In the village of Puerto Villamil, right on Isabela’s best (and, at two miles, longest in the Galapagos) beach, Iguana Crossing is a proper boutique hotel—not a common occurrence here. Constructed with native materials by local craftsmen, the hotel is surprisingly sleek in design, with curved balconies and exterior wood paneling reflecting the waves and natural environment that surrounds it. Outside, iguanas run along the sand, while giant tortoises, for which the island is most famous, may be spotted on the outskirts of town.
The rooms, facing either the Pacific Ocean or the Sierra Negra Volcano, are among the most modern in the Galapagos, though far from over-the-top. Big windows and balconies are their key features, and little extras like HDTVs and Wi-Fi really help the hotel stand out. The ocean-facing pool, lined with tiny blue tiles and surrounded by an expansive wooden deck with a bar, glows at night like an extension of the ocean’s bioluminescence. The best spot on the property, though, might the roof deck, where a Jacuzzi is waiting to ease tired bones into the next exotic excursion, arranged from the hotel’s own tour desk.
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The front door of Iguana Crossing abuts the best beach on the largest island in the Galapagos. Outside, diminutive beach bars and restaurants like Beto’s are where beachgoers can lie in a hammock and sip a cold beer and watch the iguanas scurry by. Elsewhere in the tiny fishing village of Puerto Villamil, visitors can walk along an elevated boardwalk at the southeastern corner of town, traversing through the mangroves and over saltwater lagoons to a tortoise breeding center.
Need to Know
Rooms: 14 rooms; from $210.
Check-in: 1 p.m.; check-out: noon
Dining options: Following locavore principles, the on-site restaurant sources much of what it serves from its own hacienda as well as from local farms on the island, and the catch of the day comes from local fishermen. The menu is comprised of contemporary versions of Ecuadoran family recipes, like ceviche or sancocho de pescado, a fish soup with yucca.
Spa and gym details: While there isn’t a formal exercise room or spa, there is a pool on-site and a beautiful beach directly in front of the hotel.
Who's it for: Upscale travelers who still like their independence when exploring the islands.
Our favorite rooms: The huge Master Suite has an expansive balcony with lounge chairs overlooking the beach, plus high ceilings and the same modern touches—like A/C and a flat-screen TV—as the other rooms.
Plan ahead: There is no ATM on Isabela, so be sure to bring lots of cash. Some hotels and restaurants, including Iguana Crossing, accept credit cards, though many don’t.