Puerto Baquerizo Moreno: The Gateway to San Cristobal Island
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno
Puerto Ayora is home to by far the most advanced tourism industry in the Galapagos Islands; however, for those guests looking to enjoy nighttime in the islands away from the buzz of tourism, the smaller and more relaxed town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island offers a spectacular Galapagos escape. Tourism may not be as advanced in this cozy port town as in Puerto Ayora, but it certainly provides guests with all of the necessary infrastructure such as delicious cuisine, clean hotels and tour operators. Whether tourists choose to use the town as a starting point to travel to other islands or to make the most of their vacation following an Galapagos cruise, the welcoming community, stunning marine life and diverse visitor sites make this delightful town an excellent option.
A brief history of San Cristobal
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno was founded in the mid 1800s by colonist General Villamil and named after Alfredo Baquerizo Moreno, the first Ecuadorian president to visit the Galapagos Islands in 1916. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the oldest permanent settlement in the Galapagos and was once the largest town in the archipelago. Today, the town is known for being the capital and administrative center of the Galapagos Archipelago. Due to its age, the island also has an interesting human history, heightened by its rather unusual start as a penal colony. Visitors are welcome to explore the town’s past at the natural history museum and also at the town church, which displays beautiful painted murals.
Fishing is the predominant commercial activity for the approximately 8,000 inhabitants of the town; however, in recent years tourism has been on a steady rise. Between 1991 and 2006, the mere 6 hotels in the town rose to an impressive 23 and during that same time, the number of bars/restaurants rose from 9 to 35. The people that live here are extremely friendly and welcoming, and the town itself, with its plazas, public footpaths along the shore and overall harmony with the surrounding nature makes for a perfect beach vacation or romantic escape.
Activities in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno
Although tourism is not as developed in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno as it is Puerto Ayora, it offers visitors unique Galapagos activities in a relaxed community. All basic tourist infrastructure such as hotels, stores, travel agencies, banks and restaurants are located in the central part of the town, along with Internet cafes and telephone centers. There are also multiple dive centers and tour operators that offer either excursion packages or customized tours.
Surfing – In recent years, the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno has gained the reputation throughout South America as a surfing hotspot. Tongo Reef and Carola Point have become particularly well known for their excellent waves. The town also hosts an annual surfing competition in the beginning of February, which is also accompanied by local festivities. December to February is the best time for surfing in the islands, coinciding with warmer water temperatures.
San Cristobal wildlife – San Cristobal is one of the few islands in the Galapagos Archipelago that reaches an altitude high enough to support a lush highland ecosystem. As a result, the island is home to a rich variety of fauna including frigatebirds, sea lions, giant tortoises, tropical birds, marine iguanas, blue- and red-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls. Frigatebird Hill or Cerro Tijeretas is an excellent location to observe black frigatebirds with their proud red chests, and depending on the time of year visitors can see frigatebird chicks wobbling around their nests. This point also offers a stunning view of the surrounding beaches and town, as well as the famous Kicker Rock formation. On the other hand, at Sea Lion Rookery (La Loberia) visitors can enjoy marine iguanas, sea lions, birds and giant tortoises in their natural habitat, all while enjoying the soft, warm sand of this beautiful beach. El Junco Lake in the beautiful San Cristobal highlands is particularly popular for bird watching, as it is the only freshwater lake in the Galapagos Islands. The lake is actually the collapsed caldera of an extinct volcano.
Beaches – For those looking for more of a relaxed vacation, the town is located close to several beautiful beaches, including Mann Beach and Oro Beach, which are excellent for bathing and snorkeling. Carola Point is another marvelous white sand beach that curves along the island in the shape of a half moon. This beach is home to a lighthouse, which bathers are welcome to climb up to get an aerial view of the area. The rock formations known as Kicker Rock (in Spanish León Dormido, Sleeping Lion) and Five Fingers can also be seen from this beach.
Interpretation Center – This Galapagos National Park exhibition center is an excellent place to learn more about the geological and human history of the Galapagos Archipelago, as well as conservation issues and the natural history of the islands. The center also holds talks, lectures and concerts in its open-air theatre.
Some guests choose to extend their visit to the archipelago by staying in a hotel on one of the islands before or after a cruise. See if there are any Galapagos special deals that might work for the itinerary you want.
Writer, translator. Enthusiastic traveler of Ecuador and the Galapagos.