Isabela Island, where we spent the majority of our time in the Galapagos, is the least populated of the three main inhabited islands (there are a few people scattered around on a couple more islands, but in very small numbers/no towns, etc.) The town is Puerto Villamil, which has about 1,800 residents. While we were there, we did some walking around and it was only tourist-centric on the main road along the coast from the dock. It was a great base for the tour, since Isabella Island is about 97% national park, which means there were so many things to do on the island and just offshore as well.
One thing I had already noticed during our brief stay in Puerto Ayora was that virtually everyone seems to currently have or recently had some kind of commercial venture running out of the front of their houses. I mean that you just walk down any residential street (not one with any formal businesses on it) and every other house has a porch or covered yard or simply some plastic chairs and tables with a sign advertising food and/or drinks. It was kind of weird, but the locals were always hanging out at them, so I guess it’s an economic strategy that works. We never tried any of these mom and pop operations due to fears of unsanitary conditions, raw meat contamination and dirty water – Which is all they have coming out of the taps. EVERYONE who wants water without a smorgasbord of bacteria and parasites has to buy bottled water. All the hotels have big water coolers for guests in the lobby. We never went anywhere without our own water in tow.
Researching the trip, I had read several reviews of Isabela and Puerto Villamil, saying that it was the writer’s favorite island or town. I have to say I think I liked San Cristobal more (there’s a post about it later), than Puerto Villamil, but Isabela Island can’t be beat for the awesome national park features and snorkeling sites, to me.