- 1 Puerto Villamil. The largest town on the island and has accommodation and restaurants for tourist. Most of the inhabitants live in agriculture and fishing, but also tourism is growing. It's a nice place to hang out on the beach for a few days or do some snorkeling.
- 2 Santo Tomas. A collection of a few farms, barely large enough to have a name.
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.
There are public speedboats twice a day from Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz) that depart at 7am and 2pm. Persons subject to seasickness should take appropriate precautions for this often bumpy ride. It is best to buy tickets at least one day in advance. It costs $30 each way (plus $1.5 in taxiboats). You must arrive 30 minutes prior to departure as your bags will be subject to an agricultural search. On arrival in Isabela, foreigners must pay a $10 entrance fee. The public speedboat back to Santa Cruz departs some time in the morning and at 3pm. Again, you must arrive 30 minutes prior to departure. The transfer between Isabela and Santa Cruz is 1.5-2 hours.
Inter-island flights are available from EMETEBE Airlines, which operates nine seater aircraft to transport passengers and their luggage from San Cristobal Airport to Isabela, Santa Cruz and Baltra islands. Bookings can be done directly through EMETEBE's website or a travel agent.
Here is the schedule of flights:
- From San Cristobal to Isabela: depart 07:30; arrive 08:00
- From San Cristobal to Baltra: 07:30-08:05
- From Isabela to San Cristobal: 13:30-14:00
- From Isabela to Baltra: 08:30-09:05
- From Baltra to San Cristobal: 11:00-11:35
- From Baltra to Isabela: 12:30-13:05
Most streets lack adequate street signs, but a civic improvement project is changing this, at least in the center of town. New sidewalks with lava pavers are also being added. The town is small enough to explore in an hour. Local children are glad to help you find your destination.
- Flamingos. See flamingos at the lagoon in town or, in larger numbers, along the boardwalk to the tortoise breeding center.
- 1 Giant Tortoise Breeding Center (Follow the 1,200 m long boardwalk which starts west of Puerto Villamil just past the Iguana Crossing Hotel). In this center the giant tortoises from Isabela are bred and raised before release into the wild. Its open to the public on weekdays. 10$.
- 2 Wall of Tears (El Muro de las Lagrimas). 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.
- 1 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).
- Diving - there is only one diving center on the island which offers dives for 120-140$.
- Liveaboard Cruises. On a liveaboard you can visit Tagus Cove, Elisabeth Bay, and Urvina Bay.
- 2 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 km total (4.5 - 5h walk counting pauses). 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. $35 ($75 if you want a horse).
- 3 Las Tintoreras (Take a water taxi at the docks. The price is around $3 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.
- 4 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. $60.
- Snorkeling - snorkeling around Las tintoreras or Concha de Perla is excellent. You might also ask a local panga owner to take you out to "Los Tuneles", or "The Tunnels", a wonderful area of eroded lava islets filled with sea life.
- Hiking - there's a nice 2,5-3 hours (return trip) hike to the wall of tears. On the way there are lots of things to see; lakes with flamingos and other wildlife, beaches with hundreds of (really big) iguanas, beaches with sea lions, giant turtoises and there are some view points. Take plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat.
- Visit the tortoise breeding center - A nice half hour walk from town through mangroves to the breeding center. Some information and lots of giant tortoises (10$)
Shops in Puerto Villamil sell food, supplies, and souvenirs. A good place to buy fresh fruit and vegetables is around Mercado Municipal.
There is one ATM (Cooperativa de ahorra y credito) in Puerto Villamil. It's located in calle Escalecias next to the supermarket "el familion". Very few locations accept credit cards, make sure to bring plenty of cash in case the ATM is not working.
The town of Puerto Villamil at the southern end offers lodging and food to visitors wanting to stay on the island. There are several restaurants and bakeries in Puerto Villamil. Most restaurants serve rice, beans and a piece of meat for around 2 dollars.
- Encantado de Pepa is a wonderful little cafe serving good food on a clean and charming patio adjacent to the town's main square. La Pepa is one of the most entertaining characters in the Galapagos.
The nightlife is pretty sedate in Puerto Villamil.
- Bar de Beto is a beachfront bar popular with locals and travelers, good to grab a beer and chill out.
- Plaucio lodging house in between the village and the harbour is this quiet friendly budget hostel run by the very friendly artist Plaucio Alvarez. There are 3 simple cottages costing $10,- per person set in a nice cactus garden. Rooms have electricity, toilet and hot shower. Use of kitchen facilities. tel: (593) 097 733 083
- Hostal Gran Pez, Barrio las Tintoreras cerca de Escuela Cornelio Izquierdo (follow the main street from the port for 5-10 minutes, it's the high green wooden house to the right), ☏ , , firstname.lastname@example.org. The two stories house built entirely from wood offers the cheapest rooms on Isabela which are very good-value and a big communal area with a kitchen on the second floor. USD $8.
- The Jungle.
- Hostal Flamencos is probably the best deal in town. The clean spacious rooms have airco, television, fridge, private bathroom with hot shower and a view on poza salinas, where sometimes flamingos can be seen. It's run by a friendly family who also serve meals. The price is only $20 per person per night.
- Casa Rosada. on the beach
- Hotel San Vincente Galapagos. is popular by travelers. It has a restaurant they also organize tours. There's room for 48 guests distributed in singles, doubles, and triples rooms. All rooms have air conditioners, hot water, private bathroom, and TV. The price is around $30 per person per night plus taxes and include the breakfast.
- Gladis Mar, corner Pinzon Artesano / Tero. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 8:30. Clean rooms with private bathroom, use of the kitchen, the owner can book you tours and is helpful $15pp for a twin / fan (low season).
- [dead link] Hotel La Laguna Galapagos. This hotel is located in front of the Flamingos Lagoon in Isabela Island offers double rooms with private bathroom, hot water, air conditioner, comfortable social areas, wireless internet services and Jacuzzi. USD 56,00.
- Casa Isabela (formerly La Casita de la Playa), ☏ (mobile), fax: , email@example.com. On the beach, near town center, air conditioning, picture windows, quiet, family owned, top notch service.
- La Casa de Marita is the first upmarket place in town.
- Red Mangrove. upscale
- Iguana Crossing. upscale
- Hotel Albermarle the newest and most upscale hotel in town.