Guide to Day Trips on Isabela, Galapagos Islands

by on 13th May, 2019

Not sure which day trips to book on your hotel-based holiday to the Isabela in the Galapagos Islands?

Read our quick guide to the best full-day tours and find out what to expect to do and see while staying on Isabela.


Tuneles (Cabo Rosa)

One of Galapagos’ most spectacular snorkels among some of its finest scenery of lava tunnels and bridges.


  • Crystal clear, shallow waters, full of marine life, perfect for snorkelling
  • Bucket list trip in Galapagos
  • Chance to swim with sharks, turtles and rays, with a chance to see sea horses
  • Spectacular lava formations inhabited by sea birds

Galapagos Islands, Isabela, Hawksbill Turtle swimming

We leave from Puerto Villamil port and hop into a boat and sail along the south coast of Isabela. For the next 45 minutes, keep an eye out for manta rays of different sizes. If it is the mating season, we scan ee them diving upside-down, waiting to have their pictures taken.

Our first quick stop is to bob, in the boat, around Roca Union. This is small islet located in the open sea and a beacon for sea birds – Pelicans, Blue-footed boobies and Nazca Boobies all make this their home.

We carry on to a site called Finados, where we snorkel. This can be one of the best snorkels in Galapagos. The shallow waters are home to turtles, sharks, sea horses, rays and more.

We get back on the boat and head for another 20 minutes or so to Los Tuneles and Cabo Rosa. A boxed lunch is provided either after the snorkel or at Los Tuneles, depending on timings on the day.

Cabo Rosa is beautiful. we can walk on connecting lava tunnels arching over the blue sea waters. From the surface, we can easily spot dozens of sea turtles, penguins and rays and we can go snorkelling and swimming in this rich marine fauna.

Here you get the chance to do some more snorkeling and enjoy some short walks while observing the landscape and wildlife inhabiting the area.


Activities: Snorkelling, swimming, short walk

What to bring: Bathing suit and towel, camera, hiking shoes, cap/hat, sunglasses, insect repellent and biodegradable sun cream, water, waterproof jacket or jumper to keep warm during the crossing

Wildlife you may see: Sharks (white-tipped), sea lions, turtles, Blue-footed Boobies, Brown Pelicans, rays, with luck sea horses, marine iguanas, lava lizards, Flamingoes, penguins, manta rays, Albatross

Departure time: 11.00

Return: 16.00 approximately


Sierra Negra Volcano walk

The Galapagos Islands’ iconic hike takes you to the lip of a huge volcanic crater then over lava fields to a second volcano – Jurassic park made real.


  • Best hike in Galapagos
  • See the world’s second biggest volcanic crater
  • Wonderful views over lava fields and Isabela
  • Chance to see giant tortoises on the return journey.

Isabela Siera Negra volcano trek Galapagos

We start with a 40-minute drive from the town to the foot of volcano and the hike start point. Keep an eye on the changing atmosphere and vegetation as we climb up the side of Sierra Negra.

The facts for this trek are impressive. Sierra Negra towers, relatively, over much of Galapagos, standing at 1,124m/3,687ft. Its crater is 6-miles (10km) in diameter, making it the second largest crater in the world, and is some 90m/300ft deep.

Sierra Negra Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in Galapagos; its last eruption was in October 2005. Hikers have two options:


1/            A short uphill hike that takes us to the perimeter of the caldera (2 hours in total)

2/            A longer hike to the caldera then on to Volcan Chico (4-5 hours in total)


Option 1: The first part of the walk features a fairly gradual ascent through some lush vegetation. Once we reach the rim, we’ll have a nine-kilometre view that stretches across one the most active calderas in the world. Return and lunch in a local farm where we can also watch Isabela Giant Tortoises ambling slowly around. In the afternoon return to Puerto Villamila and our hotel

Option 2: For those pushing on, we continue on to traverse the vast lava fields of Chico volcano to a lookout that boasts breath taking views reaching to the north of Isabela, including to Elizabeth Bay. The path and vegetation is drier here, and you may get a whiff of sulphur from our volcanic friend beneath our feet. We usually eat a boxed lunch near Volcan Chico, before returning to town.

Volcano hike notes: The trail around the rim has only slight up and downs with a few short steep inclines. The majority of walking is on level terrain and this is a non-technical hike.

The path in and out is dirt: if it’s been raining, it could be muddy. The lava fields of Volcan Chico are uneven and rocky in areas. There’s one proper bathroom at the beginning of the trail. If you have weak ankles, use athletic braces and wear hiking boots. If you have knee trouble, bring a hiking pole or two.


Activities: Hiking (2 hours crater and return; 5 hours crater, Vulcan Chico and return)

What to bring: Camera, hiking shoes, cap/hat, sunglasses, insect repellent and biodegradable sun cream, water, waterproof jacket or jumper to keep warm during the crossing

Highlights: Volcano crater, fantastic views, lava, geology, some small birds

Departure time: 07.30

Return: 15.30 approximately


Tintoreras (half-day)

Wonderful snorkel just 30 minutes from land, giving you a chance to swim with sea lions, penguins and sharks.


  • Perfect half-day snorkelling trip accessible to everyone
  • Chance to swim with sea lions and sharks as well as penguins, rays and more
  • Marine iguanas may join you for a dip
  • Blue-footed boobies and other marine birds sure to accompany you

Penguin Galapagos

Tintoreras is an unmissable trip for people that want to snorkel with some of the Galapagos’ most amazing animals.

The site is a short 30-minute ride from Isabela’s main jetty, making it ideal for anyone who wants to avoid long boat journeys but wants to experience the Galapagos’ incredible marine life.

Las Tintoreras is a chain of small islets located to the south of Puerto Villamil, Isabela and gets its name from the white-tipped sharks (Tintoreras) that live here.

Keep your eyes peeled through the entire trip, from start to finish. Galapagos sea lions, marine iguanas, Blue-footed boobies, Sally Lightfoot Crabs, turtles, pelicans and Galapagos Penguins are but a few of the animal to be found here.

We take a short hike over some occasionally rough ground for 30-40 minutes, observing sharks, sea lions and marine iguanas in large numbers. A colony of white-tip reef sharks can often be seen resting in a lava canal.

Next we cool off by jumping into the sea. You have a close encounter with marine fauna, and may be able to see sea lions, sharks and turtles and, with luck, rays and sea lions.


Activities: Short walk on rocky path, snorkelling

What to bring: Camera, hiking shoes, water shoes, cap/hat, sunglasses, insect repellent and biodegradable sun cream, water, waterproof jacket or jumper to keep warm during the crossing, towel, bathing suit

Highlights: Chance to swim with penguins, sea lions, sharks, turtles, rays and banks of fish

Departure time: 08.00

Return: 11.00 approximately


Wall of Tears and Wetlands

Discover the grim history of a cruel prison set among beautiful surroundings and wildlife.


  • Bike or drive to the Wall of Tears, a famous Galapagos landmark
  • Beautiful look out for panoramic photos of Isabela
  • Visit wetlands with flamingos on the way back to town
  • Blue-footed boobies and other marine birds sure to accompany you

Flamingoes entwined Isabela Galapagos

Setting off from town, you can choose to either cycle or take a lift to the Wall of Tears. If travelling in by vehicle, the final section (about one hour) must be walked because transport can only get in so far.

Having left the village of Puerto Villamil we follow a trail along the edge of the beach between mangroves and marine vegetation until we reach the Wall of Tears.

This is a historical manmade site on the Galapagos. It was built by prisoners who were sentenced to life imprisonment for their crimes, they were forced to assemble and disassemble this wall to keep them busy and tired. It became famous as one of the cruellest prisons in South America.

En route to the wall, we pass by a wooden staircase that leads us to a popular lookout called Mirador Orchilla. This is a great place from which to take panoramic photos of Isabela.

On our return to town we can make several stops at different visitor sites like the Wetlands, Red Lagoon and Playa del Amor, looking out for Flamingos and more.


Activities: Hiking (2 hours, everyone), biking (optional)

What to bring: Camera, hiking shoes, cap/hat, sunglasses, insect repellent and biodegradable sun cream, water, waterproof jacket or jumper.

Highlights: Flamingos, history, viewpoints, panoramas, cycling

Departure time: (AM tour) 08.30 or (PM tour) 14.30 (tours last around 4 hours)

Return: (AM tour) at 12.30 or (PM tour) at 18.30 approximately


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