Isabela Island Galapagos | Tips to travel on a budget
Things To Do on Isabela Island Galapagos
Isabela Island is the favorite island for most visitors of the Galapagos Islands. Why? Because of its amazing and diverse landscapes, exotic vegetation. Also its peaceful lifestyle in harmony with the animals and nature makes everyone fall in love with Isabela Island.
In this guide to visit Isabela Island will find out what makes this island so special. We have thoroughly described every activity on Isabela Island (free and daily tours) that you can do during your visit to Isabela Island in the Galapagos Islands.
Plan your trip to Isabela Island: all you need to know
Isabela Island in the Galapagos is the largest in the archipelago. It is one of the least populated and most isolated, making it a true paradise for those seeking a total disconnection.
Where is Isabela Island located?
Before learning how to get ther, it is useful to know where is Isabela Island located. The Galapagos Islands are in the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean, 900 km west from Ecuador mainland. Isabela Island is the western island out of the 3 main islands in the Galapagos Islands. On this map, you’ll be able to see where exactly is Isabela located and it would be easier to understand how to get there.
For this reason, the best way to get there is on a water taxi from Santa Cruz Island which is the closest one. These boats are the most common transportation between the islands in the Galápagos archipiélago.
The price of each boat is $35 per way and it takes 2 to 3 hours depending on the weather and sea conditions. The schedule for the boats departures from and to Isabela are fixed and you should take them into consideration while planning your trip:
Santa Cruz – Isabela: AM departure is at 7 am and PM departure at 2pm
Isabela – Santa Cruz: AM departure is at 6AM and PM depature at 2PM
If you are in San Cristobal there is no direct ferry to Isabela, so we recommend you take boat in the morning to Santa Cruz, and in the afternoon take the Santa Cruz – Isabela ferry. We should warn you that this option might be tiring, so its better to spend a day in Santa Cruz and go to Isabela next morning (if you have enough time).
Another more expensive option is to take local flights on small planes that go between islands. There are two airlines in the Galapagos Islands that offer this service. Prices per flight are around $150 but depends on the season. Here are the website of both pages if you want further information:
This travel option will save a lot of time moving from San Cristobal to Isabela (flights should be 30 min instead of the 4 hours on a boat), but since these flights are not so common, time and availability may change a lot.
What things you should bring to Isabela Island?
Packing for Galápagos is not the same as packing for any other beach destination and especially at Isabela Island there’s a few items that would make your life easier while you are there.
Valid passport: To enter Ecuador you need a passport valid for the upcoming 6 months. So don’t forget to review the document expiration date before you jump into the plane.
Sunscreen: Don’t let the ecuadorian sun 🌞 ruin your vacation. The sun here hits harder than in other places (remember you are in the equator) so you’ll need to be extra careful. We recommend using a high SPF sunscreen and if you can also wear a cap or a hat to protect yourself!
Cash:There isn’t many ATMs in Galápagos and most shops and restaurants take only cash as payment method. That’s why we recommend bringing enough cash and if you can book in advance your trips and accommodation so you only have to bring money for your daily expenses.
Sport and comfortable shoes:We usually think flip flips when you are packing for the beach, but keep in mind that Galápagos is a beach but also an adventure destination, meaning you’ll have to walk through volcanic landscapes, rocks and its better to have the right shoes. We recommend this water shoes to keep you safe in land and water.
Bugs and mosquito repellent:In some beaches and hiking trips there’s a lot of mosquitos and annoying bugs. So better to bring your own mosquito repellent, you’ll thank us later!
Snacks:If you are planning a low cost trip keep in mind that Galápagos being an island needs to import most of the things from the mainland and that makes it a bit more expensive. So if you can do a quick trip to the supermarket and buy snacks you can bring to your trips do so. We recommend this because sometimes beaches are so isolated that there’s no place nearby to buy anything. This is amazing for disconnecting but if you start feeling hungry you’ll be in a hurry. So better bring cereal or protein bars or sandwiches (but don’t leave any trash behind!)
Water bottle:As we said before, in Galápagos when you go on a beach or an excursion there isnt always a place to buy or get water so better to have yours and fill in on the hotel or any restaurant before you go. We recommend this instead of plastic water to avoid unnecessary waste. That way you’ll keep yourself hydrated and also protect the environment!
Your own snorkeling mask:this is optional because if you book any tour all the equipment needed its included. But we highly recommend to buy one before your travel for 2 reasons (especially now that health safety is more important than ever). First reason is because you will feel more comfortable with a mask that you know how to fit well and hasn’t been used by many others. Another reason is that there are a lot of spots in the Galapagos Islands where you can do snorkel on your own with sea lions, rays and many fishes. So if you always have your maks with you, you will make the most of your travel. There are a lot of masks at different prices but here’s the ones we recommend:
Sport camera: The best way to keep the memories from your Galápagos trip. A sport camera is small, portable, water resistant and great for diving and snorkeling pictures (the dome accessory is amazing for this). There’s a lot of cameras at different prices. Here’s some recommendations:
What things you cannot bring to Isabela?
Also, there are a few things you are not allowed to bring not only to Isabela but Galápagos Islands in general so make sure you know and understand all the Galápagos Rules and Entry Requirements before start packing.
When is the best time to visit Isabela Island?
Every month is a great month to visit Isabela and the Galapagos Islands in general. However, even though the Galapagos Islands do not have the 4 seasons and its almost an all year summer, there a few variations that can impact some of the species you’ll get to see. Here is a full article on the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands, seasons, weather and real time weather forecast for each island.
Isabela is one of the best islands to do free activities on your own and it’s so big and beautiful you will always feel you didn’t have enough time to do all you want. However, to help you plan and create your own itinerary here’s some free and very cheap activities you can do on Isabela.
Snorkeling at Concha Perla
Concha perla is a shallow bay with very calm and transparent waters, the closest thing to a natural pool. Is located near the port and on the walk there you’ll get to see plenty of marine iguanas laying around and getting some sun.
If you have your own snorkeling equipment (as we have recommended) take it there and you will see a great variety of fish and sea lions. If you don’t have it, you can rent them or simply cool off and swim quietly in the water.
El Muro de las lágrimas, El Estero, Humedales
This is the ideal tour to spend a wonderful afternoon in Isabela. It is a path of about 5 kilometers where you can stop at different places, each one more beautiful than the other.
This route can be done on foot or by renting a bicycle for the day to make the trip lighter and faster. Price for the full day bike renting would be around $12 and $2 by the hour.
It starts at the Wall of Tears and back to the port you can stop at places such as El Estero, the resting beach and finish enjoying the sunset at Playa del Amor or having a cocktail at Beto’s Bar.
Turtle Breeding Center / Galapaguera
On Santa Cruz Island and San Cristobal you will also find turtle breeding centers, however, the one in Isabela is the most complete and its free. It is very close to the Poza de las Diablas, you can walk from there.
Poza de las Diablas Lagoon
If you want to see flamingos in their natural habitat, this magical place is ideal for watching this kind of birds. This place is very close to Wetlands and Wall of Tears. The best way to make the most out of your time would be to start in the Galapaguera, from there take the path through the flamingo pool and when you leave you will be near the beach on the route that goes to the Muro de Las Lágrimas.
If you are looking for a relaxing day, there a lot of beaches on Isabela where you can just go and lay there and spend the rest of the day sunbathing along with sea lions and iguanas. We recommend Playa Puerto rico or Playa de Jobos
Ask a taxi drive to take you to Isabela Highlands and you’ll get to visit amazing and very different places like Mirador del Mango, a viewpoint with an amazing sight of all the Island. You can also visit Cueva Sucre which is a natural lava cave.
Must do Tours on Isabela Island
Although there are many free places to visit in Isabela, without a doubt taking at least one day tour is necessary to get the full experience of everything the Island has to offer.
These tours are paid as there are protected places that by law, you can only access accompanied by a naturist guide. These are the top ones departing from Isabela
If you like snorkeling under lava tunnels along with tortoises, sea lions and sharks this is the tour for your. Los Tuneles is one of our favorite snorkeling tours, and the #1 must do tour if you are on Isabela Islands. This tour includes snorkeling and an amazing walk over the Tuneles where if you are lucky enough, you’ll get to see blue footed boobies mating dance
Sierra Negra Volcano tour is a full day hiking tour that will get you to the top of the Sierra Negra and Volcan Chico volcanoes. From there, you’ll get to see its crater and have an amazing panoramic view of the Islands. This tour is around 8 hours, 16 kilometers and is not hard but you need to have full energy to do it. The tour departs 7am so make sure you sleep the night before at Isabela Island. It includes guide, transportation and lunch.
Let us plan your trip!
Let us build you a personalized itinerary to travel Galápagos on a budget. Drop us a line with the amount of days you plan to travel, dates & things you would like to do and we’ll get back to you with a proposal built specially for you.
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