Sea lions

Española Island

Also, know as Hood- a popular Galapagos cruise destination

The Espanola or Hood Island in the Galapagos archipelago is the southernmost isle and is a brilliantly spectacular shore excursion site. Espanola contains a breathtaking range of fauna in its heart, although its endemic wildlife, especially the waved albatross seems to be the main attraction for tourists visiting the place.

The area is roughly around 61 sq km and the altitude stands tall at 206 meters. With 4 million years on its back, Espanola is also one of the oldest isles in Galapagos. This is a fairly flat island occasionally punctuated by some hills, built by lavas emitted from underneath the sea.

How to get there

To reach Hood, you need to join a licensed Galapagos cruise program, a 10-12 hour boat ride from ‘Isla Santa Cruz’ that lies 90 km southeast and about 2-3 hours from nearby San Cristobal. This place is best toured from the period ensuing late March till the month of December when the endemic waved albatross nests here and comes to rest. It is also possible to take a day tour from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal island. 

Things to see

The Isla Espanola holds 2 great sites for its travelers to visit- Gardner Bay at the eastern fringes Punta Suarez situated on the western end.

The Gardener Bay is a popular tourist spot for swimming & snorkeling. Its exotic white sand beach is just the ideal cushiony base that you can rest your weight on for relaxing your mind and body fully. It is also a sea-lion colony and if you are visiting it anytime between October–December, you can catch a glimpse of the Green Sea turtles offshore as well.

Punta Suarez offers its visitors a delightful collection of wildlife, which is well worth exploring since this is possibly the best sightseeing spot in the whole of the Galapagos Islands. The 2 km stretched trail that it has houses lovely sea-lions at play; the Espanola Lava lizards; a gamut of colorful sea-birds like the Galapagos Hawk, the Galapagos Dove, the Hood Mockingbird, the large-billed Flycatcher, the Large-cactus Finch, the Swallow-Tailed Gull, the American Oystercatchers, the Red-Billed Tropicbirds; and a large number of huge marine Iguanas in action. Animals like the Fur Seals and Franklin’s gulls are also seen in this isle, but rarely.

If you are visiting the Galapagos Islands, a trip to Espanola is not to be missed. This is one of the most popular islands for bird-watching in the archipelago and the wildlife extravaganza that it offers is one of the best in the world.

Española Island Tourist Information

  • Landing: Wet Landing
  • Wildlife Highlights: Waved Albatross, Blue-Footed Boobies, Red-Billed Tropicbirds, Masked Boobies, Galapagos hawks, mockingbirds, marine iguanas
  • Activity Highlights: Birdwatching (Punta Suarez), Swimming and snorkeling (Gardner Bay)
  • Conditions: Walk on lava and rough terrain, level ground (Punta Suarez), Beach landing swimming and snorkeling (Gardner Bay)Notes: This is one of the best Islands for birdwatching in the Galapagos archipelago

Expedition Cruise itineraries that visit Española Island:

8 day East islands Galapagos luxury cruise - Tip Top V yacht
7 day Expedition trip including the Southern islands of Galapagos - M/V Santa Cruz
6 day Galapagos boat tour on board the Eco Galaxy catamaran - South and Central islands 
5 day Galapagos luxury yacht cruise including a visit to Española island - Infinity Yacht
4 day short Galapagos trip on board the Camila Trimaran - South islands

Land based tour packages that visit Española Island:

9 day island hopping tour in Galapagos (all major islands)
6 day Galapagos islands tour (Hotel Based) visiting Hood island
5 day Galapagos tour with hotel base on San Cristobal island

Land based tour packages that visit Española Island:

Day tour to Española island from San Cristobal - Galapagos Hopper

Española Visitor Sites

Gardner Bay

Gardner Bay offers a great possibility for the visitor Galapagos Garden Ebayto enjoy some beach time in the Galapagos. Here, the extroverted mockingbirds sit on top of visitor’s hats, peck at their feet and investigate their belongings.

There is a wet landing on a long white beach, said to be the longest in the Galapagos. There is no inland trail and the beach has sea lions and possibly turtles. It is possible to see the three Darwin finch species at this site. There are some great snorkeling spots and you’ll the possibility to spot the harmless white-tipped reef sharks. The best snorkeling location is at the rock called Tortuga Island just off the shore.

Suarez Point

Visit Española island, the southernmost land in the Galapagos archipelago, to savor the lovely colors of the iguanas during their mating season and to witness numerous seabird courting rituals. The southern shore of the Española is a blissful spot with an incredible wildlife and the only nesting site for the waved albatross. There is some kind of activity going on at every step—marine iguanas sitting against the rocks, sea lions playing in the water, night herons concealing behind the rocks, and Galapagos Hawks moving from one rock to another. There also exists the Española Lava Lizard and Swallow-tailed Gulls and Boobies among other tropical birds. It’s a world where you walk in to find yourself lost in its exotic beauty. Española has a high proportion of endemism as it is secluded from other islands.

Galapagos visitor sites – Punta Suarez

Punta Suarez lies in the western tip of this wonderful Island, and it is also home to colonies of Blue-footed Boobies, marine iguanas, and sea lions. You will also find the fantastic blowhole that can easily shoot water about 50–60 feet up in the air. Nature lovers can treat their senses to some breathtaking sights along the cliffs.
Punta Suarez should also be visited by all globetrotters for its magnificent birdlife. There is also the Waved Albatross that comes here in summers directly from the coastal mainland in Ecuador. The huge bird leaves the islands in December as the sea temperature warms. It then looks for food, which generally lies inside the cold water.
A picturesque spot dominated by birds, Punta Suarez is a place where varied hues collide just like the sea waves against the jagged cliffs. The marvelous place is considered a really special Galapagos tour destination. A must-visit place among the Galapagos vacation cruise sites, it beckons one and all.
Listed below are some remarkable things to see and do in Punta Suarez:

  • Snorkeling & Swimming
  • Scuba Diving
  • Marine Life
  • Blue-Footed Booby Colonies
  • Turtles & Sea Lions
  • Waved Albatross nesting site

There is no shortage of flights if you want to reach the Galapagos. It is fairly easy to arrange a flight from Guayaquil and Quito on an everyday basis from the Isla Baltra or San Cristobal Island Airports. There you can board your yacht or cruise ship, and it is a 3–4 hour trip from either starting point to Española.

Osborn Islet

Osborn Islet, situated southeast of Gardner Bay near Española Island, cannot be accessed by landing. Instead, visitors can partake in a peaceful panga ride to appreciate the panoramic views and observe the diverse species that inhabit the area.

The islet derives its name from Henry Fairfield Osborn, a devoted nature enthusiast and advocate for animal species. William Beebe, who worked under Osborn, named the islet after exploring the Galapagos.

The marine ecosystem surrounding Osborn Islet is home to various schools of fish and a wide array of animal species, including parrotfish, sea lions, butterfly fish, corals, and green pencil urchins, among many colorful fish species. With its calm waters, this location is ideal for snorkeling and swimming to explore the abundant marine life.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What animals live on Darwin Island?

Darwin Island is home to a wide variety of wildlife on both land and in its waters. Divers will be thrilled by the island's diverse shark population, including scalloped hammerheads and whale sharks. The island is home to colonies of land and marine Iguanas as well as frigatebirds and swallow-tailed geese. The vibrant community of sea lions and fur seals is also home to Galapagos Penguins. Darwin Island's unique setting and conservation efforts make it a great place to see a wide variety of animals that have evolved to live in this remote, pristine habitat.

How to get to Darwin Island?

Typically, to reach Darwin Island, most travelers will fly into Ecuador and land in Quito or Guayaquil. Domestic flights will take travelers to Baltra and San Cristobal, the main Galapagos Islands airports. You must take a multi-day liveaboard, which is known for its itineraries that explore the Galapagos Islands and Darwin Island. It is important to prepare well, adhere to Galapagos National Park rules, and understand your itinerary. Darwin Island is home to a wide variety of marine life and birds, including hammerhead sharks, red-footed boobies, and other species. The journey is characterized by responsible tourism, environmental protection, and respect for the environment.

Why is Darwin Island off limits?

Darwin Island and several other Galapagos islands have restricted access to protect their fragile, extraordinary ecosystems. The regulations protect the unique species of animals, breeding areas, and plants that have developed in isolation on the Galapagos Islands and can be disrupted by humans. Controlling access is a way for authorities to stop habitat destruction and the introduction and disruption of wildlife. The Galapagos Islands are committed to sustainable tourism, conservation of the natural and cultural resources of the islands, and a commitment towards the preservation of the Galapagos Islands. This is why they have adopted this approach.

Can you stay on Darwin Island?

Darwin Island is not a place where visitors can stay overnight. It is not possible to stay overnight on Darwin Island because it's a protected area that lacks infrastructure or accommodations for tourists. Darwin Island is best explored by liveaboards, which offer diving or day excursions on the island. Overnight stays are usually spent in inhabited Galapagos islands. The regulations were put in place to protect the fragile ecosystems on the Galapagos Islands and reduce human impact. If you are planning to return soon, please check with local tour operators or the Galapagos National Park Authority for updates and changes.

Where is Darwin Island?

Darwin Island is also called Isla Darwin by Spanish speakers. It's one of the Galapagos Islands. The island is situated in the Pacific Ocean about 0.75 miles (0.12 km) northwest of Wolf Island. Galapagos Islands is part of Ecuador, located in the eastern Pacific Ocean approximately 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) west of Ecuador's mainland. The Galapagos Islands are famous for the unique wildlife that they have. They played an important role in Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection and evolution.

What country is Darwin Island in?

Darwin Island is a part of the Galapagos Islands. This archipelago in the Pacific Ocean is located on the Pacific Ocean. Galapagos Islands is a part of Ecuador. Darwin Island, therefore, is located in Ecuador. Charles Darwin was a famous naturalist who conducted research on the islands during the nineteenth century. This contributed to Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection.