Level: Free shore access This spot have a free shore access: you can go snorkeling there freely and without having to book a tour or pay an entrance fee.
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From the viewpoint of Cerro Tijeretas in the heights of San Cristóbal, it is hard to not be charmed by the breathtaking panorama of Darwin Bay. Nestled on an arid coast, the bay, with its turquoise water, offers a picture-postcard setting. Underwater, you may encounter some of the bay’s most iconic inhabitants, including sea turtles, sea lions, sharks, and a whole host of colored fish. It is one of the few snorkeling spots of the Galápagos Islands that can be explored without a guide.
Cerro Tijeretas is located on San Cristóbal Island, one of the few inhabited islands of the Galápagos Archipelago. You can enter and snorkel the spot freely without a guide.
First, get 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 that you have to follow for 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, another well-known snorkeling spot.
At the end of the path, concrete steps on the shore allow smooth water entrance.
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 rocky, covered 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 spot some of them busy grazing among the rocks.
On the right side, the seabed is more varied, with here and there immersed rocks that fell down from the cliffs surrounding the bay. It is the Galápagos sea lions’ playground. You can spot them both in and outside the water, but most of them are shy.
Among all the fish living in the bay, the king angelfish, the Cortez rainbow wrasse, and the bluebarred parrotfish are the most colorful. You will also probably come across schools of razor surgeonfish, Mexican hogfish, or scorpionfish.
In the deeper areas, such as in the center of the bay, it is not uncommon to spot a common stingray, a common eagle ray, or a whitetip reef shark resting on the seabed.
Darwin Bay is located in a natural site, where there are no options to buy food or beverages. Bring some water with you. You will find a large choice of restaurants and accommodation in Puerto Barquerizo Moreno.
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.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
San Cristóbal Island
Rocky cliffs with sharks, turtles and schools of fish
Rocky slopes with sea lions
Santa Cruz Island
Sandy beach with sea turtles, sharks and reef fish
Rocky seabed with sharks, turtles and many fish
Rocky drop off with starfish, turtles, sharks and penguins
Rocky drop off with turtles, sea lions and many fish