The Galápagos Islands draw a lucky number of eager visitors, and while many dream of traveling to the volcanic archipelago, part of its beauty is isolation: peaceful and under-populated by people, these islands cannot be described as “spare” due to the vast number of endemic species that live there. The island of Isabela, accessible by public speedboat from the island of Santa Cruz, is one of the prettiest and best-preserved parts of the Galápagos, and a dream come true for the traveler who imagines a secluded island escape. Days here could include a hike to the famous Wall of Tears; swimming with eagle rays and giant sea turtles; or getting a feel for Darwin’s explorations on a beach tour to see cormorants, marine iguanas, boobies, pelicans, and the famous Galápagos penguins.
While there is much to see and do on Isabela, the “secluded escape” part comes in with La Casa de Marita, a truly gorgeous hotel half-hidden in palm trees on the beach. “Our pool is the Pacific Ocean” is a tagline for this hotel, a claim that is backed up by Marita’s private beach access. Located in Puerto Villamil, Isabela’s only true town, Casa de Marita is a five-minute walk to the boardwalk, where visitors can stroll past pink flamingos as well as local restaurants and shops. The Giant Tortoise Breeding Center at the end of the boardwalk is an adventure that won’t be forgotten: here, the tortoise population is preserved by breeding and keeping baby tortoises healthy until their return to the wild. For your own march into the ocean, surfing lessons can be taken at Caleta Iguana, a ten-minute walk from La Casa de Marita.
After a day on Isabela, coming back to La Casa de Marita feels relaxing and luxurious. Twenty years ago, it was the private home of a couple who say they had a midlife awakening: that the mansion and beach were too lovely to keep to themselves. And so “Marita’s House,” a small but full-service hotel, was born. There are two options for rooms. Some are less-expensive, smaller, and located in a separate building. Rooms in the hotel proper are beachfront and feature patios where guests can watch blue-footed boobies while relaxing in hammocks. The hotel’s rooms are uniquely decorated, and have comfortable queen- and king-sized beds, private bathrooms, and telephones. The one thing they do not have are televisions: the island only gets two channels, and the hotel quite purposefully leaves TVs out to enhance the “unplugged” experience.
Breakfast is complimentary and features hand-selected local ingredients, including fruit, salad, vegetables, and nuts. This makes La Casa de Marita friendly to vegetarian and vegan travelers, a rare and happy occurrence for some. For lunch and dinner, the hotel’s restaurant takes your meal seriously, with an ever-changing gourmet menu of food caught from the ocean or harvested from the hotel’s own plantation—a special place to visit in and of itself (though you may be asked to help with the day’s pickings!). After dinner, grab a tropical cocktail from the hotel’s bar. This is a perfect addition to the end of an island day.