Chinese Hat Islet, or Sombrero Chino in Spanish, is a small island just off the southeast coast of the much larger Santiago Island. From a distance, the gently sloping cone of the volcanic island looks like a traditional Chinese hat, hence the name.
Despite its small size, Chinese Hat is home to a wide range of wildlife and some striking lava formations. It’s also a good place for swimming and snorkeling. But due to its size and therefore increased vulnerability, the island is protected to a greater extent than many others in the archipelago. Day trips from other inhabited islands are largely prohibited, and only passengers from visiting cruise ships are allowed to land. If you’re booking a cruise and want to visit Chinese Hat, make sure it’s included in the itinerary.
Main Visitor Sites
The Trail – Trekking is one of the main activities on Chinese Hat. A short trail begins at the pretty landing beach, where you can often see red Sally Lightfoot crabs, American oystercatchers and marine iguanas. Continuing along the trail, you’ll pass by striking lava tubes and pillow-type lava formations, which provide a fascinating insight into the island’s geological past. The lava fields are home to lava lizards, as well as the peculiar lava cactus, which somehow flourishes in this tough environment. Other inhabitants of the island include a colony of Galapagos sea lions and penguins. The trail is only about 400 meters long, but you’ll still need sturdy walking shoes due to the rough lava.
Snorkeling – Chinese Hat is known as an excellent snorkeling destination. The waters around the island are quite deep, and so attract a range of marine life. And thanks to the protection offered by Santiago Island just to the northwest, the waters remain fairly calm, providing a sheltered spot for swimmers and snorkelers. If you’re lucky, you might find yourself swimming with whitetip reef sharks. That might sound terrifying, but these sharks are rarely aggressive towards humans. They like to investigate swimmers closely, however, providing some truly memorable snorkeling experiences for visitors to Chinese Hat.
Read more about Chinese Hat Islet at Galapagos Conservancy.
Other Places to Visit in Galapagos
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