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Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor

Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 66
July 15 1996

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I  just  spent  the third week of May, 1996, at the Swept Away Resort 
in Negril,

Jamaica.  Since  I  found  earlier  trip  reports so useful before my 
trip,   I  thought  I  should  do  my  part  and  contribute  my  own 

This  was  my  second  trip to the island of Jamaica. My first was in 
1990  to  the  Sandals  resort  at  Montego  Bay.  Although I am sure 
Sandals  may  have  changed  quite a bit in six years, I make several 
comparisons to Sandals in my report.

The  trip  started  with  the  dreaded  arrival  at  the  Montego Bay 
airport.  In  1990,  the  airport was like stepping back in time to a 
third  world  nightmare.  The baggage claim consisted of a large room 
with  one  wall open to the tarmac. Trucks carrying the bags swung by 
and  dropped  the suitcases on a yellow line that ran from one end of 
the  baggage claim area to the other. Once your bags were dropped, it 
was a free-for-all trying to find and claim them. 

I  was  quite  surprised  to  find  that  the Montego Bay airport has 
undergone  many changes since 1990. The baggage claim area is now air 
conditioned,  and  has  modern  baggage carousels just like you would 
expect  in a modern airport. We proceeded quickly and efficiently (by 
Jamaican  standards)  through  immigration and customs, and in almost 
no time were being escorted to the Swept Away bus.

No  beverage  service  is provided on the bus to Negril, so we picked 
up  a  bag  of iced down Red Stripes at the airport. There is a small 
hut  just  outside  the main terminal building near the bus stop that 
sells  a  variety  of  drinks.  The  lack of beverages on the bus was 
about  the  only thing we did get at Sandals that was not provided on 
our  trip  to  Negril.  Of  course, Sandals at Montego Bay was a five 
minute  trip  vs.  the  90  minute  ride  to  Negril.  I would highly 
recommend grabbing something for the road at the airport.

The  bus trip was not nearly as bad as I expected. It is very scenic, 
and  with  a  couple  of  Red Stripes for the road was actually quite 
enjoyable.  Most  buses  stop  half  way  for  a bathroom break and a 
beverage refill.

A  word  about  exchange rates. The airport was selling $J at $36.50J 
to  $1  US,  while  the  rest  of  the  island  was $38J. I would not 
recommend  buying any Jamaican money at the airport. Rates there were 
worse  than  anywhere  else on the island. If fact, if you bring lots 
of  $1 and $5 bills, you don't really even need Jamaican money. Every 
place  we  shopped  seemed  to  prefer  US  money  over  its Jamaican 
counterpart.  We  brought  about  $75 US in small bills to cover tips 
and  small  purchases  that  we  made along the way. It is well worth 
tipping  baggage  handlers a few bucks for the fine, friendly service 
they provide.

We  arrived  at  the  resort around 3:00 in the afternoon and were in 
our  room  within 15 minutes. The receptionist was very friendly, ran 
us  through  the  basics of the resort, and told us of an orientation 
at 6:00 that evening. By 3:30, we were on the beach! 

The  wide variety of guests we met at Swept Away said a lot about the 
resort  itself.  On  my first trip to Jamaica, I was somewhat annoyed 
that  everyone  staying  at  Sandals  seemed  to be exactly the same. 
Sandals  caters  to "twenty something" honeymooners from the USA, and 
you  will  find that 95% of its guests fit that description. At Swept 
Away,  you  still  find  that  most  guests  are couples in search of 
romance,  but they seemed to come from everywhere, and all age groups 
were  represented.  We  met  people from Germany, Italy, England, New 
Zealand,  Canada, and across the United States. About half the guests 
were   on   their   1st   honeymoon,   and   many   were  celebrating 
anniversaries.  Guests  of all ages were represented, and I would say 
the  average  age  was  around  30 - 35. Many guests staying here had 
been  to  Jamaica  before,  and returned to "get it right this time". 
Most  people staying at Swept Away seemed to have spent a fair amount 
of time doing their research before choosing it.

The  Swept Away resort is stunningly beautiful in a very natural way. 
We  were truly awed by the gardens that surround every square inch of 
the  resort.  Each  walkway  is  shrouded by every imaginable type of 
tropical  flower,  shrub  or  tree. The buildings that house the main 
lobby  and  all of the rooms blend in nicely with their surroundings, 
but are easily identifiable by the bright orange roofs.

We  stayed  in  an  "Atrium" room about halfway between the beach and 
the  road.  There  are  4 rooms in each villa, and the upstairs rooms 
have  high  vaulted  ceilings.  The rooms are quite unlike anything I 
have  ever  seen.  There  really  are  no  windows, but all walls are 
louvered  wooden  blinds  with  screens.  When all of the louvers are 
opened  it  is  like  you are sitting in the middle of the jungle yet 
having  all  the  comforts  of your room. All rooms are surrounded by 
trees,  so  the  rooms  are  fairly  private even when the blinds are 
opened.  The large verandahs for each room are shielded on two sides, 
and  open  on the other two sides. The verandah is nearly as large as 
the  room  and  provides  and  excellent  location  for early morning 
breakfast, or late night champagne toasts.

If  you  get  too  hot,  the  blinds  can  be  closed,  and  the  air 
conditioner  cools  the  room  fairly  quickly. We usually opened our 
blinds  in the morning, then closed it down late in the afternoon and 
slept  with  the air conditioner on. Even with the blinds closed, you 
will  hear  the sounds of the cicadas, or perhaps a babbling brook or 
the  ocean  outside.  Since  the blinds don't really seal that tight, 
you  might  also  hear  your  neighbors,  and possibly noise from the 
nearby  road.  Other  than  a few trucks in the early morning though, 
the  occasional noise never disturbed us. No radios or TVs are in the 
rooms,  and there is a good reason for this. One couple that moved in 
next  to us about half way through our trip brought a radio with them 
that  disturbed  us  and  others  in  the building. They were quickly 
asked  by  the management to keep the volume way down, and since then 
it  never disturbed us again. I recommend enjoying the natural sounds 
at the resort, and leaving your radio at home.

The  beach  at  Swept  Away  is  one  of the best reasons for staying 
there.  It  is heavily shaded along the back, and provides a wide arc 
of  white  sand  for sunbathing or just relaxing. The resort provides 
plenty  of  lounges  and  beach  chairs.  Even  during the peak beach 
times,  you could always get the type of chair you wanted with plenty 
of  space  between  you  and  your neighbor. The beach is topless and 
around  30  -  50  percent of the women on the beach usually opted to 
take  advantage  of  this.  There  is  supposedly  a nude area on the 
deserted  beach next to Swept Away, but I never saw anyone completely 
nude  there during our week long stay. The only truly nude beaches we 
saw  were  at  the  Grand  Lido  and  Hedonism  resorts (more on that 

Just  south  of  Swept  Away,  there  are no big resorts nearby, only 
small  hotels  and  villas.  Some of the villas looked quite nice and 
may  provide  a  less expensive way to experience Negril beach. There 
were  a  few "hasslers" on the beach, but they were very friendly and 
never  too  pushy.  Show them respect, and a friendly "no thank you", 
and they will leave you alone.

To  the north, the beach is deserted for nearly a mile. Right next to 
Swept  Away, construction has started on a new Sandals resort that is 
expected  to cater to families. The resort is huge, and looks like it 
will  devour  a fairly long section of Negril's least developed beach 
(including  the  alleged public nude beach). I was told the resort is 
expected  to  open  by  year  end  under  the name "Beaches", but the 
natives were doubtful about the schedule.

We  walked  one  morning all the way to Hedonism II resort at the far 
north  end  of Negril beach (about 3 miles). It was a beautiful walk, 
and  I  highly  recommend  it.  We passed through the Poinciana Beach 
Resort,  Sandals,  and  Hedonism.  Guards  at  these resorts make you 
check  in  with  them, but have no problem letting you walk the beach 
and  check out the resort. All of the resorts looked pretty nice, but 
as  we  passed  each  one, I was happy we had chosen Swept Away. This 
long  beach  is  another  advantage  of  Negril  over Montego Bay. At 
Sandals  in  MoBay,  you  did  not leave the resort via the beach, so 
long  beach  walks  were  out  of  the question (unless you just kept 
going back and forth on the few hundred yards of beach).

The  water sports equipment at Swept Away was always available early, 
and  I  found  everything  to  be  top  notch.  Swept  Away  recently 
purchased   an  18  foot  "Prindle"  cat.  For  those  familiar  with 
catamaran  sailing,  this  is  a  very  fast  (and  expensive) little 
vessel.  The  resort  staff would not let anyone take the Prindle out 
by  themselves  which  is  probably wise on a windy day. Just ask for 
the  Prindle  though,  and a staffer will take you on a wild ride (if 
the  wind  is  right).  Swept  Away also recently purchased two Hobie 
"Wave"  catamarans.  These  are  similar  to the "Aqua-Cat" but a bit 
larger,  more  stable,  and  possibly  a little faster. Unlike a real 
Hobie  cat,  there  is  only one sail (no jib) so sailing is easy for 
even  a  novice.  We  spent  a lot of time by ourselves on the "Wave" 
sailing  up  and  down  the Negril coast. Lots of Sunfish sailers and 
wind  surfers were also available. For the calm mornings paddle boats 
and  kayaks  are  also  on  the  beach for anyone to use. Most of the 
equipment  looked  new  or  near  new. My only complaint was that the 
life  jackets  were  getting  near  the end of their useful life, and 
smelled  a  bit  moldy.  Water  skiing  and  knee  boarding  is  also 
available on the beach. 

>From  the beach you can also sign up for snorkeling, scuba dive trips 
and  a glass bottom boat ride. We do not scuba dive, and did not want 
to  spend  three  full mornings getting certified so we passed on the 
scuba.  The  snorkeling has fun though, and should not be missed. The 
reefs  around  Negril  are  not as spectacular as the Florida Keys or 
Cozumel,  Mexico,  but  it  still  provides a nice view. All of these 
activities   took   you  away  from  the  resort,  but  cost  nothing 
additional.  This  was  somewhat  different  than  Sandals which cost 
extra  money  for  nearly  anything  that  took you off of the resort 

We  did  take  the glass bottom boat ride one morning. The first hour 
is  spent  along  the  reefs,  and  second  hour  you tour the Negril 
coastline.  They take you up past Booby Cay to the Grand Lido resort, 
and  swing  by  the  nude  beach for a close look. I found it kind of 
rude  that  our boat came so close to the nude swimmers at Grand Lido 
(and  I  believe  they  felt  the same). Nevertheless, we got a great 
view  of  the resort (and it guests). From the ocean Grand Lido looks 
quite  nice.  The  buildings are quite beautiful, however it does not 
appear  to have the same class of gardens that you will find at Swept 
Away.  Some of the locals though did not like Grand Lido because they 
felt  it  attempts to hide the "real Jamaica". If you are looking for 
a  more  formal, elegant type of resort, and don't care as much about 
experiencing  Jamaican  culture,  then  Grand  Lido looks like a very 
nice place. 

Before  I  booked  at  Swept Away, I couldn't find out much about the 
beach  volleyball.  I  am  quite  a  volleyball enthusiast, and I was 
looking  forward  to  some competitive games on the beach. The resort 
schedules  volleyball  at  11:00  each  day, and several guests would 
usually  gather  at  that  time  to  play.  The  quality  of play was 
somewhere  between organized C league and backyard volleyball. Around 
2:00  each  day though, the staffers that ran the dive boats gathered 
for  some  more  competitive  play.  These guys play every day on the 
beach,  and were happy to have the guests join them. Beach rules were 
followed  pretty tightly, and play was extremely fun and competitive. 
After  about  an hour of play though, the hot Jamaican sun leaves you 
feeling a little wilted.

Swept  Away also offers an 8:00am bike tour each morning into Negril. 
Two  staffers  accompany  the  guest  bikers,  and make sure everyone 
stays  together  and  out of harms way. The road into Negril is under 
some  pretty  heavy  sewer  construction,  and  is  filled  with many 
hazards.  My  wife  was  almost  run  over  by  a bulldozer once, but 
otherwise,  we  escaped any real problems. The first stop in the tour 
is  the  Xtabi restaurant and bar on the cliffs. There is a wonderful 
view  here, and many caves within the cliffs to explore. After Xtabi, 
you  go  into  Negril for some shopping. The resort has a deal set up 
with  a local merchant to deliver anything you buy to the hotel later 
that  day.  This  eliminates  having to carry it back with you on the 
bike.  Other  than  the  minor  road hazards, the bike trip to Negril 
made for a very fun morning.

We  skipped most of the indoor sports and the tennis. The weather was 
beautiful  all  week, and we spent most of our time on the beach side 
of  the  resort.  We did venture over to the sports for complex for a 
professional  massage,  and  the  couples  massage  class.  Both were 
wonderful!  Our  package  included  a  30 minute massage that we each 
extended  to a full hour for an extra $25 US. 30 minutes in the hands 
of  a  professional  is  just  a  teaser.  We  also  heard  very high 
recommendations  for the yoga and tai chi classes, but we never found 
time  in  the afternoon to make it. The aerobics classes were usually 
pretty  empty.  Both  the  aerobics studio and the weight room is not 
air  conditioned,  so if you work out, you need to do it in the early 

Food  at  the  resort was always excellent. The "Feathers" restaurant 
at  the sports complex is well known around Negril for its fine food. 
Like  any  fine  restaurant, expect to spend several hours at dinner. 
We  found that the main dining room was also quite good. In our seven 
days  there,  a  buffet  was  served two nights, and the other nights 
were  sit  down  dinners.  The  bar at the sports complex also offers 
pizza  and  snacks  that  provide  a  nice break from the more exotic 
gourmet food in the other restaurants.

The  evening  routine a Swept Away was pretty similar each night. The 
piano  bar  fired up around 6:30. The piano player, Ultimate, is lots 
of  fun,  and  we  wished  we could have spent more time there. I was 
somewhat  disappointed  that  the  piano  bar only had a piano player 
from  6:30  until  around  8:30.  It  would  be nice if the piano bar 
started  up again after the main show in the dining room ended around 
10:30.  Some  form  of entertainment ran in the main dining room from 
9:30  to  10:30 each night and the house band continued to play until 
around  11:30.  The entertainment consisted of local Jamaican singers 
and/or  dancers  each  night.  The  resort  seems to want to show its 
guests  a  variety of aspects of Jamaican art and culture each night. 
The  only  night  I  could  have done without was "Amateur Night". On 
that  night,  certain  guests  are  asked  to  perform  for everyone. 
Apparently,  there  was  not  much  talent  at  the resort the week I 

I   appreciated  that  the  entertainment  at  Swept  Away  was  "all 
Jamaican".  At  Sandals, I remember guys that looked like they should 
be  playing  reggae music attempting to sing Elvis, and rock classics 
from  the 50s and 60s. The entertainment was very "Americanized", and 
the  result  was  sad.  At Swept Away, the Jamaicans did what they do 
best.  The  house  band  stuck  mostly  with reggae classics from Bob 
Marley,  Peter  Tosh,  and  Jimmy  Cliff.  There  were a few American 
classics  thrown  in, but they always had that Jamaican reggae twist. 
The  house  band at Swept Away was always excellent, and I was always 
left wanting more when the night ended.

If  you  are  truly a night person, then you may be disappointed with 
Swept  Away.  After  the  band  stops  at 11:30, the resort gets very 
quiet,  and most people go to bed. The bar stays open until 1:00, but 
I  never  even made it past midnight. After a full day of activity in 
the  hot  Jamaican sun, we were usually beat, and ready to turn in by 
the time the band stopped. 

One  other  word  about nighttime in Jamaica. The mosquitoes hear are 
quite  abundant,  and you absolutely must cover your entire body with 
bug  repellent  any  time you venture outside after dark. Most of the 
restaurants  are  "open  air",  and if you are not wearing repellant, 
you will be eaten alive by the bugs. 

In  addition  to  all  of  the  activities that are included at Swept 
Away,  we  participated  in  several things that do cost a bit extra. 
The  Catamaran  "Booze  Cruise"  leaves  the resort every Tuesday and 
Friday  at  3:30 in the afternoon. The cruise costs $35 US per person 
and  includes  beverages  and snorkeling equipment. The cruise is fun 
and  worth  doing, but nothing overly spectacular. About 15 couples 6 
crew  are  on  the  boat  for  the duration of the 3 hour cruise. The 
cruise  starts  with about 30 minutes of snorkeling at the reefs just 
off  the Swept Away beach. Following the snorkeling, the next stop is 
several  miles  south  for  some cliff diving. Nearly everyone on the 
boat  climbed inside the caves to the top of a 35 foot cliff and took 
the  jump. Finally, you swing by Rick's Cafe, and moon the onlookers. 
During  the  cruise,  a  couple of the crew play guitar and sing some 
reggae  songs.  It  is  really  a  lot  of fun, but probably not much 
different  than  cruises  you  can  get  anywhere  on  the  island of 
Jamaica.  I  took  a similar cruise from Montego Bay in 1990 and this 
one  was nearly identical. My only complaint was that we motored most 
of  the  trip,  and  didn't  really  do much actual sailing. Probably 
because it happened to be a very calm day.

Horseback  rides  are  offered  every  hour from the resort at Babo's 
stables  in the Negril Hills. If you are at all adventurous, and want 
to  see the real Jamaica, then I highly recommend this tour. It costs 
$77  US  for a couple including taxis to the stable. Each couple gets 
their  own  guide for the 2 hour ride around Negril. Our guide was an 
excellent  rider  and  very knowledgeable about the area. This is not 
just  a  boring  little trail ride. At many points of the trip we had 
the  horses at a steady canter or gallop. If you take the trip DO NOT 
WEAR  SHORTS!  Even  though  it may be hot, you will be glad you wore 
jeans  when  the  trip  is  done. During the trip you stop at the old 
White  Hall  plantation  house  that  is partially destroyed by fire. 
This  is  the  highest  point  in Negril and the view is spectacular. 
Rastaman  "Rick", the former caretaker of the mansion, takes you on a 
brief  tour  of  the area before the trail ride continues back to the 

Back  to the beach, there are plenty of jet ski / wave runner rentals 
just  south  of  Swept  Away. The parasail boats are also nearby, and 
will  pick  you  up  right  at  the resort. Parasailing is $35 US per 
person  which  is  much  cheaper than I experienced a couple of years 
ago  in  Cancun, Mexico. The harnesses looked a bit frayed, and I was 
a  little  nervous about the age of the boat, but we had no problems. 
We  got a beautiful view of the Negril coast, and the ride ended with 
a nice soft landing on a floating platform.

There  are  plenty  of  other  outside excursions to take, but a week 
does not allow enough time to do them all. 

Overall,  I  believe  the  Swept  Away  resort  was  the most perfect 
paradise  on  earth  I  have ever experienced. The resort exceeded my 
expectations,  and  all  of  my  complaints  are very minor. I highly 
recommend  this  resort  for  couples  in  search  of  a relaxing and 
romantic week in a unique tropical paradise. 



We  found  Braco in July of last year and it truly is one of the most 
fabulous all-inclusive properties on the island. 

Again  as  a refresher for those who haven't viewed the past reports, 
photos  and  property  map  in  the  Library.  Braco Village is built 
around  a  true  Jamaican  village  concept.  You  have a town square 
complete  with  a beautiful lighted fountain (much like that found in 
Falmouth),   architecture   that  reflects  all  styles  of  Jamaica, 
(Georgian,  Victorian,  Gingerbread,  etc.) and all the amenities you 
would  want  in  a  typical village. Being an all- inclusive your one 
rate  includes  airport  transfers, lodging, all meals in your choice 
of  4  restaurants,  all  refreshments  (top  brand  name alcohol and 
juices/sodas),  daily  activities,  land sports, water sports (except 
scuba),  nightly  entertainment,  disco,  piano bar and so much more. 
Absolutely no tipping and service that is exceptional! 

Property / Activity / Restaurant Recap 

The  property  greenery  had  developed nicely over the past 9 months 
since  it's  opening date and now is getting to the point of constant 
trimming.  Gardens  are  beautiful  and  the  "dry"  gulch  that runs 
through  the middle of the complex by the rooms is very nice. Several 
hammocks  to  just  lay  back and enjoy the breeze can be found about 
the  property.  Just  watch  out for that rooster up front that can't 
tell time. Crowing his heart out at 3am! 

The  Gourmet  restaurant  was  as  exquisite  as  ever, the staff has 
really  become  professionals  and  you  can  see  the pride in their 
accomplishments.  The  menu  in  March  remained  the  same,  a  good 
selection  of  beef,  pork,  poultry and fish as well as a vegetarian 
dish.  And  more  than  you could possibly eat. They have changed the 
reservation  system  for  Susumber.  You now make reservations in the 
lobby  the  day  before.  Reservations  are  taken  at  4pm  for  the 
following  nights sittings. If you are an early bird, I'd suggest the 
7pm time slot. You should be done eating around 8:30 - 9pm. 

Nanny's  Jerk  pit still serves up traditional Jamaican meals, Stews, 
Jerk,  Patties, Coco bread, soups and great Jerk Chicken/Pork. Many a 
meal/brunch spent here as they are open from 11am - 2am. 

Victoria  Market,  the  Pizza/Pasta  and Bakery are the other options 
for  dining. Victoria Market is buffet style for breakfast and lunch. 
Dinner  alternates  between  3  menus, 2 buffets. You have the Street 
party  on  Friday nights and the Beach party on Wednesday nights. The 
Pizza/Pasta  and Bakery are open from 2p - 11p and are located in the 
village square. 

The  golf  course  was  still  not completed - first 3 holes done and 
still  grooming.  Current  target date for active playing is June for 
all  9 holes. Clubs are available at the complex if you wish to leave 
yours at home. 

They  have  stocked  one  of the retention ponds with Black Perch and 
Red  Snapper  for  fishing. You can go down, and what ever you catch, 
they will prepare for you that evening. Nice and relaxing. 

The  daily  activities  remained  the same as on our previous visits. 
You  now  have  a  beach party on Wednesday nights - the show is also 
held  on the beach and a wonderful display of Jamaican culture, dance 
and  the  traditional  fire  dance  and  limbo.  Also  some  audience 
participation  and  a  few  games  after the show. Stick around if no 
more than to watch. It can get quite entertaining. 

Thursdays  fare  the  Beach  Olympics.  Tug of war, volleyball, relay 
races,  chug  contests,  pool  games etc. Points awarded to both team 
and  individual  and  a  good way to spend an active day and win some 
rum and Tia Maria to boot! 

The  staff/guest show is now held on Monday nights. So brush up those 
acts  and  get  in  on  the  fun. If you just want to participate and 
don't  have a talent to show off, the staff will help and set you up! 
No problem! 

Since  Braco is on the North coast, you have a pretty constant breeze 
throughout   the   property.   It  is  really  appreciated  when  the 
temperatures  soar into the 90's but also can limit some of the water 
sports activities if the is a storm brewing up the coast. 

The  Clothing  optional beach was taking on some improvements when we 
were  there  in March and May. The "jerk" shack has now been replaced 
by  a  complete bar!. All your favorites, blenders and wonderful coco 
bread  and  Jerk  chicken/pork.  This  bar  is  open until 5:00pm for 
service  to  the  CO  beach. In May they had completed the Jacuzzi on 
the CO beach. A large oval shaped Jacuzzi on a raised deck. 

The  beach on the CO beach has most of the boulders now removed. Some 
small  rocks are still in near shore but they are constantly removing 
them  and  it was a 100% improvement in May from our March visit. The 
second  jetty is now cemented in and beginning to take shape. The 3rd 
jetty  that  was just beyond the CO beach is now gone so you get nice 
breezes and waves coming across the beach. 

Anniversary time! 

Our  trip in May was to join in the festivities of the Grand Opening. 
Our  flight  on  Air Jamaica was quite eventful as the Prime Minister 
of  Jamaica, Mr. Patterson was on our flight down from Chicago. Quite 
a  commotion in Chicago as the other passengers were speculating just 
who  might be on our flight as the security and activity level before 
the  flight  was  heightened.  The  Prime Minister was very congenial 
with  the  passengers,  coming  back  within  the cabin mid flight to 
allow  the  passengers  to take pictures with him. The flight arrived 
at  Montego  Bay early, but even with our carry on luggage, we waited 
for  about 1/2 hour for our transportation to the resort. None of the 
properties  were transporting guests until the passengers had cleared 
customs.  Caribic  Tours  provided  the bus trip to the complex (trip 
you'll  not  forget if this is your first visit to Jamaica <G>). Even 
with  the  wait for clearance we still arrived at the complex by noon 
so we had most of the first day to relax in the sun 

Because  of  the  grand  opening, the property was at 100%+ occupancy 
from  Thursday  -  Sunday.  The  staff  at  Braco  was  still just as 
courteous,  friendly and helpful as they were when we had stayed with 
only  40%  occupancy.  The Prime Minister arrived for a 3 day stay on 
Thursday  and  to  assist with the dedication ceremonies on Saturday. 
The  complex was nicely decked out for the ceremonies with ivy around 
the  lights,  new  tables,  umbrellas. Traditional Jamaican flavor in 
the  staff  dress  and  general atmosphere of the complex. A cocktail 
party  followed  and  a dinner round that surpassed the famous Friday 
night  street  dance. Multiple stations staged with various entrees - 
no body could have left hungry that night! 

Braco  had  a  Jazz  Brunch  on  Sunday.  After  the  normal  fare of 
breakfast on Sunday mornings, they roll right into a brunch from 10a-
1p  and  then  into  lunch.  It was quite pleasant as you had a large 
selection  of  shellfish, pastas and other assorted treats and a Jazz 
band  playing  for listening and dancing during the brunch. I believe 
this is a regular scheduled Sunday event and is a welcome treat. 

Off Property 

Since  we  had  all been to Jamaica before, we didn't partake in many 
off  property  tours.  If  this is your first visit to Jamaica, or to 
the  North  Coast  area, I would highly recommend the Raft trip, Ocho 
Rios  for  SHOPPING  (another  experience  you  won't  forget  - just 
remember  they  are  trying  to  make a living too!) and Dunn's River 
Falls.  For  another  option  a  perhaps a longer day trip, the Black 
River  is  an  enlightening tour and you can swim with the alligators 
if you so desire..... 

We  decided  to  venture  to  Port  Antonio on this trip. (actually I 
talked  the  guys into going). I have always wanted to see the falls, 
Blue  Lagoon and other sights along the Northeast coast and had heard 
wonderful  reports from staff and other visitors that had ventured to 
the  far east side. We arranged the trip for the 3 of us with Caribic 
tours  and  left the property at about 6:45a on Friday morning. A box 
lunch  and beverages were prepared for us to take on our long journey 
to  tide  us over. Our driver, Mr. Osbourne was magnificent. Bill had 
him  during  his March visit and was so pleased, we requested him for 
the  Port Antonio journey. Port Antonio is about 3.5 hours from Braco 
with  a  stop  in Port Maria along the way. We walked through some of 
the  local  Banana  groves and then off to the beautiful Blue Lagoon. 
Unfortunately  I  fell  sick  with  something that resembled heat/sun 
stroke  so it was a long ride back to the property, covered in towels 
and  ice  packs.  Not sure what the local residents thought when they 
say  a  "mummy"  in  the  front  of the van during our stops. It is a 
beautiful  area, great views and the raft ride down the Rio Grande is 
supposed  to  be  one  of the best. But alas, I'll have to experience 
those on another trip. 

Phase  2 (Braco Family) is coming along. Anticipated date for opening 
some  of the property will be in April, 1997. This will be similar to 
the FDR property for families with children. 

Watch  for  uploads  of some additional photos taken at Braco to show 
some of the improvements and new features of the property. 

Will  we venture back to Braco again? I know I will definitely as the 
property  has  all  the amenities of other all-inclusive resorts, the 
most  friendly  and caring of team staff members and a truly Jamaican 
flavor for your vacation. 


We've  just  returned from two weeks in Puerto Rico, and want to make 
sure  that  everyone  knows  how disappointed we were in general with 
recommendations  from  the  Arthur  Frommer and Insight books on that 

First  off,  Puerto  Rico  (in  particular,  San Juan) is a fantastic 
Caribbean  destination  which we would recommend quite highly to all. 
There  are  some  great  off-season  bargains,  friendly  people, and 
beautiful beaches with clean water.

The  biggest  disappointment  was  our stay at the island of Vieques, 
about  six  miles  off the coast of the main island. This destination 
is  highly  touted  in  the Insight Guides as well as the A.F. travel 
books on Puerto Rico, and it is ONE TO BE AVOIDED.

Vieques  has  deteriorated  badly.  The  island could be considered a 
floating  garbage  heap  with  the  way  that  the locals treat their 
litter.  You  will  be  walking down the road to a restaurant (forget 
taxi's,  there  are  none) and a car load of people will drive by and 
throw  out sacks of garbage by the side of the road. I don't care how 
pretty  a  beach  is  if  you have to sidestep broken glass and every 
manner of food container to get into the water.

Unfortunately,  this attitude about cleanliness (or lack of) seems to 
have  made  it  through  to some of the formerly fine destinations. A 
few  years  ago,  "La  Casa  del  Frances"  on  Vieques was a Bed and 
Breakfast  that  was  worth the ferry ride all in itself. The problem 
with  the  current  travel  guides is that no one seems to have spent 
the  time  to  visit  in  the  last  couple  of  years, as they still 
recommend  the  place. The "Casa" is one of the dirtiest places we've 
ever  stayed  (we  are  in  the  travel  business,  and  have been to 
locations  all  over  the  world).  As  an  example, they have a huge 
mosquito  problem  and guests are used to slapping the little buggers 
wherever  they  land.  The  white bathroom walls are covered with the 
last  several  years  of dead mosquitoes and the resulting stains are 
not  pleasant  to  look at. Cleaning the rooms at the "Casa" consists 
of  two  guys  coming through with a wet mop and in five minutes they 
wipe  your  place down and make the bed (without changing the sheets, 
of  course).  If  you  are thinking of a vacation in paradise at this 
little  Bed  and  Breakfast,  I'd  seriously think about making other 

Reasons  to go to Vieques would most likely include snorkel or diving 
trips,  and  we understand that the island does well in these tourist 
endeavors.  If  you  are  going,  check out the dinner at The Vieques 
Country  Club.  This  is  a  smallish  pub-restaurant  in  the Isabel 
Segundo  area  which  has  taken on a decidedly big name -- but which 
deserves  it  based  on  the  quality of the fare. The owners of this 
eatery  also run a cooking school during the day and it is evident in 
the  uniqueness  of  their  menu items. We enjoyed the Chicken Breast 
with  Garlic Sauce, which was a fried chicken with the most delicious 
crunchy  garlic  sauce you've ever tasted. Washed down with a Medalla 
(local) beer, it was about $10 pp.

Another  recommendation  we  were disappointed with from both Insight 
and  Frommer  guides  is  the  Parador  Martorell,  located by Puerto 
Rico's  most  famous  beach,  at Loquillo. Although this property was 
clean,  in  the  last several years it has deteriorated so badly that 
it  bears  no resemblance to the fine little Inn that is described in 
the  tour  books.  For  example,  the  "wonderful  fresh  fruits  and 
homemade  breads  and  compotes"  described by Frommer ended up being 
some  cubes  of  watermelon  and  Velveta  cheese,  served with store 
bought  bread.  The  TV in the room is in a small locked cage located 
on  the  ceiling  of  the  room.  In  fact,  the hotel is so security 
conscious  that you get the impression you are living in a jail cell. 
Loquillo has quite a crime problem, we understand.

Right  down  the  street from their beautiful public beach (worth the 
45  minute  drive  from  San Juan for the day) is an excellent burger 
joint,  one  of  the best we've ever landed in (in any country!). The 
"Brass  Cactus" is run by a couple of Norte Americanos who have built 
a  business  catering  to the food and drink requirements of the U.S. 
military  in  the  area.  Friendly and attractive waitresses help you 
acclimate  to  the  surroundings,  and  the  burgers are gigantic and 
cooked to perfection.

In  San  Juan,  we  stayed  at  the beautiful Caribe Hilton, always a 
delight.  Although I would like to have had more personal service and 
the  Bed  and Breakfast type of accommodations, we felt that we could 
not  trust any other recommendations from Insight or Frommer. Old San 
Juan  was  a  sparkling gem, and in four sun-drenched days we totally 
forgot  about  our  problems  in Vieques and Loquillo. We'll be back, 
Puerto  Rico, if only to get another cup or two of that famous Puerto 
Rican java at the Cafe San Juan.

Dave and Linda Jensen, Designs on Travel, Sedona, Arizona 


Located some 28 miles southwest of St. Maarten, Saba (pronounced Say-
  Bah)  is  five square miles of rugged, mountainous terrain carpeted 
in  lush  green tropical foliage. Long known for offering some of the 
best  scuba  diving in this region of the Caribbean, Saba has much to 
offer  the  non-diving  Caribbean  traveler  seeking  an  out  of the 
ordinary  destination.  To  be  certain, Saba is not for everyone. If 
you're  seeking  fine  beaches,  exciting night life, gourmet dining, 
casinos  or  any  of  the other attractions common to her neighboring 
islands,  then Saba is not for you. Saba has a single wandering black 
sand  beach  that  comes  and goes with the seasons and night life is 
what  you  make  of  it. While good restaurants are to be found, they 
can't  be  considered  gourmet by any stretch of the imagination, and 
casinos  simply  don't  exist.  If on the other hand, you are seeking 
peace  and  quiet,  outstanding  panoramic  views  from every vantage 
point,  hiking  through  a  rainforest  on established hiking trails, 
great  scuba  diving  and  arguably some of the friendliest people in 
the  Caribbean  all  within a lush tropical setting, Saba may be what 
you're  looking  for.  As  a  frequent visitor to Saba, the following 
information  is  being  provided  not  only  for  those  who  haven't 
discovered  Saba  but also those seeking up-to-date information since 
their last visit. 

Getting  There.  The  only  way  to  get  to Saba is via St. Maarten. 
Although  some  travel guides insist that you can get to Saba via St. 
Eustatius,  it  is  generally  the  same flight from St. Maarten that 
services  both  islands.  Windward  Island  Airways (carrier code WM) 
provides  service  to  Saba  from  St.  Maarten five times daily. The 
flight  takes some fifteen minutes, unless a stop in St. Eustatius is 
required  (Statians  are  sometimes  known  to insist that the flight 
first  go  to  their  island  since  they  are not overly fond of the 
takeoff  and  landing  on  Saba). The Saba experience begins and ends 
with  your  landing and takeoff from what is described as the world's 
shortest  commercial  runway  at  some  1300  feet in length. Not too 
worry  though,  as  a  general rule only half of it is required since 
STOL  Twin  Otters  are used. Besides, if you survive the landing you 
automatically  qualify  for  the  "I  survived the Saba landing" tee-
shirt.  Note  that  you  may have some difficulty in getting ticketed 
all  the  way  through  to Saba since many major carriers do not have 
ticketing  arrangements  with  Winair  (your travel agent may only be 
able  to  make Winair reservations for you). In that case, it is wise 
to  confirm  your reservations with Winair prior to departure and pay 
for  them  in  St.  Maarten  on arrival. Similarly, it is also a good 
idea  to  only  check your luggage through to St. Maarten, pick it up 
there,  and  tote  it  over  to the Winair counter for check-in since 
baggage  check  through  procedures are suspect. While you must clear 
St.  Maarten  immigration, be advised that you do not need to pay the 
airport  departure  tax  in  St.  Maarten provided you continue on to 
Saba  the  same  day. For the less adventurous or those considering a 
day  trip  to  Saba, a ferry (the Edge) provides service to Saba on a 
semi-regular  basis  from Simpson Bay Lagoon. My recommendation, take 
Winair  the  landing and take-off from Saba alone are worth the extra 
cost  and  it's  not as hair- raising as you might be led to believe, 
although  it  has  been likened to landing and taking off from an air 
craft  carrier  and  some locals jokingly refer to the Twin Otters as 
the  "flying  coffins".  On  arrival  in Saba, taxis are available to 
take  you  to  your  accommodations  as you experience "the road that 
couldn't   be   built"   which  twists  and  turns  its  way  up  the 
mountainside  past  the rugged and picturesque village of Hells Gate, 
through  the rainforest, and on to Windwardside or the Bottom (Saba's 
capital).  Finally,  as  some of the taxi drivers might say, "welcome 
to Saba, ain't nobody going to bother you here." 

Accommodations.  The majority of Saba's accommodations are located in 
the  village  of  Windwardside some 1100 to 1500 feet above sea level 
nestled  between  Mt. Scenery and the Level. Constant breezes and the 
altitude  make  Windwardside comfortable during the day, but just the 
same  don't  forget  that  tropical sun! Similarly, you might find it 
useful  to  bring  along  a  light  sweater  since  nights can become 
uncomfortably   cool  to  some.  Within  Windwardside  accommodations 
include  Captain's  Quarters,  Juliana's  and  the  Cottage  Club and 
Scout's  Place.  I've  personally  stayed  at  all  of  these and can 
recommend  any of them. Captains Quarters is considered the grand old 
lady  of  Saba  and  is  built around an old sea captain's residence. 
Recently  acquired  by the Holm family of Saba, it has undergone some 
renovation   and   offers  its  own  distinct  charm  and  atmosphere 
including  pool,  bar,  and  outdoor dining under the canopy (and now 
TVs  in the rooms). The Captains Quarters atmosphere has been likened 
to  that  of a New England style inn. Juliana's is located right next 
door  to the Captains Quarters, and is owned and operated by Franklin 
and  Juliana Johnson who are without a doubt one of the more charming 
couples   this   world  has  too  offer.  Juliana's  is  immaculately 
maintained,  has  a  pool,  rec  room,  and  breakfast  and lunch are 
available  at  the  Tropics cafe which is on-site. In addition to the 
rooms  offered  at  Juliana's  they also manage and operate Flossie's 
cottage,  a  two  bedroom  old  Saban cottage complete with red roof, 
shutters,  and  gingerbread  accents.  The  Cottage  Club consists of 
twelve  Saban  cottage  reproductions  that offer kitchens, cable TV, 
balconies,   and   large   rooms   ---  a  pool  is  currently  being 
constructed.  On  this trip, my wife and I stayed at the Cottage Club 
and  were  very  satisfied.  Past  stays at the Captains Quarters and 
Juliana's   have   been   equally   satisfying   and   a   clear  cut 
recommendation   is  difficult  since  each  has  it's  own  distinct 
advantages.  My  only recommendation would be that if you are more of 
a  self-sufficient  traveler,  you  might  find  the  kitchens at the 
Cottage  Club  more  to  your  liking  since  Saba  does have a well-
supplied  grocery  store,  the  Big  Rock Market (can't miss it since 
it's  the  one  with  the  big  rock out front). In addition to these 
recommendations,  you  may want to consider one of the many privately 
owned  cottages  or apartments that are available. Repeat visitors to 
Saba  may  find that their favorite cottage or apartment is no longer 
available  since  many  are  now  being  rented to the medical school 
students  as  its  enrollment  steadily  increases. Nevertheless many 
attractive  cottages  and  apartments  in  the  $300 to $600 per week 
range  still  exist.  For the more up-scale traveler, you may want to 
consider  Willard's of Saba perched high on a cliff located some 2000 
feet  above  sea-level on Booby Hill and offering an outstanding view 
of  Statia,  St.  Kitts,  Nevis  and on a really good day Montserrat. 
Include  tennis  court,  privacy  (not  that  that's unique on Saba), 
pool,  Jacuzzi  and  exclusivity  ---  all  within the $300 per night 
range.  Outside  of  Windwardside,  the  Gate  House in Hells Gate is 
highly  regarded  and is one of my recommendations for dinner. In the 
Bottom,  you  might want to consider Cranston's Antique Inn. Overall, 
accommodations  on  Saba  are  comfortable  and  affordable (with the 
exception  of  Willard's  for  most).  For  diver's, pre-paid package 
rates  which  include  diving,  transfers,  accommodations, tanks and 
weights  are the best choice. For convenience, I recommend staying in 
Windwardside  since  that is where most of the restaurants, boutiques 
and  artisans are located (but Jim Siegel down at the Gate House is a 
great guy). 

Restaurants.  As  mentioned,  gourmet  dining  is  not  one of Saba's 
strong  points.  Nevertheless,  you  will find something to suit your 
tastes.  The  Captains  Quarters  restaurant as of this trip was very 
good  and  offers  a  Saturday  night poolside barbecue. Breakfast is 
also  available. Juliana's Tropics Cafe offers a great breakfast menu 
and  lunch  menu at reasonable prices. Guido's Bar and Pizzeria offer 
great  pizza,  hamburgers,  fries, and now offers a pretty good pasta 
selection  ---  make  sure to ask for the meatball sandwich since its 
not  on  the  menu. The Brigadoon Pub and Eatery offers a pretty good 
selection  of  chicken,  seafood  and  pasta  dishes; Monday night is 
generally  Mexican  night  and  the  deserts are particularly good. A 
welcome  addition  to  Saba  is  the  recently opened Caribake bakery 
offering  fresh  baked goods and great sandwiches at lunch time. Also 
great  for  satisfying  that  sweet  tooth at breakfast. For Chinese, 
consider  the  Saba  Chinese  Restaurant. For a touch of local flavor 
including  goat  and land crab, consider Scout's Place or Lollipop's. 
Finally,  I'll  reserve my highest recommendation for Jim Siegel down 
at  the  Gate  House  in  Hells Gate --- nightly three- course dinner 
which  includes  soup  or  salad, choice of three entrees, coffee and 
desert  for $20. On most nights, Jim will pick you up --- but even if 
he  can't  it's  worth  the walk from Windwardside and besides you'll 
definitely  work  up  an appetite! One final caution, you may want to 
consider  reservations  ---  not due to crowds but to ensure that the 
cook  or  chef  shows  up.  For  repeat  visitors,  the lower Chinese 
restaurant  and  bar is no more. Similarly, Allan at the Gourmet Deli 
has returned to the states. 

Nightlife.  None  to  speak  of --- consider a long leisurely dinner, 
retire  to  the  Captains  Quarters bar, Guido's, or Scout's for some 
lively  conversation and/or relaxation. Go for a long walk, listen to 
the  tree frogs, read a book, play a game of pool at Guido's, talk to 
the  locals,  grab  an  ice cream at Scout's, sit on a ridge watching 
the  lights  in  St.  Maarten,  gaze  at the stars and simply enjoy a 
slower  paced  vacation  and  the  simpler pleasures that Saba has to 

Transportation.  Although rental cars are available on Saba, the best 
way  to explore still remains by foot. If you find yourself too tired 
to  continue,  simply  sit  on the wall looking totally exhausted and 
someone will undoubtedly offer you a ride. 

Shopping.  Within  Windwardside,  you'll find a number of interesting 
shops  and  boutiques.  Check  out  Jo  Bean's  Hot Class Studio, the 
Breadfruit  Gallery  for  some  unique artwork, Jean MacBeth's Around 
the  Bend  shop and sample the many different varieties of Saba Spice 
(a  40  proof  liqueur that starts with 151 proof rum --- an acquired 
taste with each family's maker using a closely safeguarded recipe). 

Fishing. Consider Greg Johnson's half-day fishing charters. 

Hiking.  The  Saba Conservation Foundation maintains a series of well 
marked  trails.  The highlight is of course the hike up Mt. Scenery's 
1064  steps carved out of the rock. All along the way you will notice 
wild  orchids, elephant ears, and some interesting flora and fauna as 
you  enter  the rainforest. Fairly strenuous hike that should be left 
to  the  last day for divers since the top is at some 2800 feet above 
sea  level.  Upon  completion,  stop into the Tourist Bureau for your 
certificate  signifying that you've successfully climbed Mt. Scenery. 
For  a  less  strenuous hike consider the trail up Maskerhorn Hill or 
simply  stroll  up to Booby Hill or the end of the road in the Level. 
Starting  from  Hells  Gate take the trail to the old Sulfur Mines or 
the  Mary's  Point  ruins.  Also  consider the Crispeen Track between 
Windwardside  and  St. John's. The tourist bureau can provide a guide 
to  the  trail systems. Hiking boots or at the very least comfortable 
walking shoes are a must. 

Diving.  I  bet  you divers out there thought I'd forgotten. Clearly, 
Saba's  main claim to fame is her diving. The waters surrounding Saba 
to  a  depth  of  200  feet are considered protected as a part of the 
Saba  Marine  Park which is zoned for various uses. For all practical 
purposes,  there  are  now  only  two dive operations on Saba --- Sea 
Saba  and Saba Deep. Wilson's Dive Shop is effectively closed at this 
writing.  Both  of  the  remaining  operations  are reputable, highly 
regarded,  and  dive the same sites. All sites are permanently moored 
with  the  exception  of  the infrequently dived Green Island. Saba's 
best  dives  are  considered  to  be the pinnacle and sea mount dives 
which  include such sites as Third Encounter/Eye of the Needle, Outer 
Limits,  Twilight  Zone,  and  my favorite Shark Shoals. All of these 
sites  are  considered  deep by any standard and begin between 80 and 
90  feet.  Due  to  their  depths  these  sites  remain  in excellent 
condition  with  no  hurricane damage apparent. At the same time, the 
operators  emphasize  proper  buoyancy  control which helps to ensure 
their  continued  good health. Encounters with black tip reef sharks, 
hawksbill  turtles,  and  any  number  of  pelagics are common place. 
Although  deep,  these sites are fairly easy to dive without current. 
Descents  and  slow  ascents  along  the  mooring  lines are strongly 
recommended.   Safety  stops  are  an  absolute  must  and  with  the 
visibility  still  allow  you  to  watch the show down below. Typical 
profiles  are  in  the  16-20 minute range and the proper use of dive 
computers  is  strongly  encouraged.  The  minor  sea  mount dives at 
Diamond  Rock  and  Man  O'  War Shoals provide a maximum depth of 80 
feet  to the sand surrounding them and make for excellent multi-level 
dive  profiles.  Diamond Rock extends well above the surface where as 
Man  O'  War  Shoals  rises to within 20 feet of the surface. Both of 
these  sites attract a variety of marine life and southern sting rays 
are  commonly  found  in the sand (look for the tails and eyes poking 
out  of  the  sand) Despite its reputation for deep diving, Saba does 
offer  some excellent shallow sites in the Ladder Bay area as well as 
Tent  Reef.  Non-divers who are interested in trying out scuba diving 
will  find  that both operators offer the "resort course" and will be 
able  to experience these shallow sites first hand. Saba's shallowest 
dive   is   located   at  Torrens  Point  with  a  maximum  depth  of 
approximately  40  feet.  This  site is considered Saba's nursery and 
many  juvenile  species  can  be  found here including baby hawksbill 
turtles.  In  addition, Saba's underwater snorkeling trail is located 
here,  but  some  of  the  other  shallow sites are equally suited to 
snorkelers.  Finally,  some  of  the sites located on the way towards 
the  windwardside  of  the island offer some of the better dives that 
I've  had  on Saba. These sites include Core Gut, Hole in the Corner, 
and  Big  Rock  Market.  Due  to their locations, they are dived less 
frequently  and  you  will  run  into  and be approached by some very 
curious  critters at these sites. On my last dive at Big Rock Market, 
had  three  Queen  Angelfish  at  once swim right up to me, pose, and 
check  me  out --- naturally my camera was back on the boat. The only 
real  disadvantage  to  Saba diving and snorkeling is that it is only 
by  boat  due  to  a  lack  of  beaches and wealth of cliffs. Overall 
impressions  of  the  condition  of  the  reefs on Saba this trip was 
favorable.  The  pinnacle  dives remain pristine and untouched. While 
some  hurricane  damage from last season was apparent to me, it would 
probably  not be noticed by new visitors to Saba. Expanded operations 
at  the  rock  and  gravel  crushing operation in Fort Bay seem to be 
having  some  affect  on the close in reefs, most noticeable was Tent 
Reef  ---  but again if new to Saba you might not notice it. Overall, 
Saba's  reefs  remain  vibrant  and healthy. Finally, Saba appears to 
have a new attraction. For the past eight weeks or so, a solo bottle-
nose  dolphin  has  been  hanging around the Fort Bay area and Ladder 
Bay  area.  This  dolphin,  like  JoJo  on  Providenciales apparently 
prefers  the  company  of  divers and snorkelers in particular (still 
isn't  to  comfortable with divers' exhaust bubbles). He keeps coming 
closer  and  closer  to  the  dive  boats  and  would appear ready to 
permanently  call Saba home since he hasn't joined any of the pods of 
dolphins  passing by Saba in recent weeks (apparently someone in Fort 
Bay  area is keeping him well fed). However, he has moved on to parts 
unknown and hasn't been seen in recent weeks. 

Hope  all  of  this helps those interested in Saba, and hopefully you 
will  come  to  know  Saba  as I have. Clearly Saba has much to offer 
both  above  and  below  water.  Feel  free  to  contact  me with any 
specific questions you may have. (76632.3264@compuserve.com) 


I  enjoy swimming on St. Barts and I do a lot of actual swimming (2 - 
3  hours a day!) when I'm there since the water is so clear, warm and 
calm  (most  days).  For  health  reasons, I try to avoid getting too 
much  direct  sun--now a little more difficult since there are almost 
no  trees  on  any  of the beaches since the hurricane. I did however 
locate  one  or  two  trees  on  St.  Jean  Beach on the spot where a 
favorite  locale restaurant named Francine's used to sit. Some of the 
St.  Jean  stores  sell  beach  umbrellas which help a little, but if 
there  are  those beautiful trade winds, the umbrella doesn't like to 
stay  standing  for long. By the way, the beaches in St. Jean now are 
even  more  lovely than before, thanks to a widening of the sand from 
the  forward  motion  of  the sea during the hurricane. The islanders 
have  done an amazing job of cleaning everything up and the hotels on 
the  beach  have  planted  fabulous new gardens and palm trees, so if 
you  hadn't  seen  all  of  the  previous  foliage  in  the area, you 
wouldn't  really  know  that anything as cataclysmic as Luis had ever 

Eating  out  at  lunch  time  is  my  favorite  way  to check out the 
restaurant  scene,  since 2 hours over lunch and drinks can easily be 
followed  by  more  swimming and thus also avoiding direct sun during 
the  peak noontime hours. Here are a couple of great beach side lunch 
spots:  my two favorites are The West Indies Cafe in the Sereno Beach 
Hotel  at  Grand  Cul  De Sac and The Hotel Filao Beach Restaurant in 
St.  Jean. Two great bartenders--Alexis at West Indies Cafe and Mario 
at  Filao  Beach  will  keep  you  entertained.  Mario speaks perfect 
English  as he has been on the island for quite some time. He'll tell 
you  stories about the hurricane and how they all pitched in together 
to  rebuild  the  deck and pool that fronts the restaurant on the now 
serene  St.  Jean  Beach.  The food is 5 stars at both places and the 
seaside  views  mesmerizing.  The  excellent  cuisine,  if pricey, is 
worth  it  since  I usually stay at a great cottage in Lurin, where I 
can make breakfast and dinner and then afford to splurge at lunch. 

Here's  a great post hurricane story. My friends Thierry Tsalapatanis 
and  his  girlfriend  Framboo (French for raspberry!) who own and run 
Restaurant  Topolino  "adopted"  an injured sea bird that was limping 
around  on  the  roof  of the restaurant the day after the hurricane. 
This  big  gray  bird  with  a long beak and webbed feet, I think, is 
some  kind  of  sea loon. Anyway, after they'd healed its injured leg 
with  the  help of the local veterinarian and fed it for a week, they 
let  it  go.  It  flew  away, but showed up daily for the small fresh 
fish  that  they  feed  him (about 25 a day!). Aptly named Luis after 
the  storm,  this  bird hangs out at the restaurant near the barbecue 
pit  where  Thierry  cooks up his freshly caught fish each night. The 
bird  also  goes  swimming with them in the pool at Topolino and goes 
fishing  with  Thierry  on his boat. It's hilarious to see this crazy 
bird!  At  night,  he  sits next to the Topolino barbecue pit, preens 
and  submits to petting by various diners who know how to be slow and 
gentle with this otherwise wild bird. 

Of  interest  as  to  where  to  stay--try  Manoir  de  Lurin  on the 
mountainside.  Here  you can have quiet, luxury, in a forest setting, 
and  not  too expensive--comes with a car too. You can rent either of 
two  cottages  there by contacting St. Barth Properties at 1-800-421-
3396.  They  have  a  lot  of  other  villas and hotels too, and give 
really  personalized  service.  I've  been  using  them  for the past 
several years for my trips there. 

Made  In  St.  Barts  seems  to be a relatively new shop in the Villa 
Creole  shop  area  in  St.  Jean.  They have some interesting things 
there,  including  a  few  originally  designed  tiles from Jean Yves 
Froment  who  is  an  artist  that  has  lived on the island for many 


  My  wife and I, along with another couple, shared a villa on a hill 
overlooking  Lorient  Bay  with St. Martin in the distance. We rented 
the  villa  through  St. Barth Properties (SBP) and were very pleased 
with  the  accommodations.  Our dining area was outside but under and 
extended  roof.  On the nights we ate in, a beautiful sunset added to 
the  ambiance.  Cool evenings, good wine, good food, good company and 
a great sunset..."it don't get much better than that".

Our  villa  was equipped with two large bedrooms with queen size beds 
and individual a/c units - which we used on a part time basis. 

A  4 foot deep swimming pool with a built in table and bench was also 
part  of  the  villa.  A  TV  and  stereo  along with a comprehensive 
library  of  paper backs was also available. There are only two local 
TV  stations,  so it doesn't take to long to channel surf. Also, they 
are  in  French.  They showed some episodes of "Murder She Wrote" and 
"Doogie  Howser"  dubbed over in French. Doogie made as much sense in 
French as it did in English.

Although  there  were  some  minor  problems,  they were handled in a 
timely  manner  by  SBP's  local  representative; Carl at "The Rental 
Shop".  Overall,  IMHO,  a  villa  is  the  only way to go if you are 
interested in freedom and privacy.

Our  first  night  in  St.  Barts, however, was spent at the Seahorse 
Hotel  where  the view from our terrace overlooked Marigot Bay/beach. 
Loic  (pronounced  leweek),  the  manager picked us up at the airport 
and  was  a  very  helpful  guide  in  familiarizing  us  with island 
culture.  He  told  us  the only French we needed to know was Bonjour 
(good  day),  Bonswa(?) (good evening), Merci'(thank - you) and smile 
a  lot.  As we were stuck for transportation on our first night, Loic 
offered  to  drive  us  to  a local restaurant - le Rivage. I had the 
grilled  chicken  breast,  and  my  wife  had  linguini. The meal was 
excellent  and  we got out for about $40.00 which included a glass of 
wine  each  and  a  15% gratuity. After dinner the restaurant manager 
gave  us  a  ride  back to the hotel...in a full size Ford pick-up no 
less  -  a  rather  unusual vehicle for St. Barts. The Seahorse Hotel 
was  a  very  nice  place  to  stay.  Our  room  was  equipped with a 
kitchenette  and  all  the  necessary cooking utensils. The view from 
our  terrace  included the hotel swimming pool and Marigot Beach/Bay. 
Located  near  the  hotel  were  many fine restaurants. Price for the 
room  for  a  single a single night was $90.00 and was booked through 
SBP.  Reynald  from  "The  Rental Shop" picked us up the next morning 
and  took  us  to the villa and then to get our rent car. Waiting for 
us  at  the villa was a complimentary bottle of champagne courtesy of 
St.  Barth  Properties.  

DRIVING   We   rented   a  Suzuki  Samauri  with  4  -  speed  manual 
transmission  and 4 wheel drive. You need the 4WD when rain makes the 
roads  slick.  Unless  you  are  alone,  don't  waste  your time in a 
"moke",  as  they  do not seem to have the power to handle the hills. 
Some  of  the  hills  are  a 15% grade so be prepared to stand on the 
gas.  My  first  impression  of the roads was that I'd seen wider cow 
paths,  but  after  a  couple  of days they did seem to get wider and 
straighter.  The  roads  are  twisting  and narrow and if you can see 
around  corners, so much the better<g>. It is not uncommon to come up 
on  two  cars  headed in opposite directions stopped in the middle of 
the  road with the two drivers holding a conversation. The streets in 
Gustavia  are  narrow  with  parking  on  both sides making them even 

There  are,  I think only 3 or 4 stop signs on all of St. Barts, with 
two  of them in downtown Gustavia, so you have to be on your toes all 
the  time. Some of the roads are not to well marked, so it is easy to 
miss  a  turnoff,  but  not  to worry as its no t that far around the 
island  and  almost impossible to get lost. The most accurate map can 
be  gotten  at the Office of Tourism in Gustavia. It's an aerial view 
of  the  island  with  the  roads highlighted in yellow and is fairly 
detailed.  Mopeds  and  motorcycles are in an overabundant supply and 
the  riders  will  ride right up on your rear bumper then pass at the 
first opportunity....curves included.

BEACHES  &  OTHER  WATER  SPORTS  No  question  about it the two best 
beaches  are  Saline  and  Gouverneur  with Colombier a strong third. 
Saline  and  Gouverneur  can be reached by car. Saline is fairly easy 
to  find, as you can see the adjoining salt ponds from a distance. To 
reach  Gouverneur,  turn at the Santa Fe Grill and the road will take 
you  right  to the beach. Colombier is much more difficult, but still 
can  be reached by car. There are two places to access the beach, one 
is  from  the  observation  point  where  you have to follow a steep, 
narrow  rocky  trail  to  the  bottom  of  a  hill.  Unless you are a 
mountain  climber I would not recommend this route. The other is a 15 
minute  hike from Flammands over some pretty rocky terrain. We rented 
a  boat  and took the easy route. Of the three beaches, Colombier had 
the  best  snorkeling.  From  what  we  experienced,  all  three  are 
"unofficially" clothing optional.

On  Wednesday  we  rented  a boat from Marine Service for 4 hours and 
cruised  the leeward side of the island with a long stop at Colombier 
Beach   for  snorkeling.  The  boat  was  17'  long  and  similar  in 
appearance  to  a  Boston  Whaler. Marine Service also ran dive trips 
out  to some of the surrounding islands. The day we went it was sunny 
with  the visibility around 50'. Depth of the dive went from 10 to 40 
feet.  The  highlight  of the dive was a school of about 15 Barracuda 
swim  by to see what was going on in their ocean. Sizes ranged from 2 
to  4  feet  long. 


We ate out 4 of the 7 
nights  there  and never had a bad meal. With it being the off season 
there weren't many customers so we got exceptional service. 

The  first  was  le  Rivage which I mentioned earlier. Second was the 
West  Indies  Grill  which  was  a  little  pricer,  but the food was 
excellent.  Both  of  the  above  were on the beach at Cul de Sac. On 
Thursday  we  ate at la Marine on the waterfront in Gustavia. My wife 
and  I  both  had  (large)lobster and a glass of wine and got out for 
just  under  $100.00.  The  place was packed because it was "mussels" 
night  so  the  service  was a little slow....but nothing to complain 
about.  Friday was Pizza Night so we ate right next door at L'Escale. 
Price  was about the same as a top of the line US pizza place. At the 
end  of  the  meal  they served each customer a small glass of brandy 
which  hit  the  spot.  If  you  order  water with your meal, you are 
charged  for it, sometimes as much as a soft drink or beer because it 
is  bottled.  Tap  water is not used because St. Barts has no natural 
water  supply  and  is  dependent  on  rain  water  or  water  from a 
desalinization plant.

For  our  other meals we shopped at either UNIC Plus or Match grocery 
stores  that  are located in a shopping center across the street from 
the  airport.  On  the  whole prices were much higher than the states 
but had a good selection. 

CHURCHES There are three churches on St. Barts. Two Catholic with 
services  in  French  and one Anglican with a service in English. 

Do  not  check  you  luggage all the way to St. Barts, or you may not 
see  your  luggage  for  a  few days. Check your bags directly to St. 
Maarten  or  which  ever island you are connecting through. Then take 
your  bags over to Winair or Air St. Barts ticket counter. Get an "In 
Transit  Voucher"  both coming and going through St. Maarten to avoid 
the $12.00 departure tax.

Allow  at  least  1  1/2  hours  between  connecting  flights  at St. 
Maarten.  Some  of  the people employed by the local airlines operate 
in  their  own  time  zone. The same time interval applies if you are 
going  home through Miami. Immigration and Customs, for us anyway, on 
Saturday  night was chaos. In fact 2 hours would be better if you can 
arrange it. 

When  in  St.  Barts,  confirm  your  return flight to St. Maarten or 
wherever  at least 48 hours in advance. If you don't and the plane is 
full, you will be out of a ride until they can find you space.

  OTHER  TIPS  AND  OBSERVATIONS  In  most  cases  a  15% gratuity is 
included  in  your  bill,  but  you  might want to check and be sure. 
Electricity  is  220V so bring an adapter if you are going to be at a 
villa.  Very low or non - existent crime rate. Our villa was unlocked 
all  the  time  and we felt secure. There was an absence of sirens in 
the  night  and  other  symbols  of  our time. Most of the crime is a 
petty  nature, like someone stole a camera that was left on the front 
seat  of  an open car....stuff like that. No violent crime. There was 
no  place  on  the  island,  day  or night, where we felt threatened. 
Exchange  rate  is  5  French  Francs per US dollar. Overall, this is 
probably  the  best  vacation spot we have ever visited! CONTACTS St. 
Barth  Properties,  Inc. Cynthia Smyth 1-800-421-3396 The Rental Shop 
Residence  Jardins  De  St.Jean  Carl  or  Reynald  011-590- 27-50-18 
Marine Service Dominique & Henri Jouan 011-590-27-70-34 

Should  you  have  any  questions,  send  me an e-mail: Chuck Rearick 


WONDERFUL,  WONDERFUL,  WONDERFUL!  I  can't  say  enough good things 
about  the  campground  and  the  island  in  general. I loved Maho's 
earthy-crunchy,   environmentally   conscious   and  super  laid-back 
atmosphere.  The  workers  and  guest were a diverse mix of some very 
friendly  people.  The  nightly  lectures were a educational treat. I 
got  a great astrological reading from a lovely woman, Kelley Hunter, 
who  will  be  there  for  the next month or so. The tent was perched 
right  over  the  water  so  the views were fantastic. You were right 
about all the steps--killer after a night of drinking in Cruz Bay. 

Beaches.....  all  of  them  were GORGEOUS. The best I've seen in the 
Carib.  I  like  Maho's  beach  for  relaxing and its calm waters for 
swimming...Snorkeled  at  leinster  and  then  made  the  trip out to 
Watermelon  Cay,  which  was  well  worth  the  extra  effort for the 
INCREDIBLE  SNORKELING.  wish  I brought an underwater camera...Trunk 
Bay  was pretty but for the 'tourists'. If anything make the trip for 
the  snack  stands  French  fries--yum!  Hawksnest was lovely and the 
snorkeling  was good...Cut through Salt Pond to do some beach combing 
on  Drunk Bay...Made an attempt to go to Soloman but wasn't sure if I 
was  on  the  Lind  (?) trail behind the biospere building so we just 
said forget it. 

Food...  Only  ate  out a couple of times, the rest were spent in the 
tent  or  at  the pavilion. First dinner was at Don Carlos. The Texas 
chili  is  delicious and HOT! However, the fajitas that followed were 
only  OK.  The other dinner was at Lime Inn in Cruz Bay. DELICIOUS! I 
had  blackened Cajun tuna and my boyfriend had sirloin over linguini. 
Highly recommend dining there. 

Trails...  Missed  the  Reef Bay hike with Hamilton. We were going to 
do  it  alone  but  after  considering  the heat exhausting inspiring 
climb  back  up  the  mountain  we  considered  against  it.  Did the 
Cinnamon  trail  hike  which  was  pleasant,  if a bit steep, winding 
through  a very green and semi-lush forest. Also enjoyed the Cinnamon 
self-guided  tour  through  the  plantation ruins. Hopefully I'll hit 
some of the others next time. 

The  trip  really  was  great.  The island was clean and seemed safe, 
even  at  night.   If  you  go, buy the book "feet, fins & four wheel 
drive"--excellent  book with very thorough descriptions of just about 
everything  to  do  on the island. Oh, before I forget, there was one 
slight  bummer:  the  sand flies. Make sure you shake off your shoes, 
towels,  clothes  everything  before  you  go into the tent. Once you 
accumulate  a  bunch  of  sand  in  there (like i did) forget it. Bug 
repellent  after sunset should take care of any if they do get in the 
tent.  If  you  have  any  ?'s  feel  free  to  ask.  Until next time 


Let's  see  what  I  can  remember  about  our  wonderful trip to St. 
Martin!  We  left CT on 16 April in the pouring rain and came home 16 
May  in  the  pouring rain. Some things NEVER change! Flight down was 
uneventful  even  though the first leg of the trip was late we had no 
problem making our connection in San Juan. 

When  we  got  to  the  condo Vincent from Summerset had already been 
there  and  let  the car for us. Unfortunately, he locked the car and 
forgot  to  leave  the  keys.  After tracking him down and having him 
drop  off  the keys we did some shopping at the Food Center. Got most 
of what I wanted even through the shelves were kind of bare. 

We  arrived  first  day  of  Carnival and I have to tell you that the 
island  was  MUCH more crowded this April then last April. The island 
really  looks  good,  nice  and green. There are still some blue tarp 
roofs  but work is being done to repair them. Several boats are still 
half sunk in the lagoon. 

We  went  to  Mullet  Beach most of the time to take advantage of the 
shade.  There  are  still  quite a few trees left on the beach. Beach 
was cleaned up by E

on  and I believe boys and girl scouts one Sunday when we were there. 
Water  was  gorgeous. Numerous cruise ships came into port during our 
month long stay and P'burg and Marigot were quite crowded then. 

We  went  to  the Grand Carnival Parade and it was beautiful! Neither 
Paul  nor  I  could  get  over the gorgeous costumes. Natch the large 
trucks  with  the loud speakers was LOUD!! It was really so enjoyable 
watching  the  parade  that we went to the second day parade the next 
day!  I  don't  see  HOW the marchers (or should I say dancers) could 
keep  up  the  motion  over  that long parade route. They were really 
good and we have quite a few good pictures of them. 

Well  as  I  said we spent a month in SXM and we did not do anything! 
Just  watched  the  sand  grow it seems. Never got to St. Barth's, or 
Anguilla,  or  anyplace  else  we generally go. Did a little shopping 
but  not  much. We did go to the market in Marigot twice, bought some 
t-shirts  the  first  time  and  the  second time I got some pictures 
(prints) by Chantal-Marie (I believe that is correct). 

Friday  we  went to Surf Side South to meet the others. It was a nice 
time,  would have been nicer if the band was not so loud. It was hard 
carrying  on  a conversation over the music. We visited the museum on 
Front  Street,  found  it  very  interesting.  The  library is really 
great.  We  paid our deposit and one month's fee (total of $30 or so) 
and  took  some  books  out.  They  have  a pretty large selection of 
books.  Before  we  left we donated all the paperbacks we had brought 
with us and got our deposit back, also. 

That's  about  all we did except beach, beach, and more beach. And of 
course EAT! 

Where do I start with that???? 

Mario's  Bistro  is fantastic. We were there twice and service, food, 
and  ambiance are great. It is especially nice when you are called by 

Le  Cottage  was outstanding. I thought the garlic mashed potatoes at 
Mario's  were  great and then I had the ones at Le Cottage and I have 
to  say  they  were  better,  more garlic in them. This is a charming 
place and we thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Le Tastevin - a great lunch as usual. 

Le Riviera - had a great snapper there for one lunch. 

Le  Poisson  D'or  - a fantastic beef tenderloin. Only thing was they 
did  not have coffee! A restaurant without coffee...seems the machine 
was broke! 

  Il  Nuttuno  - stopped in for lunch, looked at the menu and did not 
see  what I wanted so we started to leave. Waiter asked what it was I 
wanted  and  I told him (it had been a special last year when we were 
there).  He  went  to see the chef and the chef said 'no problem'. He 
made  me  the  most  delicious  escollape  of  veal  with  portabella 
mushrooms.  It  was  really  great. Paul had a very nice shrimp dish. 
Auburge  Gourmand  -  outstanding  as usual. Christine is huge and is 
due in a couple of weeks. 

La  Rosa,  Too - great veal chop as usual, service leaves a whole lot 
to  be desired. They have the tables so close together that I had the 
waiter's  butt  in my face quite a few times during the course of the 

Le Perroquet, good but not as good as usual. Saratoga - great meal. 

Grill  & ribs - we both love the 'all you can eat' baby back and went 
there several times. 

Tutta  Pasta  -  seems  that  it was better with the old chef. It was 
still good but not as good as previously. 

Surf Club South - stopped for lunch one day and had a good hamburg. 

Turtle  Pier  -  great  hamburg there. Funny thing, I very rarely eat 
hamburgs at home. 

San  Marco  -  did  not care for the place, food was soso and service 

Le  Bec  Fin  - this is one place I doubt if we EVER go back to. Paul 
had  rack  of  lamb  and  he was served the smallest, thinnest 4 lamb 
chops  that  I  have  ever  seen at a cost of $29.00. He had the same 
thing,  rack of lamb, the next night at Le Cottage for $19.00...quite 
a  difference.  He  said the ones at Le Bec Fin were o.k., nothing to 
write  home about. I had a snapper which was supposed to be cooked in 
parchment  with  vegetables.  It  was cooked in foil and was the most 
tasteless  fish I have ever had. The vegetables were mush. I sent the 
meal  back  telling  them that I did not like it and I saw the waiter 
and  bartender  eating  it  at  the bar! Of course I was charged full 
price for it which I don't think was right, but... 

I  think  that  about  sums  up  the  restaurants.  I did do a lot of 
cooking also. 

Now for more on the island.... 

Food  Center  on  Bush  road  is being rebuilt and by the looks of it 
will be HUGE! 

The  store that is where Ram's used to be is called Food World and is 
owned by Ram's. Guess they just changed the name after Luis. 

A  sales  tax  is  scheduled  to  be  implemented  1 Jan 97. Paul was 
supposed  to  bring  the paper home with the info on it but he forgot 
to  pack  it.  I'll  post  what  I can remember. 4% tax on goods (not 
necessities),  2%  tax on medical, 6% tax on services. I wish I could 
remember  more,  I  do know that originally the taxes were to be on a 
scale  of  from  2%  to 11% but that was changed a little. Naturally, 
they is a lot of opposition to this. 

Carl's  Unique  Bakery  has  an addition, Carl's Unique Inn. Carl was 
voted  the  boss  of  the  year  during the secretary week banquet at 
Sambuca.  He also has a very nice little supermarket where the prices 
are in both guilders and dollars. 

All  in all it was a wonderful trip and we really HATED to come home. 
Gotta get started planning our next trip! 


This  was  the  first  time  Mary-Lee  and I were getting a chance to 
bring  our  16 month old son to St. Martin. Plane ride down (5/7) was 
uneventful  until  we  landed  in  a torrential downpour in SXM. That 
lasted  through  picking our car up at Summer Set and the drive up to 
the  Sunrise Hotel. A little disappointed in the request for $50 cash 
for  the  car  seat for Chris Jr., but I did not want to start on the 
wrong foot. 

The  room  at  the Sunrise was very nice. Not really toddler friendly 
(sunken  living  area)  but  Chris Jr. adapted very well. Better than 
his  nervous  parents  for  much of the beginning of the trip. Agnes, 
the  young  lady  running  the  Sunrise  in  Christians  absence, was 
wonderful.  Took  care  of  an  overheated fridge, ant problem in the 
bathroom  and  two  power  failures  like a veteran. For those of you 
that  have  read Herman Wouk's "Don't Stop the Carnival", Agnes lived 
it  her  first  few  days  at the Sunrise. Overall our stay there was 
very nice.

  On  our  4th  day we moved over to the Towers at Mullet Bay. A very 
nice  4th  floor 1 bedroom unit. Chris Jr. loved this room as well as 
taking  the elevator up and down. Not exactly what we might go to SXM 
for,  but hey, it was his first time and he was doing the right thing 
after all; enjoying himself. 

The  beaches  were wonderful. Went to Coco Beach a few times early on 
and  had  a  very  nice  time. Being from Long Island though the wave 
runners,  parasailers  and so on are not our favorite part of SXM. We 
quickly  settled  into  our  favorites;  Baie Rouge and Cupecoy. Both 
were  wonderful.  Baie  Rouge has more chairs and umbrellas available 
than  I  remembered as well as two places for food. The security just 
off  the  beach where you park your car, while depressing to see, was 
a comfort just the same. The people on the beach were great. 

Cupecoy  was  very  nice.  Not  thrilled  with  the guys that seem to 
waiting  for  you to leave something of value on your towel while you 
head  in  for  a  dip, but had no problems. People here were terrific 
too.  Beach  had  about the same number of sun Lovers as we were used 

Restaurant  wise  we  did  not  really  go out that much. Figured the 
least  we  could do was give extra attention to Chris Jr. for putting 
up  with  us  dragging  him  out  to  the  beach each day. Did try Il 
Nettuno  up in Grand Case. Food and seating were terrific. Chris Jr., 
well  that's  another  story  that  probably belongs on the parenting 
bbs.  Had  take  out  from  Sambuca  and  found  the appetizers to be 
wonderful,  the  food  was  I  would  say average. Cheri's, you would 
never  know  they  had  to be entirely rebuilt. To a tablecloth as we 
remembered  it.  As good as always. And many may not agree, but Mary-
Lee  and  I  have  simple  tastes  in food, the Grill and Rib Company 
still gets two thumbs up. 

All  in  all  we  had  a  great  time.  Chris Jr. was great. It is an 
adjustment  from  having no responsibilities and just doing things on 
your  own  time,  which  is  what Mary-Lee and I always enjoyed about 
SXM, but it was well worth it. 

The  18th  ended  our  wonderful  11  day stay. Now we have to look 5 
months forward to being back at SXM at the Royal Islander!! 

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