Isabela is not only the largest of Galápagos islands; it is also one of its most iconic with its seven volcanoes, lunar landscapes and preserved shores. Isabela seems to invite us to explore its underwater wonders: even the island’s shape recalls the silhouette of a seahorse (amusingly seahorses can be somewhat easily observed on certain spots). Put on your snorkel gear and come observe wonderful, unique in the world species such as Galápagos penguins, sharks, Galápagos sea lions and even flightless cormorants fishing along the shore.
Isabela Island’s west coast and its neighbor island Fernandina host an unparalleled density of species, even at the Galápagos scale. In this area, plankton-rich water attracts numerous marine mammals, sharks, rays, and birds.
It is the only area where one of the most fascinating birds in the World, the flightless cormorant, can be seen. It also shelters not less than 90% of the Galápagos penguin population (you can also encounter them around Puerto Villamil).
Snorkelers never forget the underwater sight of those two bird species diving for fish. Sharks, sea turtles, rays, starfish, seahorses, and angelfish are some of the many species that can easily be observed around Isabela.
There are many snorkel spots on Isabela Island, but not all can be easily accessed. One only spot can be visited freely, without any guide: Concha de Perla, just a few minutes’ walk from Puerto Villamil, is a must-see if you happen to spend a few days on the island.
From Puerto Villamil, two other sites can be visited through day excursions with a guide: La Tintoreras (located just a few hundred meters south of Concha de Perla) and Los Túneles, a maze made of volcanic rock pools where green sea turtles, seahorses, and sharks are easily spotted.
Isabela’s east coast is too distant from Puerto Villamil for a one-day round trip, so the only way to go there is to take part in a multi-day naturalist cruise. Cruises give snorkelers access to exceptional sites such as Vicente Roca Point and Tagus Cove.
If you plan a trip to the Galápagos Islands, we recommend you bring with you the Wildlife of the Galápagos field guide, a compact and comprehensive identification guide to the unique wildlife you’ll encounter in the archipelago, both below and above the water.
Check this video made with a GoPro 👇👇👇 with the very best of our snorkeling time in the Galápagos Islands. Sea lions, penguins, marine iguanas, sea turtles, whitetip sharks… You never know what shows up!
There are very few places around the world where it’s possible to share such close proximity to wildlife without them turning fearful. At 00’43” you can even see a flightless cormorant trying to unzip my wetsuit in Tagus Cove!
All footages taken around Isabela, Santa Cruz, Santiago, and San Cristóbal islands. The name of the snorkeling spot where the images have been shot is mentioned in each sequence.
There are two sensibly different seasons in Isabela, as there are on the whole Galápagos archipelago. The warm season (December-May) is a tropical one, with warm and wet weather (79 to 86°F/26 to 30°C). Water temperature (around 79°F/26°C) is then ideal for snorkeling, but rain showers often happen.
From June to November, the weather turns dryer, and temperatures lower down to an average of 73-79°F/23-26°C. During this season, consider snorkeling with a wetsuit: water temperature can get down to 64°F/18°C, often under an overcast sky. You can check out our selection of the best rashguards and wetsuits for snorkeling to make your choice.
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Found all around the island; seen daily swimming with snorkelers at Concha de Perla
Common at Concha de Perla and Tagus Cove
Common and easy to see on all spots; large groups at Punta Vicente Roca
On all spots; large colonies in Tagus Cove
Occasionaly sighted in the water at Tagus Cove and Vicente Roca Point
On all spots; appreciates rocky areas
On all spots, Concha de Perla included
On all spots
Abundant on all spots, sometimes seen in large schools
Present in Los Túneles, Tagus Cove and Las Tintoreras, but well camouflaged and hard to find
Series of rocky pools with sharks, turtles and sea horses
Rocky drop off with turtles, penguins, sea horses and cormorants
Rocky lagoon with turtles, rays, sea lions and penguins
Level: Free shore access
Sandy cove with many sea turtles
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