My husband and I took our first trip to Provo mid-July to celebrate our 15th anniversary, and my birthday. We took a direct flight out of Toronto on WestJet, and arrived in Provo shortly after lunch on the 13th. Picked up our rental from Grace Bay Car Rental at the airport, and off we headed to the Atrium. Now for the uninitiated, perhaps a gentle warning about the shocks in the rentals (or lack of them!), and the ever prevalent speed bumps around the island would be in order. Only took us one slightly too quick ride over one of the speed bumps, with a subsequent bone jarring thump on the opposite side to get the idea, but we are pretty quick learners. Loved the hub cabs being held on by zip ties; obviously they have had one too many rentals returned sans hub caps. While not a fancy car by any means, it did the job, and despite the fact that it started with some hesitancy occasionally, and had a bizarre rattle coming from a tire on the passenger side, it managed to get us from Point A to B, to C, to D… you get the picture.
We arrived at the Atrium, and were extremely impressed with the quality of the unit, and cleanliness of the complex from the get go. I know it wouldn’t be the first choice of many, since it is not ocean front, but our home is on the beach, so looking at the water and listening to it at night is nothing new to us. We were more interested in finding quality accommodations at a great value that could act as a place to rest our weary heads in the evening (and maybe a place with a fridge with always available access to unlimited cold rum punch and Turk’s Head beer???). We had a one bedroom unit on the second floor, which was extremely spacious, with one and a half baths, washer/dryer, full kitchen, safe, and so on. Total price, including taxes and cleaning….just over $1200. No operating pool bar on site, but a lovely large pool nonetheless, and it is always an option to carry your own beverage (rum punch, anyone?) down to the pool in a plastic cup. Also quite a nice gym on site, for those of you that are so inclined. I managed to drag myself away from the pool and beach a few times to use the gym, and I was the only idiot, I mean person, exercising.
We dropped our bags inside, and headed off to the Graceway Gourmet down the road. Although we brought a suitcase full of dry goods with us (cereal, coffee, rice, etc.), we needed to pick up some other fresh items. For those wondering if the cost savings over purchasing on Provo are worth it, if you have free checked bags, as those travelling on WJ do, then “Yes”! My husband and I brought one bag each, so one was full of groceries, and one of clothes (since we had a washer/dryer, it is correct to say “bring fewer clothes than you think you will need”; we washed beach towels every day, and threw whatever swimsuit/clothes we had worn that day in as well, so we probably really only wore about 1/3 of the clothes we brought). However, for Canadians travelling, the sticker shock at the grocery store may not be as bad as you think. We were anticipating much higher prices than we saw, but perhaps that is because many posters are comparing prices to items purchased in the U.S. For us, while produce was more expensive, many things were not too terribly far off of pricing where we live. While in general things were higher, we would say maybe 1.5 times at home, not double or triple. Also, things like wine were pretty much the same, or less. So, if you have room in your luggage, for sure bring your favourite things from home, but also remember that you are on vacation, so having to pay to carry additional 50 pound suitcases of groceries from home may not be at the top of the list!
For “beaching it”, we basically hit every beach marked “beach access” on the Where/When/How map over the course of the week. I think we managed to put a total of 400+ kms (or miles? Not sure what the odometer used) on our little shockless car over the week. Taylor Bay was lovely, as was Sapodilla. We saw a ray come right up to the shoreline on Taylor Bay, and he cruised almost the whole length of the beach while I walked alongside him. While at Sapodilla, we stood motionless in the water up to our chests for quite some time (amazing how much patience I can have when my children aren’t with me), moving only our upper bodies in order to snap photos of the sea turtles swimming around us. We snorkelled past the end of Bight Park, just off shore, which was lovely, went to Coral Gardens (a few too many people for our liking), visited Leeward Beach, and so on. All lovely beaches, and all with something different to offer.
Perhaps my husband’s favourite beach was Long Bay Beach, where he took kite boarding lessons with Mike of KiteProvo. I think the amount of fun he had made him biased, but I also thought it was an amazing, quiet beach. Although there were a few kite boarders out each time we were there, the beach was so large that it never felt crowded. It was really great to see how well the kite boarders work together, and are respectful of each other’s space. For those of you who have seen “This is Spinal Tap”, I think my husband would say the amount of fun he had while kite boarding would be at 11. 10 just wouldn’t cut it. He had never kite boarded before, and took 3 separate lessons with Kite Provo (I think a total of 6.5 hours), and was up and riding by the end. (Let me just add here, I practically had to force him to take lessons, and actually signed him up since I figured he wouldn’t do it himself. Now it is all he talks about! You’re welcome, honey.)
We did not do any of the “big” restaurants on any of our evenings out; instead we did some of the smaller ones we had seen mentioned on TA. Our first experience was with Miss Moonies, where we got a $12 takeout meal that was enough to feed both of us. A HUGE serving of mashed sweet potatoes, curried fish (my husband said the best fish he had while on the island), and steamed vegetables. Very good value. We also went to Mr. Groupers, which set us back about $60 for an appetizer, two entrees, a rum punch, a coke, and a good tip. Hubby had the conch fritters, and said the fritters were tasty and non-greasy, dipping sauce was amazing. For entrees, I had jerk chicken and he had coconut grouper, both of which must have been great, because we cleaned our plates. Lucky for me, he was driving, because after that one powerful rum punch, I couldn’t decide whether to fall off my chair, or fall asleep. Needless to say, the very next day we were on the hunt for Bambarra coconut rum and oj and pineapple juice, so I could quench my thirst while poolside at the Atrium.
One of our other food choices was the Bight Park Fish Fry, which was great with a fun atmosphere. My only regret was that you had to buy entire meals at the booths, while I was hoping you would be able to go and buy different things to sample before purchasing a full meal. I selected Jerk Chicken from Sailing Paradise as it was closed in order to move, and we weren’t able to visit the restaurant itself, and my husband had steamed conch from Hole in the Wall. Again, both very successful choices, and we managed to stuff ourselves full before returning home.
Our last evening, we headed out to Bugaloo’s, which we had scouted out earlier on our way to Taylor Bay. Great location, right on the water, with a fabulous patio and indoor area as well. It was extremely windy that evening, but we still enjoyed a good meal (although by the end of it I had an Einstein hairdo). I had (you guessed it) chicken, although grilled this time, and the more adventurous of our pair went with cracked conch. Definitely a hit, and with a total bill of $42, including a glass of red wine, very reasonably priced (just FYI, the wine was $8 a glass, exactly what you would expect to pay in our area when dining out).
Other than kite boarding lessons, our big treat for the week was a photo session with Paradise Photography. I figured that we are only going to have one chance in our life to celebrate our 15th anniversary, and you never know when your time is going to be up, so I wanted to record the happiness we feel together, all these years later (married for 15, but together for 21). Totally worth it, as we now have some nice photos to remember this stage in our life. I was surprised to see that James posted some of our photos on his Facebook page, which was nice! We showed them to our kids when we got home, and my husband and I think we will look back on this trip later, and marvel that we could still jump off rocks, pick each other up, etc.
One other note, we tracked down the Turk’s Head brewery (somewhat off the beaten track, at the water bottling place). No signage for Turk’s Head, so you need to know where you are going. Beer was $33 for a case of 24 bottles, as opposed to $43.99 at Graceway Gourmet. Hubby bought the lager, and said it was OK, but not like Canadian beer.
So, you ask, how much did we love it??? Enough to book a return with our kids for three weeks later! That’s right, we fly back down for our second stay at the Atrium on August 11th. Thanks TCI and TripAdvisor, for a great vacay.