Adventure cruises to James Bay offer a little something for everyone! Located on the northwest coast of Santiago Island, James Bay offers everything from hiking through otherworldly lava fields and snorkeling along black sand beaches, to wildlife encounters with fur seals and marine iguanas. James Bay will prove a highlight of any Galapagos cruise itinerary, and it will become immediately apparent why Charles Darwin chose to write about this wondrous place during his visit to the area.
Top things to do and see at James Bay
Adventure cruises to James Bay include three of Santiago Island’s most unique sites: Puerto Egas, Espumilla Beach and Salt Mine. The area also offers the opportunity for adventure activities such as hiking and snorkeling, while those seeking wildlife encounters can look forward to seeing fur seals and a variety of bird species.
Espumilla Beach acts as a gateway to James Bay and stands as one of the region’s key attractions. On the north end of the bay, the beach features excellent swimming and snorkeling opportunities, as well as the chance for wildlife encounters both in and out of the water. Sally Lightfoot crabs can be seen skittering across the rust-colored sands, while tropical fish swim beneath the gentle waves. Herons trace circle in the skies above, occasionally plunging into the sea. The beach is also a sea turtle nesting site.
Puerto Egas is located at the southern end of James Bay. From here, trails lead inland to the Salt Mine, and along the coast to the Fur Seal Grottos. The hike offers views of ash lava streams that have been swallowed by the island vegetation. The grottos along the coast are ideal for the fur seals, who prefer shaded areas to breed and raise their pups. Adventurous visitors can try swimming along the rocky coast and, with any luck, may be joined by a playful seal or two!
The Salt Mine lie south of the beach and are reached via a 3km trail leading inland. A volcanic crater filled with salt water called the Pan de Azúcar Volcano, when the water dries out it leaves behind massive salt deposits. In the 1920s, the salt was collected and sold until the price of salt dropped and the practice was deemed financially unsustainable. Today, the salt mine serves as a habitat for countless bird species, including flamingoes and the famous Galapagos hawk.
Top Tips for visiting James Bay
- James Bay is filled with opportunities for amazing photographs, so be sure to bring your camera on your James cruise, especially when hiking along the coast from Puerto Egas.
- The area features excellent hiking, so bring a good pair of walking shoes.
- If you hope to swim or snorkel on Espumilla Beach or near the fur seal grottos, be sure to pack your bathing suit, towel and snorkeling gear.
- The hike south of the beach includes an arid zone with little shade, so plenty of sunblock and a hat are recommended.
Best time to cruise to James Bay
Though there is truly no best time to visit James Bay, it is a good idea to plan ahead, as some adventure activities are more rewarding at certain times of year, and certain months or seasons are best to see wildlife.
James Bay in January to May is sea turtle nesting season and a good time to spot the animals at Espumilla Beach.
January to March offers the best underwater visibility and warmest water temperatures, making it an ideal time for snorkeling.
January to April includes intense heat and sunshine, so sunblock and a hat are a must.
August to December is fur seal breeding season.
Where do James Bay cruises depart from?
Typically, small ship cruises to James Bay depart from one of three points: from San Cristobal Island, Baltra, or Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island.
If your Galapagos cruise departs from Cristobal Island, your flight will likely arrive at San Cristobal airport, not far from the port town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
Adventure cruises to James Bay leaving from Baltra or Puerto Ayora are serviced by the Baltra Airport on Isla Baltra. The airport is just an hour from Puerto Ayora using public transit.
Both airports are reached via flights from mainland Ecuador, specifically from Quito or Guayaquil.
Contact our reservations team to book your next Galapagos cruise to James Bay.