Puerto Villamil, complete with its white sand beaches, is consistently considered one of the most beautiful sites in the Galapagos Islands. Located just behind the town of Villamil are several brackish lagoons, where pink flamingos, common stilts, whimbrels, white-cheeked pintails, and gallinules can usually be seen.

Between November and April each year, the lagoons serve as nesting areas, which makes the beaches and lagoons near Puerto Villamil some of the best viewing sites for migratory Galapagos Coastal Birds in the whole archipelago.

In fact, some people also consider Puerto Villamil as one of the world’s most beautiful tropical destinations. The area is made up of volcanic soil left over from eruptions by Puerto Villamil’s five active volcanoes. Villamil still retains its local charm and has not yet been overrun by too many visitors.

Activities Around Puerto Villamil

If you like snorkeling, then Las Tintoreras is the perfect spot. You can hire a local guide to take you to the Tunnels, which is a striking area of eroded lava islets teeming with abundant sea life.

From the dock of the town, you can walk along the boardwalk, through tangled mangrove stilt-roots to the Concha de Perla. Here, you will be able to snorkel with Galapagos marine life, such as sea turtles, penguins, colorful fish, and manta rays. Don’t worry, though – snorkeling with these marine creatures is safe.

The lagoons in the western part of Puerto Villamil are another amazing place from which to watch the wildlife native to the area. The lagoons themselves create an extensive network of shallow bodies of water that connect the local wetlands.

The precious wetlands of Villamil were designated as an international Ramsar Wetland Site in 2002. The lagoons have viewing platforms from which visitors can watch the wide variety of water birds and flamingos that flock to this site.

The town of Puerto Villamil, near the huge Sierra Negra volcano, was founded in 1897 and named after the general who annexed the Galapagos Islands to Ecuador in 1832. Now there are around 1,000 settlers who fish or farm coffee and fruit in the highlands.

Villamil began as the center of lime production. The town of Santo Tomas (near Villamil) served as a sulfur mine and home to Galapagos Coffee plantations. Unfortunately, these businesses were not too profitable due to the water bound limitations of the Galapagos Islands.

The small town of Villamil has sandy roads and simple houses with fences of woven branches and cacti. There is a small main square in front of the mayoral building and a small church. From here you can head north of the square, which will take you out of the town towards the airport and highlands.

Everything in Puerto Villamil is within close walking distance, so you will not see automobiles or buses very often. Outdoor activities such as swimming, snorkeling, fishing, and watching wildlife are available all over the island, along with great tasting seafood restaurants that serve only the freshest fish from the surrounding waters.

The locals value their tranquility but are friendly and welcoming to visitors. It is easy to arrange activities and get directions with or without the benefit of an organized tour.

It is also a great place to find a hammock and relax, swim and snorkel, or simply enjoy the local seafood and a cocktail at a bar overlooking the water. Most visitors come to Puerto Villamil by boat from Santa Cruz Island, but it is also possible to fly between these two Islands.

Stunning Beaches

The long sandy beach out the front of the town is perfect for sunset walks and viewing seabirds, iguanas, and crabs.

Around the harbor, you will see sea lions move smoothly through the water or rest on any convenient rock.

Galapagos Penguins and Blue-footed Boobies can often be viewed from the cruises offered by many small boat owners.

The long sandy beach that borders the front of the town is perfect for viewing seabirds, iguanas, and crabs, and ideal for sunset walks.

Around the harbor, you will see sea lions gliding smoothly through the water or resting on any convenient rock or bench.

Galapagos penguins and blue-footed boobies can often be viewed from the cruises offered by many small boat owners.

The Wall of Tears

This wall is a reminder of the work of three hundred prisoners who lived here between the 1940s and 1950s. They had the assignment of building their own prison, using the only material at hand (sharp-edged lava boulders).

Driven on by guards, they made a wall of around 190m long, 9m high and 6m wide at the base, but many died in the process, thus giving the wall its harrowing name.

The prison colony was closed down after a revolt in 1959, and the wall was left unfinished.

You can arrive to this place after a two-hour walk to the west along the coastal road that lays beyond several peaceful beaches.

If abundant marine life is what you’re hoping to see, then Las Tintoreras is the best spot.

From the dock, a sandy trail leads past sunbathing marine iguanas up to a lagoon and a narrow channel, where you will see the shiny shapes of White Tipped Sharks patrolling back and forth.

It is safe to swim and snorkel in the lagoon, but don’t swim in the channel itself as it’s not big enough for both you and the sharks. If you’re lucky, you may see rays and marine turtles too.

Giant Tortoise Breeding Center

You can also visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center, which is just twenty minutes from the city’s small downtown area.

Work is ongoing here to repopulate the island’s five unique tortoise subspecies, each of them based around the five largest volcanoes.

The Galapagos Islands will always exceed your wildest expectations. And Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island is a perfect example of this.