San Cristóbal is not just the best Galapagos island if you're on a budget or a short time; it's superb regardless! The port town of Puerto Barqueizo has much more of a local feel to it than the touristic Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, but more lively than laid-back Isabela. San Cristóbal is THE island to hang out with sea lions. They chill in the port town like on the other islands, but on San Cristóbal, they also line the beaches, and the great thing is they don't mind sharing! You can relax on the beach or swim with them in the sea on several beaches, such as Playa Mann, only a 10-minute walk from town and has cafes for food and drinks. Kicker Rock (León Dormido) is one of our top (possibly best!) Galapagos snorkelling and dive sites - sharks, turtles, sea lions and fish are plentiful! Take a bicycle, taxi or tour to see the famous giant tortoises roam around at the Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado. San Cristóbal is a special place for boobies, as a day trip to Punta Pitt is one of the few places in the world you can see all three species of boobies - blue-footed, red-footed and Nasca.
There's no option to see the cute Galapagos penguins like from Santa Cruz or Isabela. Santa Cruz has more options for restaurants, bars, accommodation and dive sites. Plus if you like a bit of souvenir shopping, you need to be on Santa Cruz. If you want to go to the lovely Isabela, it takes a while unless you fly as you need to get a boat to Santa Cruz, then one to Isabela.