Galapagos Islands travel advisor - Isabela Island attractions
Isabela Island visitor sites
sabela is the largest of the Galapagos Islands. 20,000 people live on the Galapagos Islands, 2,200 of whom live on Isabela. Isabela is the only island in the archipelago crossed by the equatorial line.
On the enchanted island of Isabela you can easily see 5 of the 7 sub - species of giant tortoise, flamingos, penguins, marine and land iguanas, sea lions and white tip reef sharks using the town of Puerto Villamil as your base.
There is an incredible range of visitor sites and attractions close to Puerto Villamil that will allow you to enjoy the incredible beauty and tranquillity of Isabela. Here you will find a variety of options that allow you to visit the many visitor sites while enjoying the unique flora and fauna of this enchanted island.
We also include a section listing local operators based in Puerto Villamil that can offer transportion, guides and planning for you to make the most of your stay on Isabela Island in the Galapagos archipelago.
Land Visitor Sites
Wetlands are places with water; this can be pools or lagoons, streams, mangrove swamps, islets and during low tide includes marine waters less than 6 meters in depth. The wetlands route is a 5km series of trails that you can explore on foot or by car choosing between the various pedestrian visitor sites. Each visitor site is clearly marked with signposts that indicate its name and distance.
When walking the trails you will see wooden posts with numbered markers. Each numbered marker represents an interpretive station. Find the corresponding number in the guide: 'Walking through the wetlands of Isabela' that you will find in Puerto Villamil.
Poza de Los Diablos
The Poza de los Diablos located next to the road that leads from Puerto Villamil to the Wall of Tears is the largest lagoon in Galapagos, and is also one of the main reproduction sites for flamingos. Here it is common to see these svelte birds next to the many mangroves found in the wetlands.
The Playita is a small white sand beach with lava rock where sea birds rest after feeding. It's an ideal place to enjoy the sun and the nature surrounded by mangroves. It offers a great view of Puerto Villamil and its nearby islands.
This trails passes through a dry mesquite forest and a wet mangrove forest. A viewpoint allows you a breathtaking view of one of the most unique landscapes in Galapagos: candelabra cacti surround this tranquil green lagoon.
Los Tunos Viewpoint
From the edge of an area of collapsed lava you will have a panoramic view of the Poza Verde. The lagoon is surrounded by mangroves and a thousand year old forest of endemic candelabra cacti.
Playa del Amor
Playa del Amor is a small beach with coarse grained sand formed from shells and sea urchins that ends in a shallow inter-tidal lagoon. This lagoon is perfect for enjoying a relaxing swim and is ideal for small children. The nearby rocky coastline is home to many marine iguanas.
Túnel del Estero
This is a fascinating place for geology enthusiasts. This tunnel was formed by volcanic eruptions that flowed out under the sea. You can walk inside the tunnel at low tide.
This is an area
of collapsed lava that has formed a small lagoon. From the edge you will be able to see how the plants of Galapagos have developed in the blocks of lava. You can descend to the edge of the lagoon to see the different layers of solidified lava from various eruptions.
The trail leads you through the typical dry forest of cacti and acacias found in Galapagos. After a few metres you will find yourself in the m
iddle of a mangrove swamp that feeds out to the ocean.
The trail to the Estero allows you to closely observe the mangrove eco systems unique to Isabela and the largest black mangrove trees in Galapagos.
It is one of the most unique, interesting visitor sites in the archipelago. Here a freshwater spring forms a river during low tide that flows into a sandy bay where various sea birds and marine life can be observed.
Cerro Orchilla Viewpoint
From the summit of Cerro Orchilla you can see the entire coastal wetland system including Poza de los Diablos, Puerto Villamil, the beaches, the volcanoes and the islets to the south east of Isabela. It's a great location for taking panoramic photos on clear days.
Wall of Tears
The Wall of Tears is a historic site in Isabela. Between 1946 and 1959 Isabela was a penal colony, where prisoners were made build a wall with huge blocks of lava as punishment. The wall is 100 metres long and 7 metres high. Due to the arduous labour and harsh conditions in which the prisoners lived, this site is known as the wall of tears.
A set of stairs provides a bird's eye view of the wall and the surrounding landscape. You can still see the cement foundations of the USA base dating back to the Second World War.
Concha de Perla
This is the perfect spot for those who love swimming or snorkelling! Concha de Perla is a shallow, calm bay with crystal clear water that allows you to enjoy the fascinating marine life of Galapagos. If you are lucky you will be able to swim with sea lions and penguins.
A short distance from Puerto Villamil is the small island known as 'Las Tintoreras'. Here a colony of white tip sharks can often be seen resting in a lava canal. You can snorkel or swim in the unique habitat of these animals.
Nearby hundreds of marine iguanas can be observed, as 'Las Tintoreras' is one of their main breeding sites. On the nearby sandy beaches, sea lions play and relax in the sun. This is one of Isabela's most beautiful visitor sites.
Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre
A 1.2km trail passes from Puerto Villamil to the Breeding Centre through various ecosystems. Along the trail you will see many different types of plants and animals in the lagoon and mangrove, dry forest and lava ecosystems that are found only on Galapagos.
In the Breeding Centre you will be able to observe tortoises of all ages and sizes. You will also learn about the reproduction and rearing of giant tortoises and see all the work that is being carried out to help recover the wild populations of these species. There is also a visitor's centre and a gift shop where local handmade products are sold.
La Playa Grande
Right in front of Puerto Villamil you will find one of the most spectacular white sand beaches found in the Galapagos Islands. The majority of this beach is located within the National Park so it is totally unspoilt. Populations of ghost crabs and sea birds abound on this stretch of beach. This is an ideal spot for swimming, walking and surfing.
Not too far off the road that runs from town to the island's agricultural zone you will find 'El Mango'. The site gets its name from the large mango tree that was planted by the first settlers. From the top of the highest hill, on a clear day, there is a spectacular view of all of south Isabela, as well as some of the other surrounding islands including Floreana and Santa Cruz.
Sierra Negra is located 13 miles from Puerto Villamil and boasts the world's second largest volcanic crater, measuring 6 miles in diameter and 300 metres deep. This volcano has three visitor sites:
This is one option for taking in the landscapes of the Sierra Negra crater without walking a great deal. This site is located approximately 2 miles from the resting point 'Paradero Sierra Negra'. On clear days you will have a panoramic view of this spectacular crater.
Located in the north-eastern part of Sierra Negra. Upon arriving at 'Paradero Sierra Negra' you can rent a horse or go on foot to 'El Jaboncillo'. From there you will descend a short trail that is designated solely for pedestrian use.
Once you arrive at Volcán Chico, you will see various formations of petrified lava of many different colours and textures. You will also find fumaroles scattered throughout this area. On a clear day you will be greeted by a majestic view of the Perry Isthmus and other surrounding islands.
If you would like to camp near the volcano, you have to request permission in the Galapagos National Park office in Puerto Villamil and contract the services of a local guide.
Volcán de Azufre
This site is located in the western part of the Sierra Negra crater. From 'Paradero Sierra Negra' you can rent a horse to take you the 6 miles to the Volcán de Azufre. After arriving by horse to the edge of the crater, you will be able to descend on foot to the fumaroles that are located on the back side of the crater.
If you wish to camp at the crater edge, you must get permission from the Galapagos National Park in Puerto Villamil. In order to visit this site you must contract the services of a local guide.
Marine visitor sites
Located approximately 30 minutes from Puerto Villamil, you find the small island of Tortuga. This is an old volcanic crater. This island is one of the main nesting sites for Galapagos sea birds. From your boat you will be able to observe an infinite number of frigate birds, boobies, gulls and the tropic bird among others. You should not try to disembark as it is quite dangerous and may interrupt the breeding pattern of these impressive birds. Tortuga is an excellent dive site. In order to visit this site you must contract the services of a local guide.
Islotes Cuatro Hermanos
Cuatro hermanos is located 50 minutes by boat from Puerto Villamil. These four small islands are a very important sanctuary for the reproduction of hundreds of marine birds. This area is an excellent place for scuba diving. Do no try to disembark as tidal conditions are dangerous. In order to visit this site you must contract the services of a local guide.
Los Tuneles are located approx. 60 minutes by boat from Puerto Villamil. This site is one of the most spectacular places for snorkelling in Isabela as the water is shallow, clear and calm. This marine sanctuary is characterized by its unique geologic formations.
A series of lava flows have produced a number of arches and tunnels both under and above water, where you find a number of animal species that have taken up residence in these magnificent formations. The entry into this site is shallow and the waves can be quite strong, for this reason it is not always feasible to enter this site. The best season to visit is between the months of January and May.
To get to this site you will need to hire a speedboat from town and contract the services of a local guide.