Most of San Cristóbal Island is part of the Galápagos National Park, which means access is restricted to tours conducted by certified guides. However, a few spots located around Puerto Baquerizo Moreno are located outside its borders and can be accessed freely. The most noted are Darwin Bay and Playa Punta Carola, located north of the city, next to the Interpretation Center. On waveless days it is also possible to snorkel off La Loberia beach, only a few minutes taxi ride from the city waterfront.
Snorkeling anywhere else around San Cristóbal requires to cross the National Park borders and book a boat tour. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the starting point for tours to Kicker Rock (a sharp rock emerging a few kilometers off the island’s north coast, famous for shark spotting), Isla Lobos or Ochoa Beach. San Cristóbal is also the starting point for day excursions to Española Island: the southernmost island in the Galápagos is a fantastic place to swim with sea lions, notably around Gardner Islet. Numerous archipelago cruise tours also make stops on Española Island and Kicker Rock.
As anywhere else in the Galápagos islands, snorkeling around San Cristóbal guarantees encounters with unique in the world species. Galápagos sea lions, marine iguanas, but also green sea turtles and whitetip sharks can all be spotted easily, just like dozens of fish and invertebrate species (including angelfish, octopus, seahorses and starfish). Don’t hope, however, for an encounter with a Galápagos penguin or a flightless cormorant, as neither of them breed in the area. Your best chances for seeing them are on Isabela Island.
There are two sensibly different seasons in San Cristóbal, as there are on the whole Galápagos archipelago.The warm season (December-May) is a tropical one, with warm and wet weather (79 to 86°F/26 to 30°C). Water temperature (around 79°F/26°C) is then ideal for snorkeling, but rain showers often happen. From June to November, weather turns dryer and temperatures lower down to an average of 73-79°F/23-26°C. During this season, consider snorkeling with a wetsuit: water temperature can get down to 64°F/18°C, often under an overcast sky.
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Common all around the island, especially in Darwin Bay and Kicker Rock
Important colonies at Española Island; also frequent in Darwin Bay and Punta Carola
Present on all spots; seen in important schools at Kicker Rock
On all spots
Abundant on all spots, sometimes seen in large schools
Abundant on all spots, especially in rocky areas
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