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Santiago Island - Galapagos Travel Guide

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Santiago Island is in the central islands of Galapagos, northwest of Santa Cruz, with impressive volcanoes that form the island and truly breathtaking landscapes of Palo Santo forests that thrive on its slopes. Also called San Salvador island, it is uninhabited but has a history of colonization including an abandoned salt mine that can be seen near the Puerto Egas visitor spot and beach. Galapagos Fur Seals were thought to have gone extinct by 1905, but have since made a dramatic comeback and thrive on Santiago island. Santiago provides habitat for many of the 30-40,000 fur seals that call the Galapagos home and are frequently spotted on the black beach of Puerto Egas. Not sure which of the Galapagos Islands to visit? Get advice from one of our Galapagos travel experts, we're happy to help. 

8 Best Cruises & Tours Visiting Santiago Island for 2024-2025

Top 10 Luxury Cruises & Tours Visiting Santiago Island for 2024-2025

Trip NameFromDaysNext DepartureSummary
North & Central Islands$58455May 28, 2024Enjoy an extensive adventure into the unique world of the Galapagos on this incredible 5-day journey. Admire the incredible natural beauty of this …
Volcanic Wonders$97508Jun 9, 2024On this comprehensive 8-day tour of the Galapagos Islands aboard the M/V Origin, see unusual wildlife such as marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, …
Northern Islands$61954Apr 3, 2025Embark on a 4-day North & Central Islands cruise aboard the Hermes Ultra Luxury Cruise. Observe Santa Cruz Highlands' giant tortoises and lava …
Northwestern Islands$129958Apr 3, 2025Embark on an 8-day Hermes Ultra Luxury Cruise in the Northwestern Galapagos Islands. Explore unique wildlife, including giant tortoises and lava …
Western Islands$81955Apr 6, 2025Set off on a 5-day Western Islands Galapagos cruise aboard the Hermes Ultra Luxury Cruise. Begin at Baltra and sail to Bachas Beach for wildlife …
West & Central Islands + Genovesa$94908Jun 16, 2024Enjoy an exceptional trip to the West & Central Galapagos Islands as you sail across one of the most magical destinations in the world. Discover the …
Southern & Northern Islands$116957Apr 14, 2025Join the 7-Day Hermes Ultra Luxury Cruise in the Eastern & Central Galapagos, beginning on San Cristóbal Island. Explore Tijeretas, Gardner Bay, …
Northern Galapagos Catamaran Cruise$51905May 28, 2024The Ocean Spray luxury catamaran takes you on a 5-day Galapagos Northern Islands cruise, exploring Genovesa, South Plaza, Mosquero, and Santiago. …
Luxury Central Galapagos Islands Cruise$46904Jun 2, 2024This luxury Galapagos cruise explores the central and eastern islands of the archipelago on the new Endemic Galapagos catamaran. Hike sea-side …
Central Islands Cruise$94908Jun 1, 2024Discover the highlights of San Cristobal, Española, Floreana, Santa Cruz, Santiago, and Genovesa islands on this incredible 8-day adventure aboard …

10 Best Cruise Ships Visiting Santiago Island for 2024-2025

Ship NameMax PassengersFromSummary
Archipel I16$2250The 16-passenger twin-hulled Archipel I catamaran combines comfort and space onboard for the optimal experience on its naturalist and diving cruises …
Hermes Ultra Luxury Cruise20$6195Hermes Mega Catamaran defines the future of Galapagos’ luxury cruising through a perfect balance of comfort, unparalleled service, and memorable …
Grand Majestic16$4545Grand Majestic is the only modern mega-yacht cruising the Galapagos. This elegantly sporty yacht is the fastest in the Islands and offers …
Alya16$3800Alya catamaran offers luxury cruises to the Galapagos Islands. Accommodating just 16 passengers, the Alya boasts 9 spacious cabins with private …
Galapagos Legend100$1939With four decks, this cruise ship is one of the biggest boats in the Galapagos, offering plenty of amenities and features onboard, but still managing …
M/C Galapagos Endemic16$4690Cruise the Galapagos Islands aboard the M/C Endemic, a glamorous catamaran that provides guests the style and comfort they need to have an adventure …
Natural Paradise16$3245The luxury yacht Natural Paradise was built in 2015 and customized to carry 16 adventurers in comfort and safety through the Galapagos Islands. …
Infinity20$3945Exceeding every prospect the Infinity Luxury Yacht offers high performance, unrivaled comfort, respect for the environment and stunning style to make …
Santa Cruz II90$5734Combining luxury, amenities, and many social areas, the recently remodeled 90-passenger Santa Cruz II reigns in the Galapagos as one of the most …
M/C Elite16$5890Perhaps the most luxurious small yacht in the Galapagos, the new Galapagos Elite set sail in Summer 2019. It has reinvented luxury, comfort and class …

Santiago Island Visitor Spots

Santiago is a central island right between Isabela and Santa Cruz with impressive rock formations and truly breathtaking landscapes.

Sullivan Bay – The landing at Sullivan Bay puts you right on a very young pahoehoe lava flow. As you trek across this distinct rock surface, you will see how the flows have layered and hardened. This is also distinct for the lava-burned vegetation around the periphery and the cracks that formed when some of the magma cooled rapidly. These kind of hikes will give you an up-close look at just how these islands are born.  

Espumilla Beach – This golden beach is tucked in James Bay on the northern side of the island. Snorkelers will delight in the diversity of marine species, from moray eels, to rays and sharks, and even octopi. On shore, the bright red Sally lightfoot crabs dot the beach and attract hungry herons. In addition to the palo santo forest, you will see plenty of marine iguanas and perhaps a nesting sea turtle.

Puerto Egas– Also located in James Bay is this beachfront visitor site. As the tide comes in, impressive grottos fill with water and the fauna comes alive for snorkelers – rays, reef sharks, sea turtles, and marine iguanas are just a few of the wonderful things you will see when you dive. Sea lions, Galapagos hawks, finches, and oystercatchers also call these rock formations their home. If you hike to the end of the beach, you will be at the foot of Sugarloaf Volcano, from which the beach gets its black sand. Also near the beach is El Crater, a saltwater lake during the wet season, but a salt mine during the dry season. Although several mining operations have been attempted here, none have proven successful.

Buccaneer Cove – Before the Galapagos became a popular tourist destination, it was a sanctuary for pirates. Few sites pay homage to this nefarious past as much as Buccaneer Cove, where pirates used to hide out in the cave. Snorkelers will appreciate the clear turquoise waters that house sting rays, turtles, and tropical fish; and there’s a short trail that winds through the mangroves, where the turtles lay their eggs.

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Santiago Island Facts and Highlights

Santiago, also known as James Island, is one of the largest islands in the Galapagos archipelago. Here are more facts about it:
  • The island is known for its dramatic volcanic landscape, with rugged cliffs, lava fields, and black sand beaches.
  • Santiago is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including marine iguanas, fur seals, sea lions, and a variety of bird species.
  • Santiago's unique geological formations, including the famous Buccaneer Cove and Espumilla Beach, are formed from volcanic ash and lava.
  • The island is also home to the tiny and picturesque Chinese Hat Islet, popular for snorkeling and diving.
  • The most famous landmark on Santiago is Pinnacle Rock, an impressive volcanic rock tower that rises from the sea, is probably one of the photographed sites in the Galapagos.
  • Scientists also study the island's unique ecosystem and geology, as it provides a valuable opportunity to study the processes of volcanic island formation and evolution.

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