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Things to do in

Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabela

Top Activities and Attractions in Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabela
Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabela

Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabela

The largest island in the archipelago formed from six immense volcanoes that rose from the sea about a million years ago and created a lava crust that eventually eroded into soil over which gave a foothold for the unique, fearless wildlife that call it home.

Puerto Villamil, Isabela’s only town is a much mellower version of Puerto Ayora and possibly the most popular port after Puerto Ayora to hang out in a hammock and watch the boobies fly by. Over the last several years, numerous quality hotels, restaurants, and tour operators have blossomed in and around town. Many are poised on or nearby the town’s centerpiece — the beach.

The town’s beach is a spectacular two-mile stretch of silky bone-colored sand sprouting swaying palms in just the right spots. A five-minute walk from town, you will find a tucked-away lagoon sprouting flamingos. Hikers will appreciate the numerous trails heading inland and up the sides of the Island’s volcanoes. Snorkeling is excellent at several spots near town, and sea kayaking is sublime.

Transportation In Puerto Villamil 

How to Get to and From Puerto Villamil

  • Flights to Isabela: Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island is accessible by both air and sea. While direct flights to Isabela are not available, water taxis, select cruise itineraries, and flights from Santa Cruz or San Cristobal offer daily access to the island. Emetebe Avionetas operates inter-island flights with offices in Puerto Ayora, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Puerto Villamil, and Guayaquil. Alternatively, hourly plane charters between the Galapagos Islands can be arranged.
  • Speedboat to Isabela: For travelers preferring sea transportation, public speedboats offer a convenient option. These boats operate specific routes, such as San Cristobal to Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz to Isabela, accommodating 20-40 passengers with 2 or 3 motors. Departures are scheduled twice daily, and advance booking is recommended due to limited capacity. To ensure comfort during the journey, especially in areas with strong sea currents, motion-sickness medication is advisable. The average duration of a speedboat trip is approximately 2.5 hours each way. Departure times vary, with morning departures at 6:00 AM (Isabela) or 7:00 AM (San Cristobal and Santa Cruz), and afternoon departures at 2:00 PM (San Cristobal and Santa Cruz) or 3:00 PM (Isabela), all in local time. Each route is serviced by 3-8 speedboats per departure, providing flexibility for travelers. Ticket prices range from $30 to $45 per way, and tickets can be purchased from various agencies along the waterfront.
  • Cruises to Isabela: While cruises with itineraries visiting the Western Galapagos Islands offer access to Isabela’s remote corners, they typically do not stop at Puerto Villamil. Therefore, travelers keen on exploring this idyllic town should opt for speedboats or small airplanes for transportation. Take a look at the following cruises that visit Isabela to ensure you uncover some of its most sought-after highlights.

Getting Around Puerto Villamil

  • Taxis: Taxis are easy to find on the island. While fares are typically fixed, it’s advisable to confirm the fare before beginning your journey. For short distances within the town, fares usually start at $1. For longer trips, negotiate a fare with the driver in advance and arrange pick-up times to avoid being stranded.
  • Bicycles: Renting a bicycle is a popular choice for exploring the island. Several shops on the island offer bicycle rentals. Be prepared for varied terrain, and ensure you wear appropriate protective gear for a safer and more enjoyable experience.
  • Guided Tours: Opting for guided tours is a fantastic way to ensure you make the most of your time on the island. Explore top attractions such as Los Tuneles, the historic Wall of Tears, and the beautiful beaches of La Playita and Playa del Amor with knowledgeable guides who can provide insights and enhance your experience.

What to Do in Puerto Villamil

Exploring Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island offers visitors a wealth of exciting activities to enjoy amidst the island’s stunning natural beauty. Here are some of the top activities to indulge in:

  • Snorkeling: Dive into the crystal-clear waters surrounding Isabela Island and discover vibrant underwater ecosystems teeming with marine life. Explore sites like Concha de Perla, a calm bay perfect for snorkeling with sea lions, turtles, and colorful fish. Rent snorkeling gear from local shops and venture out to explore the underwater wonders at your own pace.
  • Diving: For a deeper dive into the marine world, embark on a scuba diving adventure around Isabela Island. Dive sites such as Los Tuneles and Roca Redonda offer opportunities to encounter hammerhead sharks, manta rays, and other fascinating marine species. Join a guided diving excursion with certified instructors to explore the island’s diverse underwater landscapes safely.
  • Hiking: Lace up your hiking boots and explore the scenic trails that wind through Isabela Island’s rugged terrain. Trek to sites like the Sierra Negra Volcano and the Wall of Tears for breathtaking panoramic views of the island’s volcanic landscapes and coastal vistas. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and sturdy footwear for a comfortable hiking experience.
  • Kayaking: Paddle along the tranquil coastline of Isabela Island and immerse yourself in the island’s serene natural surroundings. Rent a kayak from local operators and explore hidden coves, mangrove forests, and secluded beaches. Keep an eye out for marine life such as sea turtles, rays, and marine iguanas as you glide through the crystal-clear waters.
  • Surfing: Catch some waves and experience the thrill of surfing at popular surf spots like Playa del Amor and El Faro. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or a beginner looking to ride your first wave, Isabela Island offers ideal conditions for surfers of all levels. Rent surfboards from local surf shops and hit the waves for an unforgettable surfing adventure.
  • Biking: Explore the laid-back charm of Puerto Villamil on two wheels and pedal your way around the island’s scenic coastal roads and lush countryside. Rent bicycles from local shops and embark on a leisurely bike ride to attractions like El Mirador del Mango and the Wall of Tears. Enjoy the freedom to explore at your own pace and stop to admire the island’s stunning vistas along the way.
  • Horseback riding: Traverse the picturesque highlands of Isabela or journey all the way to the summit of Sierra Negra Volcano, soaking in the stunning landscapes along the way. Hire this service in town and experience the island’s natural beauty from a different perspective. Horseback riding offers an unforgettable way to discover the wonders of Isabela Island.
  • Dinghy explorations: Embark on guided dinghy tours around Isabela Island’s coastline and discover hidden gems and pristine beaches inaccessible by foot. Cruise along the shoreline, stopping to snorkel in secluded bays, observe wildlife, and marvel at volcanic rock formations. Join a guided tour led by knowledgeable local guides to make the most of your dinghy exploration experience.
  • Highland explorations: Venture into Isabela Island’s lush highlands and explore its rich biodiversity and unique ecosystems. Visit sites like the Arnaldo Tupiza Giant Tortoise Breeding Center and the Wetlands Complex to encounter iconic Galapagos wildlife such as giant tortoises, flamingos, and land iguanas. Join guided tours or hire local guides to gain insights into the island’s conservation efforts and natural history while exploring its highland attractions.
  • Relaxation: Relax on the soft sands of Playa Puerto Villamil or Playa del Amor, lulled by the gentle ocean breeze and rhythmic waves. Take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront promenade, savoring panoramic views of the coastline and embracing the laid-back atmosphere of this coastal town. Indulge in a pampering session at local spas like Casa Rosada or Hotel Albemarle. And for ultimate relaxation, unwind on a hammock or deck with a book or your own thoughts, immersing yourself in the serene beauty of the Galapagos Islands.

Banks and Money

In Puerto Villamil, visitors can find Banco del Pacifico and BanEcuador B.P., both situated on Antonio Gil street. While Banco del Pacifico offers ATM services, it’s advisable to bring the necessary cash for your stay, as some establishments may not accept credit cards.

Communications

Getting cell signal in Puerto Villamil can be challenging, with 3G service being sporadic or nonexistent. Even places that advertise Wi-Fi may not always have reliable connectivity. It’s crucial to plan ahead and book everything you need before arriving in Puerto Villamil. Once outside of town, like most visitor sites in the Galapagos Islands, expect to have no phone signal. This lack of connectivity offers a rare chance to disconnect from the outside world and fully immerse yourself in the unique beauty of this remote destination, surrounded by fascinating species, pristine beaches, and breathtaking landscapes.

Medical Services

In Puerto Villamil, visitors can access essential services such as a medical center (Centro de Salud Puerto Villamil), a pharmacy, grocery stores, and a convenience mart. While this facility offers basic medical assistance and stocks common medications, it’s important to note that it may not be equipped to handle serious conditions. To ensure you have access to any specific or prescription medicines you may require, it’s advisable to travel with an ample supply. Given the remote nature of the destination, securing travel insurance is highly recommended to prepare for any unforeseen emergencies.

Shopping

In contrast to Puerto Ayora, Puerto Villamil boasts a more modest selection of shops and boutiques. While strolling along its waterfront promenade and main street, visitors can discover a handful of establishments offering common handicrafts, t-shirts, and other souvenirs. Additionally, several grocery stores provide essential snacks and kitchen staples for travelers’ convenience.

Where to Eat in Puerto Villamil

Here are five suggestions among the various dining options available in Puerto Villamil. Please note that some establishments may operate seasonally or may have closed by the time of your visit. To ensure you find the best dining experience during your stay, it’s recommended to inquire around town for current suggestions.

  • Gracias Madre Galápagos: A unique dining experience with its Tex-Mex ambiance and flavorful Mexican cuisine. Known for its delicious dishes and quirky decor, this restaurant combines taste and ambiance to create a memorable meal. 
    • Cuisine: Mexican, Healthy
    • Price Range: $$ – $$$
  • Booby Trap: A local favorite serving up American and Southwestern cuisine in a welcoming atmosphere. Whether you’re grabbing a quick bite or enjoying a leisurely meal, you’ll find delicious food and friendly service at this popular spot.
    • Cuisine: American, Southwestern
    • Price Range: $$ – $$$
  • El Cafetal Galápagos: Renowned as the best dining option in town, El Cafetal Galápagos offers a delightful fusion of fresh seafood and innovative flavors. With its menu combining seafood and fusion cuisine, this restaurant is a must-visit for food enthusiasts in Puerto Villamil.
    • Cuisine: Seafood, Fusion
    • Price Range: $$ – $$$
  • Maestro De Casa: A go-to spot for authentic Ecuadorean cuisine, known for serving the best ceviche in town. With a focus on fresh seafood and traditional flavors, this restaurant offers a taste of local culture with every dish.
    • Cuisine: Seafood, Ecuadorean
    • Price Range: $$ – $$$
  • Shawarma Hot: A popular choice for casual dining, offering great milkshakes and a variety of pub favorites. Whether you’re in the mood for shawarma or other delicious eats, this restaurant is sure to satisfy your cravings in Puerto Villamil.
    • Cuisine: Pub
    • Price Range: $$ – $$$

Hotels in and around Puerto Villamil

Scalesia Lodge – is a new hotel and an entirely new concept on Isabela Island where travelers stay in luxury tents with spectacular views over the forest. The main lodge is modern with excellent service and cuisine. The lodge is normally visited as a 4 or 5 day all inclusive package

Iguana Crossing Hotel – is Isabela’s premier luxury beachfront hotel named after, you guessed it, the marine iguanas that cross the hotel property every day year round. Iguana Crossing is well known for their cuisine, and the company that operates the hotel (Opuntia Hotels) offers a novel “Active Tour for Foodies” which tours the Galapagos’ gastronomic delights as you enjoy the sites and adventure.

 

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Provider Spotlight

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Galapagos Tour Experts – Adventure Life Specialize in luxury Galapagos cruises, and land-based Galapagos tours. Adventure Life can help you design the perfect trip to Ecuador. As seen in Outside Magazine, NatGeo, and the New York Times.

Voyager Galapagos Tours haS excellent Galapagos cruise deals & last-minute offers, and land-based Galapagos tours (aka Island Hopping).

Galapagos & Ecuador Insiders use their local expertise to assist you in planning the perfect Galapagos cruise or Ecuador tour for your precise budget, needs, and interests.

Latin Trails craft customized journeys to the Galapagos Islands, the Ecuador mainland, the Amazon rainforest, and Peru. They operate the highly-rated Galapagos cruising yacht: Seaman Journey and the day tour yacht the Galapagos Hopper.

Andando Tours – Pioneers in Galapagos tourism. Two generations of sailing and shipbuilding showcase unparalleled knowledge in creating the most unique Galapagos Cruises. Owners & Operators of S/S Mary Anne & M/Y Passion.

Gulliver Expeditions – Learn more about our Ecuador ToursPeru ToursEcuador Climbing Expeditions, Galapagos Land Tours, and Machu Picchu Tours. Gulliver Expeditions offer fantastic travel experiences since 2005.

Surtrek Galapagos Cruises – has offered exceptional custom-designed trips to the Galapagos for over 20 years. They now bring their brand of off-the-beaten-path trips to other countries in South America such as Peru’s Machu PicchuBolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flats, and Chile’s Atacama Desert.

ViaNatura – provides excellent value Galapagos cruises on the Monserrat yacht, a luxury cruise experience on the Hermes yacht, and a variety of tours in Ecuador and Peru.

Exclusive Galapagos Cruises, part of the EQ Touring group – specializes in private Galapagos yacht charters. They can help your group find the perfect yacht that matches your needs at a price negotiated by a true insider who has been doing charters in the Galapagos for decades.