Isla San Cristobal - Best Tours & Trips 2019
Filter to find perfect
Relaxed A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers.
Full on For those looking to maximize their sight seeing time. You thrive on a packed day’s schedule from 8 am to 6pm, with some (but limited) free time. Most activities and meals included.
Mixed You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included.
Group Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Tour Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ship Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Guided Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Self Guided / Independent Tour A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ship Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.
Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.
Price Per Day
Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.
Get Member Savings Sign up to become a member to get access to Member Savings trips. These trips are discounted beyond the tour operator’s best price. Membership is free and only requires your email.
Rivers & Seas
Cities & Attractions
Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.
Flights & Transport
Continents & Regions
- Explore the galapagos islands
- Kayak to a beautiful beach then take the catamaran to kicker rock, this is an amazing day of snorkelling
- Hike of isabela’s sierra negra
- Visit los tuneles and snorkel
- A two and a half hour boat ride to santa cruz island
- Visit bachas chicas for another opportunity to snorkel with multicolor fishes and nesting pelicans
- Explore Galapagos Islands which is a top nature spot in the world
- Experiencing camping in the island of Galapagos not the usual of just touring it with cruise
- Get up close and personal with both the local people and the wildlife
- Visit sites that are not on the main tourist routes
- Play in the water with sea lions
- Get within a few feet of blue footed boobies, marine iguanas and the giant Galapagos tortoises
- Watch pelicans and boobies dive for fish
- Snorkel in transparent water rich with sea-life and even swim with sharks, if you dare.
- Explore Quito
- Visit Napo Wildlife Center
- Discover Galapagos an impressive cliffs of Buccaneer Cove
- Drive through Genovesa Island very interesting panga ride along the cliffs.
- Experience hiking in the El Cajas National Park
- Visit renowned market of Otavalo
- Explore Galapagos Amazon tour is an active trip that immerses you in the highlights of the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon rainforest.
- Kayak, snorkel and hike, all under your own power.
- This unique land-based program gets you away from the crowds to places few others see.
- Visit four small towns in the Galapagos Islands.
- Your journey is accompanied by the howls of monkeys and songs of birds.
- Explore small lakes, lagoons, rivers.
- Visit the renowned market of the Otavalo Indian, industrious makers of the handicrafts
- Explore Cuenca
- Experience hiking in the El Cajas National Park, located on the high Andean paramo
- Explore impressive James Island
- Drive through Bartolomé Island (dry landing) for a hike to the summit
- Discover Quito
- Experience the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands than on one of our land-based Galapagos tours.
- Enjoy this tour, you kayak almost every day, starting with shorter paddles, building up to two full days of paddling while moving from one camp to another on the island of San Cristobal.
- If kayaking is your passion, you are sure to love this tour which is limited to just 8 guests giving you a more intimate experience on the islands.
- Join in the fun as we set up camp each day, spend our nights falling asleep to the sounds of ocean waves, and wake up under the magical Galapagos sky.
- Explore Santa Cruz to a private farm to see the giant Galapagos tortoise.
- Explore Galapagos is all about wildlife. A wild menagerie of remarkable animals thrives on these remote islands, scattered nearly 700 miles (1000 km) off the coast of Ecuador. The seclusion of this archipelago honed the development of unique animals, untouched and unafraid of human civilization.
- See though the Galapagos now allows a limited number of visitors to its enchanted shores, careful habitat-management preserves this charmed ecosystem. The beauty of a sea kayak as a vessel for wildlife viewing lies in its non-intrusive, eco-friendly presence.
- Exoerience this 8-day itinerary, live the wonders of the Galapagos by getting down to sea level in this exquisite marine environment. Giant tortoises, iguanas, blue-footed-boobies, and Darwin’s finches delight on island reaches, while penguins, sea lions, and an endless palette of underwater life beckon from the surf in this "Bucket List" adventure.
- The “up-close-and-personal” nature of this itinerary allows for 5 nights spent camping on the beach on two different islands, and plenty of time on the water for paddling.
- You’ll also enjoy the classic Galapagos highlights, like a visit to the wild tortoises farm and volcanic lava tunnels, with ample time to explore beautiful and fascinating beaches as well as the pockets of interesting animal populations that make the Galapagos unique. Finally, no Galapagos trip is
- Explore Quito
- Explore, Kayak & SUP Board Isabela Island
- Visit to the Tortoise Breeding Center
- Visit Garrapatero
- One of the few permanent freshwater lakes, frigates, white-cheeked pintails
- Flamingos, green-colored beach
- Enjoy White sandy beach, sea lions, mockingbirds; snorkeling: colorful fish, sea lion nursery
- Enjoy Galapagos Islands
- Explore the Galapagos Islands, home to a vast array of exotic wildlife
- Visit Genovesa, Santa Cruz, Fernandina, Isabela, and more
- Hike, snorkel, and kayak through the islands for an up-close view
- Stay aboard a first-class 20-passenger yacht with naturalist guides
- See giant tortoises, flamingos, iguanas, penguins, and much more
- Explore Quito
- Explore Santa Cruz and have an opportunity to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station
- Visit San Cristobel Island
- An opportunity to visit Bartolome Islands, Genovesa Island and Sombrero Chino Islands
- Explore the stunning Galapagos Islands with world-class photographers, expedition leaders and lecturers
- The 96-passenger vessel is ideal: small enough to get in close, but big enough to go far afield
- Travel with top National Geographic photographers and certified photo instructors—at your side and at your service to inspire and assist you
- Take advantage of talks, presentations, slideshows and sharing events we call “laptop galleries.”
- All skill and interest levels are welcome; our expert photographers and instructors can meet you wherever you are on your journey. All you need to participate is a camera— point-and-shoot, smartphone, DSLR, whatever—and a sense of adventure. And you’re sure to return home with the best photos of your life
- Non-photographers have many activities and excursions available
- Enjoy a wellness program with elements ranging from kayaking and hiking, to exercises inspired by yoga and Pilates, massage therapy, and body treatments
- Explore Santa Cruz highlands to our exclusive giant tortoise reserve and tented camp.
- Walk to the beautiful Tortuga Bay beach where you can spot marine iguanas, go for a swim, snorkel or just relax on the pristine sand.
- Visit The Charles Darwin Research Center, which is the hub of all scientific research in the Galapagos Islands.
- Visit “EL Trapiche” (trapiche is the Spanish word for sugar mill). We will have the opportunity to glimpse into the daily lives of the locals by experiencing how they produce sugar cane.
- See the Otavalo Market
- Visit Mindo cloud forest
- Visit a working chocolate farm
- See hummingbirds and listen to a frog symphony
- Hike through the Mindo cloud forest
- Mitad del Mundo, the Equator line
- See giant tortoises at a private ranch
- Charles Darwin Research Station
- San Cristóbal Interpretation Centre and Frigatebird Hill
- Snorkelling at Kicker Rock
- Discover Guayaquil
- Enjoy the Guided tour to Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre
- Visit Galápagos National Park
- Snorkel through the clear blue water in Isabela Island
- Explore Kicker Rock
- Visit Tortuga Bay beach
In order to see Stride Select deals you must sign in. We’ve negotiated with many of the world’s best travel companies to save you money! Get the best experiences, save up to $700 per person, and be a hero to your travel companions!
With FREE membership you:
- Save up to $700 per person!*
- Access private deals and offers
- See personalized trip recommendations
- Save favorite trips
Top Isla San Cristobal Experiences
- Feeling the spirit of Charles Darwin who first landed here in 1835 and discovered many keys to his theories of evolution and natural selection.
- Observing all the incredible wildlife on the Galapagos, especially many bird species, which San Cristobal is known for.
- Snorkeling near Kicker Rock
- Taking an excursion to Isla Lobos to observe Blue Footed Boobies, sea lions, and fur seals
- Visiting the Interpretation Center for an in depth chronological view of the history of the Galapagos Islands
Isla San Cristobal Trip Reviews
2 Isla San Cristobal Tour Reviews - Summary 100% Recommend
Isla San Cristobal Tours and Travel Guide
Isla San Cristobal Attractions & Landmarks Guide
The easternmost island of the Galapagos, San Cristobal is named for St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. It holds the distinction of being the very first island Charles Darwin landed on during his voyage on The Beagle in 1835. It was this pivotal journey that led Darwin to confirm his theories of evolution and natural selection. These theories were complete game changers in the scientific, anthropological, and archaeological world, and are still the go to benchmarks for studying evolution.
San Cristobal also houses the esteemed Galapagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS) - an extension of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. This institution is a working school continuing much of the scientific research instigated by Darwin.
Originally named Chatham for the Earl of Chatham, William Pitt, San Cristobal is home to the oldest permanent settlement in the Galapagos, a result of the fresh water source from El Junco Lake. After Darwin’s visit, others took advantage of the island’s natural resources.
Businesses flourished on San Cristobal until the 1960s, beginning with the Orchillera Company which was established in 1858 by Manuel Cobos and his partner José Monroy. The company harvested a special lichen indigenous to the islands to create dye.
Later Cobos went on to establish a leather factory and fish oil production center known as “El Progreso”. His horrific treatment of those who worked for him (he used many of the convicts sent from Ecuador to the San Cristobal penal colony, established in 1880, as slaves) ultimately led to his demise after they turned on him.
Other businesses, particularly in the fishing industry, tried to establish themselves, but the cost of running them from such a remote location prevented any profitability.
Today San Cristobal is one of the most common islands visited by Galapagos tours and cruises.
Top 10 things to do on San Cristobal Island
1. Sea Lion Rookery - A great introduction to the rich wildlife legacies on the Galapagos, and often a first stop right off the airplane. Observe sea lions among the coral sands and various rocks, as several bird species loudly make their presence known.
2. Interpretation Center - A fascinating stop for learning the history surrounding the Galapagos Islands, both human and natural. The interpretation center opened in 1998, and provides an in depth overview of the fascinating Galapagos, including demonstrations, films, photographs, and visuals in chronological order.
3. Frigatebird Hill - After visiting the interpretation center, head up along a short trail nearby to see Frigatebird Hill. From here you’ll be able to observe magnificent Frigate Birds and Great Frigate Birds, both in the same colony. Many wildlife tours make this a fun stop as you learn the differences between them.
4. Ochoa Beach - Near Isla Lobos, many Galapagos tours will combine a visit to Ochoa Beach with a visit to Isla Lobos. Spot Ghost Crabs and Hermit Crabs, birds, and enjoy snorkeling in the calm waters, where a large amount of sea urchins can be discovered. Have your underwater camera ready!
5. Cerro Brujo - The beautiful coral sands of this beach welcome visitors eager to take in yet another of the Galapagos unique sights. The swimming and snorkeling is spectacular here, as are the bird watching opportunities.
6. Tortoise Reserve - The Galapagos is famous for large tortoises, and here is one of the main places to observe them. The wildlife in the Galapagos famously does not fear humans, and make it remarkably easy to get extremely up close, which makes for incredible photographs.
7. Punta Pitt - Volcanic rocks, which don’t appear like they could foster life, nevertheless do just that here. Plant life such as Saltbush and spiny shrubs, cacti and red Vesuviu, and Palo Santo trees all thrive here.
8. Puerto Chino - A lovely white sand beach, perfect for a half day getaway during your Galapagos vacation. Nearby, there is a restoration project for endangered plant species.
9. Isla Lobos - Many cruises to the Galapagos that explore San Cristobal include a visit to this tiny islet, just one hour off the shore. Especially known for the delightfully quirky Blue Footed Boobies, Isla Lobos is also a place to occasionally see sea lions and fur seals. Scenic and calm, Isla Lobos beckons many a snorkeler to the beautiful waters.
10. Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock) - though this tour is an extravagance, involving an additional boat trip, it’s well worth doing. Take a 1.5 hour excursion from San Cristobal toward the rock formation, looking like it was perfectly split in two, one large rock and one tall and skinny, coming to a sharp point toward the sky. There is no beach to disembark at, but excellent snorkeling and photo opportunities.
What to Pack for the Galapagos
The Galapagos are remote, surrounded by beaches, waters, and lava rock. Your packing list should be light, but you definitely want to make sure you have all necessities with you. The benefit of going on a Galapagos cruise will be the ability to bring a little bit more, as you’ll only be unpacking once.
1. Bring multiple bathing suits. Though it’s generally warm, and clothing will dry quickly, you’ll definitely want more than one suit because you’ll be in and out of the water constantly. It will also be a good idea to bring water clothes, to protect from the sun. It’s easy to forget your exposed neck and arms when you’re floating on top of the water gazing through goggles at the incredibly world below!
2. Bring a pair of hiking boots or tennis shoes. You’ll do a lot of walking around on the Galapagos. Hikes range from strenuous to moderate, to easy, so if you think you’ll be interested in this activity, definitely use up some room in your suitcase for a pair of sturdy, comfortable, close-toed shoes.
3. Sunhat, sunglasses, and strong sunscreen. As you’ll be out on the water regularly, and enjoying time ashore along the coast where there’s little shade, definitely bring plenty of sunscreen, the stronger SPF the better.
4. A multi functional, small day pack. Because most shore excursions will typically last half day to a full day, you’ll want a small to medium sized day backpack for storing water, cameras, sunscreen, phones, and anything else you’ll need. Make sure this is something you don’t mind getting dirty or wet.
5. Rubber soled water shoes. Consider bringing a pair of water shoes to protect against sharp coral reefs and for walking around lava rocks. These can be very useful as well to avoid slipping on board the boats that take you around to the many beautiful snorkeling spots on the Galapagos.
6. Layers! Layers is key for most destinations around the world, but in the Galapagos you may need a light sweatshirt for at night, even though it won’t seem like it during the day. Also consider a pair of long hiking pants to avoid bug bites.
Photography tips for the Galapagos
Without a doubt, you will leave the Galapagos with thousands of pictures, mainly of the incredible wildlife. Here’s some tips to help you make sure you make the most of your trip and arrive home with some amazing shots.
1. Bring multiple lenses. - Learning from a photography professional, you’re going to want to be able to commit to several different types of shot, and this means different lenses. For the Galapagos, try to bring a telephoto lens and a macro lens. These are going to be the best way to capture the unbelievable wildlife on the islands.
2. Don’t be afraid to get up close. - The animals in the Galapagos are famously used to humans, and this makes it very easy to get up close for spectacular macro shots. The proximity means you have a greater ability to capturing the personality, expressions, and textures of the animals.
3. Bring a len cloth - the last thing you want is a foggy lens to muddy up your image. Make sure you have a high end lens cloth ready to keep dust and condensation off your camera. In warm tropical environments, lens fogging is common - one good tip is to take your camera out with lens cap off a good few minutes before you plan to start shooting. This will give enough time to let any fogging dissipate.
4. Go on a Photography tour! - For serious amateurs and complete novices, photography tours are one of the best ways to learn and grow as a photographer. You’ll get to learn from a professional and get the best tips about how to best capture wildlife. When the wildlife is so entrancing, historic, and relatively easy to get close to, the thing that’s going to make your photos stand out is the composition and lighting - having an expert near to instruct you on angles, f-stops, shutter-speeds, and filters is an incredible asset. See all the Galapagos photography tours on Stride.
5. Get to know the animals - one of the key aspects to wildlife photography is knowing the best times to find them in action. Learn a bit about each major species to discover their habits. You may also learn when to best find them with the least amount of people around. Though sometimes you may want a human presence in your photograph - this can create a wonderful dynamic.
6. Get dirty! - Photography is about finding the best way to showcase your subject. In the case of wildlife, this often means getting down and dirty, wet and uncomfortable. To get the best angles, you will find yourself contorting on the ground on your stomach, or perhaps balancing as quietly as possible on a log or tree branch.
7. Bring underwater casing. - A lot of your time in the Galapagos will be spent in the water. While over the counter underwater cameras actually do an impressive job, if you want sharper and higher resolution photos, invest in an underwater casing for your DSLR or other point and shoot. If you’re wary of getting your nice piece anywhere near the water (understandable) look into smart-phone accessories. There are many ways you can make your camera phone into the perfect underwater photography tool.
Travel to the Galapagos: Practicalities and Logistics
Before You Go
The Galapagos are technically part of Ecuador, so the same visa requirements apply. Citizens of the United States, Canada and most European countries do not require a visa to travel to Ecuador, unless you plan to stay past 90 days. You will generally receive a free visa upon entry into Ecuador.
General travel insurance should suffice for a trip to the Galapagos. You will be spending a lot of time on the water with your tour, and any insurance specificities related to this can be answered by the tour company.
You do need a Yellow Fever vaccine for traveling to Ecuador. Proof of vaccination is required upon entry into the country.
Besides that, no additional vaccinations are required for travel to the Galapagos, but make sure all your regular vaccinations are up to date.
Zika has been reported in some parts of Ecuador, so those traveling with young children or who are pregnant do so at your own risk.
Bring hats and sunscreen! You will be outside and on the water for a large part of your visit, and the sun can be intense.
All Isla San Cristobal tours, river cruises, expedition cruises, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages. Average rating of 5.0 for all Isla San Cristobal trips.