Isabela (Ecuador)

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Isabela Island, known by its Spanish name of Isla Isabela and less commonly by its English name of Albemarle Island, is the largest of the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.

Towns[edit]

  • Puerto Villamil — the largest town on the island and has accommodation and restaurants for tourist
  • Santo Tomas — a collection of a few farms, barely large enough to have a name

Other destinations[edit]

Understand[edit]

In the western part of the archipelago, Isabela is larger than all of the rest of the islands combined. Comprising six volcanos, the island is about 120 km long and covers 4,585 square km. Its highest point on Wolf Volcano rises 1,700 m above sea level. Due to most of the visitor sites being on the western side of the island, far from Santa Cruz, only the longer (and hence more expensive) boat tours visit this island.

See the Galapagos wildlife page for information on the flora and fauna of the islands.

Talk[edit]

Get In[edit]

By boat[edit]

There is a public speedboat once a day from Santa Cruz that departs at 14:00. It is best to buy tickets at least one day in advance. It costs USD25-30 each way. You must arrive 30 minutes prior to departure as your bags will be subject to an agricultural search. On departure from Isabela, foreigners must pay a USD5 exit fee. The public speedboat back to Santa Cruz departs at 06:00. Again, you must arrive 30 minutes prior to departure. The transfer between Isabela and Santa Cruz is 2-2.25 hours.

By plane[edit]

One small plane (4-9 passengers) services Isabela airport. There is a strict weight limit of 9 kg. Flights are fewer than 30 minutes from other islands and cost USD160-170 each way or USD250-260 round-trip. The schedule is erratic and may leave hours before or after the scheduled flight due to the needs of groups. You must check the day before departure and the morning of departure to be sure of your flight time. Sometimes, if not enough passengers have purchased tickets or there is no fuel available, flights are cancelled at the last minute. The airline, Emetebe has a website, but you may be better off booking with an agency that can make the call.

Here is the published schedule for 2012, but do not consider it the last word. Make sure you confirm and reconfirm:

  • From San Cristobal to Isabela: depart 07:30; arrive 08:00
  • From San Cristobal to Baltra: 07:30-08:05
  • From Isabela to San Cristobal: 13:30-14:00
  • From Isabela to Baltra: 08:30-09:05
  • From Baltra to San Cristobal: 11:00-11:35
  • From Baltra to Isabela: 12:30-13:05

Get around[edit]

See[edit]

  • Flamingos. See flamingos at the lagoon in town or, in larger numbers, along the boardwalk to the tortoise breeding center.
  • Giant Tortoise Breeding Center (Follow the 1,200 m long boardwalk which starts west of Puerto Villamil just past the Iguana Crossing Hotel). In this center the giant tortoises from Isabela are bred and raised before release into the wild. Its open to the public on weekdays.
  • Wall of Tears. There's a nice 2.5-3 hour (return trip) hike to the Wall of Tears. On the way there are lots of things to see: lakes with flamingos and other wildlife, beaches with hundreds of (really big) iguanas, beaches with sea lions, giant tortoises, and there are some view points. Take plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat.

Do[edit]

  • Concha de Perla (Follow the boardwalk from the docks). It's a natural pool good for snorkelling and playing with sea lions.
  • Diving (Puerto Villamil). On a dive liveaboard cruise, you can visit the following sites: Punta Vicente Roca (abundant coral, mola molas, bullhead shark, sea lions, penguins, flightless cormorants); Roca Redonda (underwater fumeroles, pelagics); Cabo Marshall (mantas, sea lions, Galapagos sharks); Roca Blanca (abundant coral, sea lions, mantas, white tipped reef sharks, lots of tropicals); Isla Tortuga (hammerheads, mantas, eagle rays, sea fans, coral, turtles, lots of tropicals); 4 Hermanos (from Jun-Nov trips are unlikely due to rough seas); La Viuda (advanced dives only due to currents).
  • Liveaboard Cruises. On a liveaboard you can visit Tagus Cove, Elisabeth Bay, and Urvina Bay.
  • Sierra Negra Volcano and Vulcan Chico. Sierra Negra is one of the five volcanoes on the island. It has the second largest crater in the world and, when the weather is clear, the views at the crater rim are impressive (the wildlife less so). Follow the rain forest trail along the Sierra Negra rim to the sunny and dry moon-like landscape leading to Vulan Chico. 16 kilometres total. Rain gear, full water bottle, sunblock, and sturdy footwear recommended. Tours can be arranged in Puerto Villamil. If you want to camp or go without guide, ask permission at the park office in Puerto Villamil first. USD75, but cheaper without English speaking guide or without a horse.
  • Las Tintoreras (Take a water taxi at the docks. The price is around USD3 per person depending on group size and bargaining skills). A lagoon where white tip sharks come to rest. They can be seen from the trail, but it's not allowed to go snorkelling in the lagoon. The snorkelling at the beach behind is excellent, however, and sting rays and sea turtles can be seen here.
  • Los Tuneles. Canals in the lava rocks with bridges and caves. Cactus grow on the rocks where many blue footed boobies nest and you can see many big turtles, rays, and fish swimming in the canals and pools filled with sea water. The tour includes snorkelling at a similar nearby site where sea horses and sharks can be seen along with eagle rays and turtles. USD60.

Eat[edit]

The town of Puerto Villamil at the southern end offers lodging and food to visitors wanting to stay on the island.

Drink[edit]

Stay safe[edit]

Go next[edit]

This region travel guide to Isabela has the status usable. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page
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