Galapagos, San Cristobal Island, Cost of Living, Things to Do

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I wrote this Galapagos, San Cristobal Island, Cost of Living, Things to Do guide, to save you time and money. This Galapagos, San Cristobal Island, Cost of Living, Things to Do guide includes:

San Cristobal Island: Visit Isabela Island Last
San Cristobal Island: How to Get There
San Cristobal Island: Interesting Facts
San Cristobal Island: Top Things to Do
San Cristobal Island: Walking Tour
San Cristobal Island: Accommodations
San Cristobal Island: Restaurants
San Cristobal Island: Nightlife
San Cristobal Island: Livability Factors
San Cristobal Island: Cost of Living
San Cristobal Island: Final Thoughts

San Cristobal Island: Visit Isabela Island Last

This is Dan from Vagabond Buddha. I last updated this post on May 2, 2018.

If Santa Cruz Island and Isabela Island in the Galapagos had a baby together, San Cristobal would be what their baby would be like. It is a fishing village like Santa Cruz but it also has several beaches right in town like Isabela. But the beaches are not as big in San Cristobal, and the police on San Cristobal are a little too regimented. For example, they try to push everyone off the Playa Mann beach before the sunset is complete. Isabela Island felt more like a laid back hippie enclave. That is the feeling you want when you are on a small island.

Consider visiting Santa Cruz Island first, then San Cristobal Island, and finishing with Isabela Island last. You will slowly become more relaxed and see better and better animals towards the end of you stay. Do Isabela last!

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San Cristobal Island: How to Get There

Flights to Galapagos: There are two airports in the Galapagos Islands you can fly into from the mainland (Google Map: Baltra Airport or San Cristobal Airport). We found the lowest flight prices using Skyscanner. We used to check prices on multiple search engines but now we only use Skyscanner. They are consistently lower so we quit using other search engines. If you fly into San Cristobal airport, the taxi to your accommodations will be $4 USD. Ecuador uses the USD as their national currency.

However, we flew into Santa Cruz Island (Baltra Airport). We spent 13 nights on other Galapagos Islands before transferring to San Cristobal Island. We spent 7 nights exploring Santa Cruz Island (see our post) and then 6 nights exploring Isabela Island (see our post) before heading to San Cristobal Island.

So we had to get to San Cristobal Island from Isabela Island. There are no direct ferries from Isabela Island to San Cristobal Island. So we took a ferry from Isabela back to Santa Cruz and stayed overnight on Santa Cruz Island before catching the ferry to San Cristobal Island the next morning. Both ferries cost $30 USD..

We could have taken the afternoon ferry to San Cristobal instead of spending another night in Santa Cruz Island, but we wanted to spend another day on Tortuga Bay, which is on Santa Cruz Island.

Ferry to San Cristobal Island: We took the ferry to San Cristobal Island from Santa Cruz Island. The ferry cost $30 per person and takes about 2 hours. You can buy your ferry tickets across the street from the pier where you catch the ferry (Google Maps).

Do not bring illegal drugs to the Galapagos. The police use drug sniffing dogs and they search every bag completely at the airports and at the island transfer ferries.

Before discussing the top things to do in San Cristobal Island, here are some interesting facts from Wikipedia about San Cristobal Island:

San Cristobal Island: Interesting Facts

In my previous Galapagos posts, I discussed Darwin, the theory of evolution, the volcanic origin of the Galapagos, the unique nature of Galapagos species, and the strategic importance of the Galapagos in protecting the Panama Canal during World World II. See 1, 2. Here are some additional interestings facts:

Oldest Settlement: San Cristobal has the longest standing settlement of humans in the island. This is partially because it has a small lake called El Junco, which is the only source of freshwater on the islands.

El Junco: El Junco lake is a water filled extinct volcano. All of the Volcanoes on San Cristobal are extinct. They are extinct because the Galapagos lava hot spot is under the younger islands further west of San Cristobal, like Isabela and Fernandina.

First Landing: Darwin first landed in the Galapagos on San Cristobal on the spot where his statue is erected near Cerro Tijeretas. You can see the Darwin statue in the below Best View and Best Hike picture.

Pirates: British pirates used the Galapagos as a base for attacking Spanish ships carrying gold taken from Peru.

San Cristobal Island Top Things to Do!

These are in order of my most favorite first:

Kicker Rock (Snorkeling or Diving): $100 USD Snorkeling. $150 USD for diving (2 tanks). Both include all the equipment you need including wetsuits. We saw hammerhead sharks, Galapago sharks, and white-tipped fin sharks. We saw sea turtles, dolphins, and many colorful fish. The tour also includes a beach visit and lunch. You are home by 3pm. Chalo Tours.

Best Hike and Best View: The Interpretation Center on the above map is on Google Maps. Go to Playa Carola from the Interpretation Center. When you leave Playa Carola (1), just keep going left on path choices from there. This map with and the below pictures numbered (1) through (7) will help you confirm you are on course.

Playa Carola (1): This is the first stop on the Best Hike Best View Tour. Start here and let GPS show you as you progress. See Map above. I snorkeled here and saw a sea turtle. There are also hundreds of black crabs running around the lava rock at the water and many sea lions. The waves on the right side were big enough to surf also. This is also a great sunset viewing location.

Cerro Tijeretas Mirador (2): Just keep going left from Playa Carola until you see this Mirador view. Wow. This is an amazing view.

Darwin Mirador (3): Once you you reach the Darwin Mirador, you will be able to look down and see a concrete dock below where you can snorkel. That is where you go snorkeling after enjoying Darwin and the view.

Snorkeling Mirador (4): You will be down at that concrete dock when you are at the snorkeling Mirador.

Cerro Tijeretas Mirador (5): Keep going left as usual until you find the highest Mirador with this clear view back to the harbor and town. You will have to climb some steep steps to get to this one. This is the best view of all.

Dirt Path (6): At the previous highest mirador, you will see a path that runs to the left. Make sure to bring closed toed shoes and pants. We had to turn back when the brush started to intrude over the path. The views are amazing so keep going and let me know what you find. It looks like it leads to a secluded beach below. Maybe you can go skinny dipping?

Best Sunsets (Playa Mann)(Google Map): We went here the first night and the sunsets were so beautiful, we kept going back. The colors seemed to be different every night. There is a small hut there with $3 small beers. But a few stores in town sell large beers for $2.50 USD. You can bring your own beer. Many people did.

Best Beach, Best Surfing and Best Snorkeling (Playa La Loberia): Just a $4 taxi ride from town one way. Very large waves, great snorkeling cove, cool yellow finches, shady trees and bushes, but you have to bring whatever you will need for the day. There are no stores on Playa La Loberia.

The below Map is for the Best Highlands Tour (described below) with a cool treehouse, tortoise reserve, and mountain lagoon:

Highlands Tour: $60 Roundtrip. The above map is a highland tour you can take with just about any taxi driver. The tour includes the following 4 destinations: (1) El Ceibo Treehouse, (2) El Junco Lake, (3) Tortoise Reserve, (4) China Beach. The whole thing takes about 4 hours round trip starting in town. Here is more information about each of the four stops:

Treehouse (El Ceibo): This is said to be a 300-year-old tree house. I have my doubts but it is no less amazing. It is a treehouse in an amazing tree with rope swings and a basement. I kid you not. There is an opening at the base of the tree that has a ladder down to a basement.

El Junco: El Junco is an extinct volcano with a freshwater lake in the middle. This is the highest point on the island so there are great views.

Turtle Reserve: The David Rodriguez Tortoise Reserve has some great paths through the reserve with ponds where the tortoises congregate. It also has a tortoise nursery so you can see tortoises of all ages. Loved this place.

China Beach: Gorgeous white sand beach. There are decent size waves so the visibility is not the best for snorkeling since there is no cove here. I body surfed here. Really fun.

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Army Base Surfing Spot: Free. I shot some great video of surfing here but forgot to take a picture. Go to the Army Base gate, show them your passport and they will let you surf here. When you are facing the harbor in town, just walk left along the water until you reach the Army gate. 5-10 minute walk.

The two tour companies I promote GetYourGuide.com and Viator.com don’t presently have tours for the Galapagos. However, when you book tours anywhere else in the world, please use these links. Although it will cost you nothing extra, we will receive a small commision which will help us continue to create travel information for you: GetYourGuide.com, Viator.com.

San Cristobal Island: Walking Tour

You can visit the places on my “Things to Do” list. Normally I have a walking tour map here but I have already included them above. Buy an Ecuadorian (Claro 4G) SIM before boarding your flight to Galapagos. Load it with Internet data so you aren’t paying international roaming rates when you start clicking the links to all of my suggestions.

San Cristobal Island: Accommodations

Most people who come to San Cristobal Island stay in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Here are my recommendations based on your style and needs. For the lowest prices on accommodations, we suggest Booking.com and HotelsCombined.com. The below are listed from most to least expensive:

Galapagos Sunset Hotel: This is the most beautiful place we saw on San Cristobal Island. It is also in an amazing location for enjoying sunsets.

Hotel Casa Blanca: This place faces the harbor in town and is in the middle of everything. They have great Internet and happy hour. Sort of a social hub for people gathering.

Hostal Suiza: If you are on a budget this place is pretty nice.

Airbnb: We stayed here for 4 of our 6 days in San Cristobal and they are really nice people. They prepare meals for $5, do laundry, and rent bikes and snorkeling equipment. You get a room with your own bathroom with kitchen privileges if you like to cook. It was $20/night for 2 people when we stayed there. It is a $1.50 USD taxi ride into town, one way. (If you are new to Airbnb, use this code www.airbnb.com/c/dbell50 for a discount).

Price Check: Once you have selected where you want to stay, then use HotelsCombined.com to find the agency offering the lowest booking price for that property.

San Cristobal Island: Restaurants

El Rincon De Sebas: This is a local restaurant cooking for locals and charging local prices. It was so yummy that we went back twice. They prepared great veggie food (not on menu) for me and fish for Qiang Hui.

Cuenca Taste: This is a great bread maker. They sold us bread for making sandwiches for our day trips. Qiang Hui also got a great ham quiche here.

Mi Heladeria: Great Internet and Ice Cream here.

La Zayapa Hotel: Got a decent salad here. Internet worked okay.

Sea Side Inn San Cristobal: Place looks expensive, but they usually have a meal of the day that is fairly priced. Not a bad place to enjoy a sunset happy hour.

Vagabond Buddha Restaurant: We made sandwiches for many of our day trips. We also cooked a few meals in the hostel kitchen and in our Airbnb shared kitchen. Groceries (Mercado Centro), Bread for Sandwiches.

San Cristobal Island: Nightlife

Deep Blue: There always seemed to be people here at night.

Casa Blanca: People here at night usually.

Sea Side Inn San Cristobal: Well attended during sunset.

Playa Mann: Best place on the island for sunsets. People just sit on the sand and watch the sun go down. There is a shack with $3 beers.

San Cristobal Island Livability Factors

Walkability: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is walkable day and night. We never got any feeling of danger.

Internet: Get an Ecuadorian Claro 4G SIM card and load it with Internet data. The Internet was poor most places. It was great at the Airbnb we stayed at above.

Food: Grocery store food prices weren’t so bad at the Mercado Centro. Much cheaper than the rest of the Galapagos. Must be because they are growing vegetables on this island?

Weather: The weather is hot in the middle of the day but has breezes like Isabela Island. Wear a hat, carry water, sunblock, and sunglasses.

Desire to Move Here: Not realistic. Foreigners are only allowed 30 days per year in the Galapagos.

San Cristobal Island: Cost of Living

Below is the estimated cost of living one month in San Cristobal Island as a temporary visitor. Some of the estimates could be reduced as a long-term visitor, or full-time Expat. Because there is no chance of living here, we didn’t check into furnished apartment prices.

Monthly Cost of Living, San Cristobal Island, Ecuador ($USD)

Expense

Cost

Low

Medium

High

Airbnb (1 Bedroom Apt)

$40.00

0

14

30

Moderate Hotel

$60.00

0

12

0

Backpacker Hostel

$25.00

30

3

0

High-End Restaurant

$18.00

1

4

8

Neighborhood Restaurant

$7.00

30

44

48

Food Cart

$3.00

30

12

4

Subway/Train/Metro

$0.00

20

26

8

Bus

$0.00

20

10

0

Taxi/Uber

$2.00

6

10

20

Total

Per Month

$1,080

$1,791

$1,732

Total

Per Day

$36

$59

$58

For more information about how the above “Cost of Living Monthly Multiplier” works, please visit the bottom of this page at Vagabond Buddha. It does not include alcohol, excursions, or extras, and it is for one person. Some of the expenses remain unchanged when you add another person.

Final Thoughts on San Cristobal Island

The Galapagos have been a lovely experience. I have run out of words. Watch the youtube video here where Qiang Hui of Hoboventures.com and I compare the islands and the tours.

The world is your home. What time will you be home for dinner?

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2 thoughts on “Galapagos, San Cristobal Island, Cost of Living, Things to Do”

  1. I found this great! I’m heading off to the Galapagos in a few weeks and think this is really helpful and something I’ll definitely refer to whilst over there! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Laura. Your encouragement helps a bunch. Let me know how your trip turns out. I am excited for you. 🙂 Dan

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