Chinese Hat Galapagos may be one of the smallest islands, but it sure knows how to punch above its weight. Size is not everything! The views of Chinese Hat island from sea are unforgettable. The beach, volcanic landscape and clear waters contrast beautifully. Visitors can also enjoy spectacular Galapagos views from the island lookout. The Chinese Hat snorkeling site is also highly recommended. Come check out Chinese Hat at Galapagos for yourself!
Read on for everything you need to know to plan your visit to Chinese Hat Galapagos. What wildlife can you see here? Which activities and visitor sites await tourists? Plus learn about the diverse geology of Chinese Hat island.
English Name: n/a
Ecuadorian Name: Sombrero Chino (Chinese Hat)
Total Area: 0.39 sq miles
Population: zero (uninhabited)
Chinese hat may seem like a strange name, but once you set eyes on the island you will understand. It’s shape looks like an old fashioned chinamans hat. The name Sombrero Chino that you may also hear is just the translation of Chinese Hat into spanish.
Chinese Hat island was formed when one of Santiago island’s volcanoes violently erupted long ago. Lava and rocks spewed out to form a volcanic spatter cone. Many millenias of erosion carved a channel into the rocks, which filled with water to form the island we see today. So Chinese Hat can in fact be considered a child of Santiago island.
Today the island has been colonised with green flora and has a sandy coastline, supporting various land and marine wildlife species.
How to get to Chinese Hat island? Chinese Hat is close to the southeastern coast of neighboring Santiago Island. The only way to visit today is on a Galapagos cruise doing the northern itinerary loop, but check itineraries carefully as Chinese Hat is not always included. The island’s small size presents difficulties for conservation efforts by the Galapagos National Park. The lava flows and fields of the island are delicate and brittle. To prevent the erosion of the island by too much human traffic, only smaller cruise boats are allowed to visit Chinese Hat Island.
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Being such a small island Chinese Hat only has one landing site, but the list of possible activities is diverse. On land there is a short walk to appreciate the wonderful views from Chinese Hat. There is wildlife viewing on the beach. The calm waters are perfect for swimming, snorkeling or kayaking (if your yacht carries kayaks aboard).
Landing Type: Wet.
Trail length: 0.3 miles / 0.45 km.
Terrain: Easy to moderate walk. Volcanic rocks can be uneven, so take care with footing.
A wet beach drops visitors onto a white coral sand beach where lazy sea lions while away the day. They form a small bachelor colony of adolescents who are not strong enough individually to lay claim to a harem of females. The trail leads along the beach towards an eerie landscape of jet black lava. Keep an eye along the way to spot Marine iguanas, brightly colored Sally Lightfoot crabs, and American Oyster catchers stalking for food along the shore.
Crossing the lava field look out for pioneer lava cacti growing in the cracks. These hardy shrubs are able to grow in the absence of soil, and are one of the first flora species to colonise barren lava habitats. Along the trail you may also come across Galapagos Lava Lizards. The trail is very short, just 0.3 miles, rewards walkers with a panoramic view at the end. You’ll reach a clifftop with views out over Santiago and Bartolome islands. Don’t forget to look down at the crashing waves and rocky shoreline. Galapagos penguins sometimes rest on the outcrops and ledges over the ocean. This is a wonderful spot for landscape photography, so ake a moment here to appreciate the delightful scenery.
Chinese Hat is also renowned as an excellent Galapagos snorkeling spot. The waters are protected by nearby Santiago island, providing calm waters for swimmers and snorkelers alike. The waters here are relatively cool – perfect feeding grounds for Galapagos marine species. The coral reef attracts colorful fish and reef sharks, so remember to take an underwater camera along with you.
What can you see snorkeling at Chinese Hat? The bucket highlight is snorkeling with Galapagos penguins, although this can be somewhat hit and miss, so you need to be lucky. Whitetip reef sharks are a common sighting, but don’t fear – they are shy creatures and not aggressive to humans. Playful sea lions and gentle turtles often come up close to snorkelers to check them out.Colorful fish also flit around the reef, especially Parrotfish and Puffers. Even Dolphins and whale sharks may make a very occasional appearance.
If your Galapagos yacht carries sea kayaks on board, then this is a cool spot for gentle paddling to explore the area. The seas are often clear so see what you find in the water underneath you.
Note: All wildlife sightings are by their very nature unpredictable, and activities may be subject to change by your guide or the National Park Authority.
In Conclusion, Chinese Hat island makes a fun and worthwhile Galapagos visit. The combination of activities means that there is something for everyone to enjoy, on land and in the sea. The scenery and views make it an excellent spot for landscape photography. Many of the usual Galapagos wildlife suspects, as well as some potential surprises. If Chinese Hat is listed as part of your Galapagos cruise itinerary then you are in for a treat.