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- 9.6 Exceptional
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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 that is already known for being one of the most diverse places on the planet.
The Galapagos Islands are situated in the Pacific Ocean, lying more than 900 kilometres 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 actually 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 discovering the local geology and learning 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 you see, whilst, if you cast your gaze skywards, you can spot, for example, finches, doves, and hawks. Volcanoes, lava fields, dense mangroves, villages, and sandy beaches also await you!
An adventure cruise in the Galapagos offers plenty of unique and exciting experiences that are sure to 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 of activities are available, ranging from snorkeling, swimming, and sunbathing, to bird-watching, hiking, and horse riding.
Puerto Villamil and Nearby Areas - Isabela Island Cruises take in a variety of 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 colourful 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 harbour is often filled with small luxury yachts and other sailing vessels, many of which carry passengers on exciting Galapagos cruises.
Swim and snorkel at Concha de Perla, observing an assortment of bird life as well as vibrant tropical fish, turtles, and sea lions. Head to the Iguana Crossing, in the western part of the village, to see many iguanas travelling 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 labour, with thousands of lives lost during the gruelling construction.
Sierra Negra Volcano - Hiking enthusiasts are sure to love the opportunity of the steep ascent to the rim of Sierra Negra Volcano. The hike up 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 terrific 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, seeing unique mangrove forests, observing penguins and blue-footed boobies on the craggy rocks, and getting 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, marvelling at dried coral and shells. Snorkeling lets you explore the fascinating underwater world, spotting schools of colourful fish, rays, and turtles. Hawks fly overhead, and the sandy shores are rife with the 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 neighbouring Fernandina Island. The coldest waters in the Galapagos area, it is common to see whales and dolphins swimming near to 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
Whilst the Galapagos Islands are generally said to be an ideal year-round destination, the best time to visit Isabela Island really 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, 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, whilst brown noddies are sexually active in November. December is the best month if you wish to witness the hatching of giant tortoises.
Where do Isabela Island cruises depart from?
Before joining any Galapagos cruises, you will first need to make your way 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 from San Cristobal. Isabela Island cruises generally depart from Puerto Ayora, a major port on Santa Cruz Island.
Contact our reservations team today to book your next Galapagos Adventure Cruise.
Isabela Island Reviews
- 9.4 Superb
- 9 Verified Reviews
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
Wonderful snorkeling here. Saw sharks, penguins and sea turtles.
Diving Isabela Island in February on the Grand Majestic
Opted out of the Sierra Negra hike to enjoy the beach and trails in town.
Diving Isabela Island in February on the Estrella del Mar
Great volcano terrain. We were impressed with the wildlife, mainly birds.
Diving Isabela Island in November on the Reina Silvia
Island is populated and has a nice port/town. Restaurants and bars were great. Beautiful beaches. We loved the trail from the turtle breeding center that led to the beach; tons of wildlife to see along the way and beautiful scenery/path.
Diving Isabela Island in September on the Archipel II
The snorkeling , hiking and kayaking were great. A good variety of activities
Diving Isabela Island in August on the Beagle