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Isla Isabela

Pierre and Barbara
January 25th, 2020 · 6 min read
Home > Galapagos > Isla Isabela

Tips 👏

  • Wifi and 4G are not working well, no netflix and chill evenings.
  • There’s a 10$/person fee to enter in the island to pay in cash.
  • Try to get the first one in the boat queue for getting the best seats.
  • There’s only one ATM on the island which is not reliable, bring cash.
  • The main city is small and the island is a bit more wild than Santa Cruz.

🏠 Accommodation

We stayed at Hostal Gran Tortuga, island price but huge and clean room with fresh breakfast and lovely staff.

🚲 Getting there

Boat of 2 hours from Santa Cruz, more below.

⏱ Duration

We stayed 6 nights and 5 days and felt that was good duration to discover the island with calm.

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Reaching the island 🛥

We booked the early boat leaving at 7:00AM from Santa Cruz for 25$/person. After an early wake-up, we made our way to the pier, arriving at 6:30AM over there. We then looked-out for our boat company, registered and waited until it was our turn.

Once we got called, we started queuing and passed through a security check where we had to open our bloody luggages to look for organic content. After what we boarded a mandatory tiny boat to get transfered to our boat for 0.5$/person. We then finally arrived on our middle-size boat, fitting around 30 persons, where we took a seat and started the journey around 7:30AM.

We were almost the last ones to jump in the boat, which was quite bad because we got the worst seats. The boat ride was 2 hours and very bumpy with the waves. The best was to seat at the back in the middle to have minimal turbulences (but strong motor noise).

After 2 hours, we reached the island shores. We left the boat to another tiny boat to bring us to the pier for another 1$/person. Then we paid another 10$/person to enter the island, and took a shared taxi for 1$/person to our hotel. Long story short, it took us in total 3 hours and 36.5$ to reach the island.


The way back was much smoother. We arrived at the harbor at 5:30AM and paid the 1$/person for the little boat transfer. After a bit of waiting, we’ve boarded the big boat, asked to be at the top with the captain, and started our journey. The sea was calm, and the streams favorable so it took us only 1h40 to reach Santa Cruz. Upon arrival, we went to the same agency to book same day boat to San Cristobal at 3PM.

Turtles centre 🐢

After a power nap at the hotel, we started our 2km walk toward the Giant Tortoise Center. They built a nice pedestrian path in the forest to reach the center, where we saw plenty of iguanas and lonely flamingos. After 20 minutes walk, we entered in the center for free which was quite surprising.


There was around 8 big enclosures, where we saw those reptiles at different ages, from tiny babies to 0.5m sized giants. Most of them were napping besided a couple working on saving the species. We spent one hour more or less to observe the turtles and took some pictures. After, we headed to the Flamingo Lagoon 200m further, where we basically saw nothing and wouldn’t recommend, before heading back to the city with a quick beach break before dinner.


Los Tuneles 🏊

On our second day, we’ve opted-in for a boat tour to Los Tuneles. We got a 5 hours tour with basic lunch included for 100$/person, which we both think was overpriced and could have been better negociated.

Regardless, we went to the agency at 11:20AM to try out our swimsuits, to then get to the pier and started the tour around noon. After 30 minutes of wavy ride, we stopped to admire Union Rock, a piece of rock in the middle of nowhere with some birds and sea lions.

We then carried on for extra 20 minutes and arrived on the site for a little walk on lava formations. We walked around for 30 minutes and observed lots of blue foot boobies nesting with their babies and some big sea turtles swimming around with a volcanic background. We then went back to the boat on the way to the snorkelling spot, where we got the chance to spot two penguins sunbathing on isolated rocks.


Few pictures later, we put our wetsuits on and started the first snorkelling session for 20 minutes, where we saw some fishes and underwater tunnels. Nothing super exciting but that was cool to watch the underwater lava floor. We then went back on the boat to get to the second snorkelling area.

After jumping in the water and swimming around for a bit, we crossed the path of around 10 giant sea turtles chilling around. We then carried on to spot a family of white-tip sharks resting at the bottom, to then find a little sea horse hanging around. That was quite crazy, at a point that crossing a sea turtle was a normal.


We then got back on the boat, ate our very basic lunch and headed back to the city where we arrived at 5PM. Overall it was very good, but overpriced for what it is. Bring suncream, flip-flops, hat and some snacks.

Concha de Perla 🐡

Our third day was about beach, chill and snorkelling. After a lazy late wake-up, we grabbed some food and made our way to the hidden Concha de Perla. It took us around 20 minutes walk from the center, stopping on the way at one of the many agencies to rent wetsuits and fins for 10$/person.

After zig-zag-ing between sunbathing iguanas and sea lions, we arrived at the spot. We got changed and started our fantastic and free snorkelling session, where we saw plenty of fishes, a lonely puffle fish, three eagle rays and two big sea turtles eating some algues. After passing through some mangroves and lava tunnels, the rain started so we’ve headed back home.

We came three times in total during our stay, at different hours of the day to watch various animals, and each of those were fantastic. It’s the best free activity of all the island. Note there’s no shops to rent snorkelling gear neither food stalls over there.


La Sierra Negra 🌋

After an early wake-up, I left Barbara sleeping at the hotel and jumped in the minibus at 7:30AM. Few pick-up later, myself with other 30 people started a 30 minutes drive toward the Sierra Negra Volcano parking lot.

Upon arrival, we split in two groups and started the hike. About 90 minutes later, we arrived at the main viewpoint of the volcano, where we appreciated a wonderful view on the 6km diameter black crater. At that point, the guide offered us to either chill or walk extra 3km in solidified lava up to El Chico. The whole group opted-in for the extra hike, which turned out to be the highlight of the tour.


We started by going down, making our way through the volcanic rocks and lava rivers. Slowly, the decor changed to a moon-like area. We made few stops to learn about the area’s geology and rock formations, to arrive at the top of the crater after other 90 minutes.


We stopped 20 minutes to admire the view and eat a little provided snack, and then made our way back by the same path to the parking. In total, we walked 15.7km and it took us 5 hours. It costed 35$/person, and we booked in a random agency in the city centre the day before.

Overall, I had a blast and recommend to do it. The part up to El Chico was actually the most impressive one. The hike itself was long, but not very hard since it was flat-ish. It’s totally do-able without a guide, but sadly illegal since few years. Bring suncream, good hikking shoes, plenty of water and some extra snacks.

NOTE: We arrived later than expected in town and some people almost missed their boat to Santa Cruz. It’s better to not have anything plan after the tour.

Bike Tour 🚴

For our last day, we decided to rent bikes to check-out some point of views. We left the hotel around 10AM, and went to the agency close to the Hotel Cally. They rented us two good bikes, a wetsuit and two pairs of fins for 41$ for the whole day.

After a cheeky snorkelling stop at Concha de Perla, we started to bike toward The Wall of Tears, located 7 km west from the city. On the way, we did many stops at indicated areas to watch hidden beach, lava tunnels, pink lagoons, but also many giant turtles walking around. We arrived at the wall after 2 hours of biking, quite challenging since it was going up under high temperatures.


The wall itself was nothing but a big wall, exposed as a sad remain of an old prison. After taking a look, we started our hike to the upper mirador. It took us around 45 minutes of walk on steep steps, before reaching the top. The view from the mirador, called El Radar, was gorgeous and totally worth the sweat. We then made our way back to the city in 40 minutes, way faster since it was going downhill, with a quick beach stop to freshen up and watch the sunset.


Restaurants 🍲

  • Maestro De Casa: Local and fast-food cuisine for a very good price with big portions, fresh ceviche for 10$.

Our 4 days stay in Isla San Cristobal, or go back to the main Galapagos post.

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