The administrative seat of the archipelago, San Cristobal has the 2nd largest population at just over 7,000 and was the original capital of tourism. It’s a great place to fly in and out of because the airport is very near the town so is only $1 in a cab instead of $18 (plus a ferry) from Baltra. It also has fresh water springs and the largest sea lion population. Throw in gorgeous sunsets and we have ourselves a winner of the Paige’s Choice Award. The only downside is the fly population does not lend itself to annoyance free beach yoga.
We arrived on the 7am boat from Santa Cruz ($30 each way) which takes two hours. We hadn’t booked any accomodation in advance so wandered into San Fransisco based on a recommendation by a local and paid $25 for both of us, making it the cheapest place we’ve stayed since arriving on the islands. Family owned and operated we have since found out they’ve been known to go as low as $14 for 2 people! But it’s very basic, and with neglected open spaces facing the ocean there is a lot of missed potential. After one night we realised we had to go into battle with the family to use the kitchen so decided to upgrade. There are plenty of accomodation options on Cristobal, on average it’s the cheapest island to sleep and eat, so we checked into Hostal Galapagos. Further down the malecon towards the Interpretation Centre, Hostal Galapagos cost $40 per night for the 2 of us. This was cheap because we were in low season and we also got a discount for staying 3 nights. All things considered it ended up being great value.
The reason this is my favourite island is hard to put ones finger on, but the vibe is different. Because it’s the administrative seat people seem to be busy and have purpose. On Isabela people seemed bored and a bit mean but Santa Cruz on the other hand is almost too touristic and fake. So San Cristobal has a nice balance, it’s very quiet but people are busy going about their own business. There are also loads of nice beaches within 5 minutes walk and they all offer snorkelling and swimming with sea lions AND turtles. There was enough to do here to entertain us for the 3 days plus some other things that we missed!
During our 1st day we just enjoyed the sea lion colonies along the malecon. They are so entertaining! There are literally hundreds of them and because breeding takes place January to May there are cute pups of all ages and plenty of activity to observe. The funniest time is late at night when they have all come ashore and the adults are sleeping but the pups are coming in from the surf lost and looking for their mummas. It’s just like watching the aftermath of a wild and irresponsible party where the parents have long passed out but the kids have woken up hungry. The little pups wriggle up to a female and try to start nursing but it’s not the right mother so she just looks up and barks, as if to say “who are you, go and bother your real mother.”
We finished our day on the beach watching the sun sink below the horizon on our new favourite island.