Biking the Wetlands and exploring the Wall of Tears on Isabela

April 2019

 

The Wetlands (Los Humedales and El Muro de las Lágrimas) are a great combination of a stunning landscape and an impressive wildlife.

You can bike to the famous Wall of Tears (El Muro de Las Lágrimas), hike up to Mirador de las Lágrimas and enjoy a panoramic view of Isabela's southern coast, make your way through thick mangrove forests to find some secluded beaches, swim in the ocean, look for flamingos in the lagoons, see lots of marine iguanas, sea lions and get up close and personal with giant and friendly tortoises.

 

All of this is located along one sandy road west of Puerto Villamil. It is a great (half) day trip depending on how much time you want to spend and how many side paths you want to explore.

How to get there?

This is one of the few trips on Isabela which you can plan individually even though it is located in a national park. That means you don't need to book a tour for this trip. Therefore, it is a very affordable. All you need to pay for are the rental bikes (if you get them).

 

You can rent the bikes at Bike & Surf, a bike shop in Puerto Villamil. They basically have two types of bikes which you can rent per hour and per day. One type, a normal bike, is great if you want to ride the bike on a normal street. The other type, a mountain bike, is recommended for this trip because it is a sandy trail and the mountain bike is better suited for it. You get the bike for 2 USD per hour and with it a locker, a helmet, a map of the Wetlands as well as a little advice. Well, actually two.

 

First, you should keep an eye out for small thorns of cactus trees on the side of the path as they can destroy your tires. They fall from the trees on the side of the road and you can avoid them by driving in the middle of the road.

 

Second, go all the way to the Wall of Tears at the end of the road first and explore all the side paths on the way back. This way you know how much time you have left until the national park closes at 6 pm and you can return your bike in time.

 

Once you have the bike, get on Isabela's main road and follow it. We took the sandy road past Puerto Villamil’s beach until we reached the entrance to the national park Los Humedales and El Muro de las Lágrimas. We signed in and continue on the path for around 4 mostly uphill kilometers until we reached the famous Wall of Tears (El Muro de las Lágrimas).

 

All of this took place in the midday heat and even though the trail is easy it is really exhausting during this time of day. Therefore, once we arrived we drank lots of water. Besides that, we had some snacks, sun screen, towels, swim suits in our bag. It is essential that you bring everything you need with you because there are no shops along the way.

 

You can surely hike to the Wall of Tears as well but we recommend you rent a bike. It is faster, therefore, you will be able to explore more of this national park and if your timing is right you can avoid the midday sun.

Exploring the Wall of Tears and Mirador de las Lágrimas

We arrived, locked our bikes and went straight to the impressive Wall of Tears (El Muro de las Lágrimas), a 100 meter long lava rock wall, which holds historical significance. It was a former penal colony and its name was aptly given due to the harsh conditions under which the prisoners had to construct the wall which caused thousands of deaths. It received the name from the locals because they could hear the loud cries of the prisoners as they were forced to build the walls of their own confinement.

 

We explored the Wall of Tears and went up the small hill to catch a glimpse of the wall from up there. If you are up for a little challenge, you can even continue on a small trail and hike to Mirador de las Lágrimas where you will be rewarded with the most incredible panoramic view of Isabela's southern coast. Not many people seemed to go there, at least not when we were there. The hike is rather easy, again, it is the heat that made it a bit exhausting. Therefore, we view might quite literally take your breath away. Once we reached Mirador de las Lagrimas we relaxed for a while and had a little snack break.

Meeting giant tortoises

After we rested a bit we headed back to our bikes. Back on the sandy road we biked alongside some giant tortoises at the side of the road or hiding in natural pool. The most impressive part is that they don't mind the tourist. Of course, we kept our distance and made sure not to disturb them, but still we were just a few meters away and they didn't care.

 

If you want to take a photo with the tortoises, make sure you are keeping your distance and position yourself behind them to avoid scaring them.

Finally, after being impressed by these creature for quite a while we continued on our way back. However, this time it took us longer because we didn't take the direct way. We stopped to explore the side paths and let me tell you, they are equally impressive. If you have the time and energy, explore all of them.

Exploring almost all the side paths

 

But if you don't have the time, here is an overview to help you choose where to go. They are listed in the order of appearance on your way back.

 

First, you pass by Mirador Cerro Orchilla. It is a small hill with an nice outlook point as well. However, as it is not as high as Mirador de las Lágrimas you won't have exactly the same view. Because we already hiked we didn't walk up to this one but it might be a good option if you are looking for an impressive view and don't want to hike for an hour.

 

Wetlands Beach 3.jpg

El Estero

If you continue on the sandy road for 20 minutes you reach El Estero. If you just have time for one stop, I recommend you check out this one because you walk through an impressive mangrove forest tunnel to finally get to a small, remote beach. You can leave your bags there and get in the water. If you continue walking you walk through the forest that surrounds the water here and reach the ocean.

Wetlands Lagoon 2.jpg
Wetlands Lagoon.jpg

La Poza Escondida

 La Poza Verde

Just a few minutes away are two impressive natural pools. It is just a short walk from the main road to La Poza Escondida (Hidden Pond) and La Poza Verdes (Green Pond).

Wetlands Cave.jpg

Túnel del Estero

Then, you reach El Túnel del Estero, a lava tunnel very close to the ocean. If you feel adventurous, you can climb into the tunnel.

Wetlands Beach.jpg

Túnel del Estero

Lots of stops later we reached the last side paths. Two gorgeous white sand beaches. Playa del Amor and La Playita. You get there by following a sandy path occupied by lots and lots of marine iguanas which actually made it hard to "find" the way. But when you finally get to the beach you might be lucky to have it all to yourself.

LOGISTICS

Departure

Puerto Villamil, Isabela

All day, closes at 6pm

Duration & Distance

Duration & Distance

3-6 hours

14 km

Cost

Free

No guide necessary

Bikes for 2 USD/hour

Equipment

Hiking shoes

Swim suit

Sun screen

Towel

Water and snacks

TIPS

Make sure to get the timing right. Try to start earlier in the day to avoid the midday heat.

Ride in the middle of the path to avoid thorns from the cactus trees.

Bring lots of food and water. There are no shops along the way.

Bring hiking shoes, especially if you want to hike up to one of the lookout points.

Bring enough sun screen. If you want to jump in the ocean make sure to bring biodegradable sun screen because normal sun screen will damage the reefs and hurt the wildlife.