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Galapagos Travel Guide: Isabela Island by ChokoTrip

In this travel guide, you’ll find information about what to do, how to get there and where to stay for 3 days without depending on a tour.

Isabela Island is one of the four inhabited islands of the famous Galapagos and the biggest of them all. The comments that I always hear from travelers about this island is that it’s the most beautiful; I agree, because, for me, it’s also my favorite for the following reasons: proximity to beaches for swimming, ease of getting to the viewpoints, the tortoise reserves, naturally occurring pools, etc.

With little urban development, this island maintains a small-town feel with a wild touch making it stand out from Santa Cruz or San Cristobal Island, considered to be more like small cities.

WHEN TO GO ISABELA ISLAND

There are only two seasons in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands: cold and hot (sometimes described as wet and dry). The summer months (June-August) are actually our winter and the winter months (Dec – Feb) are our summer.

  • High tourist season: High season takes place from June-August and from mid-December to early January.
  • Climatic periods: December – May is sunny, though it might rain in January and February. From June – November it’s cooler and the ocean water temperature decreases in August and September. It also tends to drizzle in August and September. Rule of thumb: when the temperature is warm on land, the ocean water is cooler, and vice versa.
  •  

    BEFORE YOU GO

  • Download Maps.me and download an offline map of the Islands. Mark the locations you wish to visit in advance.
  • Choose activities you want to do based on the days of your trip and make sure those activities are possible to do on those dates (i.e. some day tours are only possible on certain days of the week, not every day, due to permits and official regulations by the Galapagos National Park.
  • Book your tickets WELL in advance (4-6 months, if possible – last minute bookings in person are a thing of the past!): ferries (speedboats between Islands), accommodation, day tours or cruises.
  • HOW TO GET TO ISABELA ISLAND

    You can get to Isabela Island by:

    1. Inter-island flights: There are two airlines that offer flights from Santa Cruz or San Cristobal. These are: Emetebe and FlyGalapagos
    2. Ferries: If you want to go from San Cristobal to Isabela, you’ll have to take two ferries, first to Santa Cruz then to Isabela (no way around this!).

    Recommendation: One hour prior to traveling by ferry, take seasickness medication. Try to sity in the back of your vessel or ask to go above, where the captain is.

     

     

    PLAN YOUR TRIP AND YOUR TIME

    If you’re traveling to the Galapagos, I recommend dedicating 3 days of your itinerary to exploring and fully appreciating Isabela Island.

    – WHERE TO GO:

  • Cabo Rosa Tunnels
  • Concha Perla
  • Sierra Negra Volcano
  • Tortuga Island
  • Tintoreras
  • Marshlands (Humedales)
  • Galapagos Tortoise Breeding Center
  • Poza de los Flamencos
  • Wall of Tears / Muro de Lagrimas
  • Trillizos Volcano
  •  

    – WHERE TO GO BY CRUISE SHIP:

    Some yachts/boats that visits Islands in the North and West include visits to locations only accessible by cruises that depart from Santa Cruz Island.

  • Fernandina Island
  • Vicente Roca Point
  • Caleta Tagus
  • Urbina Bay
  • Elizabeth Bay
  •  

    – IF YOU WANT TO:

  • Hike
  • Kayak
  • Snorkel
  • Cycle
  • Go on a Panga ride
  • Beach activities
  • Wildlife sighting
  •  

    – WHAT TO DO EVERYDAY:

    • DAY 1
      07h00 – Travel by ferry from Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz. Departs at 7am and 2pm
      09h00 – Arrival to Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island.
      09h30 – Check-in at your hotel
      Every time you reserve through my blog, I get a commission that ensures the information provided here is up to date. ▪ Accommodations and hotels recommended by Choko
      11h00-17h00Cabo Rosa Tunnels Tours
      17h20 – Snorkel at Concha Perla, a natural swimming pool. You’ll see many sea lions on the way to the pool!
      You can make the most of the rest of the day by going out to eat and buying snacks or fruit for the following day.
    • DAY 2
      08h00 – Breakfast
      09h00 – Rent bicycles
      It will cost you between USD $15 – $20 to rent a bicycle for the whole day.
      09h00-16h00 – Follow the following bike route on Isabela.
      It’s of moderate difficulty; try not to go to fast because, if you fall, you’ll get pretty scraped up by the volcanic rocks. ▪ Humedales ▪ Mirador ▪ Muro de las lagrimas ▪ Poza de los Flamencos ▪ Centro de Crianza Tortugas Gigantes Arnaldo Tupiza Chamaidan ▪ Concha Perla
    • DAY 3
      06h30 – Breakfast
      Ask you hotel if they can provide an early breakfast for you.
      07h00-14:00 Sierra Negra Volcano Tour
      14h00 – Check out at hotel
      14h30 – Take a ferry from Puerto Villamil on Isabela. Departures at 6h00 and 15h00

     

    – EXPLORING ISABELA ISLAND

    I can help you looking for availability in the following daily tours that leave from Isabela Island:

    Cabo Rosa Tunnels Tours

    Cabo Rosa Tunnels Tours

    Sierra Negra Volcano Tours

    Sierra Negra Volcano Tours

     

    Surf and bodyboard
    The ‘El Faro’ beach is ideal for learning how to surf and it’s on the way to Humedales.
     

    the Trillizos
    This tour descends into the Trillizos Volcano, located near Sierra Negra Volcano. It begins as a nature hike then you reach a point where you can rappel 150 meters down. The entire tour lasts 3 hours.
    Price: USD 60
    Contact: Ulise Alvarado // Whatsapp: +593997685275 // Phone: +59352529146 // alvarado_ulise@hotmail.com
     

    Tortoise Breeding Center and flamingo pond
    These two locations are near each other and you can observe giant tortoises in the breeding center, as well as some flamingos, if you’re lucky. You can get here by foot or bicycle.
     

    Concha Perla
    A natural swimming pool near the Puerto Villamil dock and a cool spot to snorkel. You’ll see many fish and along the way you’ll pass many sea lions.
     

    Humedales and Wall of Tears
    These are usually part of a bicycle route – you can reach the Wall of Tears and along the way stop through marshlands and beaches. There’s also lookout point (mirador) with a spectacular view of Isabela Island.
     

    Sulfur Mines / Las Minas de Azufre
    Soon, you’ll be able to do a hike to the Sulfur Mines at Sierra Negra Volcano. It’ll be a similar tour as that of the volcano but focus on the western part of the crater.
     

    Tintoneras Tour
    This tour lasts for approximately 3 hours. It includes a Panga ride to observe turtles and manta rays while a guide summarizes the tour. Afterwards, you head to a small island to observe pelicans, blue-footed boobies and penguins (depending on the season).

    Then, you arrive at Tintoneras Island for a 45 minute hike. You’ll see adult and juvenile marine iguanas since this is one of the their breeding areas. The trail will take you to a canal where the Tintonera sharks rest and, finally, you’ll reach a sea lion beach. From there, you return to the boat to snorkel and observe marine life.
    Price: USD 60
    Morning schedule: 08h00 – 08h30 – 09h00 – 09h30 – 10h00 y 10h30
    Afternoon schedule: 12h30 – 13h00 – 13h30 – 14h00 – 14h30 – 15h00
     

    Scuba Diving at Tortuga island
    Islas Tortugas are a group of small islands found 30 minutes from Isabela island and it’s a good spot for intermediate to advanced divers. Share some rare moments with incredible sea creatures such as manta rays, Galápagos sharks, and occasionally hammerhead and Mackerel sharks. Sea turtles, marble fish and other varieties of open-water fish also inhabit this area.
    Cost: $180 USD
    Includes: SCUBA equipment and 2 dives
    * There must be a minimum of 6 people for the trip to take place.

     

    – TRIP BUDGET

    This is an estimate of what your costs may be for 3 days on Isabela Island:

  • US$50 Accommodation (2 nights)
  • US$124 Tour of Cabo Rosa Tunnels
  • US$45 Sierra Negra Volcano
  • US$70 Ferry (Round trip)
  • US$10 Dinner
  • US$6 Breakfast
  • US$5 Entrance fee to the island for Ecuadorians
  • US$10 Entrance fee to the island for foreign tourists.
  • US$2 Taxi boat to the ferry
  • US$20 For snacks, water, etc.
  • US$20 Bicycle rental
  •  

    – TRAVELER’S CHECKLIST

    Here’s a list of items that may improve your overall experience on Isabela Island, regardless of season. Some of these items you can purchase on the Island itself.

    * Not allowed:

  • Maintain 2 meters between you and any animal
  • Do not collect plants, sand, insects, stones or any natural object from the Galapagos.
  •  

    HELPFUL INFORMATION:

  • Banks and ATMs: At the main park you’ll find a Banco del Pacifico ATM (takes international cards)
  • Cell phone: The best provider (with the most coverage on Isabela Island) is Claro.
  • Hospitals and health facilities: There is only one health facility (Centro de Salud) located on the streets 16 de Marzo and Malecón / Opening hours: 07h30 to 17h00.
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    RECOMMENDED BY CHOKO

     

    – WHERE TO EAT ON ISABELA

    Restaurant:
    Iguana Point / Breakfasts, Lunch and Dinner / Ecuadorian and International food / Recommended dish: fried Bacalao or rice and seafood / Average price between $9 USD and $18 USD / Open from 07h00 to 22h00 / Located beachfront on Av. Malecón and 16 de marzo (See in Google Maps).

    La casa del Asado / Dineers / Ecuadorian grill / Recommended dish is the seafood grill/bbq / Average price between $8 USD and $20 USD / Open from 18h00 to 24h00 / Located on Calle Pinzon Artesano and Tero (See in Google Maps).

    El Faro / Breakfasts, Lunch and Dinner / Gourmet Ecuadorian food / Recommended dish is the seafood grill/bbq / Average price between $9 USD and $18 USD / Open from 07h00 to 22h00 / Located on Calle Fragatas and Tero real (See in Google Maps).

     

    – WHERE TO STAY ON ISABELA

    Hostel:
    Hostal Villamil ⭐⭐⭐ / Standard double rooms, small double and economy triple / Average price between $45 USD and $71 USD / Check in 12h00 to 18h00 / Located on Avenida 16 de Marzo. / RESERVE HEREÍ

    Hostal Cerro Azul ⭐⭐⭐ / Single, double and triple rooms / Average price between $40 USD and $65 USD / Check in 10h00 to 18h00 / Located on Calle Tero Real y Gaviotin. / RESERVE HERE

    Hostal Insular ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ / Single, double, triple and quadruple rooms / Average price between $24 USD and $85 USD / Check in 10h00 to 18h00 / Located on Calle Tero Real and Gabiotin. / RESERVE HERE

    Hostal Galapagos ⭐⭐ / Single, double, extra large double, triple and suites with ocean view / Average price between $32 USD and $108 USD / Check in 07h00 to 19h00 / Located on Calle Los Flamingos. / RESERVE HERE

    Hotel:
    Hotel La Laguna Galapagos ⭐⭐⭐ / Double rooms / Average price $115 USD / Check in 12h00 to 18h00 / Located on Av. Los Flamingos / RESERVE HERE

    Hotel San Vicente Galapagos ⭐⭐⭐ / Standard double and quadruple rooms / Average price between $90 USD and $179 USD / Check in 08h00 to 18h00 / Located on Av. Cormorant y Escalecias / RESERVE HERE

    Iguana Crossing Boutique Hotel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / Double rooms with a view and main suite / Average price between $275 USD and $411 USD / Check in 13h00 / Located on Av. Antonio Gil s/n vía Malecón. / RESERVE HERE

    Cormorant Beach House / Double rooms / PAverage price $136 USD / Check in 13h00 to 17h30 / Located on Av. Antonio Gil y Pinguinos. / RESERVE HERE

    Bed & breakfast:
    Hotel Coral Blanco / Single, double, triple, quadruple rooms / Average price between $40 USD and $108 USD / Check in 10h30 to 18h00 / Located on Avenida Antones Gil and Pinguinos. / RESERVE HERE

    Drake Inn / Double rooms and suites with ocean view, junior family suite, and two room suite / Average price between $98 USD and $250 USD / Check in 13h00 to 18h00 / Located on Calle Antonio Gil s/n. / RESERVE HERE

    Hospedaje Casa Soleil / Double and double standard rooms / Average price between $70 USD and $80 USD / Check in 09h00 to 18h00 / Located on Via Malecón. / RESERVE HERE

     

    Check out the map of Isabela Island with some points of interest


     

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    @ChokoEc

    @ChokoEc

    My name is Christian but you came call me Choko. Together with my wife we have created this blog to help all travelers going to Galapagos 🐢🦀🐧🐬 🐦🦎 I am from Ecuador, born in Guayaquil. Passionate about traveling and everything related to social media. In my free time I travel the americas. I have given conferences and workshops revolving around my work and tourism 2.0 // WRITE ME USING WHATSAPP: +593978990910 - 🇪🇨 BLOG IN SPANISH chokotrip.info

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