galapagos visitor sites

This is a brief introduction to the major islands and visitor sites of the Galapagos Islands. It provides basic information about the fauna and flora, geological features, scenery and main attractions of the different islands, all of which have two names, Spanish and English.

SANTA CRUZ (Indefatigable)     986 km2 - Second largest island and the most populated, with 24,000 inhabitants. Seven vegetation zones are found on the island, resulting in dramatic changes of scenery.The major tourist centre is Puerto Ayora, where the Charles Darwin Research Station is situated. National Park Information Centre, giant tortoise and land iguana breeding programmes and interpretation centre.

Tortuga Bay (Turtle Bay) - White sand beach, a 45 minute walk from town. Opuntia cactus forest, marine    iguanas, small salt lagoon, great blue heron, pelicans, sanderlings, whimbrels, ruddy turnstones, lava gulls.

El Chato - Giant tortoise reserve in the highlands, long lava tube, small lagoon covered in red algae, agricultural and pasture , panoramic views, pintails, finches.

Los Gemelos (The Twins) - Volcanic craters/sinkholes, scalesia forest, bromeliads, orchids, vermilion flycatchers, warblers, Darwin finches.

Las Bachas - White sand beach, nesting site for sea turtles, small lagoon, flamingos, herons, pelicans, whimbrels, Sally Lightfoot Crabs.

BALTRA (South Seymour)   27 km2 - North of Santa Cruz, site of the airport where most tourists arrive. Prickly pear cactus, Jerusalem thorn, sea birds, sea lions.

MOSQUERA   .058 km2 - Beautiful sandy beach, large sea lion colony, scuba diving site.

NORTH SEYMOUR (Seymour Norte, or just Seymour)   1.9 km2 - Nesting grounds for magnificent frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, marine iguanas.

Darwin Research Station
Galapagos giant tortoise
Galapagos frigate bird

BARTOLOME (Bartholomew)   1.2 km2 - This young island is inhospitable to most plants and animals. Climb up a steep slope to the summit of an extinct volcano for the famous panoramic view of Pinnacle Rock. Volcanic lanscape, tuff cones, lava cactus, thorn scrub. Galapagos penguins, blue footed boobies, pelicans, marine turtles, swimming, snorkeling, tropical fish. 

SANTIAGO (James)     585 km2

Sullivan Bay - 100 year old lava flow field, lava bubbles, pahoehoe formations, lava cactus, marine iguana, sea lions, marine turtles, Sally Lightfoot Crabs.

Puerto Egas - Sugar Loaf Volcano, salt mine, lava shoreline, tidal pools with starfish, octopus and other sea life. Marine iguana colony, great blue herons, lava herons, oystercatchers, yellow-crowned night herons.

Buccaneer Cove with beautiful rock cliffs, nesting seabirds.

Espumilla Beach for good swimming, small lagoon, wading birds.

RABIDA(Jervis)    5 km2 - Red coral sand beach, sea lions with bachelor colony, pelican nesting sites, blue-footed boobies, salt water lagoon, flamingos, white-cheeked pintails, snorkelling site.

Galapagos blue footed booby
Iconic Bartolome Island, Galapagos
Rabida, Red Beach, Galapagos

SOMBRERO CHINO (Chinese Hat)      .25 km2 - Lava formations, sea lions, marine iguanas, Galapagos penguins, swimming in small cove, snorkelling.

GENOVESA(Tower) - Spectacular island.

Darwin Bay - Colonies of red-footed boobies, masked boobies, great frigate birds, swallow-tailed gulls, herons, large cactus finch, sea lions, snorkelling, scuba diving, hammerhead sharks.

Prince Phillip’s Steps (El Barranco) - Cliffs, incense trees, lava cactus, large masked booby colony, red-footed boobies, storm petrels, short-eared owls, Galapagos doves, finches. “Panga” (dinghy) ride along jagged shoreline with many birds nesting on cliffs.

MARQUENA (Bindloe)     1.3 km2 - Active volcano. Last eruption in early 1990s. Not a land visitor site, only scuba diving.

WOLF (Wennam)   2.85 km2 - Scuba diving site, schools of hammerhead sharks, whale sharks.

DARWIN (Culpepper)   2.33 km2 - Monumental Darwin Arch nearby, scuba diving site, schools of hammerhead sharks, whale sharks.

Galapagos red footed booby
Oyster catcher in Galapagos
Endemic Galapagos penguin

ISABELA (Albemarle)     4,588 km2 - Largest of the Galapagos Islands, formed by 5 active volcanoes fused together. Wolf volcano, at 1,707m, highest point in the Galapagos.

Tagus Cove - Natural harbour site, century old wall graffiti, water filled caldera, view to Darwin volcano and coast, incense tree, lantana, penguins, flightless cormorants, Galapagos hawk, darwin finches.

Urbina Bay - Incense tree, Darwin’s shrub, thorn shrub, yellow cordial, flightless cormorants, pelicans, marine iguanas, rays, turtles, land iguanas, giant tortoises.

Elizabeth Bay - Panga ride, tall red, white and black mangroves, marine turtles, rays, flightless cormorant and Humboldt penguins, blue-footed boobies, pelicans.

Las Tintoreras - Lava formations, marine iguanas, sea lions, white tipped reef sharks.

Volcan Sierra Negra - Caldera with diameter of 10km, Volcan Chico,fumaroles, recent lava flows, moist highland vegetation, agricultural and pasture land, introduced plants.

Puerto Villamil - Town of 2,000 inhabitants. Tortoise Breeding Station, white sand beach, wetlands, marine iguanas, flamingos, whimbrels, gallinules, stilts, lava gulls, sanderlings.

Muro de las Lagrimas - A penal colony until 1959. Wall of Tears erected by convicts, dry lowland vegetation, wetlands, mangroves, flamingos, finches, pelicans, red footed boobies.

Other visitor sites are Punta Garcia, aa lava formations

Punta Moreno, lava beach, pioneer plants, white-cheeked pintails, common gallinules

Punta Albemarle, WW II American radar station, flightless cormorants.

Masked booby with chic
Sea Lion colony, Espagnola
Devil's Crown snorkeling site

FERNANDINA (Narborough)   642 km2 - Located in the western part of the archipelago, this is the youngest and most pristine of the islands.Active volcano La Cumbre, most recent eruption in 1995.

Punta Espinoza - Wide lava flow, pahoehoe and aa lava formations. Lava cactus, shore petunia, red, white and black mangrove, largest colony of marine iguanas, sea lion harems, flightless cormorants’ nesting site, lava herons, Galapagos hawk.

FLOREANA (Charles, official name is Santa Maria)   173 km2 - Puerto Velasco Ibarra is the main settlement populated by a few hundred inhabitants.

Post Office Bay - Famous visitor site with wooden mail barrel, lava tunnel, salt bush, mesquite, sea lions, rays, sea birds.

Punta Cormorant - Isthmus, large inland lagopon, flamingos and other wading birds, sandy beach cove with turtles, rays, seabirds. Off the coast is Devil’s Crown, a half submerged volcanic crater, excellent snorkelling site with starfish, sea urchins, tropical fish in the shallow centre and larger fish like sharks and rays outside crater area.

SAN CRISTOBAL (Chatham)     558 km2 - Inhabited island of less than 10,000 residents and site of the second airport in the Galapagos.

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno - Interpretation Centre, ship harbour and starting point for some cruises. Frigate Hill (Cerro de las Tijeretas) just outside town, good views of bay and town, frigate bird colony.

La Loberia - Sea lion colony, marine iguanas, warbler finches, blue-footed boobies.

El Junco Lagoon - Fresh water lake located at 700m, good views, ferns, sedges tree ferns, white-cheeked pintails, common gallinules.

La Galapagera - Giant tortoise reserve, mixture of lowland and moist upland vegetation, mockingbirds, finches.

Isla Lobos - Small island, colonies of blue-footed boobies, sea lions

Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock) - Two giant rocks separated by a channel, where small vessels can pass through. Scuba diving site.

Punta Pitt - Volcanic tuff formations. Only area in islands where all three booby species nest together.

SANTA FE (Barrington)    24 km2 - Small island with tall opuntias (prickly pears) that provide food for the Santa Fe land iguanas, pelican nesting site, sea lion colony, mockingbirds, Galapagos doves, finches. Good snorkeling, swimming with sea lions, schools of fish, sharks.

Floreana post box, Galapagos
Land iguana, Galapagos
Iconic Kicker Rock

DAPHNE Two small eroded volcanic islands, Daphne Major and Daphne Minor.

Daphne Major   .32 km2 - Incense tree, purslane, prickly pear cactus, masked and blue-footed boobies’ colonies, red-billed tropic birds.

ESPAGNOLA(Hood)    61 km2    Older island, situated in south eastern part of the islands.

Punta Suarez - Cliffs, blow hole, where sea water is forced 20m into the air, sea lions, the most brightly coloured marine iguanas and lava lizards in Galapagos, waved albatrosses (on the island only from March to December), masked and blue-footed boobies’ colonies, swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropic birds, Hood mockingbirds, Darwin finches, Galapagos doves, Galapagos hawks.

Gardner Bay - Long and beautiful white sand beach,sea lion colony, rocks off coast offer great snorkelling with reef sharks, turtles and many tropical fish.

ISLAS PLAZAS   Two tiny islands separated by a channel.

South Plazas - Tall opuntias, carpet weed, portulaca, land and marine iguanas, known to interbreed freely here. Rocky cliffs towards open ocean nesting site red-billed tropicbirds, gulls, shearwaters, sea lion bachelor colony. Nearby Gordon Rocks, a good scuba diving site.

Espagnola marine iguana
Blow hole, Punta Suarez
Blow hole, Espagnola
Endemic waved albatrosses