There isn’t much documentation about how to get to Isla Taquile, nor how it works to find a homestay, so we’ll try to make it clear.
Overview and Cost:
Departure boat: 7:45am ish at the Puno dock
Return boat: 2pm ish from dock on West side of Taquile
Cost: 25 soles round trip (includes Taquile entrance fee)
Lunch: 15-20 soles (trout and potatoes, at a restaurant that you’ll be guided to with all the other tourists on your boat)
Homestay: 15-20 soles per person
Dinner: 15 soles (at the homestay)
Breakfast: 10-12 soles (at the homestay)
The best/cheapest way is to go (and spend the night) is with the actual islanders on their collectivo boat. They’ve made it quite simple, as long as you show up at the docks before 7:45am. You’ll pay S./25 per person in their office, which is the first one on the left as you approach the docks. Look for the Isla Taquile sign. Don’t let the dozens of other guys outside the offices distract you. You might end up on a different boat, or going to a different island. Your boat fare includes a return trip, valid for 15 days, and the Isla Taquile entrance fee, which is S./8 if you go with another tour. It does not include the floating islands, which are S./5 per person to enter. You can always stay on the boat if you don’t want to pay.
The Uros floating islands are basically a tourist trap, but are unique and cheap, so we recommend getting off the boat – I mean you made it all the way out here, might as well walk on the reeds. Someone will sit everyone down in a circle for a little presentation on how the islands are created, which is interesting, and in Spanish. Then another islander will probably show you her house and try to get you to buy her embroideries. After that they might try to get you to go on a ride on a reed boat (for 10 more soles.) The cruise from Puno to the Uros takes about 30 minutes, and the stay on the island lasts about 30 minutes.
From there, you’ll ride about 2 hours to a port on the East side of Isla Taquile.
Everyone gets off the boat, and a Taquileno guide will usher you past the ticket booth and lead you 15 minutes up the hill to the main square. Shortly after, you’ll be seated at a restaurant. You don’t really have a choice in the matter, but we did witness a couple of tourists successfully insist that they’d brought their own food, and did not wish to buy lunch. Lunch will probably be trout and potatoes, and will probably cost 20 soles. You can pay extra for a Coke or Fanta if you want.
After lunch, the unfortunate tourists who are heading back to Puno the same day will walk together to the dock on the West side of the island and get on the 2pm boat. They will have had a mere 2 or 3 hours on the island, and will miss out basically the entire reason to visit.
If you want to stay the night, you have a couple of options. In the morning when you buy your collectivo ticket, let the men know that you wish to stay the night. They will make sure the guide on Taquile knows you’re staying, and the guide will arrange for someone to pick you up after lunch and escort you to their house. It will be, essentially, random, depending on the number and types of beds required. According to our host, there are 8 families that are prepared for guests.
Another option is to arrange who you’ll be staying with, in advance. There may be a few homes this is possible with, but I only have information for one. You can book Hospedaje Sumaq Wasi, hosted by Ines, on booking.com, airbnb.com, or connect with her directly: +51-996-662-956 or email@example.com. If you do arrange this in advance, you should ask how to get to their house. I imagine that they would say that they’ll pick you up at the dock or in the plaza.
We stayed at Sumaq Wasi for one night, assigned there because of the rotation, not because we had prior reservations. The accomodations are typical for the island: very rustic, but it does have hot showers and toilets that flush. The rooms are simple: bed, chair, straw floor with a small carpet. Ines is a really good cook, and served us a vegetarian dish for dinner that was delicious (S./15). Breakfast was very simple, just fried bread, jam, tea, and coffee (S./12).
If you speak Spanish (or Quechua, haha) then Ines is a willing and patient conversationalist during dinner. She’ll tell you about her plans for the Hospedaje and how life on the island is. For us, this was the best part of the stay.
We could have had lunch with her as well, but declined because we wanted to go exploring before the return boat, and we’d brought some snacks. Lunch would have been fresh caught trout, at S./15.
After breakfast you have free time until the boat leaves at 2pm. For us, it left at 2pm exactly, but from what I heard, that’s not always the case. The ride home is about 2.5 hours. The boat leaves from the dock on the West side of the island, but if you ask any local about the boat back to Puno, they’ll point you in the right direction.
What to do on Isla Taquile:
Walk to the tallest point of the island (North end). Taquilenos call it the “montana mas alta”. It is covered with ruins from hundreds of years ago. The main area says “no entrar” but we checked with Ines and she said that tourists are allowed inside, only the Taquilenos are not.
The other end of the island, South, has “the playa” which is a curved sandy beach. The walk out to the playa is about 2 hours from the Plaza, and absolutely worth it. On the way there you’ll walk past a restaurant on the right side of the road that has 2 tables outside with an awning, and looks like an amazing place to grab lunch. Don’t feel bad about stopping here and enjoying the view and just heading on back if your short on time.
You can purchase water, sodas, beer, and snacks at a few different stores, scattered around. Most are close to the plaza. But refrigeration is scarce, don’t expect any of it to be ice cold.
In the plaza there is a building with artisan goods, all produced on the island. Tourism is a very helpful part of the economy, so if you’re thinking about buying souvenirs on your trip, this is a great place to do so.
Make sure you bring plenty of Soles, in small bills and coins if possible. Everything is cash only and I don’t think there is an ATM on the island.
Prices for almost everything are higher than Puno, it is an island.