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Coming to the viewpoint of Cerro Tijeretas in the heights of San Cristóbal, it is hard to not be charmed by the breathtaking panorama of the Darwin Bay. Nestled along a barren coast bordered by black rocks this bay, with its turquoise colored water, offers a picture-postcard setting. Underwater, you may experience some of the bay’s local inhabitants, including turtles, sea lions, sharks, and multitudes of colored fish. It is one of the few snorkeling spots of the Galápagos Islands that can be explored without a guide.

Darwin Bay snorkeling access, San Cristobal

How to get to Darwin Bay for snorkeling?

Cerro Tijeretas site is located on San Cristóbal Island, one of the inhabited islands of the Galápagos Archipelago. You can enter and snorkel the spot freely without a guide. First, go to the Interpretation center located north of Puerto Barquerizo Moreno, either on foot (about a 20-minute walk from the port) or by taxi. Access to the center is free of charge, but you need to register at the admission desk. Behind the center, you will find a paved path which you will take approximately 300 meters. At the fork, turn to the right on the track that heads up to the bay and the spectacular viewpoint of Cerro Tijeretas. The left track will take you down to the Punta Carola beach, a well-known spot for snorkeling.

Entering the water at Darwin Bay

At the end of the path, concrete steps on the shore will help you enter the water easily.

Darwin Bay snorkeling map, San Cristobal

Darwin Bay snorkeling tips and recommendations

It is possible to snorkel the entire bay. However, we recommend focusing on the calmest and shallowest areas located on the south side (see map above).

Darwin Bay seabed is rich in minerals and colonized in places by tiny hard corals, urchins, and sponges. The western edge of the bay (on your left when facing the sea) is made up of rocks filled with tiny algae (↕1-3m/3-10ft) that are much liked by Galápagos green turtles. You will have great chances to observe some of them busy grazing among the rocks at only a few meters from the shore.

Scorpionfish in Darwin Bay, San Cristobal snorkeling

On the other side (on the right hand side of the steps), the seabed is a lot more varied, with here and there sunken rocks that fell down from the cliffs surrounding the bay. It is Galápagos sea lions’ exclusive playing field where you can watch from the shore or the water as they race along the seabed.

Among all the fish found around the bay, king angelfish, rainbow wrasse, and bluebarred parrotfish are the most colorful. Throughout your exploration, you will certainly come across schools of razor surgeonfish, Mexican hogfish (males are recognizable by their lyretails), or stonefish which are masters of camouflage.

Sea turtle in Darwin Bay, San Cristobal snorkeling

In the deeper parts, such as in the center of the bay, it is not uncommon to spot a common stingray, a common eagle ray, or a silvertip shark resting on the seabed.

Restaurants & accommodation nearby

Darwin Bay is located on a natural site, where there are no places to buy food or beverages. Bring some water with you. You will find a large variety of restaurants and accommodation to suit all budgets back in Puerto Barquerizo Moreno.


  • Level required Beginner
  • Protected areaParque Nacional Galápagos
  • Maximum depth12ft/4m
  • Water entranceFrom steps built on the rocks
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium to high
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyNo
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.