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Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
March 1, 1994
Note to Readers: The publication schedule for the upcoming months will be the usual for the spring and summer months. April 1, May 15, July 15 returning to regular first of the month publication on Sept. 1.
CONTENTS FOR MARCH 1994
1. Anguilla Part IV: Continuing Series by Jim Cain
2. Ecotourism Meeting
3. Tourist Board Releases
Turks and Caicos
4. Caribbean Journeys March 1994
Aruba by Linda Elkin
Aruba by Michael Rebarber
Aruba by Ray Barberesi
BVI: Sailing Itinery by John Hakemian
BVI: Virgin Gorda by Barbara Brennan
Cancun by Dennis Arner
Cayman Islands by John Donanville
Dominica: Diving by Phil Carta and Jenny Darby
Honduras: Diving by Phil Carta and Jenny Darby
St. Martin by Sandy Feinstein
About our Contributors
In this month's edition, Jenny Darby and Phil Carta provide more travel information focusing on diving. They are associated with Caribbean Adventures and you can contact them at Caribbean Adventures, 2181 NW 99th Avenue, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024. (800-934-DIVE). The material is copyrighted and all rights are reserved so we thank them for allowing the CTR to use their material.
In addition, Jim Cain provides the fourth in his continuing series on Anguilla. This month we present more detailed property reviews. Please remember that Jim's work is also copyrighted and that he can be reached via INTERNET at PALM.DUDE@GENIE.GEIS.COM. This month Jim continues his detailed analysis of local properties. Next month, restaurants will be the focus of Jim's review. Once again thanks to Jim for his great contribution.
1/ ANGUILLA PART IV: CONTINUING SERIES BY JIM CAIN
SHOAL BAY VILLAS, Shoal Bay East (telephone directly 809-497- 2051 or US tollfree 800-722-7045, fax 809-497-3631) - A laid-back old-style tropical resort on Shoal Bay East, undoubtedly the best beach on the island. Run by Mike Emmanuel and Carol. The 13 spacious units include two ground-floor studio apartments, two 2- bdrm/2-bath suites, several 1-bdrm suites and two poolside doubles. All units except the poolside doubles are equipped with fully appointed kitchens, ceiling fans and a large patio or balcony. There are not telephones nor TVs in rooms and pets are not allowed. Fresh water pool. The increasingly popular Reefside Restaurant is located here (see under Restaurants). Villa units are set slightly back from the beach, given a good sense of privacy. Winter (Dec. 15, 1993 - Apr. 14, 1994) double occupancy rates are $210 for Large Studio, $230 for 1-bdrm suite, and $270 for penthouse suite. Corresponding summer rates are $125 for Large Studio and $150 for 1-bdrm suite (penthouse suite not offered). The 2-bdrm suites (4 persons) are available for $360 in winter season and $240 in summer season. Extra person charges for suites only are $40 per person per night, all year. Several 7 night/8 day packages are offered for Apr. 1 -Dec. 14, 1993 in One-Bedroom Suites. These include: "Lots of Nothing to Do" with 7 full breakfasts and two dinners at Reefside, snorkeling equipment, all taxes and gratuities for $775 per person; "Beauty and the Beach" as above plus 2 lunches (sit down or picnic) and 7 day Jeep rental (excluding gas, insurance and licenses) for $950 per person; and, After the Wedding N' Rice Anguilla" with Champagne upon arrival, 7 full breakfasts, 1 lunch for two and 2 candlelight dinners (all meals at Reefside), car rental for entire stay (excluding gas, insurance and licenses), all taxes and gratuities for $900 per person. Alternately, you can plan your own package and get a custom quoted rate by fax. SCUBA can be included. AmEx, VISA, M/C and DISCOVER cards are accepted.
SEA GRAPE VILLAS, Meads Bay, (809-497-6433) Several condo- style units overlooking Me ads Bay. Located between the new Frangipani and La Sirena, with good access to good beach. There was noone on the property during my visit in June (either guests or staff), so I was unable to obtain further information on site. Published winter season (Dec. 15 - Apr. 15) rates are $1750 per week, with off season reducing to $1400 per week. Add fifteen percent to above rates for less than one week bookings or deduct twenty percent for bookings over 4 weeks in duration. .
THE LIME TREE HOUSE (PRIVATE), near site of old Cul de Sac Hotel a short distance from Blowing Point Ferry Terminal (telephone owners Doris and Sal Berenholz at 215-635-5866 in Indianapolis, IN, USA; local villa number is 809497-6576). The ad read spacious 2- bdrm/2-bath villa with "extraordinary view on one-acre property with private beach, snorkeling, maid and gardener service and all amenities". This I had to check out! It was even better than anticipated. This charming U-shaped house is hidden (from the road) among native trees amidst a lovely landscaped garden. Each of the two bedroom/bathroom combinations (legs of the 'U') meet at a large and well appointed den/living area and kitchen (which is separated from the living area by a long bar). Views of St. Martin and the sea from the large wraparound porch, 2nd bedroom and the common living area are very good, somewhat less so from larger or master bedroom. Each side of the wrap-around porch is appointed with hammocks and lounge furniture. Down a short landscaped path is the private beach with a thatch gazebo like those on Scilly Cay (built by same person). Because of location, this beach really is private, shared only with a couple of neighbors. Villa is fully furnished and well appointed for self-catering. Winter season rates are $200/night, reducing to $125 from April 15 - Dec. 14. Rates include 5-day maid service. Non-smokers preferred. Highly recommended for those wanting to fully escape. Because of location, rental car is recommended unless you just wish to retreat in here and not come out, which would be understandable!
SHOAL BAY RESORT, Shoal Bay (East), P. O. Box 51, Telephone direct 809-497-2011 or book US tollfree via 800-223-9815, fax (809)-497- 3355. Hotel owner is Anguillan Connell Harrigan. This condo-type resort of 1-bedroom apartments consists of several buildings just down Shoal Bay Beach from Ernie's BBQ Stand. There is no restaurant in the hotel, but several are a moment's walk away. Rooms have telephone, self-catering kitchen (limited but adequate dishes), tiled shower (no tubs) and are fully furnished. Units do not have TV. Units are not A/C but have two ceiling fans per unit. Each unit has either a full bed or twin singles plus convertible Queen sofa in the living area. Full prompt, friendly efficient service is provided. Cook and laundry can be arranged. Towels, washcloths, Beach towels, kitchen towels and linens are provided. The best 4 apartments are 1, 2, 3 & 4, located in the original building at far end of the complex closest to Shoal Bay Villas and to the sea. Definitely the best atmosphere for the true beach lover, since these rooms open directly onto the beach. Unit 1 is the most private downstairs unit nearest the beach, 2 the adjacent downstairs unit (only slightly less private), with 3 & 4 the respective upstairs rooms. The other condo units are six in a 3-story duplex right next door to Uncle Ernie's and Trader Vic's (thus subject to loud music at least 1-2 nights per week); 12 in a 3-story quadraplex unit set somewhat further back (upper 2 floors have excellent view of the beach and the sea); and, another four in a 2-story duplex with a lesser view located behind the similar units 1,2,3 & 4. This gives a total of 26 apartment units, all just steps away from a great beach with beautiful coral reefs great for snorkeling just at your fingertips! Other construction is in progress further back from the beach. Units are not luxurious but are kept in good repair and are functionally very adequate and comfortable. There are private beach lounge chairs and tables which can be set out on the beach near the water or placed under the coconut trees in front of the units. EP Rates are $195/night for a couple in high season (Apr. 15 - Dec. 14) or $130/night in low summer season, with $40 per additional person per day. Special 7-night discount packages sometimes offered as low as $100 per night. VISA and M/C credit cards are accepted but a 4% surcharge is added to bills paid with credit cards, rather than cash or traveler's checks.
ARAWAK BEACH RESORT - BIG SPRINGS, Island Harbour (tel 809- 497-4888, fax 809497-4898). Fourteen villas set on the site of an ancient Arawak Indian village built in circular styles to emulate traditional Arawak style. Kitchen facilities available. Swimming pool, health juice bar and restaurant, and boutique on property as well as mini-museum featuring Amerindian art and artifacts. Diving and snorkeling available. Arrangements can be made for traditional Arawak-style wedding ceremony. Not on a beach.
BLUE WATERS BEACH APARTMENTS, Shoal Bay West (telephone direct 809-497-6292 or US tollfree at 800-553-4939, fax 809-497- 3309). Nine sparkling white deluxe beachfront apartments located right on a mile soft sand beach just down from Cove Castles. Each is fully equipped for self-catering, fully furnished with king-sized beds, cable TV, maid service (6 days/week) and four ceiling fans. Each unit has either a private balcony or patio opening directly to the beach.
Rollaways and/or cribs can be provided if requested at time of booking and babysitting is available with 24-hour notice. One- bedroom Beach Front Apartments double rates are $185 in the winter season and $115 in the summer season, through 1994. Corresponding two-bedroom/two-bath Beach Apartments are $270 (winter) and $160 (summer). Extra person is $30 per night. There were no guests renting during the June 1993 period we were there. Very attractive units.
MASARA RESORT, Katouche Bay (telephone direct 809-497- 3200/2393 or US tollfree 800-969-8002, fax 809-497-3223). A group of 1-bdrm/1-bath apartments or 2bdrm/2-bath villas cascading down the hill above Katouche Bay from near beach
to 200 foot above it. There are 9 villas total. Master bedrooms have double beds, 2nd bedrooms have twin beds. All units with fully equipped kitchens, ceiling fans, towels, chaise lounges and six-day maid service. Villas have private patios. Tennis courts and restaurant available on site. A very short walk down the hill to a private white- sand beach, with coral reefs nearby for good snorkeling. Can provide resort's own Subaru rental cars at $25 per day. Thirty-foot Sundancer power boat available for charter at $50/hr. Winter season (Dec. 18-Apr. 15) daily villa rates are $175 for 1-bedroom and $250 for 2bedroom villas. Published 1993 summer season daily rates are $125 for 1-bedroom and $175 for 2-bedroom, but in June specials were being quoted at $90/day and $125/day, respectively. Very isolated, at the dead end of a long road. Car is strongly suggested for this property.
EASY CORNER VILLAS AND CONDOS, various locations owned by Maurice Connor, at South Hill (telephone direct 809-497-6433/6541 or reserve US tollfree 800-2239815, fax 809-497-6410). Twelve hillside villas conveniently located near beaches, shops, restaurants and nightspots. Offers "Luxury accommodations at affordable prices". Nicely landscaped and attractive. Winter rates (Dec. 15 Apr. 14) are $110 for 1-bdrm Studio, $160 for 1-bdrm Villa, $195 for 2-bdrm Villa and $240 for 3-bdrm villa. Corresponding summer rates are $90, $125, $155 and $195, respectively. Deluxe 3-bedroom Villa #9 is $295 in winter and $250 in summer. Packages are available combining accommodations, rental cars and sports programs. I looked at one, which was a pretty house, quite nicely landscaped, located on the main road in South Hill.
LA PETITE MAISON D'AMOUR VILLA (PRIVATE), near Little Harbour (tel 809-497-3282 or call 203-443-6408 in New London, CT, USA). A privately owned one-bedroom home overlook ing the sea toward St. Martin and St. Barts. This romantic, private and intimate West Indian designer hideaway offers views from every room, a fully equipped kitchen and alfresco dining. The bedroom has queen bed and the private patio has an adjoining bath with a glass-block shower.
Furnished with TV, tape/cd player, telescopes, books, games and picnic basket. Secluded beach with great snorkeling is 3-5 minute walk away. Winter season rates are $1100/week, reducing to $770 from April 15 -Dec. 14. Rates include 5day maid service. Non-smokers preferred.
LA SIRENA HOTEL AND VILLAS, overlooking Meads Bay (telephone direct 809-4976827 or book US tollfree 800-223-9815, fax 809- 497-6829). These are hillside units located about a 2-5 minute walk from a nice private beach (with beach umbrellas and chaises). La Sirena is well maintained and guests speak highly of the accommodations, peace and quiet. There are 20 individually designed rooms and 3 villas tucked away in a tropical garden atmosphere. Facilities include 2 freshwater pools, bar, tropical garden, free snorkeling equipment, and beach towels. Available at extra cost are laundry service, bicycles, windsurfing, and SCUBA (through Tamariain). The hotel restaurants offer West Indian and international cuisine with European style. Winter season (Dec. 15 - Mar 31) double-occupancy hotel room rates are $150 for Standard Double and $180 for Superior Double. Summer (Apr. 1- Oct. 31) rates are $95 and $110, respectively. Shoulder (Nov. 1 - Dec. 14) rates are $115 and $135. Singles are available at $100 in winter or $70-75 in summer and shoulder. The 2-bdrm/2-bath Villa Del Mar (1-4 persons) with kitchen, lounge verandah, outdoor private patio and off bedrooms rents for $200 in winter, $140 in summer and $160 in shoulder. The 2bdrm/2-bath Villa Pasatiempo (1-4 persons) with kitchen, large lounge, verandah and large roof sundeck rents for $240 in winter, $160 in summer and $180 in shoulder. The 3- bdrm/3-bath Villa Santa Barbara (1-6 persons) with separate entrance off covered verandah, roof sundeck, kitchen with pantry, and large lounge rents for $300 in winter, $200 in summer and $240 in shoulder season.
The villas have barbecue equipment and centralized freshwater pool, daily maid service and fully equipped kitchen.
SKIFFLES VILLAS, South Hill (tel direct at 809-497-6110 or in Indiana at 219642-4855/4445, fax 809-497-6619). Five 2- bedroom/2-bath villas on the sea surround a freshwater pool with well-landscaped grounds. Intimate, private, quiet with spectacular view. Winter season (Dec. 15 - Apr. 15) rates are $1200 per week for 1-2 people, $1650 for 3-4 persons and $2150 for 5-6 persons. Low season (Apr. 16 - Dec. 14) rates are $960 per week for 1-2 people, $1320 for 34 persons and $1720 for 5-6 persons. Add fifteen percent to above rates for less than one week bookings or deduct twenty percent for bookings over 4 weeks in duration. Main gate was padlocked in early June 1994, obviously closed for part of the off season, but I have confirmed that Skiffles is still in operation.
ALLAMANDA, Shoal Bay East (tel 809-497-5217 or 718-723-6565 in USA, fax 809-4975381). Sixteen newly-constructed, fully-furnished 1 and 2 bedroom apartments with cable TV, located on a ridge overlooking (and just a very short walk from) the famous Shoal Bay beach. Low season rates start at $80 per day. Nature walks on grounds. Restaurants and entertainment nearby. Major credit cards accepted.
MILLY'S INN, Shoal Bay East (tel 809-497-2465/4274, fax 809-497- 5381). Four spacious 1-bedroom apartments, attractively furnished and fully equipped in a 2story modern building overlooking Shoal Bay beach. Each unit includes patio or balcony with beach view. Low season rates start at $100 per day. Beach, restaurants and entertainment only a short 5-minute walk away. Grounds are also attractively landscaped with tropical plants, yielding a nice garden
atmosphere. Major credit cards accepted.
SEA SPRAY VILLA and SEASHORE VILLAS, both near Sandy Hill Bay. No information obtained.
FERRYBOAT INN, Cul de Sac Road, Blowing Point (tel 809-497-6613 or fax 809-4973309). A small hotel with 6 apartments and a separate beach house) in a garden setting with a good restaurant and beach bar. Four of the apartments are one bedroom/two bath, with kitchen and queen convertible sofa in living room opening directly onto patio. These 4 rooms are spacious (each 1200 sq. ft.), with upstairs units offering a good view of St. Martin. These 4 units each rent for $150/night in winter season and $85/night in the off season. Other 2 units are smaller (800 sq. ft. each) with single bath and are very privately located. These are available for $125 high season or $70 in off season. The beach house has two A/C bedrooms, 2 baths, living/dining room, kitchen and patio. This house is right on the beach with superb views and rents for $200 from Dec. 16Apr. 15 or $125 during other periods. Above rates are all for double occupancy. Add $25 per person over two during high winter season and $15 per person in the summer. All units are fully equipped for self-catering, with cable TV, kitchen facilities and telephones in the rooms. Beach chairs are provided. Car rentals, airport transfers, boat charters, etc. can be arranged upon request. Cribs and rollaway beds are available but should be requested at booking. Maid service six days per week. Within walking distance of Ferry Terminal. Rates have remained stable since 1991 season, but may go up somewhat soon. AmEx, VISA and M/C credit cards accepted.
THE PAVILLION, Blowing Point (tel 809-497-6395/6845, fax 809- 497-6234). Eight fully-furnished 1-bdrm apartments and one 2- bdrm penthouse apartment, reasonably close to white-sand beach at Ferryboat Inn. Units include ceiling fans, TV and maid service. Snorkeling, fishing gear and watersports can be arranged off premises. Located across the road from the beachfront properties, a short walk from the shore. Situated high up, so view of St. Martin is quite good. Major credit cards accepted.
RENDEZVOUS BAY HOTEL, Rendezvous Bay (telephone hotel direct 809-497-6549 or Una Gumbs at US tollfree 800-274-4893, fax 809- 497-6026). Situated on the end of one of the loveliest 2 mile long beaches in the Caribbean. Good snorkeling area. Run by Anguillans Jeremiah and Lydia Gumbs, this hotel offers tranquillity and simplicity. With his long flowing white beard, Jeremiah reminds one of the old man from the sea. Rooms (with and without kitchens) and villas. Winter season single or double rates are $100 for Hotel Room, $175 for Downstairs Villa, $195 for Upstairs Villa and $200 for Studio Villa. Corresponding Summer Season rates are $75, $100, $110 and $125, respectively. Entire villa each have 2 or 3 bdrms with 3 or 4 baths, studio, kitchen, up and down stairs rooms and covered porches. The full villa winter daily rentals are $550 for 2- bdrm and $725 for 3-bdrm. Summer rates reduce to $$325 and $425, respectively. Suites are available for $180 in winter and $130 in summer. There are also Cottages, with winter rates of $85 for Room 2, $100 for Room 1, and $125 for Efficiency. Summer rates are $55, $75 and $85. Add $35 per person for MAP and add $15 for each extra person over two in a room. Tennis courts, snorkeling and swimming are offered. Hotel restaurant serves West Indian and American cuisine including fresh fish and lobster (by reservation only). Maid service included.
PELICANS VILLA, Sandy Ground (tel direct 809-497-6593 or 908- 879-7747 in the USA). One 2-bdrm/3-bathroom and one 1-bdrm/2- bathroom beachside villas in attractive garden setting. Comfortable furnished with spacious balconies, ceiling fans, swimming pool, heated spa, tennis and maid service. Major credit cards accepted.
SEAFEATHERS RESORT, Seafeathers Bay (tel 809-497-4400, fax 809- 497-4184). A private resort of 15 1-3 bedroom villas, situated on 12 acres is located on top of a small rise, back somewhat from the rocky shore. Villas are staffed by maids and gardeners.
RAINBOW REEF VILLAS (telephone direct 809-497-2817 or US 703-325-2299, fax 809497-3091) include 4 well-furnished 2-bedroom white single story cottage units with green trim located right on the shore at Seafeathers Bay, an area with good snorkeling, but no beach. Entry can be rough in high surf from the rough coral shore. Six day maid service included. It's quite isolated along with one other resort and with little other activity in this area. To stay here , you MUST have a car! Rates are quite reasonable, starting at $520 per week.
THE SEAHORSE, Rendezvous Bay (tel 809-497-6751, fax 809-497- 6756). Located on a sandy cove beach. Five fully furnished 1- bedroom cottages, each with private bath, fully equipped kitchen and private gallery. Maid service included. Barbecue cooking area for outdoor cooking at water's edge.
AIM VILLA, Sandy Ground (tel 809-497-2232, fax 809-497-2332). Secluded 2bedroom West Indian style house with fully equipped kitchen beautifully located close to the beach. Daily maid service.
BETTY HILL VILLAS, Seafeathers Bay (809-497-2456). Rather attractive duplex apartments overlooking Seafeathers Bay. located up about 100 feet, with a good view of Scrub Island.
SPINDRIFT, Sile Bay (tel 809-497-4164, fax 809-497-2940). Situated in solitude on the far eastern shoreline. Fully-equipped self-catering 1 and 2 bedroom or studio accommodation, all with balconies overlooking the sea. Off season rates start at $70 per day. Swimming pool, tennis court, adjacent sandy beach, snorkeling, walking, bird watching or just enjoy nature's serenity.
PALM GROVE APARTMENTS, Seafeathers Beach (tel 809-497-4100, fax 809-497-3577). Exclusive complex of 1 and 3 bedroom villas with well-equipped kitchens.
Private balconies offer excellent views. Maid service daily.
HORSEFEATHERS VILLA (perhaps a large single building???) and LILLIE'S VILLAS (small place with a couple of units down near the water), both near Seafeathers Bay. No further information obtained. Found only signs (without phone numbers) but couldn't absolutely put with property!
PATSY'S SEASIDE VILLAS, Blowing Point (tel 809-497-6297, fax 809-497-5381). Two fully-furnished 2-bdrm beachfront suites with kitchen, and studios with private bath. Situated attractively in an isolated two-story building directly on a quiet white-sand beach. Accommodations have ceiling fans; maid service available. Restaurants nearby. Major credit cards accepted.
KERWIN'S KOTTAGES, Lower South Hill (South Hill and Rendezvous Bay), (tel 809497-6621/6130, fax 809-497-6031). Six fully- furnished 2-bedroom apartments on South Hill overlooking the northern coast. Also one 3-bdrm villa a short walk to Rendezvous Bay beach with 2-bdrms/2-baths upstairs and one each downstairs.
VIEW FORT COTTAGES, View Fort, The Valley (tel 809-497-2537, fax 809-497-5381). Three 1, 2, & 3 bdrm cottages nestled on an historical site overlooking Crocus Bay. Each cottage has ceiling fans, TV and maid service.
HOUSE ON MORGAN HILL, (tel 809-497-2596, fax 809-497-3309). Very short walk to beach, secluded private 2-bedroom house with panoramic view of Road Bay.
OCEAN VIEW INN, Island Harbour (tel 809-497-4477, fax 809-497- 3180). Two beachside 2 & 3 bedroom apartments with a scenic view of Scilly Cay., attractively furnished and fully equipped in a 2-story modern building overlooking Shoal Bay beach. Each unit includes patio or balcony with beach view. Beach, restaurants and entertainment only a short 5-minute walk away. Grounds are also attractively landscaped with tropical plants, yielding a nice garden atmosphere. Major credit cards accepted.
LA PALMA, Sandy Ground, (tel 809-497-3260, fax 809-497-3091). Located on the beach near Tamariain Watersports. Three fully- furnished studio apartments each with private bath and ceiling fans. Suitable for families or couples. West Indian restaurant on premises. Major credit cards accepted.
HARBOUR VILLAS, Island Harbour (tel 809-497-4433, fax 809-497- 3723). Seven self-catering apartments overlooking picturesque Island Harbour offer comfortable accommodation for a relaxing family vacation. Located near pier.
HARBOUR LIGHTS APARTMENTS, Island Harbour (tel 809-497-4435, fax 809-497-5381). Four fully-furnished 1-bdrm beachfront apartments facing Island Harbour beach. All apartments have patio or balcony. Daily maid service. Baby sitting arranged. Major credit cards accepted.
SYD-ANS APARTMENT HOTEL, Sandy Ground (tel 809-497-3180, fax 809-497-3109 and 497-5381). Two fully-equipped 1-bdrm studio apartments and six 1-bdrm suites with bath and kitchen. Double rates (with A/C) for either are $60 in offseason, increasing somewhat in winter seasons. Single rooms are $45 in offseason. Located only 60 feet from Sandy Ground beach on the main street. Major credit cards accepted.
WILLIE'S INN, Blowing Point on Lower South Hill Road (tel 809-497- 6225, fax 809-497-3091). Each of the sixteen 1- and 2-bdrm apartments in this two-story inn is complete with kitchenette, private bath, ceiling fans and maid service.. Set high with a good view of St. Martin, this inn is attractively landscaped and well kept. Nominally about 1/2 mile from beach. Major credit cards accepted.
LLOYD'S GUEST HOUSE, The Valley, (809-497-2351). Located 1 1/4 miles from airport, 5 minutes to nearest beach at Crocus Bay beach. "Stay at Lloyd's where you'll find a home away from home."
PARADISE APARTMENTS, Rey Hill (tel 809-497-2168, fax 809-497- 5381). Four fullyfurnished 1-bdrm apartments in 2-story building. Panoramic sea view to south, The Valley to the north. Maid service included. Major credit cards accepted.
EMERALD ESTATES, Call 809-497-4323 for further information. SEA VIEW, Call 809-497-2427 for further information.
THE WHITE HOUSE, Call 809-497-2711 for further information. CASA NADINE, Call 809-497-2358 for further information.
FARRINGTON MANOR, Call 809-497-2179 for further information. FLORENCIA'S, Call 809-497-2319 for further information. NORMAN 'B', Call 809-497-2242 for further information.
POND DIPPER, Call 809-497-2315 for further information.
THE INTER ISLAND HOTEL, Lower South Hill, (tel 809-497-6259, fax 809-497-3091). A small comfortable 2-story hotel with 14 rooms, located 1/2 mile from beach. Transportation to beach provided by hotel. Some rooms with ocean view and balcony, some with kitchen facilities. TV in public area. Tennis and watersports arranged upon request. Light entertainment in the bar and home cooking in the restaurant on premises. Major credit cards accepted.
CORRYMEELA APARTMENTS, Call 809-497-3138 for further information
JEASHAL APARTMENTS, Call 809-497-6517 for further information.
A & S GUEST HOUSE, South Hill, (809-497-6047/6777): Co-located with the Central Bar and Restaurant across the street from the school. Small informal place right on the main road.
HIBISCUS HOUSE, The Valley, (tel 809-497-5088, fax 809-497-5381). Bed & Breakfast guesthouse on main street in The Valley (very near KoalKeel Restaurant). One 1-bdrm unit fully equipped; two bedrooms in main house. TV and radio in public area. Quite small and unassuming house not near any tourist destinations (other than 1 nearby restaurant).
YELLOW BANANA, The Yellow Banana Hotel, Grocery Store and Liquor Store is located on the main road in Stoney Ground (tel 809- 497-2626). There are 10 rooms total, but only 4 available to rent in June of 1993. Lodgings are upstairs over businesses. Winter rates range from $25-45, with off-season rates at $20-40 per night.
PELICAN COVE LUXURY APARTMENTS , on the inland pond enroute to Cap Jaluca. THESE UNITS DON'T EXIST! I have listed them for completeness, in case someone comes up with a reference to same. These are abandoned, incomplete units, and I suspect they will remain that way.
PROPERTY REAL ESTATE MANAGEMENT SERVICES LTD (PREMS), (tel 809-497-2596, fax 809-497-3309) in the heart of The Valley isn't a resort property. Established in 1984 to provide villa, hotel and apartment rentals and ma nagement. Contact Jillian Carty if you can't find what you want.
SELECT VILLAS OF ANGUILLA, George Hill Road (tel 809-497-5810, fax 809-4975811) in the heart of The Valley isn't a resort property. One to three bedroom private villas and condos are offered. Amenities vary, but generally include fully furnished kitchens and maid service. Pools, beachfront, spectacular views at various properties. Villa sales also provided. Rental rates vary from $100$300/day in winter season to $70-$100 in off season.
KEENE ENTERPRISES, The Valley (tel 809-497-2544/3541, fax 809- 497-3541) primarily a real estate company, but also has villas for rent.
SUNSHINE VILLAS, (tel 809-497-6149) and the Anguilla Connection (tel 809-4974403) also provide private villas, homes and condos for rental.
2/ ECOTOURISM MEETING
The February meeting of the New England Chapter of the Caribbean Tourism Organization focused on the increasingly popular subject of Ecotourism. The keynote address was presented by Michael Youngman, the National Director of Marketing for CTO based in New York. In his address he stressed the rapid expansion of ecotourism on a worldwide basis. It is growing faster than any other niche market in travel. While tourism in general is up 4%, ecotourism is up better than 10%. He suggested that Caribbean destinations can be in the green as well as the black. Over four hundred operators worldwide offer authentic environmental tours.
The average ecotourist is between 30 and 70 years old with a high income. These mostly college trained travellers represent a source of well-heeled clients for the travel industry. However, usually they are much more knowledgeable the average client and therefore, can be more difficult to sell. Since they tend to spend considerable more than other clients, they are probably worth the time an agent has to put into selling them an ecotourism vacation.
The current trend is for many ecotourism companies to take part of their income and reinvest it in the environment. In fact, a major characteristic of true ecotourism activities is that they are conducted by the local people themselves and not under the leadership of some "expert: tour guide from the originating country.
Mr. Youngman posed the question,"Can green be the gold of the Caribbean?"
Following the keynote address by Michael Youngman, a panel discussion was held with representatives from six destinations. Some highlights included Joan Medhurst pointing out the Belize has one-third of its land under protection. Patrick Downes of Audubon Magazine mentioned that they are establishing a data base of agencies and operators that foster ecotourism tours and products. NECTO President Judith Akerman, the local area representative for the Cayman Islands, noted that the Caymans now have a very high fee for any cruise ships which dump waste in the island's territorial waters.
If any reader is a member of CTO and attends their local meeting in cites other than Boston, please feel free to provide a brief write up on those gatherings. The NECTO presents many highly informative sessions and I assume this to be true of other regional chapters around the county.
3/ TOURIST BOARD RELEASES MARCH 1994
Barbados Easter Opera Festival
Two weeks of , Opera, Shakespeare and polo, including a world live premiere of Stewart Copeland's, "The Cask of Amontillado, based on a story by Edgar Allen Poe, will headline the 1994 Easter Opera Season in Barbados from 20 march to 2 April at Holders House.
Copeland, founder of the rock band "Police", has composed many film and television sound tracks.
Presentation of Shakespeare's play a "Midsummer's Night's Dream" will be held on 26 and 28 March. Christopher Biggens will be the artistic director for the Easter Season. He's best known for his performance of the Emperor Nero on the TV series "I, Cluadius".
Opera Interludes, a London based group of singers from major international opera companies, will perform, "The Barber of Seville" in 18 century costumes on 26 March and "La Boheme" in Edwardian costumes on 30 March. They will be joined by the City of London Chamber Orchestra and the Barbadian flautist, Hal Archer and his wife the oboeist, Geraldine Archer.
Holder House which hosts the performances, dates form about 1700 and is one of the great houses of Barbados, Holder's Plantation was originally owned by built by the Holder family, several of who played important roles in the affairs of th island. The house has been beautifully restored and the magnificent landscaped gardens are open to the public annually.
An Intonational Polo Tournament between Great Britain and the United States will be held in the afternoons of March 20,23 and 27.
Turks and Caicos: Dive Destination from Tourist Board
A reef system 65 miles across and 200 miles long... a great range in dive topography, most of it along it in short boat ride away, most of it a short walk away...whales who travel between two of the major island playing dolphins who show up unexpectedly , turtles, rays and countless varieties of fish and coral...these are the undersea attractions of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Turks and Caicos Islands promise to be much more than the latest "hot dive spot". It is an attraction for divers seeking a multiplicity of underwater experiences for years to come. So extensive is its reef system, so wideranging the possibilities that dive operators can take visitors to spots popular with other divers or customize a trip of discovery to virgin territory, previously undisturbed by human influences. Among the fascinating options:
Now through April visitors can enjoy one of natures special happenings when 2,5000 humpback whales, the entire Atlantic herd, make their annual migration past Salt Cay and Grand Turk to the Mouchoir Bank in the southeast. Visitors can watch their antics from shoe, boat out among them or don dive equipment and go below to see the whales at play as well as hear their concerts of songs.
It isn't just the whales that draw visitors to Salt Cay. Here, divers can explore the wreck of the H.M.S. Endymion which went down in a storm in 1890. Two centuries later, Brian Sheey, a local dive and inn operator, discovered the wreck. Today while the reef has reclaimed the hull and all else that was biodegradable, divers can nonetheless get a close up look of its cannons and four huge anchors lying about.
Off the northwest corner of the island of Providenciales is Smith's reef, a walk in dive seascape of brain and fan corals, purple gorgonias, anemoones and sea cucumbers with sergeant majors, green parrotfish an many other varieties.
From the shore at Grave Bay, a sweep of powdery beach is graced by some of Provo's most highly regarded resorts, visitors can see where the sea breaks along 14 miles of barrier reef. But the reef is much more than a natural breakwater that makes this beach so accommodating, it is the teeming home of of sea life from swarms of colorful schools of fish to the singleton feeding barracuda or large round grouper.
Around Grand Turk, there are miles and miles of drop-off diving. Here you can enjoy one of the underwater's world's greatest experiences, a night dive on a wall where the colors of the day become the phosphorescent illumination of the night.
Ledge and wall dives are the attractions around South Caicos. Here divers can literally select the level of their vertical descent, then glide horizontally among the multi-colored corals and drift through schools of trumpets, hamlets, basslets.
The "Blue Hole", a dark blue, almost totally round depression in the reef, jut off the Middle Caicos's shore, is hundreds of feet deep and offers a chance for he experienced divers to explore the lair of some of the largest deep sea dwellers.
USVI: Useful Information by Div. of Tourism from Jerry Schneiderman
Last month the CTR presented information provided by the USVI Division of Tourism. This month we continue with their extensive file. Thanks to Jerry Schneiderman, Compuserve SYSOP, for providing the electronic copy of this information.
The American Paradise.
In the beautiful Caribbean. The beautiful United States Virgin Islands. All in all, there are about fifty islands; some big, some not so big, some merely rocks jutting out of the clear blue sea.
The three principal islands are St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas. St. Croix is the largest, and lies entirely in the Caribbean Sea. St. John and St. Thomas are next to each other thirty-five miles away, between the Atlantic and the Caribbean.
The islands are in the Lesser Antilles and date back to Columbus' second voyage in 1493. Because of their incredible, unspoiled beauty, he called them "The Virgins," with reference to the legend of St. Ursula and her beautiful 11,000 Virgins.
The islands are approximately 1,500 miles south/southeast of New York City and 1,100 miles east/southeast of Miami. The eastern tip of St. Croix is the eastern most Atlantic point of the United States.
Almost 2 million visitors come each year to the Virgin Islands, the perfect place for a vacation. There is a wide range of accommodations, excellent sports, a selection of other things to do, and a reputation for the best shopping in the Caribbean. And the people are among the friendliest in this part of the world.
Another point of interest: with all the talk today on protecting the environment, it's nice to know that the Virgin Islands continue to be "environmentally sensitive." Two thirds of lovely St. John is a protected national park. So is St. Croix's incredible Buck Island. And St. Thomas' Magens Bay has been called "one of the three most beautiful beaches in the world."
Each of the three main islands that make up the U.S. Virgins has its own character, and it's easy to combine all three in one visit. There's something here for every taste, from nature-loving to club-hopping.
St. Croix, 40 miles south of St. Thomas, is the largest of the three U.S. Virgins. Here, shops have an individual flavor and the quaint towns have many distinctively Danish touches. Several blocks in Christiansted have been declared a national historic site, with Fort Christiansvaern and its dungeons one of the more interesting offerings.
On the other side of the island, you'll find the charming port town of Frederiksted, noted for its gingerbread-house architecture and sidewalk arcades. Nearby is Whim Greathouse, a restored 18th- century plantation manor complete with windmill, cookhouse and pharmacy. At the Cruzan Rum Pavilion, you can tour the rum factory (and sample its wares).
ST. CROIX, ST. JOHN and ST. THOMAS
And if you're looking for a lovely place to go wandering away from the crowds, the St. George Village Botanical Garden provides 16 acres of woodland and tended gardens, including a restored sugar cane village.
One of the most intriguing sights of St. Croix isn't really on St. Croix at all - it's an islet just off the northern coast, reachable by a brief cruise from Christiansted. Buck Island is the only underwater national monument in the country and has a fascinating underwater snorkeling trail. Those who'd rather not get wet can opt to inspect the reef from a glass-bottomed boat.
ST. JOHN Talk about tranquil, sixty percent of St. John is a 6,000-acre national park deeded to the government in the 1950s by Laurence Rockefeller. St. Thomas may be a mere 20-minute ferry ride away, but you'd never know it once you dock. Life on St. John is wonderfully relaxing - you won't find a single traffic light, and you're likely to have to share the roadways with assorted donkeys, mongoose and goats roaming freely about the island.
While the adventurous can rough it by camping and hiking through the lush hillside, first- class resorts and restaurants will oblige those who prefer more luxurious accommodations.
Whether you rent a jeep, strike out on foot or take a bus or taxi tour, you're sure to find the local sites fascinating. The Annaberg Sugar Mill ruins (a sugar plantation from the early 1800s) provide a stunning vista not to be missed.
To go even further back in history, see the ancient petroglyphs from preColumbian times at Reef Bay. Another of the island's more popular experiences is the underwater snorkeling trail at Trunk Bay - the best known spot on the island.
Shopping on St. John is mainly in the town of Cruz Bay, particularly at Mongoose Junction - craft studios grouped in a natural-looking mini mall where you can see the island artisans at work on their batiking, basketweaving and jewelry making.
St. Thomas is the most cosmopolitan of the three islands, yet the natural beauty of the island remains. Here, you'll find Magens Bay, often called "one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world." And from Mountain Top (the highest point on the island) you can enjoy a dramatic panorama of lush St. John, Tortola and Virgin Gorda as you sip the famous banana daiquiris (reportedly invented here).
In the port town of Charlotte Amalie, you'll find the biggest shopping district as well as several points of historical interest. Climb the 99 steps (actually 103) on Kongens Gade (King Street), built by the Danes in the 1700s out of ballast from their ships. The neat grid pattern they tried to impose on the hilly terrain wasn't very practical, so stepped pathways between the streets were the only solution.
Fort Christian - built in 1671 - is the oldest building in continual use on the island. Formerly serving as a governor's home, church, town hall, police station and jail, it currently houses the Virgin Islands Museum. The Gothic Revival-style Frederick Lutheran Church (dating from the early nineteenth century) and the Western hemisphere's second-oldest synagogue (erected in 1833) are also here, as is the house of Impressionist painter Camille Pissaro, a native of St. Thomas.
A more modern attraction is Coral World, where visitors can descend 15 feet below the sea in an underwater observation tower to view the colorful marine life on a natural coral reef. With the world's largest reef tank and a new predator tank, it's the next best thing to snorkeling or scuba diving.
Stay exclusively on one island or visit all three - no matter what your idea of the perfect escape, you're sure to find it here in the United States Virgin Islands, The American Paradise.
THINGS TO KNOW:.
On all three islands you will find that accommodations range from the luxurious to the simple. St. John, for example, has magnificent Caneel Bay -- called by "W," "one of the most beautiful resorts in the world:" and also the elegant Hyatt Regency.
By contrast, St. John also has baresites at Cinnamon Bay Campground renting for $12 and up per day. It also has smaller hotels and beautiful homes for rent.
On St. Croix, accommodations range from complete resorts with 18- hole golf courses to seaside hotels with panoramic views to a complex of hotels in the middle of town on Christiansted harbor.
On St. Thomas, the range is from the last word in big hotels -- with shopping arcades and nightclubs -- to manor houses perched on the emerald hillside to palm-fringed beachside retreats.
On all three islands, there are white sugarsand beaches everywhere. And the right of access to any beach in the islands is protected by law.
Many hotels are located directly on the beach; there are also many public beaches. Magens Bay on St. Thomas is considered by National Geographic "one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world."
A special note must also be made about cruises to the Virgin Islands. St. Thomas, with its fantasy-looking harbor and fabulous shopping, is the #1 Caribbean cruise port. Many cruiseships call on St. Croix as well, with happy results.
More than 1,000 cruiseship calls are expected territory-wide annually.
In St. Thomas, the Cruise Ship Activities office is located on the West Indian Company Dock. This allows easy access to travel agents and writers arriving by ship and is an information center for cruiseship passengers.
Since the Virgin Islands is part of the United States, the currency is, of course, the U.S. dollar. Travelers checks can be exchanged at all banks and most major hotels. Major credit cards are accepted in most shops and larger hotels. Personal checks are not usually accepted.
The United States Virgin Islands is an unincorporated Territory with a nonvoting Delegate to the House of Representatives. The V.I. Government is made up of three branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. The Governor is elected every four years, there are 15 Senators who are elected every two years. Judicial power is vested in local courts and district courts. All persons born here are citizens of the United States.
History of the Virgin Islands.
Columbus came upon the Virgin Islands on his second voyage to the New World in 1493. He first sighted St. Croix, calling it "Santa Cruz." The islands remained almost forgotten for more than a century. By 1625 on St. Croix, English and French colonists engaged in agriculture. By 1650, only the English remained.
In that year, the English on St. Croix were ousted by the Spanish; later that year the Spanish were driven out by the French. In 1653, St. Croix was ceded to the Knights of Malta. The knights then sold St. Croix to the French. The Danes coveted a foothold in the New World and in 1666 took possession first of St. Thomas, the St. John.
St. Thomas' rich trade was a magnet for pirates who attacked ships laden with treasure. Names of the more notorious included Blackbeard and Captain Kidd.
In 1773, Denmark bought St. Croix, and the Virgin Islands stayed under Danish rule 251 years.
The Virgin Islands were purchased by the U.S. in World War I as protection for the Panama Canal for $25,000,000 in gold. They became part of the U.S. on March 31, 1917.
Holidays and Special Events.
New Year's Day
Three Kings Day (for the Three Wise Men from the East who searched for the Christ child)
Martin Luther King's Birthday
Transfer Day (when the Danish West Indies became the United States Virgin Islands on March 31, 1917)
International Rolex Cup Regatta
Carnival in St. Thomas
St. Croix Triathlon
Organic Act Day (recognizing the passage of the Organic Act of 1936 by the U.S. Congress granting civil government and universal suffrage to the people of the Virgin Islands)
Emancipation Day (slaves freed in the Danish West Indies, 1848) July 4th Celebration of St. John
Supplication Day (prayer for protection from hurricanes in the coming season)
Governor's Blue Marlin Tournament
Fireburn (St. Croix)
Columbus Day and VI/Puerto Rico Friendship Day
Hurricane Thanksgiving Day (end of hurricane season)
Restaging of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival (St. Thomas)
D. Hamilton Jackson Day (he secured freedom of the press and assembly from Denmark)
Columbus' Arrival at Salt River
Crucian Christmas Festival
Christmas Eve, Christmas Day
Christmas Second Day
Old Year's Day (New Year's Eve)
Some holidays are celebrated on Mondays rather than a specific date.
Being part of the United States, the language in the islands is English, of course. The local lilt given to English is referred to as "calypso."
This is the largest of the United States Virgin Islands, 82 square miles in area. There are two distinct towns to visit: Christiansted and Frederiksted. The architectural quality and historic interest of the one-time Danish West Indies capital has made part of Christiansted (founded in 1734) a National Historic Site.
In Christiansted, you can shop the day away through quaint shops filled with French perfumes, china, crystal, batik clothing and jewelry. You can visit Buck Island, too.
Moving west along the North Shore, visit the west side of Salt River where Columbus' crew landed on November 14, 1493.
Frederiksted has its share of shops and shopping. It also has a tropical Rain Forest and Whim Greathouse, a plantation restored to the way it was in the 1700s.
The island has fine hotels, excellent dining, sights to see, a selection of other things to do and all kinds of beaches.
Even though this is the smallest of the Virgins, 28 square miles in size, many say it is the loveliest.
In addition to the National Park, restaurants and places to stay, there is a small town -- Cruz Bay. And the smaller one of Coral Bay. In Cruz Bay there are gift shops and well-stocked grocery stores; there are also dive centers and jeep rental services.
Here is the capital of the United States Virgin Islands and, as we told you, the most popular cruise port in the Caribbean. Charlotte Amalie is where the ships dock and the white and pastel houses are heavily sprinkled against a background of emerald hills. Colorful sloops dock along the waterfront, and a few steps back, down alleyways lined with old Danish warehouses, is the worldfamous shopping center.
To see the island, 38 square miles in size, you can rent a car or take a guided tour. One part of the trip takes you up and up circling and winding hills. Drake's Seat is where Sir Francis used to sit and count is ships. Magens Bay is heart-shaped. another part of the island looks very much like the countryside of France, with cattle grazing in green fields. And west of downtown there even is a place called Frenchtown.
Whether you stop atop a mountain or along the shore, be sure to sample one of our tropical drinks made with Virgin Islands rum.
In St. Thomas there are fine hotels, restaurants with an international cuisine, the largest charter yacht fleet in the Caribbean, and a variety of things to do away from the beach.
You can easily include all three islands in your holiday. St. John is only 20 minutes away form St. Thomas by ferry from Red Hook landing. And it is a picturesque 45-minute run from downtown St. Thomas to Cruz Bay on St. John.
There also is frequent daily direct service between St. Croix and St. Thomas by small plane. The flight takes about 25 minutes.
In St. Thomas, there is a high-speed ferryboat that has scheduled departures to Tortola and Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. (If you promise to come back, we'll let you go for the day.) And be sure to bring along your passport for identification; U.S. and Canadian citizens may use a birth certificate or voters' registration card. No special vaccinations are required.
There also is helicopter service between the islands. Ask your hotel for scheduling.
On St. Croix, between Christiansted and Frederiksted, north (at Estate St. George) off Centerline Road is the entrance to the St. George Village Botanical Garden.
Consisting of lush woods and rich land, the Garden covers 16 acres and contains ruins of a 19th century surgarcane village and rum factory including workers' homes, manager's house, a bake oven, stone dam, a blacksmith's shop and foundations of a watermill.
Buck Island Reef.
Just off St. Croix, here is the only United States National Monument (we call it a "National Park") that is underwater.
The park itself covers over 850 acres. The reef has two major underwater trails - Turtle Bay Trail and East End Trail.
Cruzan Rum Distillery.
Out on West Airport Road you can visit the distillery and see them making Virgin Islands rum. The tour includes a walk through the plant by long, flat sections of kegs, up ramps past the distilling, through fumes as intoxicating as the rum itself, to bottling and labeling.
As you head towards Frederiksted, you'll come upon Creque Dam Road and the 15 acres of the Rain Forest. The dam itself is 150 feet high.
St. Croix Leap.
Also in the Rain Forest, you will find a group of talented woodcarvers. You can order wood sculptures and chairs and tables all made from local mahogany.
Here's where Columbus fist arrived in the Virgin Islands in November 1493 on his second voyage to the New World (17 ships, 1,500 men). He called this island Santa Cruz.
A restoration of one of the finest greathouses from the late 1700s. There's the main house, windmill, watch house and bathhouse, cookhouse and apothecary.
Built in 1774 to protect the town's harbor, the handsomely restored Fort has battlements to photograph and dungeons to visit.
Here is where you'll find a small museum of Arawak and Carib artifacts, and a display on the workings of a sugar plantation. There also is an interesting chronology of black history in the Virgin Islands; and detailing on architectural styles throughout the centuries.
The Old Customs House.
It is being used as an Art Gallery for art exhibits all year round.
You'll also visit some of the lovely old churches in town, including the Gothic St. John's Anglican Church and the huge Moravian Church (the oldest of their sect under the American flag).
The first foreign salute to the U.S. flag was given at Fort Frederik in 1776. At the Fort on July 3, 1848, Governor General Peter Von Scholten emancipated the slaves in the Danish West Indies. The Fort has been restored in brick red and white, to the way it looked in 1840; the Fort actually dates back to the 18th century. The restoration includes the courtyard, the stables, the old soldiers canteen where tobacco and beer were purchased.
Two-thirds of this lovely island is a U.S. National Park. There are tours of the park by safari bus or jeep.
Hurricane Hole is an absolutely sensational anchorage surrounded by National Park and no people.
Riise's Gallery has exhibits; and at Estate Tutu, Jim Tillet has an "Arts Alive!" festival three times a year. There is the Mango Tango Gallery at Havensight and Jonna White Gallery in Palm Passage.
Originally known as "Skytsborg," this tower is considered by some sources as the "oldest extant historical structure in the Virgin Islands." Pirates reputedly once roamed here.
Reputedly the abode of the 19th century pirate, now honeymoon suites in a major hotel on the island.
An absolute must on your visit to St. Thomas. Here is an underwater observation tower and marine park open to the sea. Rare rainbow- colored fish, unusual coral formations, deep-water flowers. In the circular reef tank, you'll see all forms of Caribbean fishlife imaginable; in the marine gardens aquarium, sea stars and living coral.
Built in the middle of the 18th century, this stately home was the residence of two past Governors of these islands.
This is one of the oldest standing structures in the Virgin Islands, dating back to 1672, completed in 1678. It once housed the entire St. Thomas colony. There is a museum in what used to be the dungeons, where you will find early island memorabilia.
The center of official life in St. Thomas since its erection in the mid- 1860s. Presently the residence of the Governor of the United States Virgin Islands.
The 19th century comes alive again in the narrow passages of this lovely old building.
The meeting place of the Virgin Islands Senate; you can watch a session if you like. The building dates back to 1874, Danish rule.
The Reichhold Center for the Arts.
It's a beautifully-designed outdoor theatre (with covering); its program runs the gamut from jazz to folklore to ballet to symphony -- many by visiting artists.
The second oldest in the western hemisphere, with sand on the floor (reference to the exodus from Egypt).
Swim, sail, dive, go fishing, play golf, play tennis -- it's available in the Virgin Islands.
From boardsailing to catamarans, you'll find all watersports on all three islands.
Skin Diver magazine rates the U.S. Virgin Islands as "the most beautiful area in the world" for diving. With a variety of dive sites second to none.
St. Croix, has of course, Buck Island. There in a depth of 12 feet, with visibility well over 100 feet, you can snorkel the spectacular nature trail of Underwater National Monument.
The Cane Bay Dropoff, reached right from the beach, begins in 35 feet of water and plunges 2,000 feet.
The Salt River Dropoff, just below the site where Columbus sent a landing party ashore, begins in 20 feet of water and then plunges vertically to well over 1,000 feet deep.
In St. Thomas, the news for divers is the wreck of the Cartanser Senior; a 190ft. World War I freighter that was moved from Gregory Channel to just off Capell (Buck) Island.
The National Park at St. John is terrific for snorkeling. At Trunk Bay, there's an underwater trail with weighted plaques telling you what you're seeing.
Wreck Dive. A terrific all-day trip takes you to the wreck of the "Rhone." It's a Royal Mail packet boat that went down off Salt Island in 1867.
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, is the only place in the Caribbean to offer the latest watersport...Snuba is a shallow water dive activity in which the scuba air tank sits in a flotation unit rather than on your back. There is no certification required. You are given a brief orientation by a P.A.D.I. Professional Association of Dive Instructors) certified instructor or divemaster. You then put on a mask, fins, a light weight belt and a strong light-weight air hose which connects you and your breathing apparatus to the flotation unit.
Snuba tours are held at Trunk Bay and include a guided underwater tour, personalized instruction, a snuba passport, snorkeling gear, and all equipment. The cost is $40.00. Optional features are underwater 5mm photography ($20.00) and snuba t-shirts. Tours begin at 9:30 a.m. daily and end at 3:30 p.m. Closed Sundays.
St. Croix is where you'll find two championship 18-hole golf courses: one at Carambola Resort designed by Robert Trent Jones and the other at the Buccaneer Hotel. There's also a 9-hole course located at the Reef. Carambola was the site of "Shell's Wonderful World of Golf," where "Chi Chi" Rodriquez set the course record of 69. The Buccaneer's scenic 18-hole course is challenging. There is a resident pro, fully-equipped pro shop and putting green. Special golf packages, too.
St. Thomas has a spectacular 18-hole championship course, designed by George and Tom Fazio, at Mahogany Run. From the clubhouse terrace, golfers can view almost all of the first nine holes and the 18th fairway.
You'll find horse racing on both St. Croix and St. Thomas -- but it's not quite like racing in the States. For in addition to thoroughbred horses and parimutuel and daily double betting, there's a party-like atmosphere. The event happens about once a month, usually on a holiday or Sunday.
St. Croix is where you'll find Paul & Jill's Riding Stable at Estate Sprat Hall in Frederiksted. On the trail rides, you'll move through the Rain Forest to some of the most scenic views of St. Croix. On St. John, at beautiful Bordeaux mountain, Pony Express Riding Stables offers a view of a tropical paradise from horseback.
"The sportiest sportfishing in the world" -- that's the way seasoned anglers boast about their catches in the water surrounding the United States Virgin Islands, whether they're talking about big fish like blue marlin or "little" fish like cobia, wahoo, kingfish, allison tuna, jack or bonefish.
The pros will also tell you that the quality of tennis in the Virgin Islands is excellent. There are 106 tennis courts in all among the resorts on the three islands. And there are seven free public courts on St. Croix, two on St. John, six on St. Thomas. Use of the courts is on a "first come, first served" basis.
"There's no better sailing in the world." As a direct result, the largest charter fleet in the entire Caribbean is based in the Virgin Islands.
International Rolex Cup Regatta.
For three days every April, the Rolex Cup Regatta brings to St. Thomas the split-second accuracy and precise team coordination of top international yacht racing. Professional and amateur sailors alike compete in this unique regatta, the premier event of the Caribbean Ocean Racing Circuit.
Now on St. Thomas is an experience that is being hailed as "the underwater adventure of a lifetime!" It's a one-hour voyage in a submarine descending to depths of 150 feet to a world of exotic marine life and colorful reefs. There are large viewing portholes; day and night dives.
The Virgin Islands are easily reached from where you are right now. By Air:
American Airlines: Nonstop form Miami, New York City and Raleigh/Durham to St. Thomas, continuing to St. Croix. Direct from Chicago to St. Thomas via San Juan (June 1). Nonstop from Nashville to San Juan. Connecting from all parts of the world via New York. Through service from Boston and Dallas to St. Thomas/St. Croix. Connecting from Los Angeles via New York. Connecting from Atlanta, Chicago, Orlando and Washington D.C. via Miami. Connecting from Washington D.C. and Baltimore via Raleigh/Durham. Connecting from New York City, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Newark via San Juan. Nonstop from Dallas, New York City, Miami, Newark, Philadelphia and Raleigh/Durham to San Juan. Through service from San Francisco to San Juan. (Flights into San Juan connect into St. Croix/St. Thomas on convenient commuter airlines.)
American Eagle: Daily service from San Juan to St. Thomas/St. Croix.
British West Indies Airlines (BWIA): Service form St. Croix to other Caribbean islands and return.
Carnival Airlines: Nonstop from Miami to San Juan. (Flights into San Juan connect into St. Croix/St. Thomas on convenient commuter airlines.)
Continental Airlines: Nonstop service from Newark to St. Thomas/St. Croix. Connecting from Detroit via Newark.
Delta Airlines: Nonstop from Atlanta to St. Thomas. Nonstop from Orlando to St. Thomas, continuing to St. Croix. Nonstop from Chicago to San Juan. Connecting from Charleston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New Orleans, St. Louis and Washington D.C. via Atlanta to San Juan. Through service from Los Angeles to San Juan. (Flights into San Juan connect into St. Croix/St. Thomas on convenient commuter airlines.
Leeward Island Air Transport (LIAT): Service from St. Thomas, St. Croix and San Juan to Caribbean islands to the south.
Sea Air Shuttle: Frequent daily flights between St. Thomas and St. Croix; one flight daily from San Juan; additional flights to St. John.
Sunaire Express: Frequent jet-prop daily service between St. Croix and St. Thomas. Also San Juan to St. Thomas and St. Croix and return.
Trans World Airways: Nonstop from New York and St. Louis to San Juan. (Flights into San Juan connect into St. Croix/St. Thomas on convenient commuter airlines.)
USAir: Nonstop from Miami to San Juan. (Flights into San Juan connect into St. Croix/St. Thomas on convenient commuter airlines.)
Virgin Air: Passenger/freight between San Juan/St. Thomas and St. Croix and islands to the south. Charter ambulance.
Major cruiselines operate year-round Caribbean cruises from Miami and San Juan to St. Thomas/St. Croix and return. There are also regular calls by ships from the west coast.
There is no regulation requiring a U.S. citizen to have a passport but it is always your best I.D. when traveling. In any case, some form of identification (voter's card, birth certificate or passport) should be carried to evidence citizenship. If you plan to travel outside the United States Virgin Islands, make sure you have a birth certificate or valid passport in your possession.
Entry from the United States mainland or Puerto Rico requires no special health certificates.
Citizens of any country outside the U.S. should follow whatever regulations are required by the U.S. for their country.
On St. Croix, between Christiansted and Frederiksted, north (at Estate St. George) off Centerline Road is the entrance to the St. George Village Botanical Garden.
A restoration of one of the finest greathouses from the late 1700s. There's the main house, windmill, watch house and bathhouse, cookhouse and apothecary; also a museum and gift shop. This is one of St. Croix's showplaces. Small admission fee.
Built in 1774 to protect the town's harbor, the handsomely restored Fort has battlements to photograph and dungeons to visit. Small admission fee.
Impressive and imposing a beautiful example of Danish architecture, this structure dates back to 1747. You can go inside, and walk up the majestic staircase to the magnificently appointed Ballroom.
Here is where you'll find a small museum of Arawak and Carib artifacts, and a display on the workings of a sugar plantation. There also is an interesting chronology of black history in the Virgin Islands; and detailing on architectural styles throughout the centuries.
The Old Customs House
It is being used as an Art Gallery for art exhibits all year round. You'll also visit some of the lovely old churches in town, including the Gothic St. John's Anglican Church and the huge Moravian Church (the oldest of their sect under the American flag).
The first foreign salute to the U.S. flag was given at Fort Frederik in 1776. At the Fort on July 3, 1848, Governor General Peter Von Scholten emancipated the slaves in the Danish West Indies. The fort has been restored in brick red and white, to the way it looked in 1840; the Fort actually dates back to the 18th century. The restoration includes the courtyard, the stables, the old soldiers canteen where tobacco and beer were purchased, and the old garrison is an art exhibit area. Open daily Monday through Friday.
In the middle of Prince Street, you'll find the old Danish School. It was designed by the well-known Danish architect Hingleberg in the 1830s. At the corner of Prince and Market Streets is St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, built of coral stone in 1842. Other churches include Lutheran, the Moravian and St. Paul's Episcopal Church -- all historical buildings.
Just one block across on the corner of Market Street is history that still lives today. It is the Market that has been here since the earliest days of Frederiksted in 1751. Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve
Eighteenth century sugar plantations can be seen along the Reef Bay trail. And you can even visit one -- Estate Annaberg.
Originally known as "Skytsborg," this tower is considered by some sources as the "oldest extant historical structure in the Virgin Islands." Pirates reputedly once roamed here -- they, too, must have appreciated the spectacular view. Now a popular restaurant/hotel.
Reputedly the abode of the 19th century pirate, now honeymoon suites in a major hotel on the island.
Built in the middle of the 18th century, this stately home was the residence of two past Governors of these islands. Now a private residence.
This is one of the oldest standing structures in the Virgin Islands, dating back to 1672, completed in 1678. It once housed the entire St. Thomas colony. There is a museum in what used to be the dungeons, where you will find early island memorabilia, old maps, and such oddities as large wicker baskets once used by women to carry coal on their heads.
The center of official life in St. Thomas since its erection in the mid- 1860s. Presently the residence of the Governor of the United States Virgin Islands. Visitors allowed on the first two floors.
The 19th century comes alive again in the narrow passages of this lovely old building. Don't miss the open courtyard.
The meeting place of the Virgin Islands Senate; you can watch a session if you like. The building dates back to 1874, Danish rule.
The second oldest in the western hemisphere, with sand on the floor (reference to the exodus from Egypt).
TOURISTS FLOCK TO U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS FOR DUTY-FREE SHOPPING
-- U.S. Virgin Islands Has Double the Selection With
Double the Allowance, Visitors Report --
Shoppers in the United States Virgin Islands are taking advantage of the largest duty-free shopping allowance in the Caribbean permitted by U.S. Customs. U.S. travelers returning from the Virgin Islands may bring back $1,200 worth of merchandise -- double the amount permitted from any other Caribbean destination. In addition, the U.S. Virgin Islands has twice the selection in luxury merchandise than that of any other island in the Caribbean. The Virgin Islands, known as the shopping center of the Caribbean, has more than double the selection available in the Bahamas which only has 11 items.
Shoppers realize substantial savings on perfume, watches, gold jewelry, gem stones, cultured pearls, electronics, leather goods, clothing and beauty products. Fine china and crystal are also priced much lower in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and liquor (scotch and liqueurs especially) is often half to twothirds less than stateside prices. Travelers are also not required to pay a luxury or sales tax on any item purchased in the Virgin Islands.
Stateside residents may ship home each day up to $100 worth of duty-free goods -- over and above the $1200 individual exemption. A flat rate of five percent duty is charged on any purchases over the $1,200 allowance. According to Alfred Newmann, president of the U.S. Virgin Islands Retailers Association, the numerous shops on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas provide enormous variety and selection for all shopping tastes.
"We have so many wonderful boutiques on the islands competing for the same tourist dollar that shoppers get much better bargains in the Virgin Islands than anywhere else in the Caribbean,"
"And, because all merchants on the Virgin Islands are both direct importers and retailers, middlemen virtually do not exist. Thus, we can afford to sell luxury imports for 30 to 40 percent less than most mainland U.S. stores," he explained. All members of the U.S. Virgin Islands Retailers Association abide by a strict code of ethics which requires store owners to provide a 30-day, money-back guarantee on all items. The low prices in the U.S. Virgin Islands are a legacy from Denmark, which stipulated as part of its 1917 treaty of sale to the United States that the Virgin Islands would remain a duty-free port -which it has been for more than 300 years.
For more information on shopping in the U.S.V.I., contact the
Virgin Islands Retailers Association at (809) 774-7305. For more information on traveling to the United States Virgin Islands, call 1800-USVI-INFO.
4/ CARRIBBEAN JOURNEYS MARCH 1994
Aruba by Linda Elkin
We just returned on Jan. 15 from Aruba.
RESTAURANTS - This was our 7th annual trip and I must say, we haven't even tried half of the rest. there. This year we repeated the Bucaneer and Gianni's, both were good. Tried El Gaucho and loved it. To think we've been missing it all these years! Also tried Boonoonoonoos for lunch and thought the food was pretty good, and reasonably prices. Did get a chance to try Tony Roma's before we left and I must say, the food portions were impressive. Bought shrimp at the docks for $17/kilo and cooked them at our t/s (CPV). Also bought meat and chicken at supermarket and BBQ'd. Papa's and Beer still served good lunches, but they're not a night hangout like they were last year. The owners have turned the place more into a restaurant than a night spot. It was a big disappointment for us, as last year, we spent many a night and morning with the live bands, giant tv screen videos and such. Also tried Driftwood for the first time, I wasn't impressed (not a fish eater) but John loved it. Also, even though we had a reservation, we still had to wait 45 minute for a table because they were accepting people without reservations.
In general, I also felt that the tropical drink prices are pretty high. $7.00 for an Aruba Ariba! Yes, I know you can wait for happy hour and bar hop, but when you want a drink any other time, it starts to add up.
SIGHTSEEING - Visited Baby Beach twice (my favorite). John was able to rent snorkel equipment at the food stand for $5.00/hour and he had a ball. I wish someone on the island would rent beach chairs. Too bulky to pack, and sometimes I won't mind a little back support while hanging out at the beaches. (Not the hotel areas, I'm talking about the remote beaches). Maybe next year, someone will.
I wanted to go on the submarine but at $60 pp, it was a bit much, and we didn't want to do the glassbottom boat for $15/pp so we opted for the Seaworld Explorer out of the Holiday Inn for $30/pp and it was wonderful. It's like a cross between the other two types. Got to see the shipwreck and everything.
Having never explored underwater, I was amazed at the view.
SHOPPING- Our favorite shopping haunts are the shops at the Alhambra and the main strip in town. My biggest purchase is Linens, such as lace tablecloths and runners. They're great prices and can't seem to find similar back here. Just bring sizes and color preferences (white or beige) and you've got great souvenirs. We also bought the 3/$10 shirts, ours have held up for awhile back here, just don't throw them in the dryer too many times.
CASINOS - Other then visiting the Alhambra, our gambling was pretty limited. They offer great free gifts such as cards or dice with coupons you can get in the paper. Also, lucky bucks, which you can play in the one slot machine to win merchandise.
TIMESHARE - AS mentioned, our t/s is Caribbean Palm Village where we have a 2 bedroom. Not much has changed there, thankfully. Maid service was consistent and everyone seemed friendly enough. My biggest disappointment was that one of the pools and one of the jacuzzis were broken. But, our t/s offers guest services at the Hilton and the Manchebo, so we beach and pool hopped. I must say that it seemed windier down at this end, we generally hang out by the Holiday Inn. Water was beautiful.
WEATHER - Monday was so cloudy that the sun barely was seen all day. After arriving later on Sunday, it made me nervous, but by Tuesday, all was back to normal. Personally, the island seemed cooler than any other year we had visited. Yes, it was hot, but not as hot as I remember. Maybe because this year it was colder than normal back here. Who knows!?
CAR - We rented our car through Thrifty which offers $200/week for a Toyota Tercel and had a ball driving around, really got our money's worth. We did see all the blue road signs (how could you miss them) but they weren't as gaudy as I thought they would be. (I was imagining NJ Turnpike signs)
BUILDING - Yes, there are plenty of new buildings going up, everywhere. I spoke with a local who said that there is a moratorium on building, but some people have had there permits for several years and are only starting to build now.
LITTER - We noticed plenty of trash bins all around the island. Also noticed that the only people who seemed to be littering were the locals. Was actually on my way to a trash can at Baby Beach when some locals drove by and threw there soda cans out the window. Believe me, they weren't even close enough to be trying to reach the trash can.
ANIMALS - As a cat and dog lover, there are plenty of them on the island. I actually bring food from home. For every local animal lover I found, there was one who didn't care. It seems that no one actually owns most of the animals seen on the island, its up to the locals and/or tourists to keep them fed. One of the local animal lovers mentioned that they put thousands of them to sleep every year and they spay and neuter for free to try to control them.
We left El Gaucho one night with leftovers, and having no dogbones in the car, actually fed this one dog a piece of steak. Boy, did he sleep well that night. And, he was smart enough to know which restaurant to hang out at.
I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but all in all, it was a great return trip to Aruba and now we only have 51 more weeks until we return.
Aruba by Michael Rebarber
We got back from Aruba in late January. We stayed at the Divi Aruba resort. We had stayed there 2 years ago and wanted to go back again. It is a low rise hotel with a very different atmosphere than the large high rise hotels. Our room (luxury) was in a walk up building, right off Eagle Beach. We had a king sized bed, a small living room area, a balcony facing the water, and a small bathroom that had a jacuzzi tub.
The rooms were a little worn but kept very clean. The staff were friendly and accommodating. The beach was beautiful. We enjoyed happy hour at the beach watching the beautiful sunsets.
We ate at Suisse Chalet and El Gaucho which were both good. And we ate at our hotel which has the Red Parrot and the Pelican Restaurant both are very good. The food tends to be expensive in Aruba but it is vacation!
We rented a car one day and drove around. Aruba has remarkable contrasts in the terrain. It is very lush and tropical near the hotels, and looks like the surface of the moon near the lighthouse. Then if you drive to the windward (north) side it is almost vacant of anything and the ocean is wild with crashing waves against solid rock. The capital city can get crowded with traffic and it can be difficult to park at times. We did not really shop for anything but from what I can see there are not really great bargains from things you can get back home. We live in the New York metro area so I guess our access to many things is better than someone from a more rural area of the country.
The weather was warm and sunny but we did have two afternoons with some passing brief showers. We love Aruba and will probably go back again.
They are doing alot of new building, especially large hotels in the Palm Beach area. They are also promoting time shares much more it seems. I hope that it does not get too built up so that everything seems crowded with people. They are building a golf course near the lighthouse area but it is only beginning construction.
I like tennis but unfortunately it is always breezy in Aruba and I did not play as often as I thought I might.
I recommend the Divi to anyone who likes a more informal, kind of out doors feeling. We had a lot of privacy and did not feel the crush of people around you that you can feel at a large hotel like the Hyatt.
Aruba by Raymond Barberesi
I just got back from first trip to Aruba last night. Great time, great weather (mid 80s every day, NO rain, plenty of wind (nice and refreshing).
I stayed at Bushiri three nights. The facility was a bit old and rooms were a bit worn in places, but very clean. The public areas were very nice, food was very good (all-inclusive - that's where they put out massive quantities of food and drink and you try to include it ALL in your body). Bushiri even included several options for tours that were included in the all-inclusive price.
There was great service especially at pool bar. Friendly, competent staff even grilled a client's fish catch for ALL to eat one afternoon. On site dive instructor is GREAT. Even if you're not staying at Bushiri you must contact Aruba Scuba Center (Andre Loonstra, owner). US phone is (800) 845-DIVE (3483). Aruba contact is Tel/Fax 21596 or at Bushiri 25216 ext 401.
Next we stayed at Sonesta in town: a gorgeous facility. The launch enters lobby (yes, you read it right) to take passengers to private island beach club "Sonesta Island which has several beaches (one is tops optional), tennis courts, water sports center and beachside restaurant / bar. It was great. Having to take the launch was a bit of a pain, but at the same time added to the adventure.
We dined at Boonoonoonoos - fantastic local food at decent prices. Cafe Mathilde serves fine french fare in an exquisite in town setting, tuxedoed wait staff, elegant food, expensive but worth it. Papa & Beers was OK but dead. They advertised a band but they said it was "discontinued" when we got there. We did a happy hour at the Holiday Inn (Palm Beach) - live music, fun atmosphere. Only threw money at one casino - the Crystal Casino at the Sonesta. Very nice, lost some money. Who cares - you can't take it with you anyway. CARPE DIEM!!! The flights were out of Baltimore on a Fling charter (Sierra Pacific Airline) great flights and great service, impressive charter operation. The sunsets were spectacular every night from every location we were at - especially Sonesta Island. Drinking water was great! Amstel beer (locally brewed) was great. Try a MI DUSHI - great drink!!
BVI: Sailing Itinery by John Hakemian
Last month John Hakemian, a sailing enthusiast living on Chesapeake Bay, contributed a report on BVI sailing. John owns PANACEA, a Moorings Beneteau 38 based in Tortola, and arranges charters on her. Here is the information which he provides to renters of his craft. It could easily serve as an excellent guide for other BVI sailing enthusiasts.
HAKEMIAN'S SEVEN DAY BVI ITINERARY
The US dollar is the only currency you'll need, and you will find the more upscale places take plastic, but cash is needed in the more casual places. I'd take a little more than you think you'll need. Traveler's checks are accepted most everywhere. Service is usually included in the restaurant tab--ask if you're not sure. It is customary to add a little extra (say 5%) ONLY if your service has truly been exemplary and personalized. Moorings and many other charter companies prohibit tipping their personnel, so don't do it as the person could lose their job. An exception is if you have a skipper, who should get a little thank-you if you're happy with him.
You'll have some time in Tortola prior to the start of your charter. It won't hurt to spend some time talking to the enthusiastic people returning from their charters. You'll pick up some good information and perhaps some details as to special events, places closed for vacation, etc. Roadtown shopping is really for the locals, but you may find some interesting stuff. Sunny Caribee for spices is neat, and there's always Pussers for painkillers (the best in the BVI) and souvenir-type stuff. You'll have at least one dinner in Roadtown, and there are several possible places. An open-air, fairly casual place called, of all things, Mr. Fish, is a cornucopia of a seafood salad bar with FRESH openair grilled fish of your liking-excellent! Skyworld is on top of Tortola's highest mountain. The view is breathtaking on a clear day (get there before sunset), the drinks are great, the food used to be average, but I've heard good recent reports. Finally, there is a absolutely wonderful restaurant called Brandywine a 5 minute taxi ride east of Roadtown.
The morning of the first day of your charter, you'll have the chart briefing, boat check-out, you'll take care of checking & packing your provisions, making exchanges as required, and should be ready to cast off by noon. Make sure you purchase a BVI government mooring permit...it's cheap ($10) and they have put good moorings in most of the popular snorkeling spots to protect the coral from anchoring accidents.
DAY ONE NORMAN ISLAND
I suggest you head straight for the Bight on Norman Island (probably a beam reach). You can pick up a mooring outside of the old caves where Blackbeard used to hide out from Sir Francis Drake. You'll have had a snack on the way over. Take the dinghy, its anchor, snorkeling gear and flashlight. Explore the caves by dinghy, then drop the anchor outside and snorkel around, going back into the caves to see some of the big-eyed fish that like the darkness of the cave water. You can stand on sand in much of this area (watch out for sea urchins before you plant your feet), so it's a good place to get your snorkeling "legs" before trying some of the deeper areas. The fish are very friendly, and you could bring a couple of pieces of bread along...I've also seem people using "cheese bombs". Some of the fish will eat from your hand. After getting back to the boat, motor around the corner into the Bight, find a nice spot to anchor. Check your anchor set with your snorkel. Take the dinghy over to the old black pirate ship anchored in the Bight. Named the "William Thornton", it is a floating restaurant/bar. Drinks are good, food is casual/OK. It is a tradition to sign a dollar bill and have it pasted to the ceiling along with our three and a couple of thousand others. This anchorage is a good one for one of your onboard dinners. If you are early enough, there is some interesting hiking on land in the Bight (check cruising guide for details). For more advanced snorkelers, you MUST try the Indians (three big rocks), a 3 minute motor from the caves, which have moorings to secure the boat, and a lot of vertical surfaces that you can go down and up with a wide variety of (usually) bigger fish.
DAY TWO COOPER ISLAND; VIRGIN GORDA (WEST)
You'll have time for breakfast on board (and snorkeling the Indians if you didn't yesterday) the next morning before setting sail out of the Bight NE toward Peter and Cooper Island. Peter Island Yacht Club is a real upscale place with upscale prices. Skip it for the time being, and make a lunch anchorage at Cooper Island. Try the conch fritters. (the south end of Manchineel Bay is a good snorkeling spot here if you have time today) Then you're off toward Spanishtown, Virgin Gorda. You have a choice here. Either take a slip in the marina (Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour, about $25-30), or anchor in the harbor outside the marina (see cruising guide). If you're in the marina, this is about the only place in the BVI where you'd be to wise to lock up the boat and your valuables. HAVE DINNER AT LITTLE DIX BAY (call for reservations). There is a slight dress code (probably long pants for men) and it is a super, romantic place. Take a taxi early enough to explore the grounds a little before dinner. Prix fixe, but you can just about order anything you want. Once they served me two entrees without question, just because they misunderstood my appetizer order! Look for celebrities. Walk on their beach after dinner (usually a band to dance to if you like) before going back to the boat. If you decided on the marina, their showers are good quality. There is a little shopping area at the marina with some good shops, including an American Express office. If Little Dix's prices are just too steep, there are three other decent restaurants within walking distance of the marina.
DAY THREE THE BATHS; GORDA SOUND
The next morning, take a land taxi EARLY (very crowded later) to The Baths (an absolute MUST). The Baths are indescribable--be sure to take your snorkeling gear and your camera in a ziplock bag. You will want to stay most of the morning. Allow yourself at least 2-3 hours before asking your taxi to return. Keep exploring--there's something new around every corner and make sure you find the inner pool with the cathedral "ceiling". I think the neatest spot to snorkel "outside" is to go out from the little beach, head north around the point of the rocks and go back inside. If you decided to arrive at the Baths by sailboat, there are quite a few moorings to tie up to, and dinghy or swim in. Beaching the dinghy can be exciting in the surf.
Head east for Gorda Sound no later than 1:00 P.M. You will be beating, and depending on wind conditions, it may take you a while to get there. Make sure you take the outside route to the Mosquito Island entrance--don't follow a local boat through the narrow west channel (your insurance isn't valid if you go into the areas that are red on the chart). Pick up a mooring in the east end of Gorda Sound off from the famous Bitter End Yacht Club. Arrive at BEYC early enough to enjoy the fish/shark/turtle pool, and explore the beautifully landscaped grounds. Watch pelicans dive for fish as you enjoy a drink out by the beach bar. Lots of honeymooners here on land packages as well as people like yourselves from the boats. You could spend several days in Gorda Sound...you can rent windsurfers at BEYC, and there is a little cluster of shops at Leverick Bay on the SW end of the Sound that includes a Pussers. I'd skip them on this itinerary...you'll see a better Pusser's later in the week. A neat dinghy stop is little Saba Rock, which is a bar and a scuba diving center (run by the Kilbrides, an couple in their fifties that still cling to some elements of the old hippie life). If you're interested in scuba, you could do a lot worse than book on of their day trips. There is a sunken modern sailboat about 100' off the southwest end of Saba in about 15' of water, an easy paddle out from the bar dock. Kind of eerie to snorkel over something that looks pretty much like your boat!
You have three excellent choices for dinner. The Bitter End is a great choice if you have worked up an appetite. They have a huge salad bar, a pasta bar, a soup bar, a starter bar, you order an entree, and it's bigger than you expected-you get the picture. All in a nice yacht club open air atmosphere, and not too pricey. At the extreme SE end of Gorda Sound is Biras Creek Resort, an upscale place run by Norwegians, with an unbelievable view. Their pricey dinners are good, but a limited menu, and transients are not always served. If you don't mind a long dinghy ride, Drakes Anchorage on the south end of the Sound is very quiet with excellent, well- prepared food and friendly people.
My suggestion is dinner at BEYC, then an AM dinghy trip to Biras--explore their beautiful grounds, a bloody mary (or breakfast), and you'll see the view of both the Atlantic and the Caribbean in the best daylight.
DAY FOUR MOSQUITO ISLAND; THE DOGS; MARINA CAY
If you've cast off the mooring pretty early, motor across to the west end of the bay (watch reef buoys!) to Drakes Anchorage on Mosquito island. Pick up a mooring (no charge unless overnight). Dinghy around the corner (south, then west) to Honeymoon Beach, a wonderful little beach with a huge reef excellent for snorkeling. You'll spend some time just relaxing here in relative solitude.
Leave Gorda Sound no later than 11:00a and set out on what should be a glorious broad reach to a lunch stop in the lee of George Dog. This spot is about the best "easy" snorkeling in the BVI. The coral is fantastic, the fish beautiful, and it's one spot that Hurricane Hugo didn't dump a coating of sand on the coral. If you're careful, you can swim into the little isthmus, and do a little exploration of the shore. The lee of Great Dog is also good, less coral but maybe more fish. Both "Dogs" have government day moorings). Have lunch and continue on through the Dogs back toward Tortola. Spend the night at Marina Cay, just east of Tortola. Marina Cay has moorings and I'd advise one. The Cay is a little island composed primarily of a resort & a couple upscale residences. The restaurant is good, the bar friendly. Great sunsets. An alternative to Marina Cay is Trellis Bay, near the airport on Beef Island.
There is a restaurant/night club on a little island in the middle of the bay called the Last Resort. The owner does a comedy act with his pet donkey, Vanilla. The food is a bountiful buffet. Some people love it. Some hate it.
DAY FIVE GUANA ISLAND; TORTOLA'S CANE GARDEN BAY
Leave Marina Cay heading west along the north shore of Tortola. Stop at Monkey's Point, which is the lee of the southern tip of Guana island just north of Tortola. It looks a little like the anchorage in the lee of George Dog. Another great snorkeling spot with day moorings. Keep moving after a snack lunch until you anchor in Cane Garden Bay on the North shore of Tortola. This bay is a picture perfect half moon, with palm and coconut trees with a wonderful breeze. There is a store for the few things you may need, and some limited gift shopping. Stay for the happy hour at Stanley's, with $1.50 Painkillers and $2.00 Bush-whackers, other drinks comparable. Crazy, loose atmosphere. Just down the beach to the east is a little beach bar/restaurant called Quito's Gazebo where the owner plays guitar and sings, very relaxing. Both also serve a tasty dinner. At the other (west) end of the bay is a restaurant called the Wedding...doesn't look like much, but serves very good lobster and fish at reasonable prices. A new, and louder place that has good dancing is Ymetts (sp?).
BY THE WAY, make sure you take the advice of deciding your dinner plans early, and calling on the VHF. Most of these places do not buy the expensive entrees until they know they have X people for dinner, and if you just show up, they may not be able to serve you everything on the menu.
DAY SIX JOST VAN DYKE
Head NW out of the bay toward Jost Van Dyke. Look for the westmost bay (White Bay), which has a reef entirely across, with a narrow entrance. You must enter from directly straight out, but the entrance is marked with buoys and it's a piece of cake. (You may find this bay marked in RED on your chart...this is because the entrance used to be found only by lining up day markers on shore and people screwed up all the time. Check at the chart briefing if you're not sure). Once inside, you anchor in about 12' of crystal clear, warm, calm water (great place for windsurfing). Sea turtles abound, along with lots of colorful fish. The inner edge of the reef has some good coral gardens. On shore is SandCastle Resort, and the Soggy Dollar Bar, where you may meet anyone from anywhere on the world. The beach is one for walking along and just enjoying yourself. Head out from White Bay early enough to stop in Great Harbor (about 1 mile east). Anchor and take the dinghy ashore (bring a business card). This is the home of Foxy's, (east end of beach), where you can buy the obligatory
Foxy's tee shirt to prove you were really there (and staple up the business card!). !). If Foxy is there with his guitar, DO stay and listen for a while and be sure to tell him where you're from... There are several restaurants here, all decent, but we always go back to the boat, motor east around the corner to Little Harbor, pick up a mooring, and eat dinner at Sidney's Peace and Love Cafe, a conglomeration of island art-deco-shtick. Sidney himself is a real piece of work with his gold teeth, beard and gigantic pot belly! The ceilings are decorated with hanging T-shirts emblazoned with boat/crew names and dates (Sidney will lend you the staple gun if you want to decorate your own and hang it up to look for next time down). The bar is self-service (but not free!), the meals are served at picnic tables, but the lobster is the freshest in the BVI, the ribs are excellent (and cheaper) and the sailor customers are laid back, friendly and having a good time. Most nights, Sidney will have a small band or maybe recorded island music for dancing, limbo contest, etc. Very casual, but a lot of fun. Harris's is next door and is mainly known for their Monday night eat-all-you-want lobster dinner.
DAY SEVEN SANDY CAY; TORTOLA WEST END; PETER ISLAND
Leave early. Motor over to Sandy Cay, a beautiful tiny island with a wide, smooth beach just off the southeast side of JVD. This island is owned by James Rockefeller, who bought it to preserve its natural beauty. Anchor off the sandy beach in the lee of the reef on the north side. Take your shoes in with you, and take one of the nature paths (some marked flora) that lead up to a cliff on the east side of the island, a breathtaking view with deep blue waves crashing into the rocks below, with white spray shooting up. Back on the beach, the snorkeling is pretty decent to the south end of the beach. (An alternative just to the north is Green Cay...better snorkeling, not much on shore).
There is a pod of double-finned dolphins that frequent the waters in the triangle between Jost Van Dyke, Cane Garden Bay and the west end of Tortola. Watch for them, if you're lucky, they will come up and take a look at you, maybe dive under the boat, etc.
Leave Sandy Cay and head south for Sopers Hole, West End, Tortola (notice the cliff houses on the N shore of the bay) for a lunch stop; moorings are free. This is a busy commercial harbor, and you could skip it and not miss too much. The largest Pussers in the BVI is here, and it is an enjoyable place for a Bushwhacker, some conch fritters, popcorn, or some other island treat. There are about a dozen nice shops here. Either way, leave yourself enough time to get out of the harbor by no later than 2:30P.M. Sail a close reach to Peter Island, Deadman's Bay for your final night on the boat. This may be the most beautiful beach in the BVI, at least I think it's the most beautiful anchorage. A very large rock-type island ("Dead Chest") off to the north looks almost like Gilbraltor. The lights of Roadtown and Tortola twinkle in the background. The beach is clean and smooth. The bottom is grassy, and you must be careful to set your anchor well. Very good snorkeling, but different...not so much for coral as for the larger fish, including many impressive (shy) rays. If you're tired of cooking dinners on the boat, you can walk over the hill at the west end of the bay to the Peter Island Yacht Club. PIYC is a quite upscale place, with a breathtaking pool, beautiful grounds, and very good food at prices in the $40 range for a complete meal, plus service, wine, etc. It could be a very romantic last dinner, whether you cook on the boat with the gorgeous view, or you partake of the fine PIYC menu. (If the swells are running anywhere north of 75 deg., this anchorage can get too rolly...Mancheneel Bay on Coopers Island is a good alternate).
DAY EIGHT BACK TO ROADTOWN, TORTOLA
Dinghy in to shore and talk the walk up the hill to the top of Peter I. It's one of the best views on your trip, and you'll be able to pick out most of the places you've been. You are about 1.5 hours on a nice beam reach from Roadtown.
Some places I could have mentioned, but couldn't fit them into the itinerary:
ST. JOHN: There are few nicer places than St. John, but you have to check out of the BVI, then go all the way to the west end of St. John (Cruz Bay) to check into US customs, after visiting some St. John spots, you MAY have to go BACK to Cruz Bay to check OUT of the US (if your boat has U.S. documents, you will be able to check in & out at the same time), then you must go to a BVI customs office and check INTO the BVI again. They nickel and dime you to death with fees, and it blows about 12 hours in all that you could be sailing. Save it for a future trip that you charter out of St. Thomas. (When you do, be sure to stop at Caneel Bay Plantation)
THE WRECK OF THE RHONE: All guys over 35 remember Jacqueline Bisset in her wet T- shirt with Nick Nolte in "The Deep". This is the wreck that the movie was shot on. If you want to scuba here, make all your arrangements in advance. The wreck is just a little too deep (closest end of the two pieces of the vessel is about 45' deep) to see much with just your snorkel. SALT ISLAND: Forget it...if you like salt flats, go to Utah. Only good as a launching place for people diving on the Rhone.
HOG ISLAND, LONG/APPLE BAY & OTHER TORTOLA SPOTS: These are not that unique, and they take a lot of wasted time to get to. NECKER ISLAND: A private island that some who have gone there on a seminar, etc., will mention, not realizing that visiting boats are NOT WELCOME.
ANEGADA: A great island to visit, VERY laid-back (their only town is called simply "The Settlement") but off limits for most charters because of huge Horseshoe Reef circling the island. There are 300 wrecks, some of which can be seen clearly with only a snorkel. But...it takes the better part of a day to go, same to get back. If your company permits, and you have more than a week, I'd add it to the itinerary. You will find the natives friendly, a little shy for the most part, and will rarely encounter the "hustling" type in the BVI. Your dinghy is safe about anywhere, and you shouldn't have to pay anyone to "watch it". Go ahead and wear your basic jewelry, but like when you are any country where the people are not as well off as in the USA, do not flaunt what may seem to the natives as wealth. Lock up your boat in a marina, but don't worry otherwise. Take your cash with you. This is the "safest" bunch of islands in the Caribbean, but you must use common sense.
BVI: Virgin Gorda by Barbara Brennan
I just got back from Virgin Gorda. We had a wonderful time. I'll give my impression of places to stay and things to do.
First, places to stay. We stayed at the condos at Leverick Bay: beautiful two bedroom. There's a King bed in the first bedroom, Queen and Full in 2nd -- a great set up for kids or two couples. It also has a full kitchen, living room, dining area in and out. The patio was huge with plenty of chairs for sitting and eating. Leverick Bay consists of 4 condos, 16 resort type rooms, numerous surrounding houses for rent, a restaurant, a grocery with fresh food if you prefer to eat in, a dive shop, a clothing store, a souvenir shop, and a dock. All of the rooms/houses are up in the hills with beautiful views. You can rent sailboards, sunfish and dinghys for the day. The sailing ship comings and goings provided some light entertainment. Speaking of entertainment the condos had basic cable TV. There is a pool and a small beach. We were usually the only ones in the pool or on the beach, although they did a brisk lunch and dinner business with all the ships in the harbor. Snorkeling was just OK at the hotel, there were many better places which I'll describe later.
As to the other resorts, we stopped in as many as we could. (It's a hobby). Little Dix Bay had a great beach but the prices for just a room with oceanview (which would be the equivalent to our condo was $490 a night- the condo was $255). According to the brochures there is no TV so they have feature films at night. The rate did not include meals. They required shirts with collars for gents and dress/skirt/slacks for women for dinner- no shorts. Although beautiful, I thought it was too stuffy for our taste. The grounds were exquisite, but you pay dearly for that- we peeked into a $520/night beach front and it had two twin beds, and a sitting area- nice but no where hear as nice as Mango Bay.
Mango Bay/Paradise Beach was much more our taste. The share the same beach. We didn't see the rooms at P.B. but M.B. had condos with 2 kitchens. One outside for the cook if you choose to hire one and one inside for you. The rates were more reasonable for one/two bedroom condos which had living rooms, eating areas and 2 kitchens. Some beachfront some garden view, you have to ask for the rate sheet with the floor plans to get an idea but I would definitely consider staying there next time. The beach is on the same side as LDB and was beautiful. M.B. is very private and would make an excellent honeymoon spot. You don't have the activity that Leverick Bay had with the sailing ships.
Bitter End Yacht Club was another resort. We did not see the rooms but there was a lot of activity with sailing boats coming and going. BEYC rates include food and use of the sailing equipment. If you're going to use the sailing equipment every day the rates are worth it. If however you're only planning on casual use, you'd be better off with another place and renting by the day. BEYC beach was very disappointing. Full of seagrass and the one area that was cleaned out had some sort of shells so walking in bare feet was not pleasant. The beach was also the most crowded and reminded me of Mexico, with people reserving chairs in the shade by using their towels. Not my idea of paradise.
The other places we saw were the Diamond Beach Club which looked run down (we didn't go in) and The Olde Yarde Inn which was right outside the airport and not near any beach. As you have probably guessed, we rented a car. My husband told me to get a couple of maps- when I asked the rental agent she thought I was nuts!! V.G. only has one main road that runs from end to end and I wanted 2 maps. We did not see Biras Creek or Drakes Anchorage.
As to beaches- The prettiest public beach we saw was Savanah Bay. Nice long sandy beach with a reef not to far out for snorkeling. There were probably 6 people on the beach the day we were there. Only downside- no shade to speak of. Little Dix Bay is a little further south but on the same side of the island as Savanah and had a beautiful beach with just a little snorkeling reef. LDB does have shade and if don't mind crashing you could use a lounge chair. Mango Bay is just north of Savanah and also has that same beautiful sand. We did not go in the water there so I don't know about the snorkeling.
Best snorkeling was down by the Baths, but not in the Baths. Of course the Baths is a must see with it's caves, but an even prettier and quieter beach is just north. Spring Garden is a National Park and has the same boulders as the Baths. The beach are is larger, there are nice picnic tables and barbecue pits. The snorkeling was the best on the island, from what we saw. We did get to town but there's not much there. This is definitely not a shopping island. There were only a few stores, but the north (right) side of the boat basin had the most fascinating pelicans diving next to boats for fish. My husband called it "Pelican Heaven".
We didn't eat out much- just two nights at Pussers in Leverick Bay. Food was just OK. We met a couple on the ferry to BEYC and they had eaten out every night. Said they food was only OK. They never had a bad meal but never had a truly spectacular one either. As to the people, they were all VERY friendly. There did not appear to be the poverty associated with other islands. It has been my experience that the British and US islands have less of the poverty many of the independents experience.
Oh, one thing I did miss, we took Continental and the plane down was an insult. My knees were hitting the seat in front of me and I'm only 5'6". My 6'1" husband had the aisle seat and couldn't put his knees in unless he sat bolt upright. A different plane coming home was newer and had much more leg roomhowever, I always flew AA before and I think I'll be sticking with them from now on.
Cancun by Dennis Arner
We returned from Cancun and thought someone might appreciate a condensed package of information that will help one staying there for only a short time.
Cayman Islands by John Donanville
I got back in late December after a great week of warm!! weather. This was our first trip to Grand Cayman but won't be our last. Two kids (2-1/2 and 5-1/2) loved it, too. Didn't do any diving but lots of snorkeling, trip out to Stingray City, lots of beach time.
We stayed at the Treasure Island (hotel) - no indications of Ramada there any more. I wouldn't recommend it either, at least until they renovate rooms and even then not if your really there for the beach. Their beach has lots of rocks in the sand and essentially no sand once you hit the water - all rock and abused coral. Its OK if all you want to do is veg out, but not good for fun and games or the kids. We walked up the beach 1/4 mile to the Radisson most days much nicer sand up there although I wasn't impressed with the snorkeling right off the Radisson.
I walked North up the beach from the Radisson one morning and everything up there seemed to have much nicer beaches than down at Treasure Island. We went up to the Holiday Inn one day and they have a great beach with nice snorkeling about 150 yards out. I'd guess its a better place on the mid-price motel line than Treasure Island. TI did have a real nice (but chilly) pool and grounds and they are definitely working hard on the public areas (lobby, corridors, etc.). But they've got a ways to go and apparently haven't done anything to the rooms yet - ours was small (expected), relatively shabby, and not the cleanest I've seen - all in all more of a "Sleep Cheap" type place. The Sleep Inn could probably do as well considering the walk to the beach.
Event wise, we did Stingray City with Fantasea Tours and I thought they were great. I think the thing to consider is what type of boat you want to spend the time on when deciding on the different operators. Fantasea has an older 38 ft catamaran and we found that fun with the kids. Relaxing and lots of space. Some of the modern big fishing type boats that were out there didn't appeal to me. Parrotts Landing had a huge, ultra-modern catamaran that didn't appear to be as comfortable as what we were on - lots more people, too. Fantasea only takes 16 adults. Its $25 US for 3-1/2 hours with about 2 hours of that stopped for snorkeling at three different spots. A really excellent time. Call Dexter Ebanks (809) 949-2182.
We also did the Turtle Farm and enjoyed it and rented a car from Andy's Rent-ACar. Andy's a real gentleman and seems to have competitive rates if not the best. Get a car early though if its a cloudy day!
Eats-wise, we enjoyed the Italian Garden (good food, not too $$), West Bay Polo Club (less expensive, lighter meals), and thought the Holiday Inn dinner buffet outside was good, though a bit pricey ($12-$20/person CI$ - kids 5 and under free). Also went to a place called Island Taste in George Town across from the Atlantis sub. Good too but definitely more expensive.
We bought a styrofoam cooler at Kirk's supermarket and did all our breakfasts and some lunches in our room - also kept mid-day drinks cold to avoid the $1 $2 soda. All in all we thought eating out was somewhat expensive, but not as bad as we had expected. We enjoyed the Barefoot Man at the Holiday Inn one evening (8 P.M.), but heard from some staying there that they were kind of tired of him after hearing it most every night. We also enjoyed Earl LaPierre's steel drum (solo and with the High School band) at TI (8 P.M.).
Dominica: Diving by Phil Carta and Jenny Darby
Dominica: The Nature Island
Dominica above water is an island of mountains, rivers, lakes and waterfalls. It has to be the most beautiful and different of all the Caribbean islands. It is incredibly lush with bananas, oranges, grapefruit and other fruits hanging from heavily loaded limbs and just waiting to be picked. Underwater Dominica is the "Adventure Dive Destination" with walls, drop offs, pinnacles, underwater hot springs and excellent visibility.
Diving in Dominica is unusual and dramatic along with excellent underwater visibility. You tend to see smaller fish on the Dominica reefs but the underwater scenery is not to be missed. The walls have healthy black coral starting in only 70 feet of water, huge coral formations and more crinoid (in a variety of colors) than I have ever seen in the Caribbean. The crinoid was sometimes in azure vase sponges along with arrow crabs and made for spectacular pictures.
Seahorses and frogfish are still alive and well on the reefs and we saw both during our 5 days of diving. We also saw every type of eel in the fish books and at least one or two that were not! These included green morays, goldentail morays, spotted morays, chain morays, snake eels and even a sharptail eel. We also saw scorpion fish (even one pair mating) fileclams, juvenile trunkfish, lobsters, crabs, basket stars, azure vase sponges, giant anemone, sun anemone, orange ball corallimorph, banded shrimp, fireworms, gorgonians, massive amounts of plate and sheet coral, flying fish, butterfly fish, French angelfish, schools of blue tangs and Creole wrasse, grunts, damselfish, sergeant majors, grouper, parrotfish, squirrelfish, gobys, blenny's, redspotted hawkfish, tilefish, sharpnose puffer, bridled burrfish, goatfish, juvenile and adult spotted drums and even an electric ray.
Champagne is one of the more unusual dives in Dominica where hot bubbles rise from the bottom, just making you aware that the volcanic origins of this island are still alive and well. One of the more spectacular dives in Dominica, which will definitely make the Caribbean Adventures top 10 list for 93, is an advanced dive site called Suburbs, which is south of Scouts Head where currents can tend to be strong at times. The site is a point with a very dramatic wall on each side and huge forests of gorgonia and black coral.
There is shore diving from Castle Comfort and Anchorage Hotels and night boat dives can be scheduled in advance. By law all dives on Dominica are guided however bottom times and depth (up to 130 feet) were limited only by your computer and air supply.
There are three dive operations located on Dominica. Dive Dominica located at Castle Comfort offers NAUI and PADI certifications and has been operating on the island longer than anyone else. Dive Dominica's large catamaran style boat leaves daily at 9:00 AM except Wednesday when it leaves at 1:00. The staff takes good care of you and even rinse your gear at the end of the day: you are only responsible for your computers and dive suits.
The Anchorage Dive Center is based at the Anchorage Hotel and offers PADI certification. It also serves Picard Beach and Portsmith Hotel on the North end of the island. Dive boats leave at 9:00AM except Thursday when Anchorage takes cruise ship passengers from Portsmith. The Anchorage dive staff sets up all gear for you and also changes it out between dives along with rinsing it at the end of the day.
People come to Dominica for the beauty of the island, not just the diving, so plan on spending lots of time enjoying the scenery. Rent your own jeep or take tours from Kens Hinterland Adventure Tours or Dominica Tours. We drove ourselves into the mountains on a road so narrow that you were practically touching the cliff on one side and looking over a ravine that fell thousands of feet on the other. When meeting other vehicles you may have to back up 100 feet or more before you can pass. Renting vehicles on Dominica is definitely for the adventurous at heart!
Some of the many natural sites are: Trafalgar Falls where two falls converge and you can bathe in hot pools; Valley of Desolation where sulfur springs billow steam and there are pools of boiling mud; Boiling Lake which bubbles constantly because of the heat of the crater which it is in; Morne Trois Pitons for hiking; Indian River for a rowboat ride through a mangrove fringed river; and Emerald Pool where a grotto filled by a waterfall is surrounded by plants.
Castle Comfort Lodge is a 10 room hotel owned and operated by Ginette and Derek Perryman. Their service and staff is excellent. You will find a thermos of fresh cool drinking water in your room at all times, just another nice touch from Ginette. The ocean view rooms have the best views; all rooms are clean, have air conditioning and some have cable TV and telephones. Most rooms have two twin beds with a few having one double. All rooms have a huge tiled shower.
Packages at Castle Comfort include 10 dives along with breakfast and dinner daily. Dinners always started with a wonderful local soup such as calalou, followed by a marinated salad or spaghetti africano and dasheen rolls, breadfruit, then the main course of chicken, fish or "mountain chicken" (mountain chicken is a local delicacy of frog legs) and ending with a homemade desert. The coconut fudge deserves special mention. The only complaint we heard during the week from other guest were that meal portions were small by American standards.
The Anchorage, located next door to Castle Comfort, has a total of 32 rooms. They offer a manager's cocktail party on Thursday nights with free munchies and rum punch or wine. There is also a reef 100 yards north for shore dives. Standard rooms overlook the pool and have air conditioning and two twin beds. Deluxe rooms have larger beds along with a nice balcony that overlooks the ocean.
The Anchorage also has whale watching excursions and you are sometimes allowed in the water with snorkel gear. (Whale watching is done at Castle Comfort but they do not allow you in the water.) Whales are not guaranteed but are seen about 80% of the time in season, which runs from November through March. Sightings include Sperm Whales, Pygmy Sperm whales, Orcas, False Killer whales, Pygmy Killer whales, Pilot whales along with Spotted and Bottlenose Dolphins.
Evergreen Hotel is the choice if you are looking for luxury rooms. All rooms have air conditioning, TV and telephone and there is a luxurious bar and restaurant area and a nice pool. Some rooms have large balconies overlooking the ocean.
Castaways, located about halfway between Roseau and Portsmith, has 26 rooms and a black sand beach. The rooms are evenly divided with double beds in some and two twins in others with one honeymoon suite. All rooms have cable TV and balcony with a great view of the ocean but the rooms are not air conditioned. There is a large dining room with bar along with a small bar on the water. The only drawback to Castaways is its location: there are long boat rides to the dramatic diving around Scouts Head and long rides up to the mountains to visit nature tours.
A choice for real nature lovers is Papillote Wilderness Retreat. This small inn has only a few rooms, some with twins and even a two bed two bath cottage with kitchenette. Located up the mountain about a 20 minute drive from Roseau next to Trafalgar Falls this is an oasis in the rain forest. You will have spectacular views of the rain forest, and be greeted by exotic birds. You can actually pick your own bananas or papaya, spend the day on private nature walks or just relax in one of the natural flowing hot mineral pools. This location is for people who really want to get away from it all. A rental car is a must.
Honduras: Diving by Jenny Darby and Phil Carta
Phil and Jenny also contributed the piece about Dominica above.
THE ISLA MIA: Liveaboard in the Bay Islands of Honduras
If you are an experienced diver looking for a great week of unlimited diving the Isla Mia is for you. We highly recommend the Isla Mia, and owner Captain Jon Hyde, for divers who are tired of restrictions and like to be given the freedom to dive their own profiles. On a recent trip on the Isla Mia, there were never any restrictions put on divers; you were considered an experienced diver and treated as such.
Diving in Roatan is very good, the Isla Mia has its own moorings and we never saw another dive boat the entire week. Sites are all well away from the hotel locations and it shows by the condition of the coral - there is almost no damage at all. It was nice to see a reef that has not been beaten to death by novice divers.
We dove all of Roatan, the south, north, east and west. Visibility was at least 100 feet on all south, east and west dives. It was real interesting to see the North Shore with its caverns, cathedrals, cracks and even an amphitheater. North Side visibility was lower in the caverns etc but still good on the reefs. There was very little coral, mostly rocks with some coral growth, and the fish life was different from the south shore. We did see more Flamingo Tongues on the North Shore than I have seen anywhere in the Caribbean. Two dive sites on the east end of the island had unbelievable stands of staghorn coral: it went on forever and was home to thousands of tropical fish.
The South Shore had beautiful coral, translucent sponges, dramatic walls, moray eels, huge crabs, peacock flounders, juvenile puffer fish, spotted drums, bluehead wrasse, trunkfish, every kind of parrotfish, harlequin bass, fairy basslets, damselfish, bermuda chub, lobsters, butterfly fish, barracuda, hamlets, grouper, coneys, midnight parrotfish, creole wrasse, yellowhead jawfish, filefish, trumpetfish, ballonfish and queen triggerfish.
We did very few night dives because a thunderstorm seemed to pop up after dinner every night. The Isla Mia offers as much diving as your computer will allow. Lazy divers make four or five dives a day and energetic divers make as many as seven per day. The boat has new aluminim 80s which are filled to 2900 or 3000 psi. The crew was always on the dive deck for anything you needed and I have never seen a crew work harder on any dive boat.
The dive deck had lots of room for all our gear. There were cubicles under our tanks and in the wall opposite the tanks, two small tables for camera gear and a photo room with E-6 processing and video camera's for rent. There is a fresh water shower and rinse hose on the dive platform along with several rinse buckets for cameras, masks and so on. A chalkboard always had info about the dive site we were located on and any other questions were cheerfully answered by Captain Jon. The entry into the water was by an easy giant stride off the side. Charts were kept daily with everyone's dive number, depth, air and bottom time.
The only complaint we had with the boat was the narrow exit ladder. It was very shaky and you were expected to exit up the steps with all gear on including fins. Put a good set of exit steps on this boat and I would have no complaints at all. However, the accomodating crew has no problems with one woman who insisted on taking off and handing up her weight belt and fins. The steps up from the dive platform are rather steep and some of the ladies had trouble going up them with full gear on so they took off gear on the dive platform and the crew handed it up and carried it back to the dive lockers. Whatever you needed to do to be comfortable with your entry and exit the crew took care of with smiling faces, never any complaints.
Of course, there was some non-diving time. The Isla Mia is a 60 foot boat staffed with a crew of four and Captain Jon. The salon had four tables, VCR, TV screen, light boxes mounted under the tables, movies and books. Captain Jon did slide shows when you asked for them. There was a large cooler off the salon with soft drinks, beer, tea and water and a well stocked bar for those who wanted it. Tea and water were complimentary and other drinks were on the honor system.
The cabins are located in two sections of the boat, the forward section has three rooms with doubles on bottom and a twin on top. This section also has a separate shower and head so two people have bathroom access at one time for a maximum of six guests. The section also has a door that can be closed off from the rest of the boat which helps with the air conditioning.
The aft section has four cabins, three doubles with twins on top and one large cabin with two twins. This section only has one head and no door to close it off from the rest of the boat which makes these cabins harder to cool. However, there are plenty of fans in all the cabins. There is no air conditioning on the rest of the boat, but most of the time there was a nice breeze.
The kitchen always served up excellent food which was never greasy. Snacks showed up before breakfast every morning for the early risers: muffins, homemade cookies etc. Breakfast was eggs, waffles, sausage, pancakes and bacon. Lunch consisted of things like hamburgers, salads, fish sandwich, shrimp and tacos. Dinners were always great with fresh shrimp, turkey, roast beef, chicken and deserts like peach cobbler, banana pie; they even baked my husband a birthday chocolate cake!
Well all good things have to end and our week of diving freedom was over. Captain Jon takes care of everything involved in your departure from Roatan. He pays the departure tax and gives you your stamp, he checks your luggage and gives you your luggage tags and boarding passes. The crew also carries all luggage back up the hill to the bus and you never have to touch it (they also meet you at the beginning of the adventure and your gear magically shows up on the boat). All that was left to do was clear immigration and board the plane.
St. Matin by Sandy Feinstein
Roy and I returned from SXM a few days ago. We stayed at our time share unit at Pelican and were very happy with it. The unit was in good condition and the towel situation was really under control (as opposed to the last few years, when you had to sell your mother up the river to get a beach towel or wash cloth!!).
Now-- to the important stuff--FOOD! We returned to many old favorites, but did try a few new ones this time. We had excellent meals at Le Pavilion, Tastevin, Rainbow (best of the week), Saratoga (a close second), and Alabama (despite a power failure, which had us eating in complete darkness, with just one candle on each table). Cha Cha Cha unfortunately was disappointing. They really better get their act together--terrible, haphazard service, much smaller portions, and our friend's dinner had to be sent back twice, but was still raw, so she went without dinner that night. We tried Le Jardin Creole for the first time. It has an absolutely beautiful setting and island ambiance. The four of us split 2, two-pound lobsters, which were delicious, with 3 different sauces to dip them in. I felt the price was quite expensive for the amount of lobster we were served--each was $60.00. Our friends had a larger lobster for lunch at Kon Tiki for $32.00.
We tried Mark's Place for lunch for the first time. It was excellent. We all had soup and then split lobster salads. GREAT! Only complaint--they should get some pads for those hard benches. (Do I get picky, or what?) We had two great lunches at La Veranda, the new restaurant on the beach at L'Habitation. Wonderful brick oven pizzas--different specials each day. They bottle their own hot sauces to put on the pizza with lots of local herbs and spices. Watch out-they're deadly.
The weather was perfect all week. We did spend a day on Orient Beach, and plenty of people were walking around nude, with nobody bothering them. We didn't see any police or notice anything different from other years.
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