When visiting Puerto Villamil at the Galapagos Islands it is easy to imagine what the other inhabited islands of San Cristobal and Santa Cruz looked like ten years ago. The town´s small-beaches still aren’t crowded, and seaside bars make it the place to go to relax in paradise.
Keep reading for some of the top things to see and do in your free time while exploring the largest island in the Galapagos archipelago.
Capturing the tropical charm of the islands and the longest stretch of white sand in the Galapagos, Puerto Villamil Beach in front of the town is a great place to swim, surf, or enjoy time relaxing in the sun.
Although the beach here is small this can is often the best spot on the island to snorkel with sea lions or watch them lazing the day away on the wooden benches. Also, keep a lookout for penguins on the nearby rock outcrops, or swimming in the cool waters.
La Playa de Amor is a small beach with volcanic shores reached by bike or taxi along the coast to the west of town. The beach is a go-to spot for cooling off in clear waters in the company of marine iguanas and sometimes sea turtles, and you will often have the beach all to yourselves!
Another favorite beach on the Wall of Tears Trail, La Playita is a great place to cool off and relax while swimming with sea lions and sometimes white-tipped reef sharks in the waters offshore.
Further along the coast, the Wall of Tears is an intriguing site to see as well. The 25m high wall was built by prisoners on the island´s former penal colony and serves as a harsh reminder of the unique human history of Isabela, where thousands died in the wall´s construction. The site can be reached by bike or taxi.
Just past the Iguana Crossing Hotel, you can find the entrance to a boardwalk trail through the interesting wetlands habitat, where flamingos and pintail ducks can often be found feeding in the mineral-tinted waters. Further along the trail, you can also see different species of mangrove plants.
The same from the wetlands continues through prickly pear shrubs to the wonderful tortoise breeding center. Here you can find two of the adult tortoise species native to this island, as well as a hatchery that protects babies from invasive animals such as goats & dogs until they are old enough to fend for themselves in the wild.
Isabela Island has an ample variety of restaurants to choose from-many feature seafood but there are also burger places and pizza joints. While not a complete list by far, here are five places to try during your time on the island.
Getting to the Hauser’s Restaurant starts an adventure. The farm owned by an Austrian chef and his Ecuadorian wife is twenty minutes out of town by taxi in the highlands. The restaurant requires reservations and is still under the radar. Once here, it becomes apparent that it is a local’s favorite. Expect generous portions and genuine hospitality. Dishes use fresh seafood, fruits, and vegetables from the farm, and all have a signature twist and are created around what is in season.
While seafood restaurants around Isabela are plenty, Casa de Marita uses seafood and creates dishes using Ecuadorian, Peruvian and international influences. The menu changes seasonally and all the produce is grown in the owner’s garden. The restaurant is part of a hotel located beachside and the second-floor terrace overlooks the ocean for fun nights in the tropics with great cocktails.
Isabela Grill is in Puerto Villamil and is one of the oldest establishments on the island. It’s unique in that it serves BBQ, and many say it is the best BBQ and steakhouse in the islands. Menu items include shared platters grilled at the table with seafood and meat, an inexpensive and filling set lunch, steak, and a variety of sandwiches.
A local and traveler’s favorite for a filling lunch and fun dinner, Coco Surf serves soups, wraps, seafood tacos and salads for lunch and tuna tartar, Thai fish, and a variety of creative and inspired seafood dishes at dinner. It gets crowded at night, so make sure to reserve a table.
For a romantic dinner in good company, the restaurant at Iguana Crossing hits the spot. Creatively prepared seafood paired with fresh vegetables from the hotel’s hacienda in the highlands, make this a place to enjoy the ocean view while feeling pampered.
Located next to the Caleta Iguana on the beach, Casa Rosada is a great island beach bar to relax and enjoy the sunset with a beer or cocktail. A daily happy hour from 5 to 7 pm makes it a place that welcomes a fun crowd.
Beto’s Beach Bar is an Isabela original. The owner is often on hand playing classic rock and blues; it’s another place to watch the sunset, while the party gets hopping after 10 pm.
Opportunities for adventure activities are around every bend on Isabela Island. Surfing off of Puerto Isabela Beach is popular, at Concha Perla a short trip from town, or hiking & biking the Wall of Tears Trail are all possible.
Snorkeling equipment and bike rentals are available at many places in town. Surfboard rentals and lessons are also easily arranged