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Reviewed March 16, 2012

This was, without a doubt, the most social resort we've ever been to (leaving aside tiny camps in Africa, where all 10 or 12 guests are thrown together by necessity). Almost all the other guests were long time (15 + years) returnees who knew each other, but we newbies were accepted into the fold warmly, and thoroughly enjoyed the communal mealtime (and beach time). True, you can eat at a table for 2 and stay by yourself (the one young couple who were there -- whom we dubbed the "honeymooners" -- did), but that would be missing the point of Guana.

Accomodations and public areas are not as "luxurious" as other comparably expensive Caribbean resorts, but they are perfectly comfortable and welcoming. "Fancy" is not what Guana is all about. Service, attention, and the camaraderie of truly interesting people is what sets it apart from, say, Peter Island or Caneel Bay.

Physically, the island is truly wonderful. A myriad of well-marked hiking trails with gorgeous vistas, a crescent beach with the softest white sand I've ever walked on, an orchard with every tropical fruit . . . loveliness everywhere you turn.

So why only 4 stars instead of 5? The food. I agree with Boh_1 (and several other reviewers) that the food is, at best, mediocre, and the limited choice makes it difficult for one without a catholic palate. I found it do-able for a 4 or 5 day stay, but not up to the level I expect at these prices.

  • Stayed: February 2012, traveled as a couple
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10  Thank eastsiders
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 4, 2012

I am just back from five days at the Guana Island Club. It was a wonderful five days.

The setting is beautiful. There are water views in all directions. The entire side of the mountain facing the cottages is entirely undeveloped and natural. The beach is clean with lots of space to relax. Our lodging was very comfortable. All the arrangements and services were were impecable.

There is lots to do but no pressure to do anything. We took some hikes, swam, visited the orchard and ate by the beach. We could have done more, or less. No worries.

The food was imaginative and reliably delicious without being pretentious. The other guests whom we met before and during dinner were a source of interest and pleasure. Which is to say that I liked the kind of people who like the Guana Island Club.

Yes, it is expensive but, if that is not an obstacle, the Guana Island Club is a perfect place to relax, unwind and share time with (in my case) family.

  • Stayed: February 2012, traveled with family
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3  Thank FI_Flyer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 28, 2012

Let me state right away that Guana is not inexpensive and anyone desiring either a cheap or organized holiday in the Caribbean would be better off at Sandals or on a cruise. This place is unique, which is why we chose it for the second week of our midwinter Caribbean vacation. And overall, we're very glad we did.

The island itself is beautiful. Hilly, lush, with white sand beaches and views in all directions. Great trails to walk on to explore and a collection of interesting creatures ranging from iguanas to flamingos. The web site does a great job of capturing the naturalistic feel of the island and it really is quite spectacular. But the island itslef is only one aspect of the resort experience. The service, food and amenities are also important components.

The service experience is adjusted to meet your needs. It can be high touch when you want it, invisible when you don't. Mingle with others or keep to yourselves as a couple, it's all up to you. We elected for the latter and chose the North Beach Cottage (NBC) for our little hideaway. With a rustic, West Indies feel, the NBC has its own pool and virtually private beach (alas currently without much sand) complete with oceanside deck. This place is super private and quite remote from the rest of the property which is why they give you your own golfcart to zoom around on. We can see why some of the honeymooners choose the NBC and we were very happy there. As far as we were concerned, we had that side of the island to ourselves. We continued that experience through most of our meals as well, opting to enjoy each others company.

Speaking of meals, earlier comments about the food are spot on. At its best it is "good", at it's worse, it borders on mediocre. Breakfast was okay and lunch was generally better than supper, mainly due to the diversity of offerings. Suppers were a fixed progression of communal appies followed by soup, salad, a choice of two entrees and dessert. Examples of the good here were BBQ side ribs and seared duck for entrees. Examples of the less than good were a truly strange, almost sour creme caramel and another dessert of mixed fruit with marscapone and orange Jello. Yes, genuine Jello. An entire orchard at their disposal, including some very tasty passionfruit (which could easily be made into a gelatin), and they make Jello from a box.

I understand that this is not a restaurant review, and different standards should apply. But their guests are effectively a captive audience for food, and it would be nice if they offered a more interesting range of menu items. Several items on the bill of fare may have been popular in the 1950's or 60's (pineapple upside-down cake anyone?) but restaurant food in the Caribbean is vastly better than it used to be and Guana really needs to get with the times. I don't fault the chef here - the execution was quite good. I think he is just constrained by management into unimaginative dishes.

The rest of the amenities are quite good and we alternated between hiking days, beach / watersport days and cottage days. More relaxation than activities, but the mix is entirely up to you. You can add extra cost items like sailing trips, snorkeling excursions, spa treatments etc. Just ask, and the resort staff will make it all happen. Any service issues we had during our stay were mostly minor and usually rectified immediately with follow-up by staff. There were a couple of other things that we did find quite jarring however.

First, although disclosed on their web site, and as others have mentioned, the honor bar system seems out of place. While common in some of the smaller guest houses in the Caribbean, for these rates charging five dollars for a self-service beer seems a little annoying if not downright cheap. A truly minor issue, but not consistent with the "mostly inclusive" offering here. However, the thing that actually shocked us upon arrival was the number of children present. The Guana web site goes to pains to portray the resort as adult oriented, and gave us the impression that there would be very few children (if any) on the island. In fact, they state ".... we try not to have more than a few children on the island at one time ...". Such was not the case for us.

We didn't do an exact count, but there were somewhere between 10 to 14 children present our first two nights there. Assuming the resort was at the stated capacity of 32 guests, that is a pretty significant proportion. We were not the only guests to comment on this. This may not be the norm, since it seemed that most of the kids were there as part of a large family group celebrating a special birthday, but we were not informed of this at any time during or after making our reservation quite far in advance. To be fair, maybe this is something we should have confirmed prior to making our booking, and I suggest doing exactly that if it's important to you. If this was an exceptional circumstance, then fine, but at least let us know when we check in so it's not a surprise. This is a good segue to some observations and opinions that did not impact the overall rating given but that do tie back into some earlier reviews and may possibly be helpful in understanding the experience.

Guana seems to be at an interesting crossroads. The vast majority of guests we met were repeat visitors. Repeat in the sense that some of them had been coming back every year for 15 years or more - the polite term used by one insider we spoke with was "Guanaphiles". Obviously, Guana must be working hard to provide them with a consistent experience year after year, and that is what keeps them coming back. Maybe this explains the relatively narrow food spectrum. An earlier, somewhat negative review commented further on this trend describing these regular guests as clubby, effectively one upping each other on their previous Guana experiences, and leaving that reviewer somewhat turned off. Since you don't have to interact with any of the other guests unless you choose to, I'm not sure this is really much of a problem, but it may be indicative of Gauna's long term viability.

Many of the guests and some insiders we spoke to expressed significant concern over what was going to happen at Guana as their repeat guests get older and stop returning. Keep in mind that the average age of adult guests during our stay appeared to be well over 50 and Guana is not a good place for people with mobility issues. So how will Guana stay viable? Should they attract more families with children? Market to a new generation of affluent 30-45 year olds? Amp up the cuisine to attract foodies? Play up the ecotourism angle more? There are probably many strategies that the current property managers could consider, but living in the past or attempting to be all things to all people, are not amongst them. Guana will have to change.

I hope the Guana organization can retain the sense of laid back, West Indies exclusivity while improving the overall experience where needed. I think they really have a lot to offer, and can change for the better. But time will tell and, until then, Guana is still a unique experience even with its flaws.

Room Tip: Choose the North Beach Cottage if you want super-privacy.
  • Stayed: February 2012, traveled as a couple
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12  Thank Philip W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 1, 2011

This was probably our 10th trip to Guana. We keep going back as we are almost always have a great trip. The reason for 4 stars vs. is twofold. 1) dinners are really just mediocre. Not sure why. Breakfasts are very good, and lunch, with its wide variety of multiple choices daily, is just short of awesome. But dinners....ho hum, and, frankly, a bit skimpy. In prior years, the staff even brought out a plate of seconds, but not this time. 2) One of the very unique Guana experiences is dinner at tables of 8, where you get to enjoy the meal with other guests. The table mixes were changed nightly. Honestly, this actually delayed our trying Guana...not being sure we enjoyed eating with others on an annual chance to get away. It turned out that this part of the Guana experience was terrific. Every year, we meet some great folks as a result of this, and some have become good friends since our original Guana encounter. I must mention that guesrs always had the option of dining alone in one of several nice spots. This visit, we found ourselves seated alone about half the nights. When we inquired of management, they indicated most couples had requested this. However, other couples we asked who were dining alone had no idea why. I feel this may be a move by management. Not sure why, but, personally, I think it's a sad departure from what helped Guana stand apart.

All this being said, we love it there. The staff is nothing short of awesome, the accomodations are very well comfortable, and the location and ambience for anyone seeking a quiet Carribean vacation cannot be beat. We will definitely be going back!!

  • Stayed: November 2011, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank Bigcreekdad
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 30, 2011

We went here for our honeymoon, and overall we have a really great time. We are a younger couple (23 and 25) but we wanted a really quite, relaxing honeymoon after our big crazy wedding. Guana Island was exactly the place for that! We stayed in the North Beach Villa. PERFECT for a honeymoon. Extremely secluded...basically a whole stretch (as far as the eye can see) of beach to yourselves, private sun deck overlooking the beach and ocean, private outdoor pool, and your own golf cart to drive around because you are so secluded! Staff even have set up a bell system to "warn" honeymooners and guests when they are approaching the villa to deliver food or to clean LOL. LOVED our villa! It came stocked with snacks and drinks, and if you ever ran out they would immediately deliver more. It even came with a blender and ingredients to make pina coladas and rum punch if you didnt feel like hanging out at the public beach bar or club house! Cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, and cereal were just a few things they stocked the kitchen with. We spent lots of afternoons relaxing at our own villa, munching on cheese and crackers and drinking beer and pina coladas! We also opted in for the honeymoon package or whatever they call it, which included a cast away picnic (SUPER FUN - highly recommend) and sunset cruise. Also did 2 spa treatments (one at the spa, one at our villa) and they were AMAZING!

PROS:
-Staff was above and beyond.
-Perfect setting for optimal relaxing
-lots of interesting things to do if your the more active type (snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, beautiful hiking trails, day trip to Tortolla, tennis, tour of their organic fruit orchard (very cool, a must-do),...
-nice and quiet - not a ton of people, and most people there were honeymooners, anniversary, or couples vacationing

CONS
-no AC. In August, there were times when sleeping was a bit uncomfortable, even with a nice breeze.
-no TVs - this was nice looking back at it, but it also took some getting used to.
-not much variety/choice for food. every day theres a menu with 2 options for dinner entrees. and if you dont like either, your out of luck. The quality of the food was only so-so...I expected much better food from a 5 star, expensive resort.

  • Stayed: August 2011, traveled as a couple
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5  Thank Caitlin N
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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