Review: Galapagos Island Land-Based Tour and Red Mangrove Lodge

When we returned home from Peru and Ecuador I dreaded writing a review about the Galapagos Island part of our trip. I mostly dreaded it because 1) I write these reviews for my friends and family and I, of course, always want to tell them the truth and 2) I really wanted the Galapagos to be a bucket-list type part of the trip, but it didn't really end up being that way. 

From the second we arrived in the Galapagos it was pretty much an interesting shit-show. All arrivals to the airport have to take a bus, to a boat, to a taxi to get to the lodge. This experience was insane as they stuff 90+ people on the bus and toss your luggage on top of a boat. It was all very disorganized and we had basically no idea where we were going or what was going on.  Because our flight was delayed, we didn't go straight to the lodge but instead went to see the famous Galapagos turtles. 

The naturalist leading our turtle tour was pretty rude and rushed us through the entire place. We also didn't have any of the right clothes on having come straight from the airport. By the end of the tour, I was relieved to be heading to the Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge. Won't lie though, the actual turtles were AMAZING (see photo below). 

When we arrived at the lodge, I was a little surprised that they were out of wine, sodas and beers. Given that the hotel is all-inclusive, you would certainly expect that they have plenty of options available. We headed to our rooms to relax for a little while before dinner, but surprise, NO hot water in our hotel. Since the Galapagos Islands is extremely remote, I sort of assumed that while hot water could go out that it would likely be back at some point. Unfortunately, that was not the case and hot water was out the entire time. 

This is when I start to ask myself....does the Red Mangrove have a ton of fake reviews on TripAdvisor? The reviews all talk about this amazing resort experience, but I am not really seeing it yet. Long story short, it is obvious to me now that the resort has a lot of fake reviews. 

We head down to dinner and the food served for dinner is NOT good. Well done tuna with rice and vegetables or chicken with rice and vegetables. Certainly not something to write home about. The only highlight of this trip is that the animals are INCREDIBLE. At the Red Mangrove Lodge you can see sea lions just lounging around the hotel. Very cute! 

The next day we head to the Red Mangrove Lodge on Isabella Island. We take a small tender boat to a speed boat to begin our 2.5 hour ride to the island. A few things to note about this boat ride: 

  • The ride is extremely treacherous

  • They stuff tons of people into a very small boat. You do not have a lot of space and there are not enough life jackets for everyone (the police even checked our boat before we left and were not pleased with the situation).

  • There will be at least 4 people on the boat who vomit. Hopefully they won't be sitting next to you (or they won't be you).

When we arrived as Isabella Island we all felt extremely sick due to the ride and were pretty much out for the night. The hotel was pretty much the same as Aventura, except we finally had hot water and they had SOME of the offered drinks...hooray! The rooms in the hotel were fine (mostly clean, but generally old and not nice- about similar style to a hostel in Europe). 

However, Isabella Island is an INCREDIBLE Island for animals. We saw the beautiful Blue Footed Booby. 

We saw penguins, flamingos, sea turtles, marina iguanas and more. 

Seeing the animals was definitely the absolute highlight of the trip and one of the main reasons we came. Our naturalist for this part of the trip was named Pedro and he really was a very nice person. He did his best, despite all of the bad circumstances, to make sure we enjoyed the actual tour part of the trip. We enjoyed a lot of snorkeling at Concha de Perla and a few other small locations. 

We were very tired of the weak food offerings at the Red Mangrove and decided to eat dinner that night at Iguana Crossing. The food there was AMAZING and we got our first taste of incredible Galapagos lobster. 

After 3 days in Isabella, we headed back to Santa Cruz and the Red Mangrove Aventura. Boat ride back was just as awful as the boat ride there. In fact, I actually wondered if we would survive the boat ride when the waves were flying over our boat. When we arrived back, there was still no hot water at the resort. Annoyed and tired of everything related to this company, we headed to to La Garrapata for dinner, where we enjoyed another amazing dinner in the Galapagos. I wish we had dined out every night, but when you have an all inclusive hotel, you assume that the food is going to be at least decent. 

After our last night in Santa Cruz, we did the taxi, boat, bus combo until we arrived back at the airport. I was pretty happy at this point to go home because overall the trip was just exhausting. I expected this to be a bucket list type trip for me, but it really wasn't. The animals and wildlife were amazing, but it ended there. 

We opted to a land-based tour instead of a cruise and I definitely think that was a mistake. I imagine you would learn a lot more on a cruise and that it would be a much nicer experience. That being said, the ocean was VERY rocky on our boat ride and I can't picture being on a boat for 5 days. 

Pros of the the Red Mangrove Lodge and Land-Based Tour:

  • You will see some absolutely incredible animals.

  • The Galapagos are really beautiful and you will enjoy the water, beach, etc.

Cons of the Red Mangrove Lodge and Land-Based Tour:

  • Hotel is no nicer than any $10 a night hostel

  • No hot water in hotel

  • Food is not good

  • No beverages available for all inclusive customers

  • Awful sea-sickness inducing boat ride

  • General disorganization by the entire staff

This review probably sounds like a lot of complaining, but I always tell the truth in my reviews and this one is no different. For friends of mine who have Galapagos on their bucket lists, I would recommend it still, but in some ways I wouldn't. I'm glad for the experience, but I won't be back.