Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor

Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 105
May 15, 2000

Last Update 13 May 00

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We  traveled  USAirways  to  San  Juan.  Because it is a 2+ hour drive 
from  San  Juan  to Guanica we decided to spend the first night in San 
Juan  at  the  Ambassador.   The Ambassador is about 2 blocks from the 
ocean  front  on  Ashford St.  It cost us only $12 from the airport to 
the  hotel  for  six of us--not bad!  Our accommodations were fine for 
the  one night but would not have wanted to stay their for a week.  We 
got  up  early  the  next  morning  for  our drive to Copamarina Beach 
Resort.   Our  ground  transportation was included in our package.  We 
were  taken to Guanica in a very comfortable van.  The drive there was 
beautiful--we  were  glad  that  we  waited until daylight to make the 
trip,  as  there was a lot to see.  We were welcomed at the resort and 
moved  quickly into our rooms which were quite nice.  The decor was as 
it  should  be  with  hand-made  pine furniture and bright, attractive 
colors  and  clean.   In-room safes are provided for your convenience.  
We  checked  out  the  dive  shop and found out that no one was diving 
because  of  the  unusual  weather--high winds, rough seas.  They said 
things  were  pretty  churned  up  and  as  soon  as  this front moved 
through, things would be back to normal.  

There  is  one  open-air  dining  area  and  one  restaurant (Wilo's).  
Although  both  restaurants  were  quite  good, they were also pricey.  
The  open-air  dining  was  open for breakfast and lunch only and also 
had  a bar that overlooked the sea.  The drawback was that all of this 
area,  including  the  bar would shut down every day at 6:30, when the 
Wilo's  would  open  and  then  there was no place to get a snack or a 
cocktail  without  going  into  Wilo's. The more formal restaurant was 
open  for  dinner  only.   They  really  needed a bar to stay open all 
evening  that  could  also  serve sanwiches and burgers. After several 
nights  of  dining  in Wilo's we quickly realized that they do quite a 
bit  of  "take  out"  business.   Guests were actually eating in their 
rooms--I  am  assuming  to  avoid  have  to  dress for dinner and also 
eliminating  the  15-20%  tip.   There  were  no  other dining options 
nearby.  Also, there is no taxi service in the area.  

After  our  third  day, it began to rain.  Now, this was a problem for 
locals,  since  it  NEVER rains in Guanica!  It really and truly NEVER 
rains  there  for any length of time.  They may get a shower every few 
days  but,  of  course, the week that we are there it rained for 2 1/2 
days.   This  was a problem for personnel at Copamarina because things 
started  to  flood--the walkways, the pools, the open-air dining room.  
They  really  didn't  know  how  to  handle  it or what to do with the 
guests.   They  all  had  a good sense of humor and were very kind and 
friendly!   Since there wasn't much to do at the resort in the rain we 
rented  a  mini-van  for  a couple of days and toured the island.  The 
first  day we traveled north-west as far as Aguadilla (sp?).  We ended 
up  spending the day at Crash Boat.  There was a very nice beach there 
and  the  sun was shining on this part of the island--we really lucked 
out.   It  was  great fun to sea the boats crash into the beach and to 
look  at  their  "catch".   On  the way back to Guanica we head in the 
direction  of  Ponce.   We  ate  dinner  at  a great little restaurant 
called  La  Montserrat.  It literally sits on poles out over the water 
and had great, fresh seafood!  It was a great change of pace.    

The  next  day,  it rained again and we headed for Ponce!  There is so 
much  history there and such beautiful architecture!  We visited their 
famous  fire house and then took a bus tour around the city.  This was 
fun for all of us, adults and kids!  

The  next couple of days we hung around Copamarina and had a marvelous 
time.   None  of  the  water  sports  are  included.   You  must  rent 
EVERYTHING--ocean  kayaks,  motorized  boats,  paddle boats, sun fish, 
etc.   This  is  not  a  cheap  resort,  by any means, but it is quite 
peaceful and quiet.  

We  then went back to San Juan and toured around a bit, shopped, had a 
fabulous dinner flew out early the next morning!   


Trip 4/00

My  Wife  and I stayed in St. Barts last week in Columbier which is up 
in  the  mountain,  at a beautiful small hotel called Le Petite Morne. 
Greatest  view on the island. A package deal can be obtained with car, 
breakfast and maid service for a reasonable price.

  We  ate  at  the  Eden  Rock (the Rock) and the food and service was 
excellent.  We  also ate at Le "T" St. Barth in Point Milou...We where 
less  impressed  with  the food and service.,although it is the latest 
hip place to be seen. They dance on the tables.

  The best tee shirt deals we found where in Villa Creole, which is up 
the street from St. Jean beach..

At  St. Jean beach the eatery there is very friendly and light...great  the  planes  land/takeoff. Ask for "Jeff" he is one of 
the waiters...nice guy.

Check  out  the creme broili at the Carl Gustav hotel, and pizza at La 
Scala, both located in Gustavia.

We  recommend  Saline  and  Columbier  beaches...Columbier is a little 
walk  from  the  road  30  minutes  or so but worth it even though the 
palms trees got battered by the hurricane.

If  you  decide to go from St. Martin forget flying....take the "Edge" 
motorized  katamaran from Pelican bay...ask for Captain Bob....It will 
be the most interesting 45 minutes of your nautical life...

  Definitely  stop  at  Le  Select  at  the  port of Gustavia..its the 
central point of everything. 

Another  good eatery is Le Sappotilier located in Gustavia.  St. Barth 
is  beautiful  and elegant.....Hone your driving skills before you go, 
you will need them. 


Trip 2/00

Over  the  past  year  I've  benefited  greatly from reading about the 
vacations  and adventures of other writers.  As a way of "paying back" 
I  thought  I'd  share Bev and my experiences during a trip last month 
to St. Lucia.

Bev  and I have traveled extensively in the Caribbean (St. Thomas x 3, 
St.  Croix  x  9,  BVI  x  1, Aruba x 1 and Bonaire x 1) over the past 
decade.   I'm  an  avid  ham  radio operator and enjoy making contacts 
from  the  islands.   The  past 5 years have been spent exclusively on 
St.  Croix.  Nine trips to STX were enough, however, and we started to 
look  for  our  "next  island".  After much Internet based research we 
decided  on St. Lucia.  (BTW, if anyone has questions about St. Croix, 
we  know  that island like the back of our hands and would be happy to 
share).   I  also  made  a  commitment to Bev that I'd leave the radio 
home for once (though I did substitute the golf clubs!)

Bev  and  I don't normally book ourselves into resorts when we travel, 
we  prefer  renting  a  villa.  We've found the cost is comparable but 
privacy,  freedom  of  action  and  eating options are better.  On the 
Internet  we  located  "Villas  St. Lucia" (they've just changed their 
name  to and a villa called the "Orchid Cottage".  We 
rented  for  two weeks.  Villas St. Lucia arranged for Bev and I to be 
picked  up at the airport and driven to the villa, for a rental car to 
be  delivered  to  the villa the next morning and for a representative 
of the company to act as our personal agent during our stay.

We  arrived  at  Vigie  airport  about  midnight.   Vigie has a single 
runway  that  parallels  a  busy  Castries street.  Because we arrived 
late  on  a  small  plane  from San Juan and into the smaller airport, 
customs  and  immigration  went very quickly (forget this "no passport 
required"  stuff,  things go much faster if you have a passport).  All 
our  luggage arrived with us, not an automatic occurrence when you fly 
American  Eagle  out  of  San  Juan!   Peter,  a driver from the local 
representative  of  Villas  St. Lucia, Unique Vacations St. Lucia, was 
waiting  for  us.   The  ride to the villa took 15 minutes and cost US 

Orchid  Cottage  is a one bedroom villa situated halfway up a hillside 
overlooking  both  the  Atlantic  Ocean  and  the  St.  Lucia Golf and 
Country  Club  on  the  extreme  northern  tip  of  the  island  in an 
exclusive  residential area known as Cape Estate.  It is visually very 
private  but  perhaps  not  as private as we had hoped as far as sound 
was  concerned.   Another  villa  sits  above  the  Orchid Cottage and 
voices  from  the  other  villa  were  audible  at night.  The cottage 
features  a  living room / galley kitchen that opens onto a very large 
covered  deck,  a  bedroom  with king size bed, a bath that features a 
very  private  outdoor  shower  and  a plunge pool (also very private) 
with  deck.   Gardens  surround  the  house  with  many wonderful huge 
flowering  plants  all  around.   The  plantings  nicely  camouflage a 
security  fence that surrounds the entire villa.   All in all a really 
beautiful  and  romantic setting.  The cottage is nicely equipped with 
cable  TV,  stereo, telephone (blocked to long distance outgoing calls 
without  prior  arrangements  with  the  management),  decent  but not 
extravagant  furnishings  and  all  needed  "housekeeping accessories" 
including  a   microwave,  etc.   There  are  several  large 250v/110v 
transformers  on  the  premises  to  allow usage of 110v appliances. A 
maid comes in three mornings a week. 

We  were  very  comfortable  in the cottage except for two annoyances.  
Although  the  bedroom and bath were screened, the living room was not 
due  to  the fact that normally the large doors that divide the living 
room  from  the  deck  are  open,  allowing mosquitoes into the living 
room.  We found that in order to enjoy the living room at night we had 
to  use  bug  repellent.   On  the positive side, several finches took 
advantage  of  the  "indoor/outdoor" setting to come inside and became 
our  breakfast  companions, taking bread right from our hands. Also at 
night  we  would  often  be  "serenaded" by the neighborhood dogs, the 
barking sometimes woke us up several times a night.

Our  "on-island  helper",  Patrice  from  Unique  Vacations  St. Lucia 
(,  arrived  the morning after our arrival exactly on 
schedule  with  the car.  She immediately offered us 13 days of rental 
for  the cost of 12 and a upgrade to full size from the medium size we 
had  reserved.   Of  course  full  size  in  St.  Lucia means a Toyota 
Corolla,  but  it  was very nice.  If you are going to rent a car (and 
you  must  if  you're  going to rent a villa) I strongly recommend you 
obtain  an  international  drivers  license  ($20  at  AAA) and get it 
stamped  by  immigration when you arrive.  This eliminates the need of 
obtaining  a  temporary St. Lucia drivers permit from the local police 
station.   Patrice's  price  for  a  rental car was 1/3 off the quoted 
Avis  price  for the same size car.  St. Lucia, a former British Crown 
Colony,  drives on the left with right side steering wheel.  It took a 
day  to  learn  to signal for a turn without turning on the windshield 

Patrice  brought  with  her  a  book with pictures and descriptions of 
various  trips  and  adventures  available  on  the island.  Bev and I 
chose  a day trip via power boat to Soufriere and an evening cruise on 
the  square  rigged  Brig, Unicorn.  Patrice took our credit cards and 
booked  us right from the cottage.  All in all, I was impressed by the 
"not  what  I'm  used  to  in  the  Caribbean"  efficiency  of  Unique 
Vacations  St.  Lucia.   Patrice  also  gave  us  her  pager  and home 
telephone number and told us to call her anytime if we needed help. 

As  an  avid golfer I spent a lot of time at the country club.  Only 9 
of  the  18  holes  are  open but the closed 9 holes were a beehive of 
activity  with  crews and equipment working to make the old front nine 
into  the  new  back  nine.  The opening date for the entire course is 
April  15th.   I was impressed by the course, the only fully irrigated 
course  on  the island.  A group I played with from Sandals (the other 
course  on  the  island)  told  me  the  country  club course made the 
Sandals  course  look  like  a  farmers  field.  Of course at US $85 a 
round  (9  holes,  go  around  twice) it should!  I wound up playing 8 
days  out  of  the 14, and was able to work a deal for "local's rates" 
after  the  club  pro  and  I got to know one another.  I also met the 
course  architect one morning on the driving range, a very interesting 
conversation.   My  advice, if you're not straight off the tee, expect 
to  buy  your balls back from the locals the next day.  The course has 
many  landscaping  crews  that tend to follow the less skilled golfers 
around,  watching  balls  fly  into  the  rough.  I played early every 
morning  and  was  always  approached  to  see if I needed to buy golf 
balls.   Prices  started  at US $1 a ball and could be negotiated down 
to  one  EC  dollar  (about .39) a ball if you bought by the dozen.  A 
good,  decent,  OK  for  beginners  but pleasurable for decent golfers 
golf  course.   The Orchid Cottage had views of holes 4 and 7 from the 

Bev  and  I  love  to relax on the beach during our trips, reading and 
drawing  mostly.   We  always look for a beach with shade, palm trees, 
lounge  chairs,  a  decent  bar,  a  restaurant  for  lunch  and clean 
facilities.   No  public  beach  met  our  requirements.  The beach at 
Rodney  Bay  was  too  commercial  and  had no shade.  It looked badly 
overused  and  shabby.   All  the beaches at the all-inclusive resorts 
restricted  facilities  to  guests.  We found the perfect beach for us 
was  at the non-inclusive Wind Jammer resort.  We always bought drinks 
and  lunch  at  the resort and in exchange the manager allowed us full 
use  of  the  beach  facilities.   It's a lovely white sand beach with 
many  palm trees, chaises spread all around, swimming area, wait staff 
service  on  the beach, good security, an excellent bar and restaurant 
(don't  miss the Sunday Brunch) and clean rest rooms.  The Wind Jammer 
was about a 10 minute drive from the villa.

One  reason  to  take  a  villa  rather  than  stay at a resort is the 
freedom  it  allows  regarding  dining  choices.   We  ate  at several 
excellent  restaurants  and a few poor ones! Excellent – The Coal Pot, 
Capones,  Memories  of  Hong Kong, Wind Jammer Resort (Sunday Brunch), 
Eagle  Inn  and  Mortar  and Pestle.  Good – Froggie Jacks, Key Largo, 
Snooty  Agouti.   Poor  – Charthouse, JJ's in Marigot Bay, Spinnaker's 
Beach  Bar  and  Grill.   We normally would eat breakfast at the villa 
and  occasionally,  when  tired,  just  stay  in  at night.  There are 
regular  supermarkets on St. Lucia that allow you to stock the kitchen 
as you like.

The  two  trips  we  took  both worked well for us.  The full day trip 
seems  to  be  a  standard  itinerary  followed  by  a dozen different 
boats.   We left Castries Harbor about 9:30 am and sailed to Soufriere 
where  we  transferred  to  small (14 person) vans.  The vans took us, 
with  guide,  to  see  the  "walk  in volcano", the botanical gardens, 
lunch  at  the Still Restaurant then back to the boat for views of the 
Pitons,  a  look  in to Marigot Bay, a little snorkeling and return by 
5:00  p.m.   Soufriere  is  much  more  a  "third  world"  place  than 
Castries,  I  was  glad  we were with a group that had a knowledgeable 
guide.   The  streets were extremely narrow and unmarked and there was 
a  lot  of  poverty  evident.   Castries  and the northern part of the 
island  seemed  a  lot  more  prosperous.  The sunset sail on the Brig 
Unicorn  featured  an excellent steel band, good appetizers, the sight 
of  the  crew  sailing  a square rigger (they obviously had no fear of 
heights!)  and  a beautiful sunset.  The only drawback to the sail was 
that  you  shared  it with about 100 other folks, things were a little 
crowded  though  there  was  enough  room  for  all  and  the crew got 
everyone rum punches and food whenever they wanted either.

Bev  likes  to shop but found St. Lucia disappointing.  Castries has a 
local  "native  market"  but  it  seemed set up to cater to the cruise 
ships  that  come  in  almost  every day. Every vendor had the same t-
shirts  etc.  Castries  itself  seemed  very  commercial  but not in a 
"tourist  shopper"  sense.   It  is  the  capital of the nation and is 
obviously  that  rather  than a tourist town.  There is some duty free 
shopping  that  you  can  use  if  you bring your passport and airline 
ticket   but  nothing  special.   Parking  is  impossible  in  central 
Castries  but  if you do lunch at Froggie Jacks you can leave your car 
there  and  take the water taxi over to town across the bay for EC $3.  
Tell  the  waitress  to put out the water taxi flag for you. Lots more 

There  are  many  things  to  see  and do on the island if you want to 
explore.   The Pigeon Point Park has ruined forts, ramparts, etc.  You 
can  also  take trips into the rainforest or climb a Piton but Bev and 
I never did any of these things so I cannot comment.

Two  weeks  went  by  very  quickly,  probably quicker for me than Bev 
since  she  doesn't  golf!   We had an early flight out.  We just left 
the  car  at  the  villa  and  had Peter drive us back to the airport.  
Once  again,  no hassles and no problems.  We were accessed EC $54 per 
person  as  a  departure  tax,  put  the rest of our EC money into the 
charity  boxes  that line the departure lounge and departed.  American 
Eagle  had  us  back  in  San  Juan perfectly on time for a delightful 
flight (managed to get bumped to first class) back to New York.

Would  we  go  back?   I  would in a heartbeat, not sure about Bev.  I 
would  find  a  fully  screened  villa  and  bring someway to mask the 
dogs.   Other  than that, a delightful time in a wonderful place.  The 
weather  was outstanding and the people were very friendly.  St. Lucia 
has  the  feel  of a place that's on the cusp of a real explosion as a 
vacation  destination.   There's lots of building going on and lots of 
plans  (including,  according  to my friend the golf course architect, 
27  more  holes  of golf).  I think Bev was distressed by the bugs and 
dogs and wishes the shopping were better.


Trip 4/00

Well  we're back from a very nice vacation.  Had a great time.  It was 
a  lot  different  from  usual since we were alone.  Kind of  nice not 
having to plan anything and doing stuff on the spur of  the moment.

Stayed  at  the  Summit.  We had a front row room overlooking  Simpson 
Bay.  Nicest view on the island.    

Beaches -   

Cupecoy  got  ruined.  The northern section behind the white  wall was 
privately  purchased,  cleared,  and  a  large  stone   retaining wall 
(similar  to  a jetty) was built parallel to the  beach.  We were told 
that  the Government told the owner to  remove it, but we'll see.  The 
once  remote,  pretty beach is an  eyesore on the north end.   Not too 
much sand there, but it  appears to be coming back.    

Orient  was  very  windy.  We even drove over twice and walked  to the 
beach  and  left  because there was sand blowing all  over.   The Surf 
Club  South  has relocated to next to Pedro's.  There is a large kiddy 
amusement  area  with  blow  up  slides  in   the  parking area behind 
Pedro's  now.   Many  new  hotel   buildings are going up to the north 
too.    Unfortunately,  with   everyone  selling  beach chairs and the 
daily  tour  busses  its   becoming way too commercial over there now.    

Bai  Rouge  was  nice,  plenty  of  sand.   A couple of perverts  were 
hanging around and had to be told off.
 Restaurants -
 Messalina's - Best rolled Swordfish, lots on appetizer buffet
 Tutti Pasta - Inexpensive and great
 Tropicana - Best new place we tried in Marigot, French food 
 Boathouse - Remodeled front, same menu
 Bistro Nu - Excellent, down an alley in Marigot
 La Cocalierre - across from Lightning, huge meat portions
 La Rosa II - Italian, Maho area
 Cheri's had their grand reopening on Friday and it was

Maho  area - Hotel closed until Oct.  No beach behind Royal  Islander, 
sand  dredged  from Simpson Bay to be dumped at  end of airport runway 
this week.  Casinos closed - Atlantis, Casino Royal


This  was my second trip to T/C as we usually vacation only during the 
winter  months  and due to the location of north of the Caribb, I fear 
that  it  would  not  be warm enough for me in the cold of the Winter. 
Having  been  blown  from  Cap  Juluca  and  my  long  awaited trip to 
Anguilla  we  sought  two  alternatives  and  decided  on  Mexico  and 
ultimately the Mexican Caribb (Maroma) and Meridian Club. 

My  passport  reminded  me  that  the previous visit to the T/C was in 
early  December  1995  and  we  did  stay on Provo, the more populated 
island  of  the chain then. Turks and Caicos are located at the end of 
the  Bahamas  chain  just  north of Haiti/Domincan Republic and as one 
Islander  stated  years ago, "There is so little here that no one even 
tried  to  escape to here." There are only two flights out of MIA that 
will  get  you  to  Provo on AA but there are charters through Beaches 
(ProAir,  I think) and Allegro (TWA). They only fly weekends and since 
my   "escapes"   are  usually  for  more  than  7  days,  we  had  few 
alternatives.  A  British  Crown  Colony  that  uses  the US Dollar as 
currency  is  just a 90 minute flight out of Miami and consists of six 
inhabited  islands  plus many little "cays" which offer pristine white 
sandy beaches and crystalline waters. 

This  time  we  flew from Provo to Pine Cay on a small chartered plane 
but  you  can  boat  it  if  the flights are not flying. The flight is 
about  5  minutes  to a small private island that offers 12 beachfront 
rooms  and  one beachfront cottage as part of the resort experience or 
a  few privately-owned homes (older homes are definitely beachy type - 
much  like  the  cedar  shake homes that dot the eastern US shoreline; 
newer  ones  reflect  the glitz and more modern styles) which are also 
available  for  rent.  Needless  to say, this is about as close to all 
inclusive  as  I get ... there are no options unless you are in one of 
the  homes and choose to cook! (NOT ME!!!). Always up there in the top 
of  the  beach  resorts  but  "'unknown"  enough to still consistently 
maintain  the majority of guests returning year after year. That might 
soon,  I  think,  be  challenged  by Parrot Cay, just three short cays 
away  -  but that has a whole different flavor and not sure that those 
who love one would love the other.

Rooms  are  large  divided  into bedroom, dressing, bath/dressing area 
(showers  only/two  vanities  with  sinks)  all  with  louvers  and  a 
wonderful  screened  porch  across  the  front facing the beach. Faces 
west  so sun rises are not a treat but those sun sets!!! Wow! Electric 
ceiling   fans   and  louvers  are  the  air  conditioning!!!  It  was 
wonderful!  And NO thumps from nearby compressors!!!! Light bulbs were 
bright  for  reading in the sitting area (furnished with a comfortable 
chair  and ottoman and a "day bed " sofa that could be converted to an 
extra  bed,  table  and  handmade  carved chairs) and each side of the 
king-sized  bed  had  a  small  booklite  to  use  so not to disturb a 
sleeper  when  reading.  Sand  Dollar Cottage sits slightly apart from 
the  duplexes  and  offers  a generous sized cottage, a huge shower, a 
real  coffee  pot  as  opposed  to  the  "Hot Shot" for instant in the 
rooms.  (However,  we  go  prepared with our own travel coffee pot for 
emergencies!)  and a large screened porch with padded furniture rather 
than the "strap" type in the other accommodations. 

The  Beach  is  incredible!  Goes  forever ... and no one in sight. Of 
course  the  "tiki  huts"  ...  what are they for? Shade? Not for me - 
again  my  dermatologist's wishes ... are tucked in the dunes and most 
chose  to sit under rather than pull the chaises out into the hot full 
sun  that  was delightful with wonderful breezes that kept you cool! A 
very  natural,  un-manicured  flat  and  scrubby cay dotted with scrub 
brush,  pine and fresh water ponds and a wonderful long-term staff who 
live  in  staff  quarters on island but do travel to neighboring North 
Caicos  for time off at their homes is what you find at Meridian Club. 
All  snorkeling,  diving  is  done  at  a  reef  off  shore  and boats 
available  daily  for snorkeling, diving, exploring neighboring Dellis 
Cay  or  others.  Not  much  life  from  the  reef  to  the  beach but 
incredible  colors  and clear water, shells ... including my favorite, 
plenty of sand dollars. 

Unfortunately  my plan to spend at least one day at Parrot Cay was not 
realized  -  they  were  not  accepting  "day  trippers"  even with an 
expensive  day  pass  fee  of $85 and $75 lunch - that 's what we were 
told!  A  great  report on Parrot Cay is in The NYTImes Travel Section 
April  9,  "Relaxing  Like  a  Celebrity."  But  am sure that the high 
maintenance  ambiance  of  the  Parrot  Cay as well as the Ferragamo's 
outweigh  Meridian  and  its  natural  beauty with "barefoot elegance" 
being  the  key!  Meridan  Cay  is  wonderfully  "older" and furiously 
maintains  the  status  quo of a "beach club" since its charter in the 
70's  by  American  and  Canadians who built homes there with the same 
wonderful  charm  and  ambiance  that  I  find  at  few  resorts since 
Rosewood  assumed  the  RockResorts  Little  Dix and Caneel but others 
might  find "rustic," No phones, fax is the mode of communication with 
the  outside  world  at $15 a pop to "call" home, no modems and no cd-
players!  Faxes are received at the desk and picked up there. There