Santiago, Rabida and Bartolomé are wild, uninhabited islands that can only be accessed by boat, and when accompanied by a National Park guide. Staying overnight is not possible there. Santiago and Bartolomé are open to day tours starting from the neighboring Santa Cruz island, but only multi-day naturalist cruises can make a stop in Rabida.
Playa Espumilla, Puerto Egas, James Bay and Sullivan Bay are some of Santiago’s notable snorkel spots. Sullivan Bay is the most popular on the island; it faces Bartolomé island, another premium place for snorkelers.
Rabida is a small island famous for its red sand beach, located less than 5km south of Santiago. Snorkeling is also possible along its shore.
Santiago offers gorgeous snorkeling explorations. The clear water ensures good underwater visibility and a great variety of species breed off its shores. Small penguin populations can be spotted around Santiago and Bartolomé islands, even if they are not as large as around Isabela Island.
If you are lucky you might encounter them when snorkeling. Galápagos sea lions are numerous around the islands, especially next to Rabida, and you can be sure to swim with them during your journey. Green sea turtles are also prevalent around Santiago.
Whitetip sharks, stingrays, and spotted eagle rays can often be sighted gliding over a sometimes starfish-packed seabed (seen in Bartolomé Island). Tropical fish lovers will be fully satisfied: king angelfish, parrotfish, butterflyfish, and hawkfish also dwell here.
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 were taken around Santiago, Isabela, Santa Cruz, and San Cristóbal islands. The name of the snorkeling spot where the images have been shot is mentioned in each sequence.
There are two sensibly different seasons in Santiago, 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, the weather turns dryer, and temperatures lower 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, under an overcast sky. You can check out our selection of the best rashguards and wetsuits for snorkeling to make your choice.
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Common on all spots, unmissable at Bartolomé and Rabida islands
Found all around the islands; very common at Rabida Island, frequently seen swimming with snorkelers
Regular sights in Sullivan Bay and Bartolomé Island. Absent in Rabida Island
On all spots, appreciates rocky areas
Huge colonies in Bartolomé Island, common elsewhere
Abundant on all spots, sometimes seen in large schools
Frequent sights in Bartolomé Island and Sullivan Bay, sometimes seen in Rabida Island
On all spots
On all spots, common along Bartolomé Island’s shore
Rocky drop off with starfish, turtles, sharks and penguins
Rocky drop off with turtles, sea lions and many fish
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