Some of our family’s most memorable experiences have been on day trips from Isabela Island, Galapagos. We were only on Isabela Island for four days, but this visit remains one of our favorite travel memories!
The Galapagos Islands, far off the coast of Ecuador, are home to some of the most unique species on the planet and offer some of the best day trips for wildlife viewing. Add to that beautiful beaches, a tropical climate and friendly locals and you have a destination to explore.
Whether you take a day trip to one of the 18 islands in the volcano-formed archipelago or want to take one of the most luxurious cruises to the Galapagos Islands, you are sure to encounter plenty of animals wild.
The Galapagos are home to the endangered giant tortoise, the lava rock-loving land iguana and its brethren, the ocean-diving marine iguana, as well as tons of sea turtles, sea lions and even penguins. tropical. The marine iguana is a species of iguana found only on the Galápagos Islands that is unique among modern lizards in that it finds food below the surface of the ocean.
Some of the most scenic day trips you can take in the Galapagos Islands come from Isabela Island. We were lucky enough to spend time there and experience the best day trips from Isabela Island, Galapagos.
A brief history of Isabela Island
Isabela Island (also called Isla Isabela) is the largest of the Galapagos Islands (it’s actually bigger than all 17 other islands combined!), but Puerto Villamil (the largest village on the island) is the smallest of the three main establishments in Galapagos.
Getting around town on the sandy streets is quick and easy and there is a very laid back, almost Caribbean feel to the island. To say the town is as unique as the people and animals that live there is an understatement and we met some really nice people there.
Isabela Island straddles the equator and was formed, like the others in the archipelago, by lava and volcanoes around a million years ago. As a result, this Galapagos island still has a lot of volcanic activity and ranks as one of the most active volcanic islands in the world. Almost all the volcanic activity is based around the untouched northern part of the island, but it’s still a great trip.
Whether you take one of the many guided tours or go on your own, there’s plenty to do for such a sleepy place. Like most of the Galapagos Islands, you’ll see sea lions and marine iguanas just about everywhere, as well as the remarkable Frigatebirds flying overhead. In the island’s wetlands you can see flamingos and stilts and Darwin’s famous finches, which helped him formulate his theory of evolution, exist near land and sea.
Underwater you can see some of the largest aggregations of hammerhead sharks in the world as well as numerous sea turtles, stingrays, manta rays and seahorses. If you’re snorkeling, chances are you’ll be visited by a curious sea lion and, if you’re lucky, the world’s only tropical penguin, the Galapagos penguin.
Day trips from Isabela Island
Some of the most notable day trips from Isabela Island include:
A day trip to Los Tuneles
Our favorite day trip from one of the Galapagos Islands, the day trip to Los Tuneles was amazing!
The day we went to Los Tuneles, we snorkeled with nearly a dozen sea turtles, swam with reef sharks and sea lions, and also saw a seahorse and a few stingrays up close.
We also walked over ruined lava tubes and came up close to watch the courtship dance of a pair of blue-footed boobies.
One of my personal highlights was sitting on one of the collapsed lava arches and watching the sea turtles navigate the shallow channels from Los Tuneles below to the warmer lagoon for the night.
Sometimes they passed a few meters from us and the water was crystal clear.
Sierra Negra Volcano
The second largest active volcanic crater in the world, the Sierra Negra measures more than 10 km in diameter. Day trips into the Sierra Negra take you around the rim and offer spectacular views of the volcano and surrounding islands.
Expect to be hot and tired after your 10 mile walk, but everyone we spoke to said it was worth it just for the view. This is a tour of about four to five hours that usually includes trips to the Chico Volcano, which is about an hour away, where you can see fumaroles (gas vents) and parasitic craters (a non-main volcano cone).
The Tintoreras are a series of small islands directly in front of Puerto Villamil.
The tour usually includes a small boat that takes five minutes to cross the shallow bay and slowly drives along the coast so you can see Galapagos penguins (the only tropical penguin in the world) and blue-footed boobies (birds funny with feet and an extravagant courtship dance) up close.
On an excursion you also have the opportunity to snorkel between the islands. While snorkeling, you can see everything from small reef sharks and stingrays to sea turtles and curious sea lions.
Once you’ve finished snorkeling, you’ll cross one of the islands where you’ll get off the boat and take a short trail that takes you to an area full of sea lions and a water alley full of resting sharks.
Advice! If you wish, you can also kayak to Tintoreras in a group. It’s a pretty similar excursion to the above, but you won’t end up traveling as far up the coast as you would with the boat. The coolest thing is that if you find the Galapagos penguins (they move around a lot in certain seasons) you can usually get a little closer to them.
Concha de Perla
La Concha de Perla is like a huge natural swimming pool closed to the sea. It is right next to the quays of the main island. To access it, look for a sign on the left as you walk towards the water.
After a 1 minute walk along a long wooden boardwalk, you will come to a small terrace overlooking the bay. There isn’t a lot of seating, but there are two stairs down to the water, and La Concha de Perla is a wonderful place to swim and snorkel.
To get to the town docks or boardwalk, head east from town. The docks are accessible in about 10 minutes. It can get very hot in the afternoon, so it would be wiser to take a truck taxi for a few dollars.
Every time we have been to Concha de Perla we have seen sharks, sea turtles, stingrays and pods of fish. Along the edges we saw marine iguanas hanging in low branches just above the water basking in the sun as well as frolicking sea lions. Supposedly, it is not uncommon to see Galapagos penguins there from time to time.
Warn: There is no beach at Concha de Perla and the water is deep so it is not ideal for children unless they are strong swimmers. Also note that as the tide rises and falls it can create a current along the outer edges, so make sure you are a good swimmer or wear flippers if heading further out. Since it’s too deep to see much in the center, you’ll still want to stick to the edges.
Giant tortoise breeding center
The national park runs the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center on Isabela Island and is where giant tortoises are raised from egg to adolescence before being released into the highlands, which is their habitat. natural on the island.
The turtle breeding center is a great place for children and there is a good interpretive room. To get there, you can simply walk down the beach or walk up the main road opposite the town docks and turn right on the wooden walkways just past Iguana Crossing. It’s a 30 minute walk into town or about a 5 minute taxi ride.
To the west of Puerto Villamil there are several salty and brackish lagoons which are home to an impressive variety of coastal and seabirds. Here visitors can also find the largest concentration of flamingos in the Galapagos.
The path to Flamingo Lake is located just one foot from the beach and begins just past the Iguana Crossing Hotel. You can visit the turtle breeding center at the same time because it takes the same route.
wall of tears
The Wall of Tears on Isabela Island has a rich history of quite macabre details. The highlight was a large wall made of lava rocks in the middle of nowhere built by prisoners in the late 1940s and early 1950s as a big work project that never came to fruition.
The Wall of Tears is five kilometers from the town of Puerto Villamil and makes a great early morning or late afternoon getaway. To get there faster, you can rent a bike in town which will allow you to ride the well-signposted nature trails that will also lead to lagoons, magnificent viewpoints, as well as beautiful secluded beaches.
Isabela Island is also home to wetlands located just outside Puerto Vilamil. The wetlands consist of saltwater lagoons and mangroves and are home to a variety of unique endemic bird species such as common stilts, whimbrels, white-cheeked pintails and gallinules. You can visit the wetlands on foot via a path that winds through the marshes.
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