Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal, Galapagos
Most people planning on visiting the Galapagos will discover that a flight from Ecuador to San Cristobal with a few nights in a hotel is the most reasonably priced option. Taking a cruise around the Galapagos in many cases will start at $10,000 per person and can actually cost above $20,000.
The most easily reached island is San Cristobal Galapagos and it is not a difficult trip. There are 4 to 6 round trip flights from Guayaquil, Ecuador to San Cristobal, Galapagos each day with round trip fares ranging from $250 to $500. There are currently over forty hotels and hostels on San Cristobal that range from under $70 to over $500 a night with a majority being around $150.
One area about visiting the Galapagos that should be pointed out is government fees. Before boarding a flight to the Galapagos everyone needs to get a visitors card. After filling out a form online (HERE) pay $20 and receive an entry and exit card (do not lose the exit card). Upon arrival in the Galapagos you will need to pay another fee of $100 cash before you can enter.
San Cristóbal is the fifth largest and easternmost island of the Galapagos. It is composed of three or four fused extinct volcanoes and is named for the Patron Saint of seafarers, “St. Christopher”. It is home to the oldest permanent settlement in the islands and is the island where Darwin first went ashore in 1835.
The town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal is the capital of the Galapagos province with approximately 5,400 residents, making it home to the second largest population in Galapagos, after Santa Cruz. Tourism is the towns major business and there’s a wide range of activities that can be arranged in town. There are boat excursions to nearby small islands to see wildlife, lots of options for snorkeling and sport diving tours, fishing trips along with island tours. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno has a good offering of restaurants with seafood being the best choice and prices are exceptionally fair.
The Natural History Museum is worth a visit to orient yourself with what the island has in the way of birds, iguanas, sea lions and dolphins. The exhibits include whalebones, tortoise shells, corals and crabs. The museums mascot is a tortoise called Pepe, who lives behind the main building.
Opened in 1998, the Galapagos National Park Visitor Center in San Cristóbal presents a complete history of the Galapagos, its ecosystems, flora and fauna. The Center focuses primarily on the history of the archipelago, from its volcanic origins to the present. Interpretation panels and exhibits, representing the natural and cultural history of the archipelago are arranged in chronological order. The Visitor Center is a short 20-minute walk from town along the sea and is just a couple of blocks above Playa Mann beach. It’s open every day from 7 am to 12 pm and 1:30 pm to 5 pm.
Frigate Bird Hill Trail
A trail from the Interpretation Center heads up Frigate bird Hill. Here you can often see Frigate Birds in a colony. The paved trail offers good views of the harbor and leads to Punta Carola Beach, a small sandy beach that’s home to sea lions, sea birds and exotic flora and fauna and is perfect for a swim or sunning.
San Cristobal Catholic Church – Located in the heart of town this church has some beautiful stained glass depicting local wildlife.
The Playa Mann
The Playa Mann beach is a locals’ beach on San Cristóbal island. A boardwalk goes over to the lighthouse. There’s a cafe to grab some light food or drinks, changing and public facilities, lots of sea lions and a bit of a family feel. It’s easily accessible by the boardwalk from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and it’s free.
Tortoise Breeding Center
La Galapaguera/Jacinto Gordillo Tortoise Breeding Center. This is a visitor center in the northeast part of San Cristobal Island and can be reached in about one hour by road from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The Breeding Center raises hatchling tortoises from birth until the the grown Galapagos tortoises are released to the natural habitat.
El Junco Lagoon
The Junco lagoon, located about 700m above sea level, is one of the few permanent freshwater bodies in Galapagos. Frigate birds are often seen here washing the salt from their feathers as well as white-cheeked pintails and common gallinules. Its name comes from a type of plant that is common in this area called “junco”.
Some Hotel & Restaurant Options
The Galapagos Planet Hotel (Pictured below) – Located less than a mile from the airport and four blocks from the towns waterfront (don’t worry there’s very few flights). It is clean, the staff friendly and helpful and it features a nice pool and patio. Plenty of hot water and cold air conditioning. Rates average $140.
Sea Side Inn Hotel (Pictured at left) – Located on a beach near downtown it’s highly rated with a friendly staff and hot showers, cold air conditioning and beach views. Rates average $450 per night.
The Post Office Restaurant – Located on the water in the middle of town and features some of the best sunset viewing. Both the food and prices are great. Check out the beer flights!
Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant – Good food, generous portions and fairly priced. Try the seafood pizza!
El Cangrejo Loco – Located right across from the water in the middle of town. Great for casual seafood. Good menu options and prepared Ecuadorian style.