Thought to be at least 3,9 million years old, Santa Fe, also called Barrington Island after British Admiral Samuel Barrington, is one of the oldest islands in Galapagos. Covered by a thick forest of giant prickly pear cactae (unique to Santa Fe), this small, uninhabited island is home to many endemic species, including Santa Fe land iguana, Santa Fe mockingbird, Santa Fe rice rat and Santa Fe lava-lizard.
The island has only one visitor site, a wet landing located in Barrington Bay. From here, there are two trekking trails you can follow. One of them will take you to the top of the cliff where you can see many species of seabirds that are living around the island. These include frigatebirds, boobies, Galapagos hawks, finches or swallow-tailed gulls. Uphill you can spot land iguanas that are basking in the sun or foraging for fruits among the 15m Optunia cactuses (the tallest cactai in Galapagos). The other trail it’s shorter and leads close to the beach. Usually, a large group of curious sea lions are sleeping or playing around on the nearby rocky banks.
Top Guided Tours and Activities (our favorite choices)
One day Guided Tour on Santa Fe Island
When planning your Santa Fe itinerary, you can choose between several different types of Galapagos cruises or day trips from the inhabited islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal or Isabela. The price for a one day tour is around USD250, but it might vary depending on the season, and usually includes a guided hike and a few snorkeling stops, as well as lunch on the boat. After spending the entire morning in the ocean, we enjoyed a delicious meal prepared onboard with freshly caught tuna, rice and steamed vegetables.
As one of the best islands in Galapagos for swimming with sea lions, visiting Santa Fe is truly a bucket-list experience. There are three sites to dive or swim to encounter the abundant marine life surrounding the island. In its clear blue-green waters, we encountered so many sea lions, a huge school of sardines, many tropical fish, a lobster, an octopus, a few marine turtles and a ray that we admired from a distance.
What to pack for a tour on Santa Fe Island
Because we booked a full-day snorkeling tour around the island, we had to be prepared for spending an entire day in the ocean. Two medium-sized waterproof backpacks were really important to keep our items safe, in case of bad weather. In them, we took our water bottles, underwater camera, binoculars (because we love bird watching), sunglasses, SPF sunscreen (necessary throughout the day, even if it’s rainy or cloudy), towels, wide-brimmed hats and our snorkeling equipment consisting of 22mm thick neoprene wetsuits, snorkeling shoes and full-face masks.