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Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 49
November 1, 1994

Addition: Eli Gorin the author of last month's article on Club Med Punta Cana had requested that his address be published for anyone having questions for him. It is KWDW52A@prodigy.com, An apology to Eli for that omission.

CONTENTS FOR NOVEMBER 1994
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1/ Caribbean Journeys

Belize: Diving by Phil Carta and Jenny Darby

Cayman Island: Diving by Jackie Galvin

Cozumel by Glenn Stevens

Cruising: Guidebook Reviewed by Lynn McKamey

Jamaica: Diving by Phil Carta and Jenny Darby

Jamaica: Couples by Bill Fish M.D.

St. Barths by Sandy Reynolds

St. Lucia by Stephan Moore

St. Martin by Bill Foley

St. Martin by Harry Richardson

About our Contributors
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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, 10400 Griffin Road, Suite 303, Ft.Lauderdale, FL 33328 -- (800-934-DIVE). The material is copyrighted and all rights are reserved so we thank them for allowing the CTR to use their material.

Jackie Galvin ( Cayman Island) owns ISEA, a certification organization. She had been a diving and instructing for over 12 years. She enjoys diving the Caymans (Orange Canyon is her favorite) as well as every other island setting (excluding Jamaica). Age: 36 She is married and her husband owns a computer store . She has 2 children and 2 pets. Married: Husband owns a computer store. Jackie can be reached at International Scuba Educators. P. O. Box 17388, Clearwater FL 34622-0388

/CARIBBEAN JOURNEYS FOR NOVEMBER 1994

Belize: Diving by Phil Carta and Jenney Darby
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With generally low expectations of accommodations in third world countries my 13 year old Diving Daughter and I were pleasantly surprised with our recent visit to Turneffe Flats in Belize. Located on Turneffe Atoll the resort is between the Barrier Reef (second largest in the world) and Lighthouse Reef, right in the middle of some of the best diving the Caribbean has to offer.

Walls! Walls! Walls!

If you like wall diving then Turneffe is for you! I am a wall fanatic and was finally able to get my fill at Turneffe. The dives are spectacular with barrel sponges large enough to climb into, all varieties of tube sponges, azure vase sponges . . . many of the walls were covered with black coral, sea rods, plumes, whips and deep water gorgonian. Looking into the blue we saw eagle rays on almost every dive along with occasional sharks, turtles and stingrays. We also had dolphins swimming in front of the boat one afternoon and I am told they sometimes hang around to play with the divers.

Belize must also have more cleaning stations than any destination I have ever visited. I replaced a large grouper at one and spent 30 minutes having my hand and mask cleaned by 5 Pederson cleaning shrimp and several tiny cleaning gobys. We also saw large lobsters and all species of crabs including tiny decorator and arrow crabs. There were anemones, feather dusters, banded coral shrimp, conch, flaming scallops, crinoid, brittle stars, sea cucumbers along with healthy stands of coral including, staghorn, star, brain, sheet, scroll and lettuce plus almost every kind of Caribbean reef fish.

Often you will have schools of gamefish such as jacks and permit. In other words the fish life is prolific because the entire area is surrounded by mangroves which make a perfect breeding ground for the marine life. There also is shore diving at Turneffe in the large shallow lagoon out front where there are several coral heads in 10 to 20 feet of water. We found octopus, large schools of grunts, eels, flounder and a myriad of species on just one dive. If you are an experienced diver you can swim the 100 yards out to the main reef (during and incoming tide only for obvious reasons) ? a world class shore dive.

The Turneffe Flats service started at the Belize City airport where we were quickly transported to the Radisson Fort George hotel for our first night. (Because of the late arrival of some flights an overnight is necessary.) If you arrive on an early flight there is plenty of time to take a tour to the ruins at Altun Ha or go to the Belize Zoo. Later in the evening you meet for a nice get acquainted dinner with the rest of your group, along with Doug and Nancy, the managers of Turneffe Flats.

The next morning we took a beautiful 90 minute ride through mangroves, past minuscule cayes with tiny homes and a short 8 mile open ocean crossing. When Turneffe Flats came into view I knew I had finally found my Little Slice of Heaven. The scene looked like something out of South Pacific with small wooden cabins, beautiful white sand beach and hundreds of coconut palms. To top that off the fringing reef is right off shore so you get the constant sound of the waves breaking over the reef to lull you to sleep at night. It just does not get any better than this!

There are only 3 cabins with 2 rooms in each so the maximum number of guests for an entire week is only 12. Each room has a double and twin bed with private bath, ceiling fans, louvered windows on three sides and a large front porch for relaxing and reading. Water for bathing is from a well so it is brackish. However, a large thermos of cold fresh rainwater is kept on the front porch for drinking. If you have a larger group the owners quarters is sometimes used for 2 or 4 additional people. The main house has the owner's apartment downstairs; the dining room and kitchen are upstairs along with the bar and general recreation area. The bar is well stocked and you are on the honor system: just have a beer or mix a drink and mark it.

Turneffe Flats started out as a fishing resort so usually you will have a mixture of divers and fisherman, assuring the dive boats will not be overcrowded. Turneffe Atoll is known for incredible bonefishing along with fishing for all other types of game fish but it is strictly on a catch and release program. The fish are not harmed in any way.

Upon arrival at Turneffe Flats you set your dive gear on your porch and never touch it again the rest of the week. Daniel sets it up every morning, puts new tanks on between dives, then rinses it in fresh water each evening. The most work you do during the week is put on your gear and do a simple back roll into the warm crystal clear water. Hugh Parkey is one of the best instructors I have had the pleasure to meet. He will gladly lead any dive for novice divers or leave experienced divers to buddy dive; underwater photographers will enjoy the freedom of not being required to have a buddy, as if photographers could ever be called a buddy.

Turneffe Flats supports the Hyberberic Chamber program in Belize and an optional charge of $1 per dive is prudent insurance. A typical dive day consists of a 2 tank morning dive and 1 tank afternoon dive with unlimited shore diving and night dives 1 or 2 times per week on request. Some days the cook packs a lunch and you do an all day 3 tank trip. Weather permitting you can do an all day trip to Lighthouse Reef where you have several choices of dive sites. My favorites are Half Moon Bay Wall and the West Side of Half Moon Bay. The Blue Hole is a one time must-do and it's fun to take a trip up to the Northern Caye to look for the wild dolphin that loves to spend time with snorkelers.

Boats are 31' Ocean Masters with dual 275's. Sites are never more that 30 minutes away and it's only 36 minutes to Half Moon Cay for a day trip.

Because Turneffe only takes a maximum of 12 to 14 guests per week they are very flexible and will try to do whatever the group wants. Want another trip to Lighthouse during the week? No problem, just cover the extra fuel cost. Need some excitement in your life? Try an evening of crocodile hunting (viewing only, no catching allowed!) in the mangroves. (Don't forget the Deet!) Waterskiing? Bonefishing? Deep sea fishing? Just ask the day before and it can be arranged. Service is the key word at Turneffe Flats and they deliver in spades.

Every morning you get a personal wake up call when your coffee or tea is delivered to your room. We returned from the dive boat on Friday afternoon to find that the staff had washed, dried and folded all our clothes! The meals are excellent with some of the best homemade bread I have ever had. They are served family style with platters of food refilled as needed. If you have special dietary requirements just let them know when the trip is booked and Turneffe Flats will make special arrangements as necessary. Yes, Turneffe Flats is A Little Slice of Heaven for the discriminating traveler who likes exceptional service and a quality dive experience.

The Mainland.

Don't forget mainland Belize when you are planning your trip. We suggest you spend a few extra days and see some of the sites. You can stay at Fort Street, a small bed and breakfast operated by Hugh Parkey's charming wife Teresa, and take day trips into the interior.

Caribbean Adventures, in conjunction with G and W Holidays will gladly make any tour arrangements for you. Half day trips include the Belize Zoo, another "must see". All the animals are in natural settings and they have quite a collection including a jaguar, ocelot, puma, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, crocodiles and a huge variety of birds. Altun Ha is another good half day trip and gives you a taste of the Maya ruins. If you have time, you can visit Caracol, the largest Maya site ever discovered, explore stone caves and 1000 foot jungle falls, go horseback riding in the rainforest or cruise the New River where you'll see crocodiles, birds and howler monkeys. For adventure take a trip to the Maya site at Tikal, across the border in Guatemala.

Belize, with its spectacular underwater scenery and awe inspiring sites above water, has something for everyone.

Cayman Islands by Jackie Galvin
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I've just returned from a very very nice trip to Grand Cayman. I stayed with Jeff and Caryn at the Magnificent Dive Dump and let me put your mind at ease... this is NO DUMP!!!

Caryn met us at the airport, gave one of the party a ride to the car rental place and waited for us to "load up and move'm out". We followed her to MDD and were very surprised to find a very plain building with 5 doors, one for each room. As you enter the room, on one side is a two burner stove, a small refrigerator, a dish washer as well as a microwave, Mr. Coffee and a blender! More than I have in my own kitchen!!! On the other side is a full bath stocked with plenty of towels and very very clean.

As you continue you will see two full-sized beds on one side and a nice closet on the other. Night stand and dresser as well as a glass kitchen table and four chairs also accent the room. Continuing... through the double sliding glass doors and out the back, which is the front to them. The enchantment starts here: Iron shore (very lava like rock) surrounds a small concrete pathway, just past the 3 hammocks and small sand area. At the end of the pathway is the beautiful brilliant blue Caribbean sea... just fantastic. All of this is your view from your room every am, pm and whatever time you look out your windows.

A totem pole contains the visitors signs, almost all made from pieces of raw material YOU find and the paints are provided by Jeff and Caryn. Yes there is ONE sign which was made in the states and transported to Cayman, but it just doesn't fit in.... Sorry Bob, but the rules have been changed: You MUST make your sign after arrival and with whatever you can find, no more "man made" stuff!.

Bring some foods, but not alot. We visited the grocery store and the prices were not much higher than home. Meat is very expensive, but the rest is very easily purchased, plus you have the options to stay away from the HIGH PRICED restaurants go where the locals go. We did it both ways and found the local Cayman foods fandamntastic!!!

We did bring way too much food, most of which I tossed or gave away....

Do bring your own alcohol, Pepsi is $2.79 a six pack, and coffee is within most areas for price referral. We bought eggs and milk, as well as butter and bread for our breakfast and the rest of the time we wingggggged it.

Nice, Nice, Nice....

I recommend this to everyone!

I really enjoyed this trip... Caryn and Jeff, owners; Darlene the Instructor and Lesterthe Divemaster and let's not forget Mobile, the maid... all of whom made the stay so enjoyable!

The wall is approx. 100 yards, give or take a few 100, from MDD's path. You enter the water at a four foot drop, easily I might add, follow the buoys out and swim or snorkel or scuba due west. It's not a radical drop, but it is very nice to have your front yard be this exceptional. The drop is approx. 50 feet to about 120 to the absolute bottom which is sandy. Very comfortable, very little current and most pleasurable. Try to stay between 60-80 feet if you're going to be doing more diving later that day and make sure the boat operator knows your profile BEFORE they select a site for your enjoyment. Snorkeling is excellent from the four foot to the pipeline. No disappointment here...

Time went by too quickly as I will probably stay ten days on my next trip... This is a recommendation from the one and only Jackie at SEA!

Cook outs and bonfires as well as Buffet music compliment the days' diving as the sun goes down. This is relaxing...

The turtle farm is five driveways south of the MDD. From there go and explore what you wish. A Bird house maker is very proud of his houses and is a definite "MUST SEE". Crystal stores as well as every kind of restaurant is available... Just check them out.

I went to Cayman with no plans to do anything except relax. I did relax, and play hard and have fun, and share conversation with everyone and sunbathe, and go to 7 mile beach and everything I wanted to do once I arrived. Leisure is a nice vacation element, no matter how you use it.

So, that's my story on the Magnificent Dive Dump... watch for articles to appear in Dive Training Magazine, as well as U/W USA and several others...

And.... I will return.........

Cozumel by Glenn Stevens
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OLA! Cozumel

Cozumel is one fantastic place to be in September! It is quiet, not crowded, friendly and sunny!!! Yeah, it rained every day for a little while but there was far more sun than clouds and rain.

My wife and I were both changing jobs at the same time (talk about stress!!!!!) and decided we needed a vacation. Of course the problem was $$$. We have traveled last minute before and decided to try it again and hope we could go somewhere we haven't been before. Typically when you book last minute it seems as Cancun is the only location available. Boy did we get lucky! Having been to Cancun twice and liking it a lot we were thrilled when they had openings in Cozumel 1 week before we wanted to leave. We held off a couple of days and the price dropped $100 per person. We took it! We ended up with a week at the Fiesta Inn Cozumel.

The charter trip was normal, small plane and crowded! There was a layover at Cancun to catch the little puddle jumper to Cozumel. When we landed at Cozumel the weather was beautiful! The sun was shining, it was 90 degrees and it felt fabulous. The trip to the hotel was quick and easy as the tour operator had a number of GMC trucks that seated 9 awaiting the flight.

Check in can be a hassle on these tours as they usually don't have rooms ready till 3 PM. I went to the front desk and checked right in at NOON! The rooms were very nice, clean and spacious. Ours overlooked the pool area with a small porch off the sliding doors. The pool area was huge. It is the largest in Cozumel and almost as large as the one at the Oasis in Cancun, which is probably the largest in Mexico.

We went over to the beach after getting settled. It is accessed through a tunnel under the road. The beach is obviously artificial and fairly small. It was built over some dead coral reefs and has a ladder into the water. The water is the most incredible combination of clear greens and blues. Not being a swimmer I went down the ladder and hung on to it to look around. I saw more types and varieties of fish from that ladder than I have seen on any trip anywhere else, even snorkeling!.

The hotel is 2 miles from the town of San Miguel which is Cozumel's' downtown. We went out to dinner somewhere different each night. We walked the 2 miles to town each morning around 7:30 for breakfast and ate at Las Palmeras. We always got a table overlooking the docks where the shuttles to Puerto Aventuras and the mainland were. We tried everything from cereal to Mexican breakfasts. We never had bad service or a bad meal. (Try the Muletos, it is a wonderful Mexican breakfast)

We would then taxi back to the hotel and head for the beach. Our idea of a nice day was sitting on the beach and reading, with an occasional dip to cool off. The sun was quite hot and even in September if you have no base, watch out! Fortunately, from all my recent trips to Jamaica I could stay in the sun most of the day without a problem. (TIP: shower and apply a really good aftersun to avoid peeling).

We did take three trips. The first was a real adventure. Motor scooters were only $25 a day so I rented one. We were going to travel about the island a bit and see the sights. Well, it rained. I really wasn't concerned with this but my wife was very uncomfortable on the scooter to the point of making it unstable as she wiggled around. We stopped at the Hotel Presidente Cozumel for the day. It cost $10 each to use the facilities for the day but it was beautiful. The beach was nice and you could walk into the water and see numbers of fish in 4 feet of water. It was expensive! Lunch was $15 each for sandwiches. Tecate beer was $3.50! We enjoyed it very much even though it was a bit expensive. I rode the scooter back, my wife took a cab.

They warn you about bad traffic etc. But at this time of year it was very light. I wouldn't hesitate to rent a scooter if you want to get around this time of year.

Our next trip was a tour of Cozumel. We went to our tour operator and he got us a very nice gentleman named George (Jorge) to take us on a 4 hour tour for $60. George picked us up on time (it was raining very hard) and within 15 minutes the rain stopped and we were really enjoying our trip. George was a wonderful guide. He had a clean cab and was very knowledgeable. He took us up to the other side of the hotel area to show us the other hotels and the marina as well as where the road ended. The northern (eastern) part of Cozumel is basically uninhabited (Cozumel is only 6% developed) and the roads are dirt and meant only for 4 wheel drive vehicles.

We then headed across the island to the open ocean side. We stopped at a little beach with a cantina. The water was actually calm that day and it was warm and crystal clear. Often it is rough and windy on this side. My wife got her first chance to pet an Iguana. They are actually vegetarians and their skin feels like soft cloth.

We went down the road further to another beach that was protected by some reefs and went in snorkeling. Not much to see, but the water was wonderful.

Our next stop was at Playa Bonita. There is a nice restaurant and about 5 miles of uninhabited beach. While we enjoyed a nice lunch the waiters were checking out the nude sunbathers with a set of binoculars. We wound around the western tip of the island and went through miles of jungle and swamp. (Yes, they still have alligators and wild boar) George then took us to the Archaeological Park. If you enjoy history and archaeology you will love this place. It has some originals and many copies of pieces discovered all over Mexico. A guide explains the history from the farthest recorded time to the nearest. It was a bargain at $3.00.

We then returned to the hotel via town.

It is obvious that Cozumel is not poor. There were some very nice farms, condos and homes on the route. Any questions we had George answered and he earned himself a $10 tip. If you travel with GWV ask your rep to hire George. You won't regret it.

Our third day trip was to Chankanab Park. It was about a 10 mile trip and about $5.00 by cab. It is a snorkelers' heaven and a cave divers' wonder. The park lies over 12 miles of underwater caves. Even snorkelers can see the statue of Christ that was placed in the water for a festival some years ago. There is a restaurant and beautiful gardens you can walk. There is a small museum that you should visit to learn about the exploration of the caves. There are hundreds of fish in the lagoon (which you can no longer enter due to the damage done). Iguanas are everywhere they are not afraid of people.

If you want to shop there is plenty of that to do in San Miguel. Anything and everything. We hit Max's Supermarket for bottled water (1/2 the price the hotel charges) and some Tequila and snacks. We also walked "La Plaza" the shopping district that is foot traffic only. It makes it easier to get around.

Restaurants run the gamut. Carlos and Charlie's was only OK. Plaza Leza was great and inexpensive. Morgans was only OK as well. The find of the trip was Rincon Maya! It is listed as moderate but we found it inexpensive (for Cozumel). The owner waited on us and took great care of us. The place was almost deserted the night we went but what a treat! The food was incredible. They had to send out to get us some wine but otherwise WOW!!! Don't miss this place. It is a few blocks back from the plaza. Well worth the walk. The other find was El Moro. You will probably want to cab to here it is on Calle 75 well out of the center of town. The food was fantastic, the service excellent and the prices very reasonable. Needless to say we tended to stick with Mexican and Yucatan dishes the whole time. (Except for fish which neither of us eat) You can get it mild or hot. Definitely try the Yucatan pork!

Well, I don't know how much more I can say about such a wonderful vacation. Just go! Off season it is reasonable and makes for a fantastic vacation. Would we go back? Can we leave tomorrow, please???

Cruising: Guidebook Reviewed by Lynn McKamey
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(Ed Note: Lynn has requested that her material appear in all the edtions of the CTR.)

When we plan a vacation, the first thing I do is visit the local bookstores in search of a few GOOD travel books to give us some ideas about the region, things to do, and places to stay and eat.

Alas, detailed guidebooks to Caribbean Islands are far and few between! Granted, in the large travel guides, you might find a chapter with short paragraphs about various resorts, some quick travelers tips, and if you are lucky, a general map of the island, but usually it's little more than a brief overview. Those seeking information about watersports such as sailing, diving, and deep sea fishing find even less available.

Fortunately, CRUISING GUIDE PUBLICATIONS, a Florida mail order book company now offers very detailed guides to most islands of the Caribbean, Bahamas, Greece, and also Tahiti and the Vava'u Island group in the Pacific! Want to know the best way to reach the island, or the phone numbers of island rentals and resorts, where to eat, shop, snorkel, dive, fish, or sail? Most everything you ever wanted or needed to know about an island is in a Cruising Guide publication!

I first discovered these guides back in 1988, when I picked up Chris Doyle's "Exploring the Windward Islands - a complete guide for vacationers", while planning a trip to St. Lucia. I was delighted to find a big map of the island, another of downtown Castries (with restaurants, shops, taxi stands, and location of tourist bureau marked on it), plus maps of N.E. St. Lucia, the area around Soufriere, and Vieux Fort on the southern tip of the island! Scattered on the pages between the maps were detailed descriptions of places of interest, beaches, bars and restaurants, resorts, shops, nature tours, and water sports. Best of all, in the back of the book, was a section listing phone numbers for most of the hotels, airlines, restaurants, car rentals, etc. Armed with Chris's book, we had no problem planning our vacation in great detail! I also discovered that Chris had also published a Sailors Guide to the Windward Islands, which carried most of the same information but with more details for the sailing crowd... best anchorages, sailing routes, and chartering operations.

As the new editions were published along the way, the 1990s books evolved into thick, but easily packable guidebooks combining land and sea information. Color photos were added, along with more details about the islands, colorful and fun advertisements from quaint Caribbean shops, hotels, and businesses. I, for one, can hardly wait for the new editions to come out every year or so!

Ever wanted to know ALL about the small islands of Statia and Saba? Order a copy of the new edition of The CRUISING GUIDE to the LEEWARD ISLANDS! This 366 page booklet includes information about those islands and all the others from Anguilla south to Dominica. A special section for scuba divers is included and GPS coordinates of popular anchorages for the sailing set are noted on the maps.

I have been curious about how to visit St. Vincent and the Grenandines ever since we floated past them on a cruise ship several years ago. The new edition of WINDWARD ISLANDS has enough information packed in it for us to plan an island hopping vacation through the Grenandines by taking ferry boats and "mail boats" from St. Vincent all the way down to Union Island. Best of all, we can scuba dive along the way since most of the dive shops and telephone numbers are listed in the book!

A free catalog is available and includes guides to the Virgin Islands, TrinidadTobago-Venezuela and Bonaire, Bahamas, Florida coasts, even New Zealand! The catalog also includes nautical charts and videos of many cruising and vacation destinations, island adventure novels, diving & snorkeling guides, and island restaurant guides and cookbooks! They ship worldwide.

To receive your free catalog, write or call:
CRUISING GUIDE PUBLICATIONS, P.O.B. 1017, Dunedin, Florida 34697-1017
1-800-330-9542 or 1-813-734-8179

Jamaica: Diving by Phil Carta and Jenny Darby
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Jamaica is finally coming into its own as a dive destination. Marine parks have been established, conservation efforts are going strong and many dive sites now have mooring buoys. Divers are beginning to realize that the conservation efforts are paying off as the reefs, once devastated by hurricanes and fishing, are coming back strong. You will still see Locals spear fishing but gone are the days of bringing up everything on the reef to sell.

Jamaica has something for everyone ? good diving, beautiful topside scenery, excellent lodging and restaurants ? and is convenient and inexpensive to reach from the States. Be forewarned however that Jamaica is addictive: I've just returned from my 8th visit!

With locations from luxurious all-inclusive to private villas and small inexpensive beach front inns, Jamaica has it all. It's all but impossible to separate lodging, diving and activities in Jamaica because everything melts into one memorable experience.

Montego Bay

...is probably the busiest spot on the island because of the variety of top side activities for non-divers (and divers, too!). We really liked the Wyndham Rose Hall Resort in Montego Bay. This luxury 500 room resort is 10 minutes outside Montego Bay on a beautiful stretch of sandy beach with an 18 hole golf course on the property, 4 restaurants, 4 lounges and nightly live entertainment. Children have their own daily programs along with babysitters for the evenings. Susan Clare's Fundivers is there and offers 3 boat dives a day to reefs never more than 10 to 20 minutes away.

At Chubb Reef, we had schools of Bermuda chubb, lots of swim-throughs, schools of goatfish and a large green moray. Stingray Alley had stingrays, cleaning stations, schools of tang and other tropicals. There seems to be a real abundance of small fish life in Jamaica with schools of every kind of reef fish along with nurse sharks, an occasional eagle ray, triggerfish, white-spotted filefish, trumpetfish, fairy basslets, coral shrimp, arrowcrabs, spotted drums, spotted morays, goldentail morays, parrotfish, flamingo tongues, nudibranchs and beautiful basket stars on night dives.

On Friday evenings Twilight Time at Rose Hall has the best live jazz in Jamaica, along with cocktails and dinner. Who knows? ...you may see the ghost of Annie Palmer, the "White Witch" of Rose Hall!

Negril

For the really laid back and adventurous at heart we suggest Negril where you can stay at luxury all-inclusives like Poinciana or in small $35 a night beach huts like the Sea Gem. Midrange properties are the Rock Cliff and XTABI. Negril is the perfect place for divers on a budget that have the adventurous spirit. There is always a party going on ? just ask any Local and they can tell you where.

The diving is very good in Negril with 35 different sites to choose from, all of which have mooring buoys thanks to the efforts of the Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society. On the few dives that I had the opportunity to do there were schools of juveniles, barracuda, turtles, almost every species of moray eel, plane wrecks, cleaning stations, flamingo tongues and coral banded shrimp. We also had loads of fun with swim-throughs and arches.

Runaway Bay

For a quieter atmosphere I suggest staying in Runaway Bay at Ambiance where the air conditioned rooms are more basic. There is a pool, a small beach and great diving. Runaway Bay has everything a diver could want from old Spanish Anchors . . . to shallow reefs . . . to a wall that starts in only 10 feet of water.

For meals you can eat at Ambiance or try the small local spot across the street. In the dive shop is a great selection of handpainted Mongoose Crossing T-shirts.

Land Adventures

Topside activities abound in Jamaica. Most hotels either have tour companies on the properties or will make arrangements with local tour operators. Or you could rent a jeep and explore on your own. You may want to try some of the following:

The Mary-Ann Fun Cruise aboard a 57 foot Australian Ketch which sails daily for 3? hours includes reggae music, open bar, guided reef tour, snorkeling equipment, souvenir snapshots under water and a foot massage by a reflexologist.

If sailing is not your thing try a helitour of Jamaica and see the beautiful blue mountains, Dunns River falls, Ocho Rios and Noel Coward's house. James Bond fans will be delighted to see Ian Fleming's home and historians will enjoy Port Royal, a former haunt of pirates and buccaneers.

We enjoyed a romantic evening on the great river, a breath-taking ride through the valley with towering mountains on both sides. Light from Bamboo torches glisten on the water and the stars are spectacular.

Other attractions include rafting on the Martha Brae, climbing Dunns River Falls, a gorgeous 800 foot waterfall located in Ocho Rios, and for nature and history buffs the Blue Hole Museum Plantation and Great House. For birdwatchers there is the Rocklands Feeding Station where the birds are fed by hand and horse aficionados will enjoy the Rocky Point Riding Stables.

One afternoon we took a bamboo raft trip down the beautiful Black River and saw crocodiles along with gorgeous unspoiled scenery, and then went to Y.S. Falls for a swim. We also visited the Grotto & Runaway Caves, where the Maroons and runaway slaves used to hide out during the Sugar Cane Era. And, although we missed them, there are stables for horseback riding and trips to Booby Cay where Walt Disney made 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

There is a wide variety of dining experiences in Montego Bay including your hotel of course. Of particularly good note are Lychee Garden Chinese Restaurant in the Blue Diamond Shopping Centre and, for inexpensive meals, the Pelican on Gloucester Avenue. Most local restaurants will arrange transportation from your hotel for dinner.

We enjoy local food and saved lots of money at places such as the Lighthouse and L.T.U. (overlooking the ocean and a good happy hour spot). Rocky Dell is very Jamaican as is Sweet & Spice. The restaurant in the XTABI hotel and the Red Snapper were also excellent. Kuyaba and Cosmos are local beach places.

For those who love Caribbean clothing be sure to try Caribatik located in Falmouth about 20 minutes east of Montego Bay.

Although I've only visited extensively in Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios, there are many other terrific and beautiful parts of the island. There are also private houses to rent throughout the island.

Another option for visitors to Jamaica is an excursion to Cuba. There are several companies operating day trips and longer. You can hop across to Cuba in only 40 minutes, departing after breakfast and returning in time for dinner or even spend an entire weekend in Havana if you would like to. (Of course, US citizens should check first as to the current legality of going to Cuba.)

Dive Jamaica today and you will be in on the infancy of what will undoubtedly become a very hot dive destination.

Jamaica: Couples by Bill Fish M.D.
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Four couples, including my wife and I, traveled to Couples all inclusive resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica from Kansas City. We left the airport in K.C. with minimal problem. American Airlines gave one wife a hassle over her papers to enter Jamaica. She didn't have a passport, her driver's license had her married name, and her birth certificate, amazingly enough, was in her maiden name.

After some argument, all 8 of us were allowed on the plane. While passports are not required to enter Jamaica, it might save some hassles. Flights were booked through Go Go Tours and took us from K.C. to Chicago to Miami to Montego Bay.

Customs at Montego Bay airport is a disaster. (Painless to leave, however) Lines were extremely long. There is a line to declare and a line not to declare. It seemed those who went through the line to declare items made it through much quicker than the rest of us. There is a place to change money in the airport, but the little Jamaican currency we needed could be obtained at the resort at a better exchange rate. Once you clear customs, it is only about 20 yards to the spot where the Super Clubs people will grab your bags to take them to the bus. Carry your own bags the small distance if you prefer not to tip. After being told tips were included in the all inclusive price, we were a bit surprised to find the Super Clubs people ALL asked for tips until arriving in the resort itself. The guy carrying the bag, the guy offering the "complimentary Red Stripe" both asked for tips directly. The bus driver just put up a sign that read, "Tipping the driver is allowed." While we tipped each, it should not be a necessity.

The bus trip was NOT the horror we had been led to believe. It was an hour and a half to the resort with a pit stop along the way to buy a beer and a snack or have a bathroom break.

Check in was painless. We were given paperwork to fill out while we sipped the provided Champagne. One couple didn't like their room's view and they were immediately given another.

All of the rooms were nice, though not luxurious, and all had air conditioning. There was a king size bed in each. Each also included a small safe with a lock given at the desk to insert into the safe. The balconies, closets, and bathrooms were of varying sizes. Ours were the smallest and they were still of adequate size. The hair dryers only worked in half of the rooms. Each room had a radio/cassette/CD player. Outlets are 110 volt. Our tub/shower had variable water pressure and was difficult to set temperature properly but was adequate for quick showers. The towel supply given to each room was meager. Ours had two full sized towels and one wash cloth. It was difficult to get more towels or wash cloths and we quickly gave up trying. Towels were available early in the day by the pool or in the exercise room and we used our hand towels for wash clothes. The views from each of our rooms was quite nice but the upper floor rooms were nicest.

After our bus trip, we thought tipping was expected everywhere on the resort.

We did in fact tip a number of people and all but one person accepted the tips but it did not get any better service or treatment from anyone. My advice is, do not tip.

The grounds are located on a private beach and private security could be seen at all times though they were not intrusive. In the late evening a sax player roams the grounds playing mood music.

DINING:

Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style and they were terrific. The selection of food was immense. I think I tried about everything and it was all good. Ulysses makes a mean omelet to order and the thick French toast was my favorite breakfast item. Breakfast is from 7:30 to 10:30 and lunch is from 12:00 to 2:30. Dinner was served by the pool one night and was quite good. The other nights dinner is served in one of the three restaurants. The Verandah Restaurant served International cuisine from 7:30 to 10 p.m. and was very good. Some entrees were served a bit cold, but mine was great. I had just finished enjoying some excellent lamb and commented to one of our group how good their lobster looked. The waiter overheard and brought lobster for all those had tried the other entrees. The Jamaican red wine was very good and there was no hesitation at filling the glasses. A country western guitar player was moving to each table taking requests.

The Bayside Restaurant is by the water and serves Italian from 6:30 to 9:30. It was very good.

Le Gourmet serves French Cuisine from 7:30 to 9 p.m. It was a wonderful 6 course meal. The dress is "casually elegant". The dress code was enforced spottily. One of the wives had to go back and change shoes because she was wearing sandals, though they were the nicest shoes any of us had on. Jackets were not required. This meal alone would have added several hundred dollars to the price tag of staying in a non all inclusive hotel.

There is also a beachside grill with jerk chicken, burgers, dogs, fries, serving throughout the afternoon.

Saturday night offered a poolside meal.

There were no popsicles or ice cream at the resort. On warm days at the beach, these would have been nice.

POOL and HOT TUBS:

There is a pool near the main building and a smaller pool with swim up bar on the clothing optional island. The main pool has a diving board and rarely had people in it. It was equipped with a basketball hoop and a volleyball net if desired. There are about 5 jacuzzis. Near the main pool is a larger cool water jacuzzi and a hot water jacuzzi. There is a smaller, more private hot tub on the other side of the bushes from the lawn chess board. People didn't readily see this and our group of eight was found there many evenings. There are 2 other small jacuzzis for two in the "jungle" in front of the main building. We were instructed to cough before approaching the jungle hot tubs in case there was any intimate activity occurring in them. The jungle was a dense foliage with walkways throughout and a small aviary with benches and hot tubs interspersed along the way. Many weddings occurred on the grounds near here. Fourteen weddings were held on Valentine's Day alone. Hot tub temperatures were very inconsistent. One night none of them were heated and on other nights the large tub was too hot to get into.

BARS:

The piano bar is in the main building and serves brand name imported beers and liquor. The piano bar had a terribly musty smell that kept us from sitting in there to sing with the piano player but we went in to get drinks frequently. They had no problem letting you take your bottled beer from the bar. The piano bar is open from 6:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. or whenever people are all gone. Another bar was adjacent to the pool and the beach. The main bar by the pool, beach, and entertainment was open from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. We enjoyed the many drinks of the day and there was no skimping on liquor content so be careful. (We enjoyed the hummingbirds on the beach.) Drink orders are not taken on the beach, nor are popsicles or other snacks brought as they are in some resorts. It was only a few feet to the bar, however.

ENTERTAINMENT:

The resident band was very good and played from 9 to 10 p.m. The DJ plays requests from 10-10:30. The entertainers then took over and were followed by dancing with the band until 1 a.m. Entertainment included a guest staff fashion show including some humor, an Elvis impersonator, Cabaret performances and several bands. There was also a Karoake night. Frequent short activities were organized by "String Bean" and the other social directors throughout the day.

EXCURSIONS:

We didn't go to Fern Gully or the Plantation Tour so I can't comment. Do NOT miss the Dunn's River Falls Tour on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. It was a ball. The staff entertainment was great. Everyone was involved with learning to reggae, limbo contests, beer chugging, all done after a trip up the falls. The girls also enjoyed the shopping excursion into town and became bartering pros.

Other excursions were available at an extra fee. Some took the river raft ride and said it was very nice. There was also deep sea fishing and night scuba diving.

ARTS and CRAFTS:

There are activities daily like basket weaving, tye dye shirt making, macrame, batik, etc.

C/O Island:

While the staff stated the clothes must come off on the island, this was not the case. Feel free to take a look at the island even if you elect to remain covered. It is really quite small with a small swim up bar and a pool table.

The people who were there were the biggest partiers by far. They drew up their own daily activities including lingerie shows and a raid on Sandals resort. The people on the island had been to Couples double digit times.

SPORTS:

Beach volley ball is a lot of fun. Thursday was the staff vs. guest volleyball tourney and was fun to play or watch. We also organized some late night volley ball games with other people we met.

The billiards room, the ping pong table, and the two nice, air conditioned, squash courts were open all night.

There were 5 tennis courts in excellent condition. There was always a full cooler of brand name beer and soda by the courts. The instruction was outstanding. Ask for Evan. BTW, Evan was the only person who refused a tip.

They have a paddle ball court, a 3 sided racquetball court, and there were bicycles available, though I don't know if there were many places to ride them.

HORSEBACK RIDING:

We took the half hour ride which amounts to riding around the corral for 30 minutes. Wimpy seemed the most spirited horse and Simon took his rider down to the street before the staff managed to get him going the right direction. The one hour rides are from 3-4 p.m. and go through the countryside but we didn't get a chance to take that ride.

AEROBICS:

Rocky is the aerobics instructor. My wife took the early morning aerobic to look at Rocky who she said is built much better than Rocky Stallone. After the first day, she just watched and forgot about exercising.

GOLF:

Golf was played at Jamaica Jamaica resort. The golf was free, but clubs must be rented if you don't bring your own. They weren't expensive. You must either hire a caddie or rent a cart. I'd suggest the caddies. They were knowledgeable about the greens and fun to listen to. Quoting our favorite caddie, Melbourne, whenever a nice drive was made, "We Rockin We boppin Billy! Solid gold rock n roll music ball mahn!" Narlis was also a good caddie. Everyone we talked to wanted the caddie they had the first time, so I don't suspect there were many bad caddies. Make sure the resort takes the air conditioned bus or van to the course. On our trip to the course the large van was not air conditioned and we stopped at 3 or 4 resorts along the way to pick up golfers. By the time we got to the course 2 hours later, we were packed in like sardines with golf clubs piled on top of us. We got caught in traffic in Ocho Rios and were drenched in sweat by the time we arrived to play. We had decided not to make the trip to the course again but a different air conditioned bus was used to pick us up and we just made sure this bus was used to take us on any further golfing trips. If you want beer on the course, ask in the club house before leaving. They provided us with a plastic trash can filled with beers and ice. We paid a buck a beer on the front nine and the price rose to 11 dollars for 8 beers on the back nine. Go figure. We also got a box filled with ice, beer, and coke for the return bus trip to Couples.

GYM:

There is a nice Nautilus circuit as well as treadmills, bikes, and stair steppers.

WATER SPORTS:

The beach is open for swimming and water sports from 9-5. There wasn't any thing to see snorkeling so don't plan to go for this activity. The wind was too strong several days prohibiting water sports of any kind. I have heard from others that this is not uncommon at Couples. When not too windy, Windsurfing, Sunfish, canoes, Water Trikes are available and instruction given. You can take a fun, fast, ride on the Hobie Cat with a staff member or a glass bottom boat ride. Waterskiing, kneeboarding and tubing is from 8:30 to 10 a.m. The tube is a banana tube for 5 riders and leaves from the volleyball court on the beach. The water skiing leaves from the dock on occasion but usually from the beach.

SCUBA diving instruction, equipment and safety precautions were superb. Michael Colin was the dive master and was an outstanding instructor. Novice dive instruction is given daily in the pool. Novice dives are taken daily at 8:30 a.m. and experienced, certified divers may dive again at 10:30 and noon. Two guys in our group had never snorkeled and they took the brief SCUBA class and felt comfortable on the novice dives. No need to bring any equipment. The BCDs and regulators were top notch. Better than what I trained with in K.C., anyway. Open water certification is available at an extra fee. While the dive master and equipment was excellent, the aquatic life was not very impressive. The coral was scarce as were the fish. One 90 foot dive was pretty good and we saw a ray and a lobster. We also made a dive to a large sunken ship and dove into one area of the hull where an eel made his home. The surge was strong on the shallower novice dives and one of our group got sea sick when he surfaced. If great diving is a prerequisite to your trip, another island with better reefs might be in order.

Massages were available at an extra fee as were laundry services.

All in all, the strengths of Couples, were the generally quiet, romantic atmosphere available any time, the great buffet style meals, the sports programs and instruction, and the social directors varied activities. The restaurants were very good and at times great. The rooms adequate and the over all value for the dollar spent was outstanding. Not having been at other resorts, it is impossible to know if you might get more pampering at a more expensive resort such as Grand Lido. We had to scrounge around for forks and towels at times and the pace of service usually had one slow speed, but that is Jamaica. Though I listed several negatives, they were all minor. I'm planning our next trip and the three other couples all want to return to Couples - Ocho Rios. They thought it was the best vacation they had ever been on and they didn't want to risk a let down at another resort. I'd like to try a new experience but I would return to Couples with no hesitation.

F.Y.I. Before leaving the resort ask how much the exit fee is at the airport.

It is much less expensive when paid in Jamaican dollars. Get the appropriate change or use up any you have accumulated. Post cards we gave the staff to mail arrived about 5 weeks after we arrived back home. The overseas operator would accept only an AT&T card number.

St. Barths by Sandy Reynolds
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Recently we returned from a trip to St. Barts.

We don't speak French. ( had 40,000 frequent fly miles expiring this year)

AS AN IMPORTANT TIP to travels anywhere in the Caribbean or Bahamas I would like to point out an interesting fact. In addition to the usual guides, Fieldings, Fodors and Frommers I have found more interesting travel information in the "Yachtsman" or "Cruising" guides. In addition to the navigational information you will find listed the fun bars and less expensive restaurants not to mention the best reefs, dive shops and beaches. You can even find out where to get the best coconut muffins and the name of the woman who runs the bakery. Some guides even include information on local fish and birds and the recipes for cooking same (the fish - not the birds). Oh yes, there is a lot of technical cruising info but, in addition to be interesting, much can be useful also such as wind, weather, rain and tides. Other questions one might ask; what is the phone service like, will my cellular phone work there. Also you can find all pertinent information you might find in a typical travel guide like customs regulations, holidays, exchange rates, electric voltages, medical facilities etc. etc.

In this case the guide used was "Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands". It covers islands Anguilla down through Dominica. ("Cruising Guide to the Windward Islands" covers Martinique through Trinidad & Tobago). They are published by Cruising Guide Publications (813) 733-5322. It can be found in most good boating supply stores.

Ok, Now on to St. Barts.

Our first reaction was that of surprise. As we exited the airport from out 10 minute flight from St. Martin we noticed none of the swarms of native folks usually hanging around island airports.

Their small airport itself is a piece of work and seems to be a major photo attraction. You'll see what I mean when you get there. Yes you can take a boat over (1.5 - 2 hrs.) from St. Martin for about $60.00 RT. The air fare is about $90 RT.

The Island is absolutely beautiful. All the homes are brightly colored, neat and clean. (You will find no shanty town or shack villages on this island.) The island is quite mountainous and most homes and hotels are positioned in mountainsides affording them great views of one of the numerous sandy bays below. We stayed at the Village of St. Jean Hotel Cottages ($105 off season). They have their own restaurant but it was closed in September. It is located next to another similarly priced and attractive resort, the Tropical Hotel. Yes there are beach front hotels if that is your thing and of course you wouldn't need a car.

However, you might have second thoughts once you see the spectacular views the cliff dwellers have.

Because of the hilly nature of this island and in order to take advantage of all it has to offer, I strongly recommend a car rental, at least a motor scooter. Once you see the island you'll want to explore especially all those outlying beaches. The drive time around the Island is about 1-2 hrs, not allowing for any exploration.

We took advantage of the Cruising guides recommendations for restaurants, all of which for the most part were French. All of our choices were in Gustavia where the action is. It is the main city and harbor. Although not large, it can be walked in 20 minutes, the guide says there are over 20 of them in Gustavia alone a few of which were closed during September. We can recommend quite a few including a couple new discoveries of our own. Understand for us a real "Night Out" will be at a medium priced restaurant ($60 all inclusive for two) while the more routine dining you could low budget ($35-40) Incidentally, on St. Barts TIPS ARE INCLUDED in the pricing not just added on the bottom of the check as in other places.

As for as our "night out" category we ate at LE REMPAIRE. It is was a thoroughly enjoyable place with a great view of the harbor entrance.

L'ENTRACTE, (Rue Du Centennaire) is a low budget restaurant $35 dinner for two including a small carafe of wine. The food was abundant and great. I would say this is a "local" place and not in any of the books. It Is typically French and faces the Harbor inside of town by the small boat docks. I discovered this while looking for a early morning place (with atmosphere) to have a coffee and croissant while my wife slept. It is one of the few that opens at 7am. Many of the islands tradesmen and the live aboard sailors seem to make this an early morning stop also. I loved it enough to make this my morning stop for the five days we were there.

Just behind this restaurant (Rue Courbet) is a new, small, unobtrusive restaurant called Ole. Dinners here will run about $40 again including a small carafe of wine. It is run by a young couple, Herve and Odette. They specialize in dishes from the Lyonnaise district of France.

Yes you can have your cheeseburger in paradise while in Gustavia. The place to go is LE SELECT. You won't miss it, I promise. Any walk around Gustavia will have you bumping into it. At night you will hear it before you see it. It is the official night spot. Actually it is a Bar with an outside grill. Le Select, in addition to being a hangout for the yachties, the tourists from the windjammers anchored in the harbor, it is the hangout for the beautiful folks, those who can afford a second (or third) home on this island. No joke, but

Jimmy Buffet is often seen here on his regular visits to the island. Le Select is open for lunch. Just across the street is another Bar / Restaurant L'OUBLI which often catches the over flow at night.

EDDIE'S GHETTO, a low budget yachtie restaurant is just up the street. It is very popular and fills up quickly It opens in the evening at 7pm.

Now on to the beaches. Just a short walk down the hill from our hotel (just past the airport when coming from Gustavia) is a very popular beaches the Baie of St. Jean. The western part of the beach is under the airports flight path but don't let that disturb you. The planes are infrequent and all are small prop planes even the commuter flights. It really makes for an interesting change of pace watching the planes skim the turquoise waters, rising and banking north to miss mountains top. If this still frightens you then just move over to the east side. It is separated by an outcropping of rocks on which there is a hotel. It seemed closed for September or was at least undergoing some renovation.

The absolutely best beach of all (one of the best anywhere) is ANSE DE GRANDE SALINE. The Saline part comes from the not so pretty salt ponds you have to drive past to get to it. This bay is on the south side of the island. You can find it on any map. Typically a big crescent cay with rocky cliffs at each end. It is about a half mile long. Three quarters of the way east in the middle of the bay you will see some rocks protruding from the surface. Below you will find coral growth and a large populations of tropical fish. Makes for nice snorkeling spot. All beaches are at least 50% topless. This beach has it's share of completely nude bathers also. They usually hang out at the sides as my wife and I did.

Understand our experiences are just a small part of what can be done in off season St. Barts. We can only say, the Island's geography is beautiful. Its restaurants, mostly French, that says enough, and the people despite our lack of any language skills on our behalf are friendly and cooperative. Unlike other Caribbean island they appreciate the tourists. We will definitely go back.

P. S. If you stay at Village of St. Jean Hotel Cottages and a little gray and white tabby cat comes to visit you in your cottage (the one without a collar) say hi to him from us. We've named him Bart and he loves sardines.

St. Lucia: Jalousie Plantation by Stephan Moore
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I just got back from Jalousie Plantation in St. Lucia. Folks, it doesn't get much better then this place.

The resort is situated on 320 acres between the Piton Mts. The view is absolutely breathtaking. The beach is of the black volcanic sand variety and there is a huge pool just off the beach. The resort is all inclusive including little things that sets it apart, e.g. in room safes, "cold" towels at poolside, fully stocked mini-bars outside the verandah next to your plunge pool, bedays' in the bathrooms, etc.

The food was first-rate and gourmet. There is a complete spa-a massage is included as part of your package. You can choose additional spa features at additional cost.

There are side trips available at reasonable prices, e.g. scuba, trips to Castries by water-taxi, trips to the "drive in" volcano, etc.

Transportation is by way of a shuttle. They are currently building a three hole golf course...their is no room for additional holes. I was only there for five days, so I "veged" out by the pool. The roads wiped out by "Debbie" have been somewhat restored, but the ride from the airport was interesting (9 miles took 1 hour).

St. Martin by Bill Foley
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We Flew down via Paradise Airways an arrived at 11:30 and were picked up Roy Rogers car and were at the Royal Islander by 12:30 (A Record). The Royal Islander is better than ever. The water was a little rougher than usual but not bad. We had a group staying at Divi Little Bay They were very happy with Divi this year. A few stayed at the Maho Beach hotel and there rooms were very nice. Others stayed one night at the Summit Hotel and the next day moved to the Divi Hotel. They were not happy with the Summit.

At the Royal Islander we had 4 units. All excellent.

restaurants

Chesterfields at Great Bay Marina - Excellent

Paradise Cafe - Very good as usual

Cheri's Cafe - excellent their red snapper was the best.

Goodfellows - very good

The Boathouse - fair

Lynettes - very disappointing seeing all the rave reviews. Food was poor and service was worse.

Dario's on front street in Philipsburg was a very nice surprise - Excellent Italian food with great atmosphere.

Side trips

Bluebeard to Prickley Pear - excellent day trip - good snorkeling - good food and excellent crew.

Day trip to Anguilla - worth going once - nice beaches and very quiet.

Falcon to St. Barths - Nice trip rough trip to St. Bart's but better on way back. Nice Island for a day trip. they now have a power boat "The Edge" that does this trip.

St. Kitts - A few flew Liat to St. kits for the day. Tried to book flight in the states and got prices of about $140 r/t We went to the airport in SXM and were able to get day rate of $71. Very nice day trip. Beautiful island beaches are not too good but there is a lot to see.

Horse Back Riding - A few went to Crazy Acres (closer to RI) and were pleased with the ride. Especially riding bare back in the water. Others went to the place near Orient beach and were also pleased with the ride.

This was our first trip in September and will probably not go at this time of year again. Water was rougher.

Some restaurants were closed. A few boats were out of the water for maintenance ( White Octopus for one). And we had to fly out through Tropical Storm Debby. Despite the few inconveniences everyone had an excellent time and can't wait to return.

St. Martin by Harry Richardson
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The wife and I just got back from St. Martin. We stayed at Maho Beach Resort and loved it. While I realize this isn't everyone's idea of the best area, it was ideal for us. After touring the island we definitely felt this way.

The resort was GREAT and we liked the convenience of casino across the street and some good restaurants within walking distance. Other resorts we saw were very nice, but somewhat isolated for us. Unfortunately, many of the restaurants that were recommended were closed for vacations or renovations, but there was no shortage of very good places to dine.

We took advantage of Cherie's being directly across from Maho Beach and had several good lunches and a nice dinner there. It was one of the few places we came across that had island music playing all day, with a band at night.

We also had dinners at The Boathouse and Chesterfields which we found out are owned by the same person. Very similar menus with some Caribbean dishes, good seafood and good food at reasonable prices.

The dinner at The Italian Connection at Pelican Bay was average, with good prices. We did get to the Chicken & Rib Co. and enjoyed it very much. A nice laid back dinner with decent food. We tried Harbor Lights in Philipsburg but would not return, food was fair at best. Also stopped for lunch at Germains

LoLo in Grande Case and had a great lunch that I ended up sharing with the owners cat who was so cute I couldn't resist. It was a very enjoyable day spent walking and shopping in Marigot.

The next day we read in local paper about gang related shooting there. Guess crime is catching up with Paradise!

Driving on SXM is something that has to be experienced to be believed! I'm pretty sure that the locals are mostly retired demolition derby drivers!! Passing uphill on the curves seems to be the local pastime.

While I can't say we are as in love with SXM as some others ,we would definitely return. In our case we would probably stay at either Maho Beach Resort or Mullet Bay Resort. It must be absolutely the best overall area to be on SXM, with two casinos and several restaurants within walking distance, and also within a short drive of many additional fine places to eat.

I almost forgot, we took a sunset cruise on the El-Tigre with open bar for $25/person. It leaves from dock just below Pelican Resort and it was great.

Many other cruises to choose from leaving from same dock.

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