Mangrove forests, benefitting millions of people, experience significant degradation. Global recognition of the urgency of halting and reversing this trend have initiated numerous restoration activities. Restoration success is typically evaluated by estimating mangrove survival and area restored, while diversity and structure of vegetation, as proxies for functional forests, are rarely considered. Here we assess mangrove species richness along sea‐landward transects and evaluate restoration outcomes by comparing number of mangrove species, relative species abundance, biomass, diameter, and canopy cover in “Monoculture Reforestation”, “Mixed Species Regeneration” and adjacent “Reference” forest stands, 14 (Tiwoho site) and 16 years (Likupang site) after restoration activities took place. In the “Monoculture Reforestation” plots, mangrove diversity and structure still closely reflected the original restoration actions, with only one and two “new” species having established among the originally densely planted “foundation” species. In contrast, the “Mixed Species Regeneration” plots were more similar to the “Reference” plots in terms of tree diameter and canopy coverage, but species number, abundance and biomass were still lower. The trajectory of the “Mixed Species Regeneration” plots suggests their similarity with the “Reference” stands will increase over time, whereas such “smooth” transition is unlikely to happen in the planted “Monoculture Reforestation” stands, in the foreseeable future. Implementing frequent small‐scale disturbances in restored forest management would increase stand structure and diversity, accelerating the establishment of a more natural, and likely more functional and resilient forest.