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Trip Report with Photos! Finally~plus it's long!

Alabama
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Trip Report with Photos! Finally~plus it's long!

First, I want to thank all who gave such great advice on this board. I spent months reading and posting and even printed out valuable information and took it with me. I’m going to try to give as much detail as I can, and hopefully won’t be too boring. I also believe in sharing every detail, even where we stayed, so others can enjoy the place as much as we did! If it stays booked, then good for the owners! They are good, hard working people and deserve much success and there is no better advertisement than word-of-mouth!

We rented the Crystal Sands Villa on Sapodilla Bay. We were there May 27th - June 4th. The web site to this place does not do it justice! Hopefully my pictures will give a better idea of the marvelous location these people have! It truly is paradise. The villa itself is divided into 2 floors. You can rent a single floor or the entire villa, but there are no inside stairs. We rented the bottom floor because we went with me, my husband, our 15 yr. old son, my sister and her 13 yr. old daughter. There are two master suites with equally appointed bathrooms. One of the bedrooms has an additional twin bed in a very large closet/dressing area. The upper floor does not have this extra bed. The entire villa has tile flooring, a very nice kitchen (smooth top range plus a microwave), dining room, living room (dish network tv) and laundry area. It was beautifully decorated with ample supplies. By the way, they do have beach towels available...don’t waste your suitcase space like we did! I do have to mention that we couldn’t leave any food out on the counters. We kept battling these little ant-like things, maybe sand gnats? AC is charged separately. We thought we would be okay, being from South Alabama and accustomed to the heat and humidity, but we suffered and there were a few nights when we gave in and turned on the AC ~ not much in the way of “tradewinds” while we were there. The grounds are impeccably landscaped. There’s a decent sized pool, a tiki-hut, an outdoor shower and foot wash area, and plenty of hammocks and hooks in different areas to hang them. A short 10 foot walkway and you’re right on the gorgeous, and SECLUDED Sapodilla Bay. It was awesome!

Airport Arrival/Rental Car:

Be patient! Yes, you saw the gorgeous turquoise water from the plane...yes, you’re dying to get to the beach, but these people are on “island time” and nothing moves quickly! We probably waited in their customs and documents check line for over an hour. Then we proceed to the parking area where Scooter Bob, as promised, has a Diahatsu Terio jeep waiting on us. “Sure, it’s a 5 passenger vehicle” he tells us prior to our arrival. Hmmm...did I mention we all weigh over 100 pounds?! Geez! Small vehicle and we could barely fit, much less our luggage. So, we pack the car full of luggage and decide to take a taxi to the villa. Only one problem, the head taxi guy is running around arguing with every taxi driver standing around waiting on business and no one will agree to take us. They all claim to not know where this place is...which is baffling to me on an island that’s only 38 square miles. This goes on for about 20 minutes as I’m following him around trying to get my directions back out of his hands. We had decided to just make 2 trips since Sapodilla Bay is not that far from the airport. I finally seize a moment when he’s in a heated argument with a driver and quickly snatch my directions back to give to my husband who’s waiting in the rental car. Wrong move! They all start hollering and then one finally agrees to take us out there. He tells us on the way that they all know where it is, no one wanted to go because the roads are so bad. Anyway, $30 and 10 minutes later we arrive safely at the villa (we tipped him a $10 for his “inconvenience”). By the way, the roads aren’t that bad and by mid-week we were flying down them like the locals!

Restaurants:

We tried to stay on the moderate end, plus we had some very picky teenagers to please. Saturday evening we just went to the IGA and loaded up on groceries. A good “gauge” is that the items there are priced about double what you would pay in the U.S. I think some of you may have read too, that we packed a canvas, rolling cooler full of Hot Pockets, Hot Dogs, Frozen Biscuits, Bacon, Soda, Water, etc. We also took a suitcase full of Pringles, Ritz Crackers, Graham Crackers, Peanut Butter, Pop Tarts, Canned Fruit, Mac & Cheese, etc. Needless to say, we took too much food and ended up leaving alot of it for the maid. We tried to eat breakfast and lunch at the Villa and then we ate dinner out.

Sharkbites:

Ate here twice during our stay. Service is slow, but that was everywhere we went. Food was very good and atmosphere and view of sunsets were great too. Both times I ordered the Penne Pasta Gorgonzola--it was awesome! Second time we went both my niece and sister ordered it too because they tried mine the first time. My sister ordered the conch the first time and said it was very chewy. She didn’t care for it. Try the chips and salsa!

Calico Jacks:

We got burgers, pretty good. Very friendly servers and good atmosphere. Food took a long time so don’t be in a hurry!

Hey Joses:

We all love mexican food, so we were really looking forward to this place. Honestly, it was kinda scary! There were a few guys that looked like construction workers sitting at the bar being very loud and using terrible language incessantly. The place was very smoky and the food just wasn’t that great. It seemed as the evening went on, the crowd got a little rougher. We were eager to get outta there. Maybe we picked a bad night.

Tiki Hut:

Chicken and Rib night was great. Good food, friendly service and GREAT atmosphere. This was probably our favorite place! It was pretty crowded, but we only had a party of 5, so no need for reservations.

Baci’s:

Beautiful restaurant, great atmosphere, food was okay. My sister and husband both got pizza, which they said was great. My niece and I ordered Fettucine Alfredo which tasted weird, and my son ordered lasagna which he didn’t care for. I guess we’re just used to our favorite Carraba’s and Macaroni Grill.

Pizza Port:

Ordered pizza from here twice. Great pizza that has a kick to it! It takes a while though, so try to call ahead. They do deliver, but not to Sapodilla Bay!

Just a note, the IGA has magazine stands that have the latest issues of WhereWhenHow and also a separate magazine that says “Dining Guide” that was INVALUABLE to us! It has all the restaurants in it and the menus. It was great---be sure to pick up one or two.

Excursion:

We took the 1/2 day beach/iguana/snorkeling tour from J & B Tours. They were very friendly and we didn’t book ahead, we called about 2 days prior to the day we wanted to go and it was fine (off season, I guess). Our captain was Christian and he was very fun and friendly. Our first stop was Iquana Island----ewww! Those things were freaking me out and our guide told the ladies if you had brightly painted toenails to not stop walking because the iquanas would think it was some sort of berry. Good thing that tour only lasted about 15-20 minutes. Then we were off to snorkel...in the middle of the ocean, over a reef...AMAZING! There were so many fish, so many colors. They were gorgeous and we had a great time. Unfortunately, we had a crappy throw-away underwater camera and the pictures are pitiful. Next stop was in an area where we were searching for sand dollars. The most beautiful water you could ever imagine and we found about 6 or 7 sand dollars, a conch shell, and some pretty pink and white seashells before it was time to go. Then we went to a secluded little island to do some shelling. Breathtaking! They provided delicious Rum Punch and sodas.

Sapodilla Bay:

I just have to say that we went to all sides of this island and in my opinion, Sapodilla Bay is the best area. The water was calm, like glass, and we could just lay on floats all day long. It was also very secluded. Occasionally, a few visitors would drive up in the empty lot next to our villa and spend a little time exploring, but it was never intrusive. We felt like we had the whole bay to ourselves the majority of the time. The water and the view is truly like the Corona commercials. I believe we could not have picked a better location! One side of our road was Sapodilla Bay, the other side was Chalk Sound. The water in both these areas was unlike any I’ve ever seen. And the sunsets...the entire sky seemed to be emblazoned with different shades of orange and red. Check out the photos!

I hope this has been helpful for any of you still looking forward to your trip or if you’re in the process of deciding on whether or not to vacation in Provo. We had an incredible time and hope to visit again soon. I’m posting the link to our photos. Please feel free to ask any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them! Thanks again to all who provided so much information before our trip. Special thanks to Blamona and Potcake---you answered all my questions and you were always so sweet and helpful!

Link to view photos:

share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome…

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Alabama
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1. Re: Trip Report with Photos! Finally~plus it's long!

One more thing... I think you can change the size of the photos and the speed of the slide show so it doesn't take so long!

Washington DC...
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2. Re: Trip Report with Photos! Finally~plus it's long!

nice pictures and nice report!

I never get tired of seeing pictures of that beautiful water!

McKinney, Texas
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3. Re: Trip Report with Photos! Finally~plus it's long!

Great pics and trip report! I wish we had had some beautiful sunsets like yours when we were there. It looks like your family had a great vacation!

Beth

Alabama
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4. Re: Trip Report with Photos! Finally~plus it's long!

Thanks Beth, the sunsets were unlike any I've ever seen. Your picture looks so familiar. Were you on the J & B tour with us on Friday, June 2nd? There was a couple that looked just like your picture!

McKinney, Texas
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5. Re: Trip Report with Photos! Finally~plus it's long!

I wish! No, we were there May 20 - 28.

Knoxville, TN
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6. Re: Trip Report with Photos! Finally~plus it's long!

We will also be traveling with picky teens next week 6/14-6-21 (girls 13 &16). Did your 13 yr old niece find any shops she liked? Our girls love snorkeling and beaches, but also would like some shopping ops for jewelry, unique "Bath and Bodyworks" type of shops, etc.

Did you have to pay the adult price for the J&B tour for the teens? (I'm guessing yes)

How much did the AC end up costing? We too are from the South, and were hoping that the tradewinds would be enough (we are also renting a villa on the south side of the island, on Taylor Bay). This is the only Caribbean island we have been to that charges a separate metered price for AC, so we're curious.

Thanks for all your advice!

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Alabama
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7. Re: Trip Report with Photos! Finally~plus it's long!

Travel'nmom ~ looks like that tropical storm will be missing you next week, so that's a good thing! Congrats on choosing an incredible location! I love that side of the island!

As far as shopping, we were real disappointed. Of course, I have to say that we didn't go to any of the shops at the resorts on Grace Bay. We went to Ports of Call, Salt Mills and a few small local shops here and there. All of the shops are so expensive. We would go in the souvenier shops and clothing shops and all the prices were so outrageous---and these would be the same things you could get in the Gulf (Panhandle) beaches of Florida for 1/3 of the price. One area that we found that had some neat items were traveling from the main road, Leeward Highway, you turn onto the road that takes you to Grace Bay (you'll see the sign) and just as you get on that road you see a few "hut-like" buildings on the right all in clusters. It's sort of like an outdoor market. They are not there every day, so you just have to keep checking, but they did have some nice items that were made locally. My niece also found alot of jewelry at this place and we brought back some carved mahogany trinket boxes, etc. Needless to say, my niece, who LOVES to shop, was very disappointed in the few stores that are available.

As far as the J & B Tour, we did have to pay full price for the teens. It was $65 for the 1/2 day excursion----but worth every bit of it! This was our absolute favorite part of the trip. When we stopped over the reef out in the middle of the ocean, my niece said "what are we doing?" and I told her snorkeling...she said, "HERE??? In the middle of the ocean???" It was too funny, but as you can see from the photos, it didn't take her long to jump right in. And the snorkeling was amazing! We had done some snorkeling in Sapodilla Bay over by the cliffs by the dock and had seen some pretty neat fish, but nothing compared to this. Also, there's a shipwreck between the cliffs and the buoy in Sapodilla Bay that makes for some good snorkeling too (not far from where you'll be). Also the looking for sand dollars was in the most gorgeous water that I had ever seen. We didn't want to leave!

We had never heard of the AC being charged separately either. When we first arrived, the owner took the meter reading and said they would check it again on our departure. We were very worried that we were going to run up a huge bill, so we suffered through it most of the time. We had to turn it on a few hours here and there, but the only time we let it run constantly was the first night because we were dying!!! Anyway, the husband came to meet us on our departure day and said he would check the meter and email us the cost...but it's been almost a week and we haven't received an email yet and I'm not asking!!! ;-)

I hope I've answered your questions and been able to help. You're staying in a beautiful area and I know you will have a great time!

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Washington DC...
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8. Re: Trip Report with Photos! Finally~plus it's long!

as per shopping, there are some "huts" on the beach around Beaches resorts, always fun to rummage. There is a "cultural" center, which is a permanent colorful building with little local wares in between Ocean Club (East) and Club Med. Also, Beaches Resort has a "fair" day once a week, with lots of crafts and stands. Call Beaches, ask when it is, they will let you in to shop.

The excursions cost full price I think for 8 years and above. It's still worth every penny, and your teenagers will go crazy over them!

Make sure you go to Tiki Hut, very excellent family restaurant.

Alabama
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9. Re: Trip Report with Photos! Finally~plus it's long!

I agree, Tiki Hut was our favorite place!

Also forgot to mention one thing...TAKE BUG SPRAY!!! We sat outside for every meal in the evening and out legs, at least mine, anyway, had several bites. We took bug spray, but I guess I didn't use enough!

Alabama
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10. Re: Trip Report with Photos! Finally~plus it's long!

bump...for ralphy57

hope this gives a little more insight! There are so many on this board that have given us great advice throughout our decision making process to visit Provo. I would recommend going back through all the posts and reading trip reports.