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Concha de Perla (Pearl Shell) is located next to Puerto Villamil, on Isabela Island, the largest of the Galápagos archipelago. It is one of the rare snorkeling spots located outside the National Park, meaning that you can explore it without being accompanied by a guide. In the sheltered lagoon, you will easily swim with sea lions, penguins, sea turtles, iguanas, and many other marine species.

How to get there?

From Puerto Villamil, get to the boat pier. Just before the boat pier, take the little boardwalk on the left (facing the pier) and walk about 3minutes to the lagoon. You can get a taxi from Puerto Villamil to the pier for approx. $2 per person (5min drive) or walk 20min from town to arrive at the Pier where the boardwalk to the lagoon starts.

Snorkeling with Galapagos penguin at Concha de Perla

The whole wooden path going from the pier to the Concha de Perla lagoon usually has lots of sea lions sleeping on the path. Approach them slowly and carefully prior to “crossing” over them to ensure they are not aggressive (only the males tend to sometimes be aggressive when out of the water and female with young baby).

Water entrance

The access is made via a wooden platform with stairs leading to the water. You can get in the water by the stairs (one on the left, one on the right, facing the water), if snorkeling at low tide, use the stairs on the left (facing the water) as they go lower into the water (easier to get out of the water at low tide using the stairs on the left too).

Concha de Perla snorkeling map, Isabela

Exploration

Concha de Perla is a lagoon closed off by a reef barrier. It is safe to swim in and visibility is best at low tide. While the lagoon itself is not part of the Galapagos National park, the area beyond the lagoon (where there is a sign saying “stop” after the coral barrier, see map above), is called Tintoreras and is part of the National Park. Access to the coral reef is prohibited, as it’s currently recovering from previous damage. The Tintoreras area, further south, is only accessible with an official guide from the National Park (by boat and by walking over the volcanic rocks). Only swim inside the designated area and do not go beyond without a guide.

Stingray at Concha de Perla

Be careful with sea urchins, there are lots of them on the floors of the lagoon, especially on the left side of the lagoon (when facing the water from the platform). Do not stand without assuring clear of urchins and be mindful of the sea lions.

Be also careful if snorkeling on the right side, especially if going more through the back. There is a rope there with a “stop” sign and you will see the tourist boats a little further. In this area, you need to be aware that the current can become strong once the tide comes in and it can be hard to swim against that current without fins. The rest of the lagoon doesn’t really have currents at all, especially at low tide.

Snorkeling with sea lion at Concha de Perla, Isabela

The seabed is made of sand, interspersed with rocks and some corals. On the seafloor, look for the different species of starfish living in the lagoon. Turtles, rays, sea lions, penguins and iguanas are without any doubt the stars of Concha de Perla, but many reef fish species can also be spotted in the area, including damselfish, parrotfish, butterflyfish, rainbow wrasse and Mexican hogfish.

Restaurants and accommodation

There is usually a couple of sellers at the pier selling empanadas or ice creams and drinks, 2min from the lagoon. There are also bathrooms open during daily hours at the pier. A wide range of restaurants and hotels are located in Puerto Villamil, the only town of Isabela Island.

 

  • Level required Beginner
  • Protected areaParque Nacional Galápagos
  • Maximum depth12ft/4m
  • Water entranceEasy, from ladders
  • Potential DangersUrchins, currents. Be mindful of the sea lions.
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium to high
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbySellers near the pier
  • Public toilets & showersYes

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.