Things to do in Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile

Robinson Crusoe Island is the biggest and most important island in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago. The archipelago consists of only three islands; Santa Clara and Alexander Selkirk being the others. There are many things to do in Robinson Crusoe Island ranging from trekking to nature sightseeing to horseback riding, diving, snorkeling or just walking around town. But what will strike you most is the spirit and resilience of the people after the devastating tsunami that destroyed the main village of San Juan Bautista in 2010.
Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, San Juan Bautista, view
When I first thought about coming to Robinson Crusoe Island it was just after the tsunami. Since the devastation wasn’t widely reported in the United States I didn’t realize the extent of the damage it had caused. 16 people had died, hundreds were displaced and scores of homes and businesses were destroyed-you can see the devastation in this picture I took below from a book on the island. So when I arrived on Robinson Crusoe Island, I didn’t know what to expect to see.
Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, San Juan Bautista, tsunami
What I found was a place that was almost completely rebuilt: bustling pueblo with a lot of life. New buildings had replaced destroyed older ones and a vibrant people with a zest for life. It was as if they realized that this is their island and they must rebuild.
Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, San Juan Bautista, pueblo, flowers
Walking around pueblo is a good way to see how the islanders live. There are a few cars and some paved roads that look like sidewalks but much is dirt roads or trails when you leave the initial port/town area.
Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, San Juan Bautista, guns
There are a few stores and hostals (guesthouses essentially). There is some cool artillery around town, a soccer pitch that is new since the tsunami and there is a cemetery at the far end of town that is as colorful as the people.
Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, San Juan Bautista, cemetery
Post-tsunami there are clearly marked evacuation routes always pointing up as you might expect. My buddy Francisco, who showed me around town, was in town when the tsunami hit and he had to run up a road just like this!
Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, San Juan Bautista, tsunami, evacuation route
As you look up you will notice there is a series of caves. They are fun to explore and some have some little hidden nuances that you don’t notice until you walk, or in my case bend over, into them.
Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, San Juan Bautista, caves
The island is most known for its seafood and in particular its lobster. In the four days I spent on the island I ate nothing but seafood and every single meal I had was delicious.
Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, Crusoe Island Lodge, lobster
I stayed at the Crusoe Island Lodge. The lodge is somewhat isolated from the rest of pueblo by a series of steep and rocky roads. However, it is by far the best place to stay on Robinson Crusoe Island. It also offers gourmet food and I mean gourmet.
Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, Crusoe Island Lodge, fish
If the chef at the Crusoe Island Lodge were in New York or Paris: people would line up to eat the seafood creations concocted. The food was outstanding and always presented decadently as well.
Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, Crusoe Island Lodge, dessert
I cannot lie, my favorite was the local lobster but all the fish and crab dishes I tried were tremendous and all from locally caught fresh seafood.
Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, Crusoe Island Lodge, bed, room
The rooms at the Crusoe Island Lodge were also excellent. Although there were no televisions in the room, the beds were outstanding and the deck views were to die for.
Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, Crusoe Island Lodge, view
The staff was also amazing and treated me so well. Especially because I was sick pretty much the whole time I was there, they always offered me tea and medicine with genuine concern. I felt very welcome and at home.
Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, Crusoe Island Lodge, view
The problem with being sick was that I was unable to do some of my favorite things like snorkeling and hiking or as they call it, trekking. Some of the best views of the island, I am told and saw in pictures, were from atop some of the great hike peaks. The Selkirk lookout is supposed to be the best. It is about a 3-4 hour hike but pretty steep. Normally, that would’ve been the first thing I did on island but I didn’t want to get any sicker, especially with a South Pole expedition a week later.
Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, Plazoleta El Yunque, flora, fauna
There are also several other hikes that offer different viewpoints in all directions of the island. One short hike I did manage to do was up to the Plazoleta el Yunque.
Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, Plazoleta El Yunque, flora, fauna
Plazoleta El Yunque is a really cool place and like being in another world. This is a great place to see the unique and different flora and fauna of the island. I am not normally into plants and things like that but the colors, shapes and sizes of the foliage made it great for picture taking. I really enjoyed the time and got some great photos.
Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, Plazoleta El Yunque, flora, fauna
So as I sit here at the very remote airport waiting for the flight to land to take me back to Santiago and I find myself reflecting on my 4 days on Robinson Crusoe Island. I won’t remember being sick or that I had a flight cancelled and was forced to stay an extra day; I will remember the beauty of the island and the hospitality of the people-not to mention the lobster!
Parque Nacional de Juan Fernandez, Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile

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  1. q bonito todo!! the food look great!! i didn’t know all about this island… ill put in my bucket list!! gracias!

  2. Amazing photos! What a lovely island. I don’t think I’ve ever seen flora and fauna quite like that, it looks like the Lost World or something out of Jurassic Park!

  3. I have never heard of this place but it looks amazing. Thanks for introducing me to it. Your photos are always so cool man. Enjoy the South Pole, I am following on FB/Twit

  4. What was in the caves? That is a great shot.

    • Jessica, there was nothing in the caves except they were deep and very scenic, not to mention kind of spooky looking as caves tend to be in general anyway! Some were connected by small passageways which is why I had to duck down.

  5. The flowers and plants are breathtaking. What made you decide to go to this island? Seems like a lot of effort to get there and back. Was it really worth it?

  6. What a neat place. This is why I love your blog versus any other. You help teach me geography!

  7. Lee, this is a fascinating place for me and I’ve done some googling since seeing your Facebook posts a few weeks ago. This place was actually the inspiration for Dafoe to write the novel and it is based loosely off Selkirk, is that right?

  8. You always have amazing photos Are you going to the South Pole as part of the Wounded Warrior trek?

  9. Thanks, can you share the name of the third party agent that you booked with or did you book directly with the airline? Thanks

    • This was booked directly with the airline but one third party agent whom I’ve had talks with in the past but did not use was Chilean Special Journeys…an American man named Scott was the contact.

  10. Thanks Lee

  11. How you discovered this place? It is like paradise that has it all. I want to be in this place forever.

  12. My life-long dream too will finally come into fruition this coming January-February 2015. We’ve already booked our flight and accommodation to Crusoe Lodge as well. We’re looking forward to visiting this magnificent far-flung place.

  13. francois says

    Hallo Lee, do you know of any alternative accommodation besides Crusoe Lodge on the Islands?

  14. Jim Willhoft says

    Playa Arenal (sp) on Robinson Crusoe Island hides a hidden Case of Canadian Club Whisky. It was hidden there 50 years ago as part of an advertising campaign. Contact me if you would like clues as to the hiding place. Or, Google “Canadian Club Hide a Case” for additional information.
    Jim Willhoft
    [email protected]

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