Isabela | Galapagos Island

Isabela Island | Galapagos

The largest island in the Archipelago de Colon

At just over 100 kilometers long and 4,640 square kilometers in area, Isabela Island is the largest of all the Galapagos. In fact, it’s over four times larger than second biggest Santa Cruz and bigger than all the other islands combined. However, it’s not just the size of Isabela that makes it stand out, it’s also renowned for its extraordinary beauty.

Named after the Queen of Spain, the island is home to no less than six volcanoes. A number of them are still active, which means that the island is still growing both in terms of its physical size as well as its reputation for being a nature lover’s paradise. Situated right on the Equator, this is one of the most actively volcanic places on the planet. Making this a truly unique place to experience.

The island is often divided into two sections, with the northern half of the island famed for its wild and remote environment characterized by shallow waters. The southern part of the island casts a shadow over the north, with it’s towering volcanoes and spewing fumaroles. To observe either part of the island from the other is to experience a strange and ethereal beauty.

The island feels very different from the others in the archipelago in terms of vegetation, largely thanks to the high amounts of volcanic activity. However, this dearth of vegetation is more than compensated for by the incredible volume and variety of animal life on Isabela. Discover an abundance of boobies, pelicans, flightless cormorants, as well as countless other bird species, making this a true bird-watching utopia.

The marine life is also special too. Look out for whales and dolphins just off the coast. Sharks, marine iguanas and the infamous turtles all call the waters around Isabela home too.
With so much wildlife, spectacular scenery and a range of activities to enjoy, Isabela Galapagos Island is a truly unique destination. Isabela Island has 11 visitor sites that can be visited on a Galapagos cruise or Island hopping tour

Isabela Island Tourist Information

  • Reaching the Island: You can reach Isabela Island by ferry, inter-island flight or on a liveaboard tour, there are also day tour options are available. Ferrys and flights arrive at Puerto Villamil. The western side of the island and the more remote visitor sites are only accesible on a liveaboard cruise

  • Landing: Both Dry and Wet Landing depending on visitor sites

  • Wildlife Highlights: Giant tortoises, Galapagos hawks, Galapagos penguins, land and marine iguanas, sea lions, flightless cormorant

  • Activity Highlights: Camping, Hiking, birdwatching, snorkeling and scuba diving.

  • Conditions: Isabela is the largest island in the Galapagos archipelago and has a variety of ecosystems ranging from lava fields, mangrove forests, beaches and dry and cloud forest.

  • Notes: Perhaps the best place to spot tropical penguins, it is possible to meet them face to face when snorkeling.

It is the largest island in the Galapagos cluster, made up of 5 volcanoes and a variety of marine and land visitor sites. It is one of the inhabited islands and has good hotel infrastructure. Hotel based visitors can enjoy many land based attractions close to Puerto Villamil including hikes to the caldera of the Sierra Negra volcano (second largest crater in the world). Cruise based passengers can reach the remoter areas of Tagus Cove, Punta Vicente Roca and other locations where wildlife is fearless and abundant.


Expedition Cruise itineraries that visit Isabela Island:

8 day Galapagos Islands cruise on board the Seaman Journey - West Isles route
7 day Isabela II yacht vacation to the west islands of the Galapagos archipelago 
6 day Galapagos Islands luxury cruise to the west of the archipelago including Isabela island - Petrel Catamaran
5 day Expedition cruise ship vacation visiting the west side of Isabela island - M/V Galapagos Legend
4 day Galapagos liveaboard trip including Isabela and Rabida islands - Fragata yacht 

Land based tours that visit Isabela Island:

9 day Galapagos land based tour including a stay on Isabela island
7 day Island hopping tour with hotel stays on Santa Cruz and Isabela island
6 day Galapagos hiking and snorkeling vacation - hotel based
5 day Galapagos tour including a hike to Sierra Negra volcano

Galapagos travel

Isabela Visitor Sites

Moreno Point

Blue-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, and marine iguanas found here

It is on the southwestern side of Isabela. From here there is a spectacular view of the Alcedo, Sierra Negra, and Cerro Azul volcanoes. Here there are a number of lagoons with different kinds of birds such as frigate birds, flamingos, and pelicans.
Punta Moreno has a desolate and pristine landscape of very impressive black lava flows with a unique system of brackish lagoons that are a magnet for wildlife. This newly opened visitors site offers Darwin’s finches, Galapagos doves, penguins, blue-footed boobies, mockingbirds and flightless cormorants. There is extraordinary and unusual vegetation here.

Tagus Cove

Hiking visit to explore Darwins lake and 19th-century pirate graffiti

Named after a British warship which anchored here in 1814, this cove is located to the west of the island and it is usual to take a panga trip below the high cliffs. Here there is an opportunity to see penguins as well as marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs, and sea lions. As with many sites, blue-footed boobies are in abundance.
After a dry landing, one can climb up the trail to oversee Darwin ‘s Lake. This is below the slopes of Darwin Volcano and is, surprisingly, a saltwater lake above sea level. It is said that the salt water is drawn up from below by adsorption through the porous volcanic rock of which this part of the island is formed.
The trail also has a monument to a sailor who was lost at sea and there is a large amount of graffiti carved into the rock sides of the cove. Originally the names of ships that called at the island it has, in later years, degenerated into painted graffiti which, despite attempts to stop it, is still occasionally inflicted upon the rocks.

Urbina Bay

Small bay where visitors can find several species of birds and reptiles

South from Tagus Cove and still on the Galapagos West coast is Urvina Bay. It is an easy wet landing on a gently sloping beach. This area is very interesting in that it is a perfect example of the geological activity of the islands. The waters of the bay are a good place to see turtles and rays and ashore is a short trail leading to a coral reef, which is evidence of an uplift from the sea which occurred in 1954.
From here it is easy to reach the Alcedo and Darwin volcanoes. You can see large colored land iguanas here and the possibility of seeing giant Galapagos turtles, flightless cormorantsblue-footed boobies, Galapagos penguins, pelicans, and marine iguanas is excellent.

Villamil Port

Port town located on Isabela Island

Located on the southeastern coast of Isabela in the Galapagos Islands. Puerto Villamil is the main settlement areas on Isabela Island. A small peaceful town with a laid-back atmosphere offers quite a different experience than the tourist shops on Puerto Ayora.

Puerto Villamil and the neighboring settlement of Santo Tomas were founded in 1897 by Antonio Gil. Villamil began as the center of a lime production operation. The lime produced by burning coral found off Isabela. Santo Tomas served as a sulfur mine and coffee plantation. The ventures were only somewhat profitable due to water limitations in the Galapagos Islands.

Together with Sierra Negra volcano, Villamil and Santo Tomas now have a population of approximately 1000 people.
There are a variety of rooms available for visitors and equipment and supplies available for those climbing the nearby Sierra Negra Volcano.

Villamil is often considered to be the most beautiful site in the Galapagos with its long white sand, palm-lined beaches. Behind Villamil are several brackish water lagoons where Pink Flamingoes, Common Stilts, Whimbrels, White-Cheeked Pintails, Gallinules are usually seen. The lagoons are nesting areas between November – April. The beaches and lagoons near Villamil are home to the best migratory bird viewing in the Galapagos Islands.

Sierra Negra Volcano

Galapagos Islands cruises visitor site

Sierra Negra is on the west side of the Galapagos Islands archipelago. Located in the southern part of Isabela Island between the volcanoes Alcedo and Cerro Azul. Sierra Negra’s caldera at 6 miles x 5 miles is the largest in the Galapagos Islands and the second largest in the world after Ngoro Ngoro.
The journey up to the crater begins at Puerto Villamil. From town, you follow the road to the small town of Santo Tomas where it is possible to rent a horse. Whether on foot or by horse the trip takes between 3 – 5 hours. The landscape along the way is quite lovely. Once on top, there are a series of fumaroles inside small craters. The view during the “rainy season” is quite spectacular.
This trip is normally done as an overnight camping trip, allowing visitors to camp at the crater rim.

Alcedo Vocano

Tortoise protection area at Alcedo volcano in the Galapagos

Since early explorers first encountered them on these remote and isolated islands, the Galapagos Tortoise has been the unofficial mascot of the islands.

“Alcedo volcano and its over 4000 Tortoises”

In fact, it was the nickname galápago given to the tortoises by the first Spanish explorers that gave the islands their name.
Able to live for over 100 years in the wild and around 170 years in captivity, these magnificent creatures seem to personify the wonder and unique nature of the islands.
This long association between the islands and the eponymous tortoise, mean that no trip to the Galapagos complete without a visit to see some of these age-defying reptiles, and the best place to observe them is around the Alcedo Volcano on Isabela Island, home to approximately 4000 tortoises.
The volcano, one of the youngest in the archipelago at around 313,000 years old, rises to a height of about 1100m. Its Caldera (the cauldron-like feature formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption) is around 7km and 6km wide and is lined with fumaroles.

Most of the fumaroles are gathered in a 1.2 km zone along the caldera wall. Pumping out steam, heat and natural gasses, these natural chimneys are a good indicator of the hydrothermal activity that lies beneath which, at the Alcedo Volcano is slowly moving east. As the only volcano in the Galapagos that has erupted rhyolite and basalt lava, the environment surrounding the volcano is fairly unique and provides are great habitat for the Galapagos Tortoise.

And although the population has suffered in the past from volcanic eruptions and hungry feral goats, the Alcedo Volcano remains one of the best places in the world to observe the Galapagos Tortoise, and to appreciate the impact that these colossal creatures have had on our understanding of evolution, biology and monumental longevity.


Albermarle Point

Shore excursion Galapagos cruise visitor site Punta Albermarle

The human history left its traces somewhere inside a small corner of the largest island in the Galapagos archipelago. A significant North American radar station during the times of the World War II, at what is today the Point Albemarle Visitor Site, situated at the northernmost point in the Isabela Island. The site was used to avert the Japanese vessels that arrived to capture or destroy the Panama Canal. Nowadays, what remains is a small and deteriorated structure of the historical past. The throbbing surf and the rough seas make it hard for you to do anything else apart from having a glimpse of the water barrels that were left behind.

Galapagos Islands cruises visitor site 

A sheer magical place, this site sometimes gives you a feeling that time has stood by here for millions of year. It is also a must-visit site for anyone, who is yearning for a shore excursion in Galapagos in order to have a close encounter with endemic wildlife
The wildlife on this island offers the finest examples of the ‘survival of the fittest’ theory by Charles Darwin. There is also a mangrove zone between the Pahoehoe lava flows for creating channels and creeks. It acts as an ideal nesting site for some of the most exclusive species of the world like the flightless cormorant, and also some of the largest marine iguanas of the archipelago. The wildlife in this seldom-visited site appears completely indifferent to the presence of any visitor. However, you can still spot the view of cormorants building nests with all types of seaweeds, strands of marine algae and other materials nearby the shore. The marine iguanas climb down the rocks to swim, which shows how well they have adapted to the surroundings.
It is also home to Galapagos penguins, seabirds, and various other marine species. It is a marine visitor site for Galapagos naturalist cruises, although there is no landing site in this area it is perfect for traveling through by zodiac. It is really exciting to view the marine iguanas feeding on seaweed.
With a maximum depth of 100m, the Punta Albemarle is perfectly suitable for the advanced divers. The average visibility is around 10-20 meters and divers can access the waters by boat. The rocks are quick slippery and you have to exercise extreme caution while walking here. It is recommended to keep a distance of 10m from species like the flightless cormorants.

Elizabeth Bay

Galapagos Iguana heaven at Elizabeth Bay on Isabela Island

Regarded as an ideal marine site, the Elizabeth Bay lies on the western-most coast of the Perry Isthmus. Situated at Isabela Island, this cruise visitor site boasts of vibrant mangroves that give a wonderful contrasting effect along with the lava. The site is created with the combination of two volcanoes, Alcedo and Sierra Negra, which is considered as the second largest and also one of the most active volcanos on the planet.

Galapagos Islands cruises visitor site – Elizabeth Bay

The Elizabeth Bay comprises of numerous species on land as well as underwater. As you enter, you can savor the sight of the Galapagos hawks soaring overhead while schools of dorados and pompanos can be seen swimming underwater.
The place is also home to Galapagos Iguana, flightless cormorants, gulls, masked boobies, and blue-footed boobies. It also brags about the biggest contingent of the Galapagos penguins inhabiting these islands. There are also brown noddies, frigates, and pelicans amongst other seabirds. You can also see and hear from several yellow warblers, finches, and mockingbirds in this paradise. Spotted eagle rays, mangrove snappers, and golden rays can also be viewed in the clear waters and low tides.
You will also enjoy the sight of the red mangrove cove moving past the green leaf and the red root breeding ground for fish. You can reach here by taking a Galapagos nature cruise and landing off your ship or yacht on a panga ride or a dingy on this site with no landing site available. The panga easily slides through a thin channel with lovely red and white mangroves on each side of it. The presence of the largest red mangrove or the Rhizophora Mangle along with other magnificent trees clearly shows that you are in the midst of the tropical Equatorial zone. This is probably the only site where ancient tropical trees co-exist with penguins.
The wonderful marine life and its clear waters make this site ideal for water activities like snorkeling and for spotting schools of sea lions, colorful fishes, and sharks.
Located on Isabela Island`s west shore, this is extremely interesting for observing marine life. You can motor or kayak past a few islands where you usually see Galapagos penguins. One of the best areas to take their photos. A colony of these magnificent birds inhabits a rocky islet at the entrance to Elizabeth Bay.
Let your boat or kayak drift through a small passage lined with mangroves you emerge into an enclosed cove. Turn your motor off and look in the sheltered waters for marine turtles, rays, flightless cormorants, sea lions, and, circling overhead, Galapagos hawks.

Point Vicente Roca

Point Vicente Roca off Isabela: shore excursion in Galapagos

The sub-island Point Vicente Roca is located at the northern mouth of Isabela Island in the Galapagos archipelago. The Island looks like a giant sea-horse when looked from the sky and the Point Vicente Roca seems like situated on the nose of this giant seahorse. Hovering between the enchanting ocean currents, the Galapagos Islands are the most wonderful scenic landscapes that can be explored on earth. The Point Vicente Roca is situated in the western part of the Galapagos. The site brings surprises to its visitors by revealing some of the most amazing wildlife creatures. The sea, as well as the surrounding lands, features abundant flora and fauna. Some of the species are also believed to be endemic.

Galapagos Islands cruises visitor site – Point Vicente Roca

The Point Vicente Roca is a beautiful formation on Isabela island, which has been formed due to a massive volcanic eruption. The surface of the Island has a double-layered turquoise rock, which gives the information about the age of this bewitching place. One of the most interesting spots amongst all of the Galapagos cruise destinations is its provocative partially submerged cave. The cave becomes a center of interest for most of the visitors.
The marine life of the island is very diverse and abundant, because of the cold water currents that flow through the island. These currents bring along copious amounts of nutrients to nourish the magnificent sea creatures of that lurk in these waters. The beautiful and precarious cliffs catch the fancy of the seekers. There are various species of birds that can be found hanging on those cliffs.
The species of living creatures that can be spotted at this brilliant place are the Galapagos penguins, blue-footed boobies, terns, Nazca boobies, sea lions, sea turtles, rays and the pufferfish. Some of them are considered endemic. Voyagers really enjoy the sight of these millions of birds flying and performing other activities. At times, the explorers really get surprised when they discover such amazing and unique creatures. It is hard to believe your eyes when you have so many exquisite species to explore up close.
The Vicente Roca Point also makes a fine destination for all voyagers who have a thing for water sports. The location is stated as one of the fine destinations for water sports like snorkelingdiving and dinghy riding. The abundant species of the marine life makes this place a perfect fit for diving and snorkeling. Divers and snorkelers enjoy the view of thousands of fishes swimming in huge swarms and the marine plantations are just breathtaking. The landscape created by the cliffs has an endless charm and the magnificent marine life is just impossible to miss.
Since the place is a bunch of huge and vast cliffs, there is no space for landing. Although itineraries do not provide landing facilities here, they provide some of the best zodiac ride opportunities.
So get ready to explore the amazing landscapes of the Galapagos Islands and the Vicente Roca Point. Book your journey now.

Recommended cruise tours that visit Isabela Island

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