Came to this interesting and controversial island with very high expectations after reading many fantastic reviews and hearing many good stories. After all a room at a decent (but not luxury hotel) costs here $400 per night. Ocean Club West was nice, cozy, clean, but I wouldn't call it luxurious by any means, that is why I won't give it 4 stars, but only 3. I don't really have any complains about the hotel, except that the restaurant staff wasn't very attentive. The hotel is a condo style: you get a tiny kitchen and your own washer and dryer in a studio suite, but everything is pretty simple. There are no added features that could justify the cost. From what I learnt there are no or very few all-inclusives on T&C like in Mexico, Puerto Rico or many other touristy beach destinations, so here you pay for your meals, and the price is very high. And it is not just the restaurant food you pay a premium on, it is everything: clothing, groceries, services, souvenirs. They make it feel as if everything was very exclusive, while it is all pretty average and not different in any way from things you find in places like Mexico at half or even 1/3 the price. Ther are just a few small restaurants in the vicinity of my resort, and you have to make a reservation way in advance to go there for dinner. Those places get packed after 7 pm, as there is not much competition. The good is ok. I've eaten better on my vacation. There is a nice little cute French bakery, and a tiny deli store, where they can make you a sandwich or a salad and pour you a glass of not-so-good white wine, which they forget to chill, which you can enjoy on their patio. And that is it. Those places practically have a monopoly. It is all cute, cozy, very island-like, but not posh, luxurious or exclusive you would expect from an upscale island. Ph, and you can't really walk around. I wanted to explore the island on foot. Bad idea! There is just a road and a small sidewalk you walk on, and the you have unattended shrubs on both sides along the road. Nothing to see. The island is poor and undeveloped.
So, there is not much variety, there is no nightlife and no shopping on tnis island. Not that I care about those things. I didnt come here for nightlife or shopping, I came for the beach and diving, and I was pretty happy with both, but I'd say if you are willing to pay this kind of money, go to Aruba, St Marteen, any of those nice European islands with great shopping and many different attractions.
The famous Grace Beach, referred to in many reviews as 'the best beach in the world' didn't seem to be any better than the beach I stayed at in Riviera Maya, Mexico. The only advantage of the Grace Beach is that it is wide and ling and consistently good along a very long sttch of land, while in Riviera Maya you could be at a perfectly clean sand-only spot, and the walk half-amile along the beach to come across rocks and lots of seaweed on the shore and in the water.
So I wanted to do my research to find out why the island was so expensive and why it was considered to be so unique. I talked to the locals, a few business owners, and I read some stuff on the internet. Found some intersting facts that explain through-the-roof prices and all the hype about this place. First of all, everything gets imported from the States, and the shipping costs and duty fees are pretty high. The import tariff is about 30%. So the vndors and business owners pretty much have to double the price to make money. Second of all, the island is considered to be exclusive because there are no mega resorts here. The island itself is small, and so it does not cater to a mass tourist market, like Mexico or Dominican Republic do. They want to limit the demand by limitting the supply. This place doesn't have economies of scale, just like it doesn't have massive all-inclusive resorts. But there will always be tourists on this island: white, middle and upper class, with good jobs, looking for exclusivity, even if that exclusivity simply means paying a premium on everything, which a wide mass of people wouldn't be able or willing to do. So if you pay up it will distinguish your from the wide masses, right? Also, while the beach might not be better than many of those in Aruba or Mexico, since the resorts are small, and the beach is long and wide, you almost get a feeling of getting your own private beach.
Cool things and interesting facts:
Conch and all kinds of dishes made out of conch are very popular here. And it is pretty good comparing to some other places I tried conch at. I had at least 4 different types of meals with conch: conch chowder, conch salad, conch peruvean-style seviche, conch
The diving was awesome here. I swam with reef sharks for the first time in my life, big turtles, and saw lots of very exotic bright fish covered in unusual patterns. Saw a fish that was changing its color from bright purple to emetald green. Realized once again that the best and most creative artist is Nature
They drive on the left side here. T&C Are a British territory, so you'll see some of their customs come directly from UK. Couldn't get used to it. I thought I was going to get hit by a car, as I kept looking left everytime while crossing a road, instead if looking right
There are only white tourists here! Having lived in NY for 14 yeras, I am so used to seeing many diffent colors and nationalities coexisting next to each other. Well, you will not see them here. What made me feel more awkward is that all the service personnel at the resorts consists of African people. So it sort of feels like being in America 300 years ago, especially knowing that these Africans got here a few centuries ago by means of Spanish slave trade. The funny part of my stay was related to an incident, when I thought I didnt have hot water and couldnt figure out how to work a thermostat, and a cute little old african cleaning lady showed me. It was simple. It was embarrasiing:)
Overall I am very happy to be in a warm place with beautiful turqoise water and white sand. Finally I was able to unwind and relax, being away from the daily pressures of my job and cold and grey New York weather.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.