Like most people we stayed here and at the Isabella Red Mangrove hotel and took one of Red Mangrove's land tours. We didn't go to Floreana. Other than feeling it was ultimately too short of a trip (because we were having a great time), we loved our trip.
Were there some hickups? Yep. Sometimes stuff like that happens. We stayed an extra night before the tour started and Red Mangrove didn't have us on the list to pickup. But, there was a Red Mangrove rep at the airport and it got sorted pretty easily. It wasn't a big deal at all. Also, on the last day we stayed the air conditioner broke. Again, no big deal. An air conditioner isn't even really needed here anyway. I was actually surprised to have one at all. Often there are fans and nothing more. I've seen some reviews where I'm not sure what people's expectations are, but you have to put some context around where you are and how things work and the actual challenges they face with running hotels and tours in any given location. Running a hotel in Galapagos faces a lot of challenges.
Anyway, the rooms were very nice. We were very happy with the cleanliness too. The food was average, but you didn't go hungry at all. Sometimes it was buffet, sometimes it was a la carte depending on how many guests the hotel had.
I loved the sea lions and marine iguanas that were always lounging on the decks during the day.... cheeky sea lions even lounged on the fancy lounge chairs.
The hotel had some free bikes you could use to get around the little town. We used them to go to Tortuga Bay on our free day... a really excellent beach nearby. Definitely worth it! You bike for 5 minutes. Leave the bikes and then do a 45 minute walk on a nice path to the beach. Locals surf at this beach. The beach itself is really pretty and a nice walk. If you walk another 15 minute down the beach there is a nice little swimming bay. This is a beach where sea turtles nest, so some times of the year you might see them. Not sure on that. But you do see lots of crabs, marine iguanas and sea birds.
Most of what makes a trip great is not the hotel though. It's the tours and the place you are. Red Mangrove does a fantastic job with their tours. For us, we had the same tour guide (Pablo Rivadeneira) the whole time and we thought he was great. Very knowledgable, good english, personable and easy to talk to, and kept things to schedule without being overly militaristic. He is from Galapagos as well, so it was nice to get a perspective on the people that live there and the challenges they face. I'm sure that Red Mangrove guides are all really good, but we would definitely recommend Pablo. He even took photos as well and shared them with us at the end of the trip. Not something I've had a tour guide ever do before. We've interacted with lots of tour guides from lots of travel now and Pablo is definitely one of my all time favorites.
As for the tour part itself it was loads of fun. The most in our group was 6 people and at one point there was only 4. So nice having a small group like that because you can really talk to the guide more and things just run so much more smoothly. You do need to have somewhat ok mobility to do this tour. You have to be able to get in and out of little boats... sometimes walking from one boat to another and there is hiking involved. Not to mention a big part of the tour is snorkelling off little boats too. And you kayak as well. You also need to love the outdoors and nature. This should go without saying, but sometimes I wonder when I see people on trips if they really knew what they were getting into.
I loved all of it! We got to snorkel with white tipped reef sharks, sea turtles, and sea lions. And these were not off in the distance at all. They were right there within touching distance. And Los Tunneles was so beautiful. Isabela island in particular is very beautiful. The Sierra Negra volcano hike was really interesting too. We got some great views and a really good feel of the landscape. I wish there had been more hikes. We were lucky that almost everyone in our group did the whole 18KM hike. We saw pretty much all that you'd expect to see in Galapagos... blue footed boobies, penguins, flamingos, iguanas, tortoises, etc. We didn't get to see the albatross on this tour because they aren't really on Santa Cruz or Isabella. But, that's not a big deal for us.
I really enjoyed the Galapagos. It's a unique environment for sure. Both beautiful and stark. I have a tendency to really enjoy starch environments and landscapes. The wildlife is very unique as well. I'd love to see more of it and we may return someday. We'd definitely be going with Red Mangrove again if we do.
The Isabela Lodge is very nice too and we didn't find the service or accommodation much different between the two lodges. It is smaller, so it's different that way. Internet access (which it is nice that they even have), was located in the restaurant and not private, but they also had wireless that you could use as long as you were close to the restaurant. There is indeed a rooster next door and some fairly ugly chickens (apparently they are just a particular breed). While someone complained about this aspect in one of the reviews, we loved it. We live in a city and rarely get to experience things like roosters crowing. You get up early for the tours anyway, so the fact that a rooster might be crowing in the morning shouldn't be a problem. I much prefer it to the dogs barking that I often have to listen to on a daily basis. The Isabela Lodge is on a nice walkable beach located right in the small town. Make sure to check out the iguana crossing down the road. Iguanas cross there end of day. It's fun to watch them.
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- Also Known As:
- Red Mangrove Aventura Hotel Puerto Ayora
- Hotel Red Mangrove Aventura
- Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge Galapagos Islands/Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz