Isabela Takes the Cake: Why It’s the Best Island in the Galapagos

When we first arrived to Isabela, it felt like we were starring in an old western film. There was one dirt road through the center of town and it seemed as though everyone was staring at us from their porch as we walked through with our massive packs. The remoteness of this island was evident right away, and it felt like we were far away from the main Galapagos Islands.

Isabela Island, Galapagos

It very quickly became both of our favorite island in the Galapagos. From watching penguins swim at the port (Jordan’s personal favorite), to lazy hammock days with a cerveza and our journals, to bike riding through tiny alcoves and deserted beaches, it was an incredible island to say the least. And considering we only had just over three days to take it all in, it’s crazy to think about all the wonder this island held for us.

Day 1: Mountain Biking to the Wall of Tears

After walking down the dirt road and across the “town,” we found a cool and cheap hostel at the end of the street. Bar de Beto doubled as a chill beach bar and laid back hostel and was located in the most convenient location in our minds: right next to the beach.

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Due to the fact that we weren’t settled until mid-afternoon and couldn’t find a snorkel tour leaving that day, we opted to rent bikes and check out the infamous route to the Wall of Tears. Along the roughly 10km round trip we peddaled next to beaches and lagoons, saw two wild Tortoises, and took plenty of detours to check out the seemingly hidden pathways to the beautiful ocean. At some points, we were actually riding on the beach and it was amazing. And while the Wall of Tears was a pretty cool sight, the trail itself was by far the best part. We’re going to need to buy a thesaurus down here, because we simply don’t have enough words to describe everything we’re seeing. Our vocabulary just doesn’t seem like it’s enough to describe the beauty and serenity.

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This day also reminded Jordan and I just how much we love being active and outside. Coming from the beginning of a New York winter to biking through the sands and trails of a Galapagos Island, it was certainly a big change – and a very welcome one! Who knows where we will end up after this adventure, but I think we can both say with pretty good certainty that we are craving more and more of the outdoors in our daily lives.

Day 2: Hiking Sierra Negra Volcano

Our second day started early, as we drove up  to the volcano in the normal mist and rain of a Galapagos morning. At one point, it was actually pretty cold! Driving through the rainforest to the volcano showed us just how vast the landscape is on these islands. You go from hot, dusty beach town to green, wet, and cold forest in only a few minutes!

Sierra Negra Volcano - Isabela Island, Galapagos

Once we arrived to the trailhead we were all cautioned to conserve water as the 16km hike would likely require all 2-3 liters to be consumed. Our guide was absolutely right about this. The hike started off very rainforest-like with lots of lush vegetation and bushy trees growing everywhere. It took about 40 minutes to reach the lip of the crater – which is an enormous 6 miles in diameter – and it was almost entirely covered by fog.

Sierra Negra Volcano - Isabela Island, Galapagos

From here we had our first glimpse of the massive volcano. We took some photographs and continued on to the “point of no return” as our guide liked to say. We have to give our guide major props, as he promised the fog would clear for our return later in the day and would be much better for pictures. He moved our group along quickly through these first few viewpoints so that we’d be the first to reach the final view, which was totally worth it (and he was absolutely right about snapping better pics on the way back!). After another decent bit of hiking, our guide gave us the option to turn around or continue on to see some spectacular views and the youngest volcano, Volcan Chino, which most recently erupted in 2005. By this time in our trek, the landscape had drastically changed from green, lush, and soft to dry, hard and rocky. It truly felt like we were on Mars. We of course opted to continue further and it was totally worth it. We had lunch a top the volcano and took in the sparkling beaches beneath us.

Sierra Negra Volcano - Isabela Island, Galapagos

After a nice twenty minutes of solitude atop the volcano, the other tourist groups started arriving in herds. We were very thankful that we were able to experience all of that beauty without the chaos of the rest of the groups! Everyone took their own time hiking back to the trail head, stopping when they wanted and snapping more pictures of the now clear Sierra Negra crater. We also happened to meet a great mother and daughter team on this trek who we wound up interviewing for QFYC! They shared everything from Debbie’s perspective as a psychiatrist in DC her reconfirmation of the need of a community dedicated to disrupting the quarter-life crisis to Ellie’s insights as a student, traveler, and millinneal on why we need challenges in our lives to grow and change. A big shout out to Debbie and Ellie! We can’t wait to share more on their journeys and wisdom with you in the future 🙂

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To end the night, we grabbed a beer at the Iguana Cove hostel next door and tried some slack line with some locals and our new friends from Minnesota, Rosa and Ester. What started as casual conversations about travel, school, life, and our futures turned into two more interviews for QFYC. Needless to say, we are more than excited to be hearing all of these different perspectives, experiences, and wisdom from millennials all across the globe! It’s crazy how all of our journeys may be a little different, but we can still identify the fears and challenges we all seem to face during our quarter-life years.

Day 3: Tintoreras

For our last full day in Isabela, we allowed ourselves our first morning of relaxation, since we didn’t have a tour booked until the afternoon. Our morning consisted of lounging in the hammocks, body surfing with some iguanas and getting some laundry done before checking into the luxurious, Iguana Crossing. This place was immaculate and having the hookup for a night was much needed (Thanks John & Mr. Dansky!).

Iguana Crossing Hotel - Isabela, Galapagos

We threw our bags down in the nicest room we’ve both ever had the pleasure of staying in and headed off for our snorkel tour. While it was no Kicker Rock, we finally got to see penguins up close. (Although here’s a quick tip for other penguin lovers: you can easily see them swimming around the main port and have a much better chance of snorkeling with them there! Click here to download a short video of it!)

We snorkeled with some big rays, dancing sea lions and the infamous sea turtle. We had the chance to actually swim, follow, and touch the sea turtle, which definitely made the tour. These things are incredible looking. It’s hard to describe the feeling, but be sure to stay tuned for some up-close and personal Go Pro videos of our new friend!

To finish the day we went to the Iguana Cove Hostel again for happy hour. There were a bunch of students there from Western Kentucky (can you believe that’s a study abroad option! How lucky are they?),  and we all got to know each other over some beers on the beach. A few of the braver souls tried their hand with slacklining, but it seemed as though it was only the locals who really had it nailed down.

Day 4: Some Sun and a Speedboat back to Santa Cruz

Our final day in Isabela was spent lounging by our infinity pool and catching up on some work. It was a terrific morning complimented by an even more terrific brunch at the Booby Trap right next door – it more than satisfied our craving for fish tacos! We packed up our things while Jordan said some prayers about our final speedboat back to Santa Cruz. Perhaps the afternoon boats are the ones to take or God eased the waters for Jordan’s sake, but it was definitely the easiest ride so far. Ending our Galapagos trip with a few days in Isabela was definitely the best way to go about. From relaxing on hammocks to getting our adventure fix, it was definitely the best island in both of our books. We have a feeling it won’t be our last time visiting Isabela.

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