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An online cruising guide for yachts sailing to Isla Isabel, Mexico
Isla Isabel is a small volcanic island about 15 miles off the west coast of Mexico, about 90 miles south of Mazatlan and 70 miles north of Banderas Bay. The island is less than half a mile wide and about three-quarters of a mile in length. It was made a National Park in the 1980s, and it has been called the "Galapagos" of Mexico. Isla Isabel is a major breeding and nesting area for frigate birds brown boobies and blue-footed boobies, which are all very tame.
The Mexican chart shows Isla Isabel about 1.5 miles NNW of its actual position, and gives a very poor representation of the actual geography and hydrography of the island.
The official chart is of little or no use, either on the location of, the approaches to or the anchorages on Isla Iasbel. In fact, it is probably safer to not use it.
Also see Cruiser's Nets
Isla Isabel experiences the same weather systems as the Mexican coast from Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta. Sources for Weather forecasts:
The Mexican chart shows Isla Isabel about 1.5 miles NNW of its actual position, and gives a very poor representation of the actual geography and hydrography of the island. The Google Earth image of the area helps much more than does the official chart. A safe approach to the southern anchorage can be made from the southward, being careful to avoid the reefs off the points to the east and the west.
There is a small anchorage on the south side of the island with good holding on a sandy bottom in 8 to 12 metres. This provides protection from westerly, northerly and easterly winds and swells, but is exposed to the south. An easy dinghy landing can be made on the rather protected beach in the small inner harbour that is used by the local fishermen.
In southerly blows, there is some protection on the east side of the island, near a pair of isolated volcanic spires near shore.
Tourism and Things to do Ashore
This is a major breeding and nesting area for frigate birds, brown boobies and blue-footed boobies. The birds are very tame, and can be easily approached to within a metre or two, even during their mating rituals, incubating time and chick rearing. Tropic birds also nest on the island.
This is a small, isolated National Park with no permanent residents and no facilities. Please leave nothing behind but fond memories.
Routes/Passages To/From Isla Isabela
- A very pleasant overnight sail from Mazatlan.
- A long day-sail from Puerto Vallarta or La Cruz in Banderas Bay, or a pleasant overnight.
- A nice break on the voyage between Mazatlan and Banderas Bay.
Contact details of "Cruiser's Friends" that can be contacted for local information or assistance.
List links to discussion threads on partnering forums. (see link for requirements)
Links to relevant websites.
References & Publications
Publications, Guides, etc.
Last Visited & Details Checked (and updated here)
- 22 to 25 February 2010 (sv Sequitur)
- In late Februaty 2010 we spent an idyllic three days on Isla Isabel, and our excursions ashore gave us a wonderful insight into the life cycles of the seabirds that nest here. It amazed us that the birds allowed us to spend this time so intimately among them, invading their privacy and their security during their mating, their nesting and their rearing of young chicks. It is such a vulnerable time for them, and through it all we continued to feel welcomed by them. Isla Isabel gave us experiences we will long cherish. (sv Sequitur)
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