Isabela Island, the epitome of Galápagos magic

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.

Snorkeling Concha de Perla, Puerto Villamil
You can swim with marine iguanas and green sea turtles at Concha de Perla, probably the best free shore access spot on the Galápagos Islands.

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.

Snorkeling with sharks at Los Tuneles, Isabela Island
Many whitetip reef sharks call Los Túneles saltwater pools home.

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.

Snorkeling with seahorse at Tagus Cove, Isabela
Tagus Cove is only open to multi-day naturalist cruises. While snorkeling there, you might be lucky enough to meet the fascinating Pacific seahorse.

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.



When to go snorkeling Isabela Island?

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.

Hot and humid
Cool and cloudy

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