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The charming town of Puerto Villamil is probably the best-kept secret in Galapagos. It’s very small and underdeveloped – none of the streets in town are paved – but there’s a lot to see and do, and it’s well worth spending a couple of days here if you’re doing the whole island-hopping thing.
First stop: the beach. Puerto Villamil is located right on one of the best beaches in all of Galapagos, a spectacular two-mile stretch of silky bone-colored sand and palm trees. Since there are fewer than 3,000 full-time residents in Puerto Villamil, the large beach never gets packed, even on the hottest days.
Services in town are pretty basic. There’s a post office, some laundry places, a couple of internet cafes, one dive shop, a small hospital and an assortment of hotels, tour agencies and restaurants of varying quality. Although there is a co-op sort of bank, it is worth remembering that there is no ATM in Puerto Villamil, and if you run out of cash here, it’s next to impossible to get more. According to locals, the bank did put an ATM in once in response to their complaints, but it was a fake one: simply a front with a screen that said, “Out of order, please come back later.” Eventually they even took that away.
Puerto Villamil is a paradise for those who like outdoor activities. It’s possible to snorkel in several nearby places, including La Calera, Tintoreras and Concha de Perla. Just hiking around town will lead you past a couple of salt lagoons often filled with swimming and wading birds. Popular hikes include the Sierra Negra Volcano, the trail to the visitor center and a coastal walk to the Wall of Tears, built by convicts during the time that Isabela was home to a penal colony.
Locals seem divided about the tourism boom. Some have embraced it, while others can still be a little surly to outsiders. Service in hotels and restaurants is by far the worst in the islands, as hotel operators and waiters seem at best clueless and at worst apathetic. There are a couple of notable exceptions: see the hotel and restaurant descriptions for suggestions.
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