The small town of Puerto Villamil on Isabela island is the perfect place for a few days of Galapagos downtime. It's slow pace and friendly locals reel visitors in, providing a welcome break from full-on touring. Puerto Villamil's long stretch of pristine white sand is one of the very finest Galapagos beaches. The wildlife watching opportunites are diverse both on land and in the ocean. Plus the surrounding volcanic landscapes provides a playground for adventure lovers. Simply put, Puerto Villamil and Isabela are highly recommended inclusions to any Galapagos itinerary.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about Puerto Villamil Galapagos. Our top picks for activities to keep you busy and places to see. Plus recommendations for Isabela island restaurants, cafes & bars.
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. There are plenty of beach front hotels to choose from, as well as bars to enjoy a sun-downer cocktail. At the far end of the beach you'll come across a colony of marine iguanas basking in the sun, as well as wader birds searching the shore for food.
Although the beach here is small, the harbor is often the best spot on the island to snorkel with Galapagos 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. Rent out snorkel gear at your hotel or an agency in town to explore this amazing underwater world.
La Playa de Amor is a small beach with volcanic shores reached by bike or taxi along the coast to the west of Puerto Villamil. The beach is a go-to spot for cooling off in clear waters in the company of marine iguanas and sometimes sea turtles. You'll 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 whitetip 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. Sadly, thousands of inmates died during the construction of what was ultimately a wall that serves no purpose. This site can be reached by bike or taxi. In terms of wildlife, keep an eye out for Lava lizards who hang out among the arid brown rocks.
Just past the Iguana Crossing Hotel at the far end of the developed beach, you can find the entrance to a boardwalk trail through the interesting wetlands habitat. Here flamingos and pintail ducks can often be found feeding in the mineral-tinted waters. Further along the trail, visitors find various species of mangrove forest and Opuntia cactus - an interesting introduction to two important Galapagos plants. Bird watchers should be especially attentive as this is the only place on the planet to spot the critically endangered Mangrove Finch.
The same path from the wetlands continues through prickly pear shrubs to the wonderful giant tortoise breeding center. Here you can find two of the adult tortoise species native to Isabela 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.
Puerto Villamil town 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 restaurants & two bars to try during your time on Isabela 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 Puerto Villamil 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 Hotel 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 never difficult to find at Puerto Ayora. A recommended day tour hike or horse ride takes visitors to the peak of Sierra Negra Volcano, which dominates the skyline from town. Bike rentals are easy to come by, to take on the Wall of Tears trail stopping at small, secluded beaches along the way. Snorkeling equipment gives visitors freedom to explore the marine life from the shore, or book a snorkeling day tour to Los Tuneles or Cabo Rosa to snorkel with sharks and sea-horses. Another popular day trip is to Las Tintoreras islet, where a short trek takes visitors through a large marine iguana colony to a lava crevasse full of reef sharks.
Check out our complete Isabela island blog for more information about what to see and do right across the island. We also have an excellent selection of Puerto Villamil hotels to choose for a comfortable stay.
In conclusion, Puerto Villamil is one of the top spots you will want to spend free time at Galapagos. With great options for guided day tours, as well as freedom to explore the region by yourselves, the world is your oyster! We really hope that our blog has given enough food for thought, to seriously consider Puerto Villamil Galapagos as a destination to visit.