I’ve come away with my mum and the kids to a Chilean island called Chiloe. In fact, we came here all because of some little feathered friends. The Chiloe island penguin tour in Punihuil has long been on my bucket list. If, like me, you have a soft spot for these little furry balls of cuteness, you must make a tour of the Punihuil penguin colony.
The best time to see the penguins is from October to March. Around this time they’re waddling around happily, showing off their new feather coats. We came in February and there were so many it was hard to imagine they’re rapidly becoming endangered.
The Chiloe penguins waddle with purpose – they’re certainly the boss. And quite rightly too. The tours are very respectful of the penguins and you can’t get off the boat to disturb the little fellas.
Call me a geek, but I was enthralled. However, to others penguins are really just big birds.
My kids liked the trip, but didn’t really see what all the fuss was about. They were just as excited to see a cow on the road on the way. My middle child even enjoyed a nap… which I guess made the tour worthwhile too.
While there were cars coming and going, Punihuil beach is still tranquil place, and (thankfully) it’s not overrun by attractions. Perfect for a paddle!
With all the sea air we worked up an appetite. We feasted on fish and chips… and incredible ocean views. Almost as beautiful as my beloved Chiloe penguins!
Need to know:
Where can I see penguins in Chile?
The best place to see penguins in Chiloe is a place called Punihuil, which is to the north west of Chiloe island. It’s about 45 minutes drive from Ancud town.
Outside Chiloe, penguins can also be spotted further south, on Magdalena Island near Punta Arenas.
When is the best time to see penguins in Chiloe?
The best time to visit is between October and March, when you can see the penguins nesting.
Tell me more about the tour
The boat trip lasts about 30 – 45 minutes. Our tour was in Spanish, but some tours will offer English. Do check before you pay.
You can reserve online beforehand (here’s a link to one tour), but it’s also fine to just rock up on the day itself.
In terms of safety, I was worried about taking my three kids. In reality, the boat doesn’t go out that far, so the water isn’t too choppy. Also, the sides of the boat reach up high, so it would be very, very hard to fall out. And just in case, we all got life jackets.
How much does the penguin tour cost?
The tours were the same price at every locale. We paid $7,000 CLP per adult and $3,500 CLP per child. My baby went free.
Are there any restaurants?
We went to a very basic restaurant at the very end of the beach which had great views (El rincon de Punihuil).
We liked Punihuil beach so much we returned another day and ate at a lovely restaurant called Costa Pacifico, which had a slighter larger, albeit still simple menu.
How to get there
Punihuil beach is located to the north west of Chiloe, about 45 minutes drive from Ancud town. (See map of Chiloe below)
We rented a car through a company called Econorent for throughout our stay. I’d definitely recommend hiring a car. For the young and adventurous, I did see a lot of hitch hikers, but I can’t personally recommend it!
You can drive to the beach to go on the tour, but no parking is allowed on the beach itself. If you’re not parked in a designated car park, chances are you’ll be stopped and fined by the police. We saw quite a few people get busted. Some of the restaurants, e.g. Costa Pacifico and El Rincon de Punihuil offer a car park.
While some roads are very bumpy in Chiloe, you don’t need a 4×4 to get to Punihuil. It’s a drive along bendy roads, over a small stream and along the beach to a car park.
For more, check out pinguinofelizchiloe.com which offers tours alongside Costa Pacifico restaurant.