Voyage to Isla Pingüino With Kids – New For 2024

Continuing our quest to encounter as many of Patagonia’s penguins as possible, we couldn’t miss the chance to visit the remarkable Penguin Island near Puerto Deseado with our kids. This windswept island serves as a sanctuary for Magellanic and rockhopper penguins, offering a unique opportunity to observe these distinct species in one place. A trip to Isla Pingüino with kids is a must-visit for any family eager to see the diverse array of marine life and explore the natural marvels of Patagonia.

A family photo on the rocks at Penguin Island with a group of Magellanic penguins off to the left with the sea in the background and blue skies.
The beautiful colonies of penguins are a sight to behold.

The island’s wildlife wonders don’t stop with penguins; it is also home to a significant population of sea lions, and if you are very lucky, you might even see dolphins on the journey to and from the island!

A child looking out from a boat into the sea at a black and white Commerson's dolphin on a trip to Isla Pingüino with kids.
We had some special visitors on the way home!

Penguin Island is well off the beaten track, but this is part of its charm. Unlike the carefully managed experiences at Punto Tombo or Parque Pingüino Rey, Isla Pingüino lets you get amongst these beautiful birds for a real close encounter.

We would rate it as the most enjoyable of all our experiences with penguins on our 7000 km road trip around Patagonia.

Our Map For Visiting Isla Pingüino With Kids

A large herd of sealions on a stoney beach. The closer sealions are stitting up tall, whilst the ones further back lying down. There are some Magellanic penguins in the foreground.
The sea lion colony must make for noisy neighbours!

Getting To Isla Pingüino With Kids

The only way to reach the island is by private tour from Puerto Deseado.

Puerto Deseado is a dusty, forlorn port town a long way from anywhere. The drive from Puerto Madryn is eight hours, making it too far for most families to go there and back in a single day. We decided to stay in Puerto Deseado overnight before carrying on north up the coast.

We could not find many hotels or hostels available, but there are several reasonable Airbnb’s, which is what we opted for. Alternatively, there is also a municipal campground near the seafront.

Don’t worry; the wildlife on the island is well worth the journey!

A close up of two rockhopper penguins standing on the rocks. One with his head turned to the side highlighting a beady red eye.
A group of Magellanic penguins preening themselves by a shallow pool on a trip to Isla Pingüino with kids

Driving to Puerto Deseado is an easy, if long, task. You reach the town via Route 3 and Route 281, which are pretty much tarmacked all the way.

One word of warning: There is a poorly marked police checkpoint around halfway down Route 281. Don’t accidentally blow through it at 100 kph as we did! The police were surprisingly understanding, all things considered.

Another thing we must mention about Puerto Deseado is the terrible amount of litter in and around the town. A landfill site on its outskirts lets rubbish blow all over the shoreline and into the sea. What should be a beautiful walk along the coast from the town is ruined by the amount of plastic detritus.

A bank at the side of the road in Puerto Deseado littered with hundreds of plastic bags and rubbish
It goes on like this for miles, and for every bag on the shore, ten end up in the ocean.

The damage this must be doing to wildlife is unconscionable.

Booking a Tour To Isla Pingüino With Kids

Two tour companies offering trips to Isla Pingüino are Los Vikingos and Puerto Penacho. Their offices are next to each other on the seafront, and the tours depart from their offices.

Los Vikingos tour companies wooden office overlooking the sea with a small boat off to the left. The meeting point for a trip to Isla Pingüino with kids.
Los Vikingos tour office.

The companies stagger their tours to Penguin Island, so they arrive about an hour apart, so the island never feels too busy.

The prices were almost identical, and both are well reviewed, but we chose Los Vikingos as they seemed the most professional outfit. The tour cost £60/USD 70 per adult and £38/45 USD per child under 12 and included a light snack and coffee on our return. A slight discount was offered for cash payment.

A large colony of rockhopper penguins standing on the rocks with blue skies above them.
There are around 30,000 penguins on the island.

Compared to the costs of some trips we have seen, especially from Puerto Madryn to Punto Tombo, this seems excellent value for money!

We booked the last four places available on the tour the night before, so it is worth reserving in advance. Both companies had bilingual guides available.

What To Expect When Visiting Isla Pingüino With Kids

The journey in the boat takes a little over an hour to reach the island. Unsurprisingly, the wind can be sharp, so wrap up warm!

Our guide with Los Vinkigos was Chantelle, who was passionate about the animals. Her energy and excitement made the trip. Chantelle is a marine biologist who is deeply knowledgeable about the island and shows a keen interest in protecting and conserving the wildlife in the area.

As you approach the island you are greeted by Magallenic penguins swimming around in the shallow waters and you can hear the chorus of the sealions basking on the beach.

A group of sealions basking in the sun on Isla Penguino with a large male stitting up in the centre of the picture.
A male with his hareem.

The slightly choppy sea water means that when you arrive, you have to make a quick exit off the boat as the pier is less than desirable, but once you are on dry land there is storage for your life jacket.

A side on view of a rockhopper penguin mid hop. A few other penguins are making their way to the sea in the background
Who says penguins can’t fly? Rockhoppers live up to their name!

From here you can explore the island with your guide who will take you through the different colonies and the history of the lighthouse.

In total the tour took about 2 hours on the island with another hour for the boat trip back.

If you are very lucky, you might get some extra guests on your return boat journey!

Other Things To Do in Puerto Deseado

While you are in town, be sure to check out Museo Mario Brozoski. We had no idea the museum was there and it was recomnded to us by Chantelle, our Penguin Island guide.

A happy Georgia showing off her ocho knot tying skills at Museo Mario Brozoski in Puerto Deseado
Georgia practicing her knots.

This new museum tells the story of HMS Swift, a sloop-of-war that sank near the present-day Puerto Deseado in 1770. The ship was on an exploratory voyage of South America from Port Egmont in the Falkland Islands when a storm forced them to stop. The vessel hit an uncharted rock and sank, killing three of the crew.

The museum showcases some of the perfectly preserved artefacts recovered (including the most fantastic tea set!) and tells the story of how the wreck came to be discovered, which is almost as fascinating as the wreck itself.

The wreck was unknown to the people of Puerto Deseado, and it only came to light when someone researching their family history in Australia found a letter written by one of the survivors detailing the disaster.

This discovery triggered a chain of event that led to young amateur divers rediscovering the wreck on 2 February 1982

While not worth the journey on its own, a trip to the museum is a must if you are visiting Puerto Deseado with kids.

Have We Missed Anything About Visiting Isla Pingüino With Kids?

Of all the penguin colonies we visited in Patagonia, including Punta Tombo, Monte León National Park, Ushuaia, and Parque Pingüino Rey, Isla Pingüino was our favourite. Our enthusiastic guide and the sheer abundance of wildlife made it stand out.

Four rockhopper penguins standing on the rocks of Isla Pingüino with some fluffy baby penguins in the background.
They have such a character!

As we mentioned above, its isolation is part of its charm. If it were any closer to a city, then it would be so popular that it would be ruined. Indeed, people pay much more to see less in Ushuaia.

If you think we need to include anything, or any information here needs to be updated, then please let us know in the comments below.

The Spencer Family

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About the authors

Our lives have been intertwined with a passion for exploration and a shared love for travel. Our adventures began long before we met, as we individually embarked on daring expeditions across the globe. Our paths finally converged, and we soon realized that our adventures were much more meaningful when shared!

After a brief hiatus to start a family, we eagerly embarked on a new chapter of our travel saga. Determined to instil in Georgia and Eva the values of discovery and open-mindedness, our goal is to embark on exciting escapades and explore breathtaking landscapes, bustling cities, and remote corners of the world. From hiking through mist-laden forests to snorkelling in turquoise seas, every adventure is an opportunity to create lasting memories as a family.

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