Our visit to Red Mangrove Inn, Puerto Ayora, Island of Santa Cruz, Galapagos, Ecuador. March 26-29, 2009
Overall experience was magnificent.
Room: Esmeralda, First floor, has a comfortable balcony with round table and chairs. The room was clean, the bed was comfy, with great pillows, a very good mattress and soft linens, plus the roof and all crevices within sight were decidedly bug free (I guess they worked on this). The room has a cloth draped ceiling that gives it an ethereal feel. While the room was nice, the view from it was terrific; you can see the inlet and all the yachts that are docked at the entrance to the harbor from here. This particular balcony view far exceeded my expectations. One morning I awoke to watch 5 sea lions playing in the water just off the rock barriers that shield the hotel docks from waves. Marine iguanas were a common sight walking, or actually lounging lazily around the deck area of the property. I will note that the rooms have wooden floor so you may hear your upstairs neighbors if they don’t tread lightly.
I would think that including the word of “mangrove” in the title of the hotel would be descriptive enough of a term so that we would expect to encounter plenty of bugs, and I expected some level of bug spray smell, but it wasn’t bad at all. Some of the more civilized folks whose reviews I’ve read seem genuinely surprised or off-put that Bug Spray smell can waft through the air at times, especially right after they have just finished spraying around the property. It’s not the most pleasant smell, but did not last long and we never considered it too much. Be aware that this hotel is not only in a privileged location because of the great view, but also because of the ecology of the mangrove within where it lays. For us, a little insect repellent once in a while was a small price to pay for the experience. However it’s the polar opposite of a man made island hotel like the Burj in Dubai, this volcanic rock island is in my opinion far more developed, civilized and modern that I would have expected given the particulars. A reasonable person has to factor in the unique value of this place, it’s on a Mangrove, on a Volcanic Island, far out in the Pacific Ocean, and it was an awe-inspiring experience that we look forward to soon repeating.
The Jacuzzi was used as a mini pool during our stay and provided us with a nice place for a “cool down” splash. It is right outside one of the rooms though, and I can’t imagine that it offers much privacy since the windows to one of the guest rooms are literally right next to the Jacuzzi.
The Restaurant: Having tried the Mangrove Iced Tea when we arrived, it became our drink and we drank more of these than we probably should have. But we were soooo thirsty, and this was a welcome sweet treat between emptying water bottles. We had several breakfast and lunches at the hotel. The food was good. The service was good. A place in town with also a good breakfast was called”Chocolate”. None of the meals we had in town were remarkable, but culinary treats were not the reason we went to Galapagos in the first place. Again, this obviously is not Paris or Manhattan or Sobe, it’s not Tahiti or even the Caribbean, it’s a spectacularly beautiful place that will far exceed the expectations of those who travel to learn and experience the unique flavor and style of the places they visit.
The hotel is located right next to the Darwin research station. Entrance to the research property is free and you can walk among captive turtles, iguanas, and gain insight on the islands ecosystems, in particular as it relates to yurtles and iguanas. As you exit, be sure to check out the small but beautiful little beach on the left… when we went, it was a bit too crowded for my taste so we kept walking.
Now, with regard to actually getting to Puerto Ayora:
We departed on time at 11:30AM from Guayaquil (via Aero Gal) for the 1:40 minute flight to the island of Baltra (time zone change -1hour). A reminder that prior to departure, you need to secure a Galapagos Identification card and a related entry form (looks a lot like a customs declaration form). We were unaware of this, so at the Aerogal ticket counter in GYE we were sent to a booth where we paid a fee, were asked a few tourism related questions by a cashier, and given the ID card and a form that is to be turned in on arrival at the islands. You keep a stub from the form, which is subsequently handed back to them (airport control) on your way out of the islands.
When we arrived in Baltra airport, it took only a few short minutes to be admitted onto the island. After that you get on an airline bus (doesn’t matter which, no cost) that takes you on a 10 minute ride to a dock. From the dock you have to get on a 10 minute slow ferry ride ($.80 cents USD per person) across to Santa Cruz. From here, it got really confusing for us. It turns out there were no taxis available because they had all been hired just before we arrived at the dock, and every bus that arrived said they were chartered and not available. So we spoke with half a dozen people before finding transportation into town. If I would have known that it would take us an hour to find a ride, I would have arranged for the hotel to pick us up. I will admit that I cursed the fact they did not offer to send a car (at my expense of course) considering what an awful experience it was to arrive and be left at the docks with no way to call anyone to come get us from this no mans land where we got off the ferry. This was the low point in our trip and I strongly suggest that the hotel makes it part of their confirmation process to offer a ride to the hotel and advise there is the possibility their guests will be stranded for awhile after they arrive at the Santa Cruz airport transfer dock when there are no taxis available and all the buses have been privately chartered. I wrote it off as probably just bad luck on our part and that most likely there are otherwise almost always transportation options. This thought was confirmed when we left, the dock was packed with seemingly available taxis (all of the taxis are double cabin pick up trucks).
When we finally arrived from the 40 minute drive, the streets of Puerto Ayora were buzzing with tourists. However by evening it was very quiet since the cruise ships had retrieved their guests for the night. Friday morning the place was a ghost town without the cruise ship tourist, but that lasted only a few hours until the flights arrived and the local and foreign tourist descended on the island once again, many were there just for the weekend.
Great places that we visited include Tortuga Bay, La Loberia, Las Grietas, had a great dinner at the Angermyer Restaurant on Playa de los Alemanes. We rode the complimentary bicycles provided by the Red Mangrove all over the place since most roads in town had well marked bike paths. The drivers were generally courteous and respected the pedestrian crossings and bike trails. We checked out towels (also complimentary), and stiffed them into our backpacks, along with 60SPF, Bug Spray and 4 bottles of water prior to trekking out to discover as much as we could in our limited time on the island.
Safe travels and hope you enjoy your travels, wherever they may take you.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.