Free Things to Do in San Cristóbal, Galápagos

You might not associate the word “cheap” with Galapagos, but it is possible to see a variety of sights without spending any money and enjoy many activities on a budget. Here’s our list of the best free things to do around Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Any additional costs are noted in the description.

aerial via of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal, Galapagos

San Cristobal Budget-Friendly Sights

Malecón – You can walk from one end of town to the other along the pedestrian-only waterfront. Highlights include:

  • Muelle de Los Pescadores (Fishermen’s Dock) – If the frigate birds are circling, a fresh catch is being offloaded. Take a close look in the water around the fishing boats for Galapagos sharks.
  • Lobster Sculpture – Inaugurated in late 2022, this large work of art depicts a Galapagos lobster. The season runs from September to December, so if you’re visiting during that time be sure to ask if it’s available at the local restaurants.
  • Naval Museum – Remodeled in late 2023, this small building directly behind Playa de Oro honors the seafaring history of Galapagos.
  • Playa de Oro (Gold Beach) – This a great place to observe newborn sea lions and shore birds.
  • Charles Darwin / Beagle Statues – Statues of the man, the ship, the animals.
  • Muelle Acuario – This was the first concrete passenger dock on the island. Now it’s used to access the day trip boats.
  • Muelle Tiburon Martillo (Hammerhead Shark Dock) – This is the main dock used to access cruise boats and ferries to other islands. It has a wooden extension that allows you to walk above a small beach area where young sea lions frolic in the shallow water.
  • San Cristobal Sign – This iconic sign with a water feature showing all of the Galapagos islands is a great place for a photo op. If you look closely at the letters, they are each painted with a different animal that you may see on the island.
  • Playa de Los Lobos (Sea Lion Beach) – Depending on the tide and the season, this beach, located in front of the GAD Municipal government building and tourism office, will be filled with sea lions.
  • Playa de Los Marinos (Mariners Beach) – Currently used for repairing boats, there is an initiative to clean up this beach so it can be enjoyed by locals and tourists.
  • Segunda Zona Naval de la Armada del Ecuador – The malecón officially ends at the active military base, which is generally off-limits to everyone except surfers wanting access to El Cañon or Tongo Reef / Velero. Be sure to check the rocks behind the little coffee shop; they’re a popular resting spot for blue-footed boobies.

San Cristobal Market – Going away from the malecón on the street adjacent to the tourism office, walk a couple of blocks, cross the intersection with the only traffic light on the island, and continue uphill where you will find a concentration of small grocery stores and the “Mercado” (market). On the lower floor are vendors selling fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, meat, etc. Items are priced by the pound or per unit (like bananas), or are prepackaged in clear plastic bags for $1. On the upper floor is a food court that is a great place for a cheap breakfast or lunch. Public restrooms are available on both levels.

Playa Mann – On the far end of town near the Interpretation Center (see below), this beach is a great place to observe and swim with sea lions. It’s relatively small, but is one of the most popular beaches due to its easily accessible location and usually calm water. It’s also the only public beach with restrooms and a variety of food and drink vendors. Perfect for watching the sunset!

Playa Punta Carola – Continue on the road past Playa Mann and then follow the marked trail to this beautiful beach and small lighthouse. You can swim, snorkel or surf and will likely see sea turtles, sea lions, and marine iguanas.

Centro de Interpretación (Interpretation Center) – An informational museum that is connected to hiking trails and wooden walkways. The main museum, which is located in the building behind the first pavilion where you check in and can use the public bathrooms, offers a complete history of the Galapagos Islands and its ecosystems.

Cerro Tijeretas / Darwin Bay – This is a beautiful cove that is reachable along a path behind the Interpretation Center (above) or via a somewhat hidden trail from Punta Carola Beach. There are spectacular lookout points at the top of the cerro (hill) that make it worth the climb up the steep sets of stairs. The cove is an excellent snorkeling spot to see turtles, sea lions, lots of fish and possibly sharks, octopus or rays. Be sure to carry anything you may need as there are no facilities and please observe the flags (red means no swimming, even if the water looks calm).

Playa Baquerizo – Continue another 45 minutes from the last set of stairs on top of Cerro Tijeretas along a rough, rocky and sometimes steep trail to secluded Baquerizo Beach. Don’t underestimate the difficulty and duration of this hike and be sure to carry plenty of water, snacks, and sun protection, and wear sturdy walking shoes.

La Loberia – A few kilometers from town on a paved road that runs alongside and around the airport and then connects to a sandy trail, this beach is a popular place for snorkeling and surfing.

Las Negritas – If you love birds, this is one of the best places to observe endemic species up close that doesn’t require paying for an expensive day trip. At the far end of La Loberia beach, look for the trailhead and then continue following the markers along the coast until you reach the cliff. The trail is mostly lava rock and, near the end, requires scrambling up some boulders. Your efforts will be rewarded with a chance to see multiple species of birds, sea turtles, and, if you’re lucky, pods of dolphins.

El Progreso – This small town 7 km northeast from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno was established in the late 1800s, with the population primarily devoted to agriculture and the production and export of sugarcane to the mainland. You can visit the town square, the ruins of the hacienda and a nearby viewpoint (beside the water treatment plant; just walk uphill from the ruins), and check out Casa del Ceibo, which has the remains of a giant ceibo tree among other diversions (entry fee ~$2 per person). We recommend taking a taxi to El Progreso (~$5 one way) and walking or bicycling back down to the waterfront. You can inquire about bike rentals at several places in the city center; most charge ~$10 for a few hours.

San Cristobal has a lot of other wonderful places to visit including Puerto Chino (beach), Galapaguera Cerro Colorado (breeding center of giant tortoises) and El Junco Lagoon (crater lake) as well as farms and coffee plantations and, of course, many different day trips by boat. Contact us to book a highlands tour, surf lessons or surf guiding, kayak excursions, and more!

Don’t miss our other “free things” posts for Isabela and Santa Cruz.

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