Red-lipped Bat fish @ Galapagos

Galapagos Islands’ Best Snorkeling Sites – Western Islands

This is the second of a three-part series about the Galapagos Islands’ best snorkeling sites, to help you plan your dream vacation.

Multi-day cruises heading into the Western part of the Galapagos Islands include the archipelago’s youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, on the itinerary. Some of the highest-ranking snorkeling sites are on the coasts of these two islands. Other sites on Isabela can be reached by day cruise from the island’s main port, Puerto Villamil.

A few snorkeling destinations in the Central part of the archipelago, like James Bay (Santiago Island) and Prince Phillip’s Steps (Genovesa) are included in multi-day cruise itineraries. These are covered in the first part of this series,.

The western sector of the Galapagos Islands is home to land and sea animals you will see in no other part of the archipelago: flightless cormorants, Port Jackson sharks – and strange creatures like frogfish, moonfish and red-lipped batfish. Penguins are much more common in these cold waters. And, of course, you can expect to swim with the ever-popular sea lions, marine iguanas and sea turtles. Here it is also more common to see dolphins and whales during their migrations through the Galapagos.


Las Tintoreras (Isabela Island)

This islet is located 15 minutes by boat from Puerto Villamil. After hiking around the islote to see white-tipped sharks, sea lions, marine iguanas and other fauna, visitors are allowed to snorkel off-shore where sharks, rays, sea lions, multi-colored fish and other marine denizens can be observed.

Accessibility: Day cruise, Multi-day Cruise


Lava Tunnels (Isabela Island)

Locally called Los Túneles, these lava tunnels were formed when magma reached the sea. Today, these arches and other strange rock formations are home to penguins, sea turtles, sea lions and white-tipped sharks – as well as rays, sea horses and rainbows of tropical fish. Above the shimmering water, you’ll see blue-footed boobies, Sally Lightfoot crabs and marine iguanas.

Accessibility: Day cruise


Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela Island)

Located on the northwestern corner of the island, this sunken volcano forms two protected, turquoise coves. Bizarre beings lurk beneath the surface: red-lipped batfish, moonfish, frogfish and hinge-beak prawns. Also keep an eye out for the rare Port Jackson shark. Sea turtles and sea horses are common. This is another of Galapagos’ prized snorkeling sites, and one of the coldest.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise


Tagus Cove (Isabela Island)

Underwater, Tagus Cove is carpeted with green algae where marine iguanas and sea turtles graze. Rare creatures are seen here, including flightless cormorants, penguins and Port Jackson sharks. This is among the top places to snorkel in the Galapagos Islands.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise


Punta Espinosa (Fernandina Island)

On the other side of the Bolivar Channel across from Tagus Cove, is Punta Espinosa on the west coast of Fernandina Island. Swimming marine iguanas and sea turtles are common sights, as are Galapagos Penguins and flightless cormorants. In season, dolphins, humpback whales, orcas can be spotted in the channel.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise


The last of this three-part series the Galapagos Islands’ best snorkeling sites will focus on ones you can reach by land.


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Photo credit: Rein Ketelaars

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