Rock, and people that took the tour told us they only spent 20 minutes there. Another issue is that technically since they are fishing tours, they’re not allowed to set foot on land. They say that you’ll see red footed boobies nesting, but they only go to land if wildlife patrollers aren’t around, otherwise you get to squint at them from shore. However we didn’t take the tour, so it’s hard to judge it solely based on other people’s reviews. If you’ve taken the tour let us know how it was in the comments!
- Kicker Rock/Léon Dormido – A famous rock that seemingly comes out of nowhere off the east coast of San Cristóbal, Kicker Rock offers some amazing diving for $140-$180 USD. As with most dive trips, you can also snorkel for slightly cheaper, $90-$110 USD. We booked with Gustavo’s (the name of the Dive/Fishing Shop isn’t very clear…) who’s shop is on Igancio Hernández Rd. on the west side between José de Villamil Rd. and Cobos Rd. We realized late in the day that all of the dive shops we inquired at were offering the exact same dive on the exact same dive boat, even though the quotes ranged from $140 (Gustavo’s) to $180 (Planet Ocean). We know this because we were the only boat at Kicker Rock the next morning! NOTE: When you’re asking for prices, also ask the name of the boat you will be going out on, because if its the same boat, you can compare prices and get the best one! The dive itself is amazing, but is sometimes limited to more advanced divers due to current (which we experienced first hand). Both dives were done back to back (after waiting the appropriate amount of time in between) and then we headed to Puerto Grande for a snorkel and beach chill time. During the dive we saw Galápagos sharks, schools of tuna, sea lions, and sea turtles. On our second dive we also managed to see what most people head to Kicker Rock to see; Hammerhead Sharks! Easily one of the highlights of our trip. A pretty average lunch is offered on the way back. One concern we had was the adequacy of the dive instructions. There was a lot of confusion on our buoyancy test that turned into a descent, and there was also no mention of current before we were almost swept away by it mid dive. If we had been slightly less experienced it could have been a messy situation. To be safe, we would recommend going only if you are an experienced diver, otherwise opt for snorkelling! Look up reviews beforehand of different dive instructors, and ask lots of questions if you are unsure.