Isabela Island: Self Guide
Welcome to Isabela Island! Named after the Spanish Queen, it is the largest island in the archipelago and has the second smallest population of the Island with just 1800 inhabitants. Most of them are concentrated in the main port of the Island: Puerto Villamil.
About 80% of the economical activities of the island are related to tourism. On Isabela Island, 6 volcanoes can be found: Alcedo, Cerro Azul, Darwin, Ecuador, Sierra Negra, and Wolf, from which just Ecuador volcano is inactive, making it one of the most volcanically active places on earth. Its last reported volcanic eruption took place in May 2015 where Wolf volcano (located right in the Equatorial line) was caught spewing fire, smoke, and lava.
In Puerto Villamil, you will find several restaurants, bars, shops, and more. It is a very small town, but you will still find many great things to do. Additionally, Puerto Villamil has a beautiful long beach where you can enjoy walking around, sunbathing or spotting the sea lions that tend to come and chill on the shore.
Self Guided Program: Things To Do
During your trip at this lively island of the Galapagos archipelago, you can do some self-guided activities. Rebecca Adventure Travel will help and give you some important information about the must-see places, and how to get there.
Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center
The Tortoise Breeding Center of Isabela Island is located 1.5 km from Puerto Villamil. To arrive there, you can take a short walk or a taxi. In this Breeding Center tortoise populations from South Isabela (Sierra Negra Volcano, Cerro Azul), like Cazuela, Cinco Cerros, Roca Union, San Pedro, Tables, and Cerro Paloma have been reproduced in captivity. In total there are 330 between juvenile and adult tortoises. From the population of Cerro Paloma, there are 4 males and two female Galapagos which, so far, are the only survivors. The raising of this breed of tortoise is of particular interest since genetic analysis has determined that tortoises from this Galapaguera are different from the others. This is compounded by the fact that one of these two females is infertile, as shown by analysis of absent follicles. However, in 1998, the second female nested and finally had 9 Galapaguitos of Cerro Paloma.
The Wall of Tears
The Wall of Tears (Spanish: El Muro de las Lágrimas) is a historical site located 6 km west from Puerto Villamil. Between 1945 and 1959 the wall was constructed by prisoners in the penal colony on the island, which had been established by President José María Velasco Ibarra in 1944 using infrastructure left by the US military after World War II.
The Wall of Tears is about 25 m (65 ft) tall, and is said to have been the cause of thousands of deaths during its construction. Locals call it the wall of tears because of the emanating cries and heavy energy there. If you go there by foot, the hike might be quite demanding, that’s why we recommend renting a bike for a full day which costs around $20 to $25 USD per person.
This salt-water lagoon is the largest coastal lagoon found in the Galapagos Islands and one of the main reproductive sites for the grand majority of flamingos, located at Punta Cormorant. We recommend to visit the lagoon at sunrise, since this is the best time to spot flamingos, wading through the shallow waters. As they make their way across the brackish water, they sift through the mud for shrimps. Besides, many other shorebirds can also be seen here, like pintail ducks, stilts or large-billed flycatchers.
These flamingos are related to the ones that live in the Caribbean, and they gain their bright pink color from the small shrimp and crustaceans they eat. These beautiful birds lay only one egg and both parents tend to take care of it, taking shifts. If anything happens to either parent this process is broken and the egg will be put at risk by being left alone while the remaining parent goes to get food. This reproductive pattern contributes to the vulnerability of the species.
The Malecon and Isabela Beach
The advantage of Isabela over other islands in the Galapagos is its vast beachfront, located one block away from the main plaza of Puerto Villamil. Here you can swim, snorkel or just walk along the beautiful 2.5 km long white sand beach.
The dock is located at the northern end of the main road in Puerto Villamil, about 2 km from the middle of town. Just before you reach the dock, there is a wooden pathway leading to Concha de Perla. A short walk through the mangroves takes you to a shallow bay, perfect for swimming and snorkeling. You can rent snorkel gear in town at one of the shops for just 5 USD. Concha Perla is the perfect place to spot several colorful fish, playful sea lions, sea urchins, starfishes and the occasional Galapagos Penguin.
Not far from Concha de Perla, you can find Tintoreras islet. It is called like this due to a large crack in which white-tip sharks, known as Tintoreras, come daily to rest at the bottom. You can observe penguins, sea lions, marine iguanas, and you can go snorkeling with colorful tropical fish while enjoying the beaches of Isabela Island. The lava-like island has an otherworldly appearance almost like being on the moon with the stark black and grey walk, much of which is devoid of any plant life.
Please, take good hiking shoes with you, since there are a lot of broken and sharp rocks, so it is important to watch your step. The pathway continues to an overlook where a crack in the lava has created a small pool where white-tip reef sharks come to nap. The park has set up an overlook, making it easy to gaze down at the sharks as they spend their days napping near the sandy bottom. Near the end of the path is a sandy beach where sea lions come to nap.
During this tour, you have the opportunity to explore Isabela Island by yourself and enjoy some free time. Enjoy a delicious Galapagos meal on your own, with some locals, or with your friends. Rebecca Adventure Travel did some research. Whether it’s a bistro for a memorable night with friends, a grab-and-go lunch spot, a legendary junk food fix, or a one-off treat for your taste buds, we’ve compiled a list of the best restaurants in town.
Booby Trap Cafeteria and Bar
This open-air restaurant is very well-known for its good coffee, unique atmosphere and amazing food. It is located across the street from the Casa Rosada and opposite from the beach so you will enjoy a beautiful ocean view. You can let the day end with a glass of wine or cocktail, watching the sun go down.
Enjoy the ocean breeze sitting at one of the best restaurants on Isabela Island. Along with serving delicious seafood and crispy rice dishes, Coco Surf is also known for some of the best cocktails in Puerto Villamil.
La Casa de Marita
La Casa de Marita’s restaurant combines Ecuadorian, Peruvian and international cuisine. Each dish is prepared with organic or cultivated products on the island and the Marita orchard. Enjoy a daily buffet breakfast and delicious main courses for lunch and dinner.
El Cafetal Galapagos
This restaurant is well-known for its delicious food and friendly service. It is on the more expensive side, but the plates offer a huge variety of rice, yuca, vegetable, and the main course. Additionally, there are good vegetarian options if you prefer not to eat meat.
El Toque de Melida
If you would like to try typical Ecuadorian food, this is the place to go. Here, the locals eat their typical ‘almuerzos’ (daily menu) for absolutely low prices. The menu usually consists of an entry or soup, a main course and juice.
Here, you can enjoy both meat and seafood. If you want to have a proper T-Bone steak, this is the perfect place for you. All cuts are from Galapagos happy cows, so expect to pay accordingly. You won’t leave still feeling hungry because the portions are large. Besides, you can also get a daily dining menu if you ask for it.
This restaurant is one of the best cheap food options on Isabela Island, and its plates do not disappoint. In Shawarma Hot, you can get many vegetarian and vegan options as well. The service is very friendly, and they have just renovated and opened a new dining area upstairs.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us:
- 24/7 General & Sales Enquiries Phone: +593-(0)980051675
- Office in Quito: +593-(0)2-6007590
On behalf of the whole Rebecca Adventure Travel Team, we wish you the happiest, joyful and beautiful time at Isabela Island!