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.
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.