We landed on San Cristobal uncertain of what to expect, and not sure how to contain our excitement. I’d dreamed of the Galápagos since I was a kid, and more recently started researching the islands as a surf destination. Annie was so keen to see a Blue-Footed Booby, I thought she was going to explode.
The Galápagos Islands are such a fabled place — filled with beautiful landscapes, surrounded by coral reefs, crawling with wildlife, blessed with perfect weather, and fully equipped with roads, hotels, bar/resto’s and wifi.
Contrary to popular belief,* the Galápagos aren’t as “off the grid” as some imagine. In fact, there are a couple bustling little tourist towns as large as ~12,000 people. I mean, duh… the islands have been a major tourist destination for long enough now, and there has to be some sort of ground support for all the cruises that come through.
Still, we were a bit surprised when we drove into Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the main hub of San Cristobal, and saw decent roads, lots of shops/restaurants/bars, and found that our guest house had wifi.
That being said, we weren’t there for the internet. We dropped our bags and took off with snorkeling gear to the nearest beaches, just walking distance from the harbor in the center of town.
Within minutes, we saw marine iguanas lounging on the beach, sea turtles rolling in the waves, and rays gliding along the sea floor. We also saw an awesome overhead right hand wave breaking off the rocks by the lighthouse. What a place!
We didn’t get to surf that spot. We didn’t have boards with us, it was too late in the day to rent, and the next day it was blown out. Oh well. Plenty of other activities on the island.
We hired a local – our guesthouse owner’s neighbor – to drive us around to a few spots that were beyond walking/cycling distance. A freshwater lake atop the island’s former volcano, a tortoise sanctuary, and a secluded white-sand beach. These spots are pretty common among visitors, and yet none of them ever felt crowded. Worth the ~$70 to cruise around for a view of the island and to get up close with ancient tortoises.
We also did a day tour out to Leon Dormido a.k.a. Kicker Rock, a large rock island offshore that is home to Blue-Footed Boobies and Frigate Birds above and fish, turtles, sea lions, and sharks below. The conditions were kind of choppy when we went, but the snorkeling was still fun. We saw a ton of the aforementioned wildlife, and even a couple sharks. So cool to be out in deep water with all these creatures.
The swell picked up again on our last day on San Cristobal, and we figured out where to rent boards, so we headed out to the naval base on the South end of the Puerto Baquerizo Moreno harbor. You can surf there, but you have to leave your ID with the guard at the gate of the base. Keep walking through the base along the water, and eventually you’ll see a nice little left-hand break. Getting in and out is a pain, as the shore is all sharp, yet slippery, lava rocks. The local kids are pretty wild in the waves, but if you assert yourself on a few waves and drop a little Spanish, you’ll be right.
At a glance…
- Start… your Galápagos trip in San Cristobal. You can fly here, then take ferries to the other islands.
- BYO… Boards if you plan to surf. Options to rent are really slim. We got lucky and found some appropriate boards. San Cristobal is epic because it picks up swell from both the North and South. Come here in Jan/Feb and you’re likely to score.
- Visit… the tortoise sanctuary. Well worth it to get so close to these animals!
- Visit… the Centro de Interpretacion, where you can learn about the history of the Galápagos, how they were settled etc. Well worth it.
- Eat… at Cri’s if you’re craving a good burger. Really well prepared. Totally hit the spot as a nice break from the lentils we’d been cooking at home.
- Stay… at Casa de Lewis (NOT Louis – a debate that Annie and I had for a long while, in front of our taxi driver. Sigh). Anyway, Lewis is great. Lent us snorkeling gear for free. Room was clean etc.