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Gardner Island is a natural islet close to Española, the southernmost island of Galápagos. It is one of the best spots in the archipelago to snorkel with sea lions. Playful and inquisitive, they often join the snorkelers in the water. A must-do snorkeling tour if you are visiting San Cristóbal!

Snorkeling with sea lion in Gardner Island, Galapagos
Close encounter with a playful sea lion in Gardner Island.

How to go snorkeling 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 cruise or by day trip from San Cristóbal (about $200-$250 per person).

Gardner Island snorkeling map, Galapagos

Water entrance for snorkeling Gardner Island

Water entrance is from the boat.

Gardner Island snorkeling tips and recommendations

The snorkeling area covers the 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, but poor in fish.

However, Gardner Island is an outstanding location to swim with Galápagos sea lions, which are its main attraction. While in the water, you’ll soon be approached by sea lions, including young and very playful males. They enjoy swimming around snorkelers and or nibbling the tip of their fins.

Snorkeling with sea lion in Gardner Island, Galapagos
A playful young sea lion in Gardner Island.

Face-to-face encounters with these inquisitive creatures are an unforgettable experience, which will certainly become one of your most beautiful snorkeling memories.

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.

Gardner Island shore, Galapagos
Gardner Island snorkeling area.

Well sheltered, the bay is mostly calm and has good underwater visibility, although this may vary depending on weather and currents.

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.