Adventure Cruises in Isabela Island

Isabela Island Cruises allow guests to discover the natural beauty of the biggest island of the Galapagos. Straddling the Equator, Isabela Island is located in the western part of the Galapagos archipelago, close to the volcanic Galapagos hotspot that created the island group. A lesser-visited area, it is also one of the most diverse, which is no mean feat in an area already known for being one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.

The Galapagos Islands are situated in the Pacific Ocean, lying more than 900 kilometers off the coast of Ecuador. The island group is known for its diverse flora and fauna, with many species that can only be found in this part of the world. Attracting the attention of Charles Darwin in the past, the islands continue to appeal to nature lovers and adventure seekers today. Naturalist tours allow visitors to get up close and personal with a fascinating array of biodiversity.

Formed around one to two million years ago, Isabela Island is one of the youngest islands in the Galapagos. It is also sometimes referred to as Albemarle Island, with terrain that is unique when compared with the other islands. Board small yachts as part of your Isabela Island Cruises to experience the rich wildlife on land, in the air, and in the water that calls the area home, as well as discover the local geology and learn about the local culture.

Abundant wild turtles, penguins, iguanas, crabs, pelicans, sea lions, whales, and dolphins are just a few wondrous creatures that you can expect to see, while, if you cast your gaze skywards, you can spot, for example, finches, doves, and hawks. Volcanoes, lava fields, dense mangroves, villages, and sandy beaches await you!

An adventure cruise in the Galapagos offers plenty of unique and exciting experiences that will keep you enchanted and captivated.

Top things to do and see on Isabela Island

Home to the five biggest volcanoes in the entire Galapagos archipelago, boasting some of the best wildlife-spotting opportunities with some of the biggest bird and iguana colonies across the island group, and known for its volcanic activity, Isabela Island offers plenty of action on your adventure cruise.

Myriad activities range from snorkeling, swimming, and sunbathing to bird-watching, hiking, and horse riding.

Puerto Villamil and Nearby Areas - Isabela Island Cruises take in various interesting points around the large island. Puerto Villamil is a small port in the south of the island, and it is home to the majority of the island’s population. You can enjoy the fishing community vibe, sample tasty freshly caught seafood, engage with the cheerful children, shop for souvenirs in the colorful stores, and admire the islets that dot the shore. Stroll along the boardwalk leading through mangroves and see flamingoes, gallinules, whimbrels, and more. The Tortoise Breeding Center sits at the end of the boardwalk, helping to conserve sea tortoises. The harbor is often filled with small luxury yachts and other sailing vessels, many carrying passengers on exciting Galapagos cruises.

Swim and snorkel at Concha de Perla, observing various bird life and vibrant tropical fish, turtles, and sea lions. Head to the Iguana Crossing, in the western part of the village, to see many iguanas traveling between the lagoons and beach, and take a trip to Flamingoes Lake, awash with shades of pink and white thanks to the huge number of flamingos that live here. You can also learn more about the area’s history and heritage at El Muro de las Lagrimas / the Wall of Tears. A soaring wall, it was built between the mid-1940s and late 1950s using convict labor, with thousands of lives lost during the grueling construction.

Sierra Negra Volcano - Hiking enthusiasts will love the opportunity of the steep ascent to the rim of Sierra Negra Volcano. The hike takes around two hours, with great vistas all around. Upon reaching the top, you can feast your eyes on the world’s third-biggest caldera, surrounded by lush vegetation and home to several types of finch. Horse riding provides a different perspective of the beautiful area.

Moreno Point and Elizabeth Bay - Heading a bit farther north, Moreno Point offers terrific dinghy excursions, complete with amazing bird-spotting opportunities. Alternatively, you can enjoy scenic hiking through the lava rocks and look for whale-tip sharks in the waters. Climb into a small dinghy to explore the small islets off the coast of Elizabeth Bay, see unique mangrove forests, observe penguins and blue-footed boobies on the craggy rocks, and get close to sea lions and various fish species with some snorkeling adventures.

Urbina Bay - Sitting at the bottom of Alcedo Volcano, the land around Urbina Bay rose significantly in the 1950s, leading to much stranded aquatic life. Today, you can wander across patches of land that were once at the bottom of the ocean, marveling at dried coral and shells. Snorkeling lets you explore the fascinating underwater world, spotting schools of colorful fish, rays, and turtles. Hawks fly overhead, and the sandy shores are rife with large, leathery-looking land iguanas and, in the wet season, giant tortoises.

Bolivar Channel - Many Isabela island cruises sail through the Bolivar Channel, a channel that separates Isabela Island and the neighboring Fernandina Island. In the coldest waters in the Galapagos area, it is common to see whales and dolphins swimming near your cruise boat.

Tagus Cove - named after a British ship, sits close to the Bolivar Channel. Take a peaceful ride in a small boat below the cliffs, keeping your eyes peeled for nesting pelicans and blue-footed boobies, as well as penguins, brown noddies, and cormorants. Flex your muscles with a hike, taking in the jagged coastal rocks, volcanic landscapes, dry vegetation, and views of the shimmering Darwin Lake. There are plenty of lovely sandy beaches, too, perfect for relaxing and soaking up some sun post-hike.

Vicente Roca Point - In the north of Isabela Island, Vicente Roca Point is a top spot for snorkeling and boating. The twin coves shelter an array of unusual species, including sunfish, seahorses, and puffer fish. Bird lovers won’t be disappointed either, with terns, blue-footed boobies, and penguins, amongst others.

Galapagos wildlife encounters are plentiful on tours of Isabela Island, and you are sure to be thrilled whether you opt for a Galapagos small ship cruise, a small luxury yacht, a dinghy excursion, or something else entirely.

Best time to cruise Isabela Island

While the Galapagos Islands are generally said to be an ideal year-round destination, the best time to visit Isabela Island depends on the main activities that you wish to do.

The most popular months for Galapagos Cruises are between June and August and again from the middle of December to January. Plan ahead if you wish to visit during the peak tourist times. Visiting outside of these periods will still provide plenty of adventures and wildlife encounters, but prices may be lower with fewer other tourists around.

With little variation in air and water temperatures throughout the year and numerous species that are not migratory, an Isabela Island cruise is a fantastic experience at any time. Generally, however, the waters are clearer between January and March, making this a perfect time for avid snorkeling enthusiasts. The driest months are typically between August and December, which is perfect for beach lovers.

Visit the Galapagos in January to observe green sea turtles arriving and laying eggs on the beaches and in April to see the eggs hatching. July is the prime month for seeing whales off the western coast of Isabela Island. Bird spotters will probably prefer to visit Isabela Island between August and March when the number of migratory birds is at its peak. October is the mating period for fur seals, while brown noddies are sexually active in November. December is the best month to witness the hatching of giant tortoises.

Where do Isabela Island cruises depart from?

Before joining any Galapagos cruises, you must go to mainland Ecuador. International flights usually arrive in the country’s capital city of Quito, though it is also possible to take an international flight to Guayaquil. Flights to the Galapagos Islands leave daily from both Quito and Guayaquil. Flights from Guayaquil are shorter, and many departures from Quito stop in Guayaquil en route to the Galapagos Islands.

Baltra Island has the busiest airport on the Galapagos Islands, and flights also arrive on San Cristobal Island. Your tour operator will typically arrange transfers from the airport to your cruise departure point from Baltra or San Cristobal. Isabela Island cruises generally depart from Puerto Ayora, a major port on Santa Cruz Island.

Book your next Galapagos Adventure Cruise today.

Isabela Island Reviews

  • 9.2 Superb
  • 57 Verified Reviews
  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • Maureen B
  • United States United States

Tough hike to Darwin's lake.

Diving Isabela Island in September on the Galapagos Legend

  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • Meng Y
  • United States United States

Wonderful snorkeling here. Saw sharks, penguins and sea turtles.

Diving Isabela Island in February on the Grand Majestic

  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • Michael S
  • United States United States

Very good - great island for seabirds, marine iguanas and sea lions. We did three excursions on Isabela each covered different aspects of the island

Diving Isabela Island in October on the Nemo III

  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • shelly B
  • United States United States

The hike to the crater was excellent. Please mention how difficult the walk is on the jagged lava field on the stop near the blue footed booby colonies. Sturdy hiking shoes are a must.

Diving Isabela Island in November on the Eden

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Mark P
  • United States United States

Was exciting to see the lava at night from Wolf volcano. Otherwise I cannot recommend cruising around this desolate, barren, volcanic place.

Diving Isabela Island in February on the Golondrina

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Greg J
  • United States United States

Wonderful hike and snorkel.

Diving Isabela Island in May on the EcoGalaxy

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • J. Miller T
  • United States United States

all beautiful - the landscapes were breathtaking and every trip featured some wildlife -

Diving Isabela Island in June on the Galaxy

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Kara W
  • United States United States

The highlight of the trip. So much land and marine wildlife. Excellent hike up to a volcano caldera.

Diving Isabela Island in July on the Treasure of Galapagos

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Tomas B
  • United States United States

Amazing snorkeling, fun kayak trip, interesting short hikes

Diving Isabela Island in August on the EcoGalaxy

  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • Molly M
  • United States United States

Our favorite- the prehistoric rock is amazing the little beach town is adorable- the sighting of animals was as if we were the first to see

Diving Isabela Island in September on the Golondrina

  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • Dawn M
  • United States United States

The excursions were well planned and offered an array of experiences to see land and sea animals. We liked the opportunity to also kayak/paddle board, in addition to snorkeling and hiking!

Diving Isabela Island in October on the EcoGalaxy

  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • Nora F
  • United States United States

Urbina Bay was good as you walked around large turtles in their own habitat. Darwin Lake let us see more of the island terrain and the volcano area. I do not recall the panga going through the cliffs and being shown the historical graffiti (which I really wanted to see). We did see penguins, which was a plus. We also did not get to see the Wall of Tears, another historic site I wanted to see.

Diving Isabela Island in October on the Golondrina

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Rebecca B
  • United States United States

Sierra Negra was amazing. I do wish we could have hiked to another volcano, but I understand the rest of the group may not have wanted to do that. Elizabeth Bay was amazing. The panga ride was so cool. Urbina Bay and Tagus cove there was so much to see!

Diving Isabela Island in October on the Endemic

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Magdolna L
  • United States United States

Nice hike to the volcano, and interesting visit to the breeding center. Punto Moreno visit was also good, opportunity to observe wildlife upclose.

Diving Isabela Island in December on the Galapagos Sea Star

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Karen N
  • United States United States

Detailed look at the animals and the environment. Even more exciting then the itinerary!

Diving Isabela Island in December on the Fragata

  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • Yilin Z
  • United States United States

Great snorkeling, although we had some rough waters.

Diving Isabela Island in January on the Grand Majestic

  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • Hany M
  • United States United States

Tne land, sea,, and snorkeling excursions we amazing.

Diving Isabela Island in April on the Galapagos Sea Star

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Carlos E
  • Chile Chile

All of them excellent. Good explanations from the guide.

Diving Isabela Island in February on the Galapagos Sea Star

  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • Charles L
  • Canada Canada

On our panga ride to Isabela, we saw giant sea turtles, penguins, iguanas and sea lions swimming and on the shore. We enjoyed the hike over the black lava to view pink flamingos, lava herons, brown pelicans and flightless cormorants! Viewing messages written by buccaneers so many years ago still visible on the rocks and hiking to the rim of a volcanic crater were awesome.

Diving Isabela Island in February on the Nemo II

  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • Adrian S
  • Canada Canada

My favourite island by far as the rugged volcanic landscape was really interesting and the snorkelling was simply amazing.

Diving Isabela Island in June on the Archipel I

  • 8.0 Very good
  • Julien H
  • France France

Good except the breeding center , should be replaced by the tunnels

Diving Isabela Island in February on the Cachalote Explorer

  • 9.2 Superb
  • Klemens G
  • Austria Austria

Great. Landscape is awesome and snorkel spots are perfect

Diving Isabela Island in February on the Coral I and II

  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • Sara B
  • Australia Australia

Excellent hikes, snorkels and town visit.

Diving Isabela Island in September on the Yolita

  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • Walter R
  • Germany Germany

Excellent, especially Darwin's Lake

Diving Isabela Island in October on the Endemic

  • 8.0 Very good
  • Ravi R
  • United Kingdom United Kingdom

Amazing! Saw so much wildlife - iguanas, flamingos, turtles, sealions.

Diving Isabela Island in November on the Fragata

  • 8.4 Very good
  • Heidi H
  • Germany Germany

Nice walk and excursion to see the lava and green lagoons. First sight of iguanas from the dinghy. Rest of the day program was cancelled due to the emergency in the crew.

Diving Isabela Island in November on the EcoGalaxy

  • 8.0 Very good
  • Anna D
  • Belgium Belgium

We went all around the island. Did a lot of great thinks. Only sad that the wall of tears not included is. Would be nice to do with bikes or something.

Diving Isabela Island in April on the Golondrina

  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • Thalia S
  • New Zealand New Zealand

Loved all the wildlife, especially Galapagos penguins and vermilion flycatchers etc.

Diving Isabela Island in July on the Eden