The Yellow Submarine's bright first half was rewarded with a goal for Ruben Cani in the 21st minute but Wales winger Bale, an £85.3million capture from Tottenham, equalised in the 39th minute.
His debut lasted just over an hour and his departure passed the spotlight back to Cristiano Ronaldo, the player he replaced as the world's most expensive, who fortuitously put the visitors in front in the 64th minute.
The home side deservedly earned a point, though, when their own former Spurs wideman Giovani dos Santos struck in the 70th minute.
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti said afterwards: "It was a difficult match. I don't think that was the worst that we have played. The different rhythm of the two teams was obvious, but that's to be expected because after the international matches it's difficult.
"The rhythm and preparation are different, it's not just a physical problem but also mental. The team's reaction after the first goal was good. We scored two goals and if we had paid a little bit more attention we could have won but it's a fair result because Villarreal played well. They are a good team."
For the big stories and the banter follow us on Twitter: @tribalfootball