Malpelo Island is located 378 km (235 miles) from Colombia’s Pacific coast, and approximately 362 km (225 miles) from Panama’s coast. It has a land area of 0.35 square kilometres (86 acres). It is uninhabited except for a small military post manned by the Colombian Army, which was established in 1986.
The island consists of a rock with three high peaks, the highest with a height of 300 metres (980 ft). It is surrounded by a number of offshore rocks.

Malpelo was once eight to ten times larger than its present size. The constant pounding of the ocean and weather have eroded the island forming steep cliffs and sea caves along its coastline.

The submarine environment surrounding Malpelo is defined not only by its isolation but also by its location, which is highly influenced by several diverse marine currents.
The terrestrial fauna of the island is adapted to the barren conditions and the deposits of guano which are the basis of the island’s ecology, both on land and undersea.

Algae, moss and lichens cover the rugged cliffs of Malpelo which host the largest Masked Booby colony in the world, approximately twenty five thousand birds.

The island is often visited by some twelve species of migratory birds, including the Red-billed Tropic bird, Red-footed Booby, Black Noddy and the great and magnificent Frigate birds.

Endemic to the island are one crab species, two starfish, various species of coralline fish, and two reptiles.
Malpelo has been interpreted as a portion of oceanic crust, probably a local manifestation of a “hot spot”. It is composed mainly of pillow lavas, volcanic breccias, and Tertiary basalticdikes.  At first glance, the island seems to be barren rock, devoid of all vegetation. But deposits of bird guano have helped colonies of algae, lichens, mosses and some shrubs and ferns establish, all of which glean nutrients from the guano.
On July 12, 2006, Malpelo was declared by UNESCO as a natural World Heritage Site.

There is no good or protected anchorage in Malpelo, but mooring close to the rock provides some protection from wind and waves. Even in rough weather the boat movement is moderate. The currents can be strong and landing on the shores of the island is almost impossible, with the exception of the “Tangon”, a framework construction mostly used by the Colombian Navy.