The Galapagos are a series of islands off the coast of Ecuador made famous by Charles Darwin after he sailed there in the 1830’s as a naturalist aboard the H. M. S. Beagle. From his observations and collections on these islands he later came up with his theory of evolution and published his work called “On the origin of species” which discussed natural selection and changed the way we look at and understand the world. The Galapagos are also famous for their unique animals that have lived without natural predators and have no inherent fear of people. This was especially exciting for my 1 year old who was constantly sharing her food with the finches( No matter how much we shoo’d them away). They would take it right out of her hand much to her delight.
We flew into San Cristibol and spent 4 days exploring and enjoying this island. In this post I will describe the various beaches that we visited on our tight budget. The first thing I would recommend visiting on this island is the Interpretation Center. It is an unmanned series of buildings at the beginning of an extensively built trail system. There is an awesome amount of information and history on the Galapagos and I enjoyed reading many of the stories. While on this island we stayed at a hostel called Goslin which cost about $50 a night and provided helpful advice over and over again on where to go and how to get there.
After arriving we gathered a day bag and headed to a beach called Punta Carola. The best part of the 10 minute walk were the lizards my children kept startling on the path. The beach itself was a coarse mix of broken shells and sand with rocks jutting out of the water at the shoreline. It made for fun closeups but tender feet. We were surprised to see how casual the mixing of humans and sea lions were on the beach. We got to see mothers nursing their pups, adolescents chasing each other and lazy sleepers a few paces from other beachgoers. It made for a wonderful introduction to these amazing islands.
And we were happy to see some marine iguanas. They were all over and very cool. It is easy to tell where one went up into the bushes because of the trail they leave from their dragging tail.
This beach was good for wildlife viewing but overall not our favorite for water/beach play for the kids. We came back a second time a few days later and enjoyed snorkeling until my husband and 7 year old had a too close encounter with a sea lion that cause Roland to try to climb out of the water up Russell’s head.
This was the closest beach to our hostel and the one we went to the most. The waves were pretty big here and I couldn’t let wren play at the waters edge without holding her hand but the boys enjoyed racing through the waves. For $20 we rented snorkel gear and wet suits for the boys but mainly my husband and 7 year old snorkeled. The water was pretty chilly and the wet suits kept them from getting too cold. Like all the beaches here, the sea lions were in abundance and the surrounding rocks had lots of brightly colored crab and marine iguanas.
This spot was a short $3 taxi ride, a quarter mile walk up the beach and our favorite snorkeling location. The beach is protected from the huge surf by a half circle of outer laying rocks and so it made for a nice location for toddler water play and good snorkeling for the older kids. Every time we came here there were rambunctious baby sea lions and they were wonderful to watch. It was hard to keep Wren away from them, she was always running in their direction but they never paid her any attention.
There is a nice hike to some cliffs from this beach which are a bit challenging but worth it for the tons of marine iguanas and nesting birds at the end. It took us around 2 hours with lots of stops for the boys to play and picture taking. Wear good shoes if hiking this route! I had heard that blue footed boobies nest in this area sometimes but we were there the wrong time of year and I didn’t see any.
El Junco crater lake, The Tortoise Reserve & Puerto Chino
There is a great one day tour that any of the taxi’s will do from the main town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno to the beach of Puerto Chino. We paid $60 for this all day excursion but I wont lie when I say I didn’t want to negotiate with our one armed driver and we went with the price he offered. He was very good at driving a manual while talking on his cell phone. The first stop was El Junco Crater and it was quite a hike up a well crafted series of stairs. Once on top, the view was spectacular and the hike around the old volcanic crater was about 20 minuets with lots of stops to take in the scenery. The taxi driver waited and relaxed at each stop and seemed used to this pattern.
Our next stop was the tortoise reserve and it was a wonderful experience for our family. There is a path through the reserve with the tortoises roaming as they want and it was almost like a treasure hunt. They are so large! My youngest became particularly obsessed with them and would shout every time she spotted one. They make an incredible sound when they pull their heads into their shell that is a kind of moaning from the air pushing out of their lungs and at first it was disconcerting.
Our last stop was by far everyone’s favorite beach on this island. Puerto Chino has fine beautiful white sand and a gently sloping beach allowing the water to reach higher temperatures than the surrounding beaches. We saw sea turtles, sea lions and many colorful crab on this beach and spent a great afternoon enjoying ourselves. Make sure to bring sun block, water and lots of food!