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Gardner Island is a wild islet close to Española, the southernmost island of Galápagos. It is one of the best spots of the archipelago to view sea lions using only your fins, mask, and snorkel. Playful, curious, and friendly they do not hesitate to engage swimmers, enticing them to join their gripping underwater ballets. A snorkeling excursion filled with emotions, this is a must-do event, if you take a trip to the archipelago!

Snorkeling with sea lion in Gardner Island, Galapagos

How to get to Gardner Island?

Gardner Island is located a few hundred meters north of Española Island and faces Gardner Bay. Just like Española, Gardner Island is uninhabited and accessible only by day boat cruise/trip from San Cristóbal (about $200-$250 per person), or via multi-day naturalist cruises. A lot of these cruises include stops at Española in their itineraries. Make sure when booking your trip or cruise that snorkeling stops are included.

Entering the water to snorkel Gardner Island

Drop offs are made directly from the boat.

Gardner Island snorkeling map, Galapagos

Gardner Island snorkeling tips and recommendations

The snorkeling area permitted by the National Park includes a little bay located on the west coast of the island. The seabed is rocky (↕2-5m/6.5-16ft), filled with algae, sponges, and corals, and is of little interest for snorkeling. However, Gardner Island is an outstanding site to watch Galápagos sea lions, which are its main attraction. While snorkeling, you’ll soon come face-to-face with some sea lions, including young and very playful males. The latter do not hesitate to get close to snorkelers, swimming around them or nibbling their fins as if to invite them to spin along. Curious, they often come and pose in front of you, just a few centimeters away from your mask, as if intrigued by the colorful gear. These face-to-face encounters with these curious creatures are an unforgettable experience, which will certainly be among your most beautiful snorkeling memories.

Snorkeling with sea lion in Gardner Island, Galapagos

It is forbidden to touch animals in the entire Galápagos archipelago both on land or at sea. Sea lions are no exception, although they are sometimes the ones who seek contact. On top of being forbidden, physical interactions can cause damage to the species and be potentially dangerous (chance of an animal bite). By being sheltered, the bay is mostly calm and offers great underwater visibility, although this may vary depending on weather and currents.

Gardner Island shore, Galapagos

Restaurants & accommodation nearby

Gardner Island is uninhabited and entirely protected by the National Park. It is forbidden to disembark there. Day-trips to Española Island include lunch, fruits, and refreshments served on board.


  • Level required Intermediate
  • Protected areaParque Nacional Galápagos
  • Maximum depth20ft/6m
  • Water entranceFrom a boat
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsTour or cruise price
  • Restaurants nearbyNo
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

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.