Isabela Island

Isabela is the largest island of the archipelago and occupies about 60% of the surface of the Galapagos. It was formed by the volcanoes Cerro Azul, Sierra Negra (Santo Tomás), Alcedo, Darwin, Wolf, and Ecuador, which merged into one island. All the volcanoes, except Ecuador, which is the oldest, are currently active. Although Isabela has several visitor sites, they are not frequented by tourists. Most of the landing sites are on the west coast and only speedboats make the long trips. The small Puerto Villamil (about 3,000 inhabitants) is the main town on the island, where there is a small airport. This town is a good starting point if you are planning a long stay in Isabela.

The area offers beautiful beaches and it takes about 20 minutes to walk to the Villamil Lagoon, the favorite place for birdwatchers in the islands. Here you will see flamingos and about twenty different types of wading birds.

If you like mountains, you can also climb the Sierra Negra volcano (1,490m) from Puerto Villamil. A van will take you to the village of Santo Thomás (20 km), where you can hike or horseback ride to the rim of the volcano (9 km). From the top, you have a magnificent view of the 10 km wide caldera. There is a path that leads to active fumaroles. In this area live short-eared owls, finches, flycatchers, and Galapagos hawks.

The Wall of Tears is a visitor site west of Puerto Villamil. This lava rock wall (8 m high and 200 m long) was built under harsh and violent conditions by former inmates of the last century. The penal colony was closed in 1959, but the wall still stands as a monument to this infamous chapter in the islands' history. Today, it is a good place to get up close to lava lizards and watch birds, especially finches and Galapagos hawks.

Requisitos para ingresar a la Isla Isabela en Galápagos

Los requisitos para ingresar a la Isla Isabela son similares a los requirements to enter the Galapagos Islands. Te dejamos un breve resumen aquí.

For Ecuadorian nationals:

  1. Identity Card or Passport: Ecuadorian citizens may enter the Galapagos Islands by presenting their identity card or passport.
  2. Lodging reservation and/or letter of invitation: An accommodation reservation in Galapagos may be required as part of the entry requirements. It may also be useful to have a letter of invitation if you are staying in someone's home.

For foreigners:

  1. Valid passport: Foreigners must present a valid passport when entering Galapagos.
  2. Tourist Visa: Most foreigners do not need a tourist visa to enter Ecuador, but it is important to verify if your nationality requires a visa and, if so, obtain it in advance.
  3. Migratory Control Card: Upon arrival in Galapagos, foreign visitors must complete a Migration Control Card, which is usually provided during the flight or upon arrival at the airport.
  4. Return air ticket: You may be required to present a return air ticket to your country of origin or departure from the Galapagos Islands as part of the entry requirements.
  5. Lodging reservation: Similar to nationals, some places may require an accommodation reservation as part of the documents required for entry.

The following spots can only be visited by boat

On the southwest coast is Punta Moreno. On the rocky coast, you can see penguins and a variety of shorebirds (including flamingos if you are lucky), where there is a trail that takes you between the lava rocks. The Bolivar Channel, between Fernandina and Isabela Islands, is often frequented by whales, so you are very likely to see circles in the water, which could be whale tracks.

Off Elizabeth Bay are the Mariela Islands, where penguins often greet you. This bay is known for its variety of underwater life. Divers encounter sea turtles and penguins. The water is very clear and allows you to observe them from the panga (boat). The coast is covered with mangroves that are home to seabirds and herons.

Bahía Urbina is located at the base of the Alcedo volcano. In 1954 there was a tectonic uplift that caused the coast to grow 1 km offshore. A trail will take you to a coral reef that is now on land, a great place to see flightless cormorants, gulls and pelicans.

Further north is Tagus Cove. A panga (boat) ride along the coast allows close-up views of a variety of seabirds and historic graffiti. This was once a favorite place for sailors to anchor and write the names of their ships in graffiti on the reefs. The tour route passes Darwin Lagoon, a saltwater lagoon, and leads to several lava formations with spectacular views.

At the northernmost point of Isabela Island is Punta Albermarle, once a U.S. radar base. It is now known for its ability to observe flightless cormorants from the boat (without disembarking or visiting the site). A good place to snorkel is near Punta Vicente Roca, at the base of Ecuador Volcano.

How to get to Isabela?

To get to Isabela Island, one of the beautiful Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, you should generally follow these steps:

  1. Flight to the Galapagos Islands: Your trip will begin on the Ecuadorian mainland, at Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito or Jose Joaquin de Olmedo Airport in Guayaquil. You must book a flight to Seymour Airport on Baltra Island or to San Cristobal Airport, as there is no airport on Isabela Island.
  2. Arrival at Baltra or San Cristobal: Once you arrive at Seymour Airport on Baltra Island or San Cristobal Airport, you will take an internal flight from the Ecuadorian mainland. These flights are operated by local authorized airlines and will take you to Baltra Island or San Cristobal, which are the main gateways to the Galapagos.
  3. Transfer to Puerto Ayora: From the Seymour Airport on Baltra Island or the San Cristobal Airport, you will have to take a cab or bus to get to the Itabaca dock (on Baltra) or the Puerto Baquerizo Moreno dock (on San Cristobal). In Itabaca, you will cross by ferry to Santa Cruz Island. Once in Santa Cruz, you will take a cab or bus to the town of Puerto Ayora.
  4. Boat trip to Isabela: In Puerto Ayora, you can find several options of boats and speedboats that offer transfers to Isabela Island. The boat trip is an experience in itself, as it will allow you to enjoy beautiful marine landscapes and the opportunity to see marine life along the way.

Weather in Isabela Island

The climate on Isabela Island, as in other parts of the Galapagos Islands, is subtropical and characterized by relatively dry and pleasant temperatures throughout the year. Although climatic conditions may vary slightly, the following is a summary of the climate on Isabela Island:

  1. Hot and humid season (December to May):
    • During this time, Isabela Island experiences warmer temperatures.
    • Daytime temperatures can vary between 25°C and 30°C, making it a pleasant time to visit the island.
    • This season is known for being wetter, with some sporadic rains. Vegetation is at its peak, and many plants are in bloom.
  2. Cool and dry season (June to November):
    • In the cool and dry season, temperatures drop slightly.
    • Daytime temperatures usually range between 20°C and 25°C, resulting in a cooler and more pleasant climate.
    • Although it is the driest season, occasional drizzle can still be experienced, especially in the morning.
    • Vegetation may be a little less lush than during the warm season.

It is important to keep in mind that the weather on Isabela Island and the Galapagos Islands in general can be unpredictable at any time of the year due to its unique geographic location. Therefore, it is advisable to be prepared for different weather conditions during your visit. Check the Galapagos weather today Here

Activities you can do on Isabela Island

Isabela Island, located in the Galapagos Islands archipelago in Ecuador, offers a wide variety of activities for visitors who wish to enjoy its natural beauty and unique wildlife. Here are some of the activities you can do on Isabela Island:

  1. Wildlife watching: Isabela Island is known for its rich wildlife. You can explore its trails and beaches to observe marine iguanas, land iguanas, sea lions, giant tortoises, sea birds such as blue-footed boobies, pelicans and many other endemic species.
  2. Snorkeling and diving: Explore Isabela's underwater world with snorkeling and diving activities. You can swim alongside sea turtles, tropical fish, white tip sharks and hammerhead sharks, and maybe even see manta rays.
  3. Visit the "Los Tuneles" Lava Tunnels: This site is famous for its underwater lava tunnel formation. You can take a boat tour and walk through the tunnels to marvel at the unique structures and surrounding marine life.
  4. Hiking: Isabela Island offers several hiking trails that allow you to explore its volcanic landscape. The Sierra Negra Volcano is one of the highlights, with a giant crater and breathtaking views.
  5. Visit the Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center: This giant tortoise breeding center allows you to learn about conservation efforts to protect these majestic creatures. You can see turtles at different stages of development.
  6. Relaxing on the beach: Isabela Island has beautiful white sandy beaches, such as Playa Puerto Villamil and Playa del Amor. It is a perfect place to relax, sunbathe and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
  7. Kayaking and paddleboarding: Rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore Isabela's coastline from the water. You can paddle in crystal clear waters and enjoy the natural beauty.
  8. Bird watching: Bird lovers will find a wide variety of species to observe on Isabela. In addition to blue-footed boobies, you will see frigate birds, cormorants, herons and more.
  9. Surfing: Isabela is a popular spot for surfers. If you are a surfing enthusiast, you can enjoy the waves at different spots on the island.
  10. Boat Tours: Organize a boat tour to explore Isabela's surroundings. You can visit nearby islets such as Los Tuneles or go whale and dolphin watching when in season.
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