When Good Vacations Go Bad

When Good Vacations Go Bad (Isla Grande)

The title of this post might as well be “My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Vacation”.

I went to Colombia with by travel buddy, Carly. We started out in Medellin and met up with a former colleague of mine. He showed us the non-touristy parts of the city, we went paragliding, and visited “The Rock” in Guatape. Then we flew to Cartagena, we took in the cobblestone streets and colonial architecture. We wanted some island time, so we decided to book a two night stay at an eco-lodge on Isla Grande. The island is about 45 minutes by boat from Cartagena. This is where the “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad vacation” comes to play.

Boaty McBoat Face

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I love a good boat ride. What was supposed to be a quick 45 minute ride turned into three hours of sun-baked hell. We were zooming right along then the boat made a sudden jolt and proceeded to slow down to a snail’s pace. One of the engines blew (yay). Our speedboat ride quickly became a leisurely glide. Was I pissy at this point? Nah, things happen. We will get to the island eventually, and we did…three hours later. Still, all is good. We’ve arrived on the island. Time to get out room and relax.

Isla Grande Boat Ride
On the boat, things haven’t turned sour…yet

The waiting game

We made our way to the reservation hut with about seven other travelers. While waiting for the staff to arrive we made ourselves comfortable on the patio. The minutes ticked by, 30 minutes after our arrival one of the young guys running the joint said he’d assist us in a few minutes which turned into another 30. Finally, he started the process. While looking for our reservation we were told they did not have one for us. I am a smart traveler and printed out all of my confirmations just in case something like this pops up. He tried to pull some BS about the system not receiving our request, all I heard was “blah, blah, blah”.

Eventually, they agreed that we did have a reservation for two nights and that someone would take us to our room momentarily. Momentarily, turned into checking the 12 other people who were now behind us in line and taking them to their rooms. So let’s just add another hour of chilling on the patio. Finally, he escorted us to the house we’d be staying in. Yet, when we arrived he asked us to wait on the deck for our room and he’d be back in “a moment” to let us in. Want to know how long that moment lasted? Long enough for me to take a nap and drink three beers. So, two hours.

During this time they didn’t offer to store our bags so we could go explore or offer really anything other than “sit and wait”. The entire process probably took four hours, I am not exaggerating. This is when my dislike for the lodge started.

Isla Grande Eco Lodge
The porch we spent most of our day

You dinner is served

The part of Isla Grande we were staying on is very remote, meal options include eating at a local fisherman’s joint or at the lodge. We had lunch at the local’s place so we signed up for a 5:30 dinner at our lodge. At 5:25 we made our way to the outdoor dining area and sat with a few of the other people that came in on our same boat. 6:00 rolled around and no staff had appeared yet. 7:00 came and went. 7:30 the chef let us know dinner would be ready soon and provided us with some tropical moonshine. 8:00 came and went. 8:30 people at the table started grumbling about the service of the lodge. 9:00 we smelled something that could have resembled dinner. Finally, at 9:15 we got our food.

You might be asking yourself why we didn’t leave and go back to the local’s place? Per the lodge’s rules if you sign up for dinner you pay for dinner. We didn’t want to pay them for not serving us food.

Raindrops keep falling on my head

After a couple more drinks with our table we went to bed. Our room was pleasant, we had two twin beds and large fans. The room was surrounded by shutters, during the day we laid on our beds and had a nice breeze blowing through. That night we attempted to fasten the shutters however some of them didn’t want to latch. We risked sleeping with them slightly ajar knowing we had mosquito nets to protect us and the sea breeze would feel nice. We chose poorly…

I was startled awake with the banging of our shutters and rain pounding the tin roof. Carly and I sat up in our beds. We both rolled our eyes and quickly jumped up to fasten them closed. At this point Carly noticed one side of her bed was getting drenched from the rain. We closed the shutters as best we could and pulled our beds into the center of the room to keep them from getting saturated.

That helped for about ten minutes, the shutters soon burst open and at that same moment a loud crack echoed the vicinity. We could see the staff running from their bungalows to investigate the damage of the storm. There was shouting about a tree being uprooted and that someone needed to save the boats.

With the second opening of the shutters my bed was taking a heavy beating by the rain. These shutters needed to close and we were going to use all of our strength to do it. We slammed them as hard as we could and they finally stuck.

Heading back to our wet beds, I slipped on the slick stone floor and ate shit. My entire body slammed to the ground. I laid there on the wet floor getting soaked, after catching my breath I started to laugh; a deep belly laugh that would not stop. Carly joined in and we laughed for a good ten minutes about the situation we were in.

Isla Grande Ecolodge
The dreaded shutters! Looks nice right? Pictures can be deceiving.

Don’t let the bed bugs bite

That night, one of the worst storms hit the island (according to one of the staff members). Between the disorganization of the lodge staff, the meal fiasco, the long ass boat ride, and the storm we collectively decided we did not want to stay for our second night. We wanted to savor our time in Colombia and head back to Cartagena a day early.

While getting ready for the day Carly and I noticed we had tons of small bug bites all over our bodies. It looked like we had the damn Chicken Pox. We didn’t see these last night before we went to bed so we can only assume they are bed bug bites. Great. Let’s add that to our misery.

We packed our bags and went to the front desk to tell the staff that we were checking out early and wanted the next boat to Cartagena. They asked us the usual questions on why were were not pleased and we gave them the long list of reasons.

Isla Grande Beach
Because not smiling in vacation pictures doesn’t feel right.

Bye Felicia, or should I say Mary Kate and Ashley

Our last snafu on the island happened when we were trying to board the boat to leave. The boat could hold 10 people and there were 12 people waiting. Boats come twice a day so if you didn’t make it on this boat you had to wait four hours for the next one. Carly and I were not about to wait for the afternoon boat. The captain counted out 10 bodies (luckily we made the list) and we went to board. Two girls, we will call them Mary Kate and Ashley, who were not part of the ten also boarded the boat. Little bitches.

Carly and I gave each other the look, the look of if you fuck with me I will go crazy on you so don’t even think about it. MK and Ashley slyly went to the back and started flirting with one of the crew members. Queue eye roll. I guess the captain didn’t notice the two little shits hop on because we took off minutes later.

Aside from MK & Ashley, the ride back was freeing. We didn’t have a place reserved for the night in Cartagena but at this point we would be happy sleeping on the streets.

Good news, it didn’t come to that. We were able to pop into a hotel and get a room.

Boat Dock Colombia
Yay! We are back in Cartagena, glad to see that view.

Plans change, it is okay

You know what? It is okay to say “fuck this, I am out” on your vacation. If you are not happy with the situation get out of it. This goes for life in general. Surprisingly, I am very patient when I travel. Anyone who knows me outside of traveling would probably call that “fake news”, however when I travel my “patience switch” flicks on.

In this situation, my switch turned off. I was not about to stay on that island for another night. I didn’t want to give this company any more of my money. I didn’t want to pretend that I liked staying there. I didn’t want to see any of the employees again. Sounds harsh and maybe it is. When you work full-time in an office your vacation days are a precious commodity, I didn’t want to waste my time on that island.

When Good Vacations Go Bad
And that’s how we felt about Isla Grande.

In the end, I loved our Colombia trip even with the island disaster. We had an extra day to eat and drink in Cartagena. I look back and laugh at the island fiasco and then think about all of the amazing things were were able to do with an extra day in Cartagena.

Have you ever said “fuck it, I am out” while on vacation? I’d love to hear about it!

21 thoughts on “When Good Vacations Go Bad”

  1. Great story and great advice that sometimes it’s okay to say, I’m not having a great time and I can do something else if I want. Getting soaked and bed bugs is definitely a double whammy. They probably should have called themselves an Eeeek-o lodge instead.

    1. Haha, I don’t think the thought of having to pee even popped up. I was probably too concerned with when we would arrive.

  2. Crazy stuff Katie! Yes; I effed it and was out in India. Basically, we stuck around for the remainder of the vacay but I lived inside, ate Western food from hygienic places and watched TV LOL. Had to go because I almost died after getting so sick.


    1. Wow Ryan! That is scary, I would be staying inside as well. When I was traveling in India I generally didn’t leave my hotel after dark and thought once or twice about leaving. It wasn’t my favorite country. Glad you are safe!

  3. Well I’m glad you enjoyed your trip to COlombia in general even though the time on the island clearly sucked!! Yikes I would have been out of there too – the lodge sounds terrible! Definitely working off “island time” FFS! But I love your attitude that it’s ok to say I’m out and change your vacation mid way. Would rather reorganize my trip while I’m on it than stay miserable the entire time!

  4. Wow what a disaster, I am glad you were able to leave after the first night. I would have been not as patient as you with the hours long delay in getting into your room. I was not a fan of Cartagena, we were going to spend a month there but ended up leaving after 4 days and heading north to Barranquilla. No disasters like you describe just really wasn’t what we were looking for.

    1. I completely understand your thoughts on Cartagena, I don’t think I’d be able to stay a month there. I could stay a month in Medellin…I love that city! 🙂

  5. omg haha i can’t believe all of that happened to you within a couple days. but i love your outlook on it. stay positive and look at the bright side right? it’s not worth ruining your whole trip dwelling on what went wrong

  6. That was an adventure. I am not sure I would be patient enough and not scream to the people at the hotel. I can understand the boat engine breaking down and the storm but all the waiting time to get to the room and to be served food I don’t get it.

    1. Ha, I didn’t get it either. My thoughts were that they were taking “island time” to the extreme and maybe that’s just the culture. Who knows? Glad we were able to leave and enjoy the remaining days of our trip.

  7. Wow. Part of me is super proud of you for not repeatedly blasting the name of the house of horrors and the part really thinks this need a rewrite with the name blasted!

    1. I know, I kept going back and forth on whether I should name the place I stayed. My thoughts are if you Google Isla Grande Eco-Lodge it will come up as it is the only kind on the island. Maybe they were understaffed that day.:/

  8. Wow, it just got worse and worse. I’m glad you were able to keep your humour about the situation and got yourself out of it. Agree that it’s definitely not worth it when you’re miserable.

  9. Oh my gosh, you had your fair share of “adventure” on your trip to Colombia! We’ve all had the odd mishap here and there, but to experience so many on one trip mus have been trying. I haven’t experienced bed bugs myself, and I hope I never do–sounds awful. Glad you had a good time in the end!

  10. That sucks. My patience wouldn’t be able to take how slow the service of the crew is. The boat ride is fine, but being late for the agreed appointment time? Ugh. Always cringes me in all aspects.

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