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 popular 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, especially around Gardner Island. 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 king angelfish, octopus, Pacific 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. If you plan a trip to the Galápagos islands, we recommend you bring with you the Wildlife of the Galápagos field guide, a compact and comprehensive identification guide to the unique wildlife you’ll encounter in the archipelago, both below and above the water.
Check this video made with a GoPro 👇👇👇 with the very best of our snorkeling time in the Galápagos Islands. Sea lions, penguins, marine iguanas, sea turtles, whitetip sharks… You never know what shows up! There are very few places around the world where it’s possible to share such close proximity to wildlife without them turning fearful. All footages taken around San Cristóbal, Isabela, Santa Cruz and Santiago islands. The name of the snorkeling spot where the images have been shot is mentioned on each sequence.
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. You can check out our selection of the best rashguards and wetsuits for snorkeling to make your choice.
Ultimate Galápagos wildlife guide, including all fish, reptile, bird, mammal and invertebrate species you will meet when snorkeling there!
More than 300 spots have already been published on Snorkeling Report, but there are still many spots to be added! You too can contribute to populate the map by sharing your favorite snorkeling spots around the world. The more snorkelers will contribute, the easier it will be for you, and other snorkelers, to find sites and enjoy the underwater world!
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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
Sheltered bay with sea turtles and reef fish
Level: Free shore access
Rocky slopes with sea lions
Rocky cliffs with sharks, turtles and schools of fish
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