The southernmost island in the Galápagos is also the oldest. The island’s reputation as one of the top spots for bird-watching has led to day trips from San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz being phased out, and you now need to be on a cruise to come here. The waved albatross that nest here April–November are the island’s main draw. Witness these enormous birds taking off and landing and enjoy their amusing mating dance.
On the northeast side of Española, this beautiful crescent beach is reached by a wet landing. There are no hikes, so the main draw is the excellent snorkeling. Highlights include frolicking with playful sea lions (there’s a colony here) as well as spotting stingrays or occasionally white-tipped sharks.
The beach is an important nesting site for marine turtles, so you might be lucky enough to see them. Turtle Rock, a short panga ride offshore, is another good snorkeling spot with a rich variety of bright tropical fish such as Moorish idols, damselfish, and parrotfish.
On the beach, you can walk among the sea lion colony, although try to give the males a wide berth. At the east end, there are marine iguanas and Sally Lightfoot crabs, and you can often see the endemic Hood mockingbirds.
On the western tip of Española, Punta Suárez is one of the top visitor sites in the Galápagos. A wet landing leads to a trail toward the cliffs on the south side of the point. Along the way, there is a large blue-footed booby colony, and you need to watch your step as these tame birds remain utterly unconcerned by your presence and sit in the middle of the trail.
The best is yet to come. If you visit April–November, farther along the trail is the biggest breeding site of waved albatross in the world. Seeing these birds taking off from the cliffs with their 2.5-meter wingspans is quite a sight. Seeing them land is also impressive but rather less elegant as they often fall over, being somewhat unsteady on their feet after long flights. If you’re lucky, you can witness the entertaining courtship as the couple dance around each other clacking and calling skyward.
This site is teeming with birdlife, and aside from the boobies and albatross, you can see Galápagos hawks, Galápagos doves, swallow-tailed gulls, oystercatchers, red-billed tropic birds, and finches. The views of the cliffs below are equally impressive, with waves crashing onto rocks and water spurting high into the air through blowholes. The rocks are often covered in marine iguanas sunning themselves; these iguanas are more colorful than those found on other islands, with turquoise tinges to their backs and legs, perhaps the result of eating algae endemic to Española.
The entire trail is about 1,600 meters long and takes about two hours.
© Ben Westwood and Avalon Travel from Moon Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands, 5th Edition