Kicker Rock (León Dormido – « the sleeping lion », in English) is a jagged rock that towers above San Cristóbal Island’s northern coast. It is one of the most symbolic landscapes of the Galápagos archipelago. This mythical diving site, well-known for its schools of hammerhead sharks, can also be explored from the surface using fins, mask, and a snorkel. Along the breathtaking sheer cliffs often shrouded in blue mist you might encounter green turtles, schools of angel fish, and various species of sharks.

Angelfish at Kicker Rock, Galapagos

How to get there?

Most visitors to the island get to Kicker Rock on a day trip from San Cristobal island. Two boat tours are usually offered. The first tour includes only a boat ride and snorkeling stop around Kicker Rock, followed by a walk/relaxing moment on a nearby beach (Puerto Grande, Cerro Brujo or Manglecito depending on the day and the authorization given by the National Park). The price ranges from $140 to $150 per person. The second tour, called the “Tour 360”, offers a total circumnavigation of San Cristobal Island including a snorkel stop at Kicker Rock for about $180/person. Both tours include fins, mask, snorkel, and swim suit, as well as lunch aboard the boat. Some tours combine snorkelers with divers; others only dedicated to snorkeling. Be sure to inquire when booking.

Water entrance

It is not possible to disembark on the small island. Drop offs must be made from a boat.

Kicker rock snorkeling map, San Cristobal

Exploration

You must be accompanied by a guide of the National Park to snorkel at Kicker Rock. Located offshore, this spot is very exposed to waves and currents. Depending on sea conditions, your guide will decide which area to explore, favoring calmer parts of the site. When the seas are calm, you can venture into a few-meter-wide channel (↕6m/20ft) that crosses the rock, and even swim back out to the other side. Visibility on this site varies a lot depending on currents and sea conditions.

Because the rock faces are practically vertical, the water level is very high around Kicker Rock (↕10-35m/32-115ft).

Orange cup coral al Kicker Rock, Galapagos snorkeling

Stay close to the faces. While swimming along them, you will find a great variety of small organisms which have colonized the underwater parts. Corals, sponges, and gorgonians in blue, red, or yellow tones are encrusted on the rock (↕0-2m/0-6ft). orange cup corals (tubastraea coccinea) are large-polyp stony corals. They usually colonize large surfaces and are particularly photogenic. In the crevices, you will also find red pencil urchins, little starfish, and even purple sea anemones. As you swim along the faces, you can sight redspotted hawkfish and giant Forster’s Hawkfish stationed on rocks or Mexican hogfish and razor surgeonfish. All around the small island, you will come across Galápagos green turtles – frequent visitors to the site. Meanwhile, hundreds of scissortail chromis, groupers, and dozens of king angelfish gather in the calmest corners of the site, including channel entrances.

The Kicker Rock split, Galapagos snorkeling

Although Kicker Rock is universally known for its schools of hammerheads, whitetip and blacktip sharks, encountering them while snorkeling is relatively rare. The luckiest ones might be able to spot, from the surface, dozens of sharks stationed in schools beneath the waters – generally on warm water days, when visibility is excellent. However, most snorkelers at Kicker Rock will have to settle for glimpses of individual sharks racing by at the bottom.

Due to variable sea conditions, occasional limited visibility, and the depth of the spot, we do not recommend it for children and beginners.

Restaurants & accommodation

Day-tours to Kicker Rock include lunch served aboard with fresh fruits and beverages.

  • Level required Advanced
  • Protected areaParque Nacional Galápagos
  • Maximum depth65ft/20m
  • Water entranceFrom a boat
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium to high
  • Access costsTour or cruise price
  • Restaurants nearbyNo
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

These spots are only recommended to good swimmers, in good physical conditions, and with excellent snorkeling skills. These spots can experience currents, moderate waves, important depths, tight or narrow passages, or tricky water entrance, and can be located near hazardous areas (channels, boat traffic, strong currents…). The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas can be important - up to 500 meters. The “advanced” category includes drift snorkeling (transported by currents) and snorkeling off the coast.

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.