Cayos Cachinos is a diamond and has the most beautiful and abundant sealife, sunsets, and island adventure. That being said, after spending 3 nights at Turtle Bay Eco Resort (TB), I feel like they (TB) are completely taking advantage of this environment by dramatically overcharging for the Eco “experience” and offering very little in the way of service or professional experience that would make spending that kind of money worthwhile. From an adventure standpoint, this place is great. Maybe I came in with my expectations too high, but from an economical and safety standpoint, Roatan and Utila are nearby and you can find much better accommodations, access, and at least as much adventure for half the cost or less. The staff is, for the most part, friendly, helpful and sincerely trying hard to make it work... but the level of inexperience and lack of basic business sense goes against charging guests the amounts that they do for the stay.
When making reservations, you must pay for the rooms and dive packages in advance as a non refundable deposit. I had paid the deposit and THEN was informed that we would have to make our own way to the islands since boat transportation is not included, which I found odd and frustrating that the manager had not bothered to make mention of that fact before I paid a four figure non-refundable deposit. Mr. Wall offered his boat for the extra charge of $100 per person after the fact, but was completely non flexible on scheduling, which, based on my situation, would not have worked without having to alter my plans considerably. If you use the TB boat option, they will only pick you up in La Cieba, so if you fly into Roatan you will have to ferry to La Cieba for $50-60 per person, spend the night there and then take the TB boat for $100 per person. Instead I hired a water taxi from Roatan to take us on the 25 mile trip across which cost me nearly $800… Spend $800 more or lose a large chunk of a $3000 deposit… *I do not recommend this option unless you plan your travels in the early morning when the seas are more calm...* Anyway, upon arrival to TB, the staff greeted us at the dock and they were very friendly, making it a point to memorize our names and get us set up in our rooms. We stayed three nights and paid for two premium rooms, expecting that for $400 per night, per room, that we would at least get what was offered on the internet and the brochure. Not the case... Any of the complimentary services in the brochures had to be requested. But it depended on which brochure you looked in with respect to what was charged for each service and which ones were complimentary. Of the three that I referenced (web site, brochure, and in room service sheet, all the prices and services were marked differently and I didn’t know until the end of the trip what I was actually getting billed for. I got the distinct feeling throughout the weekend that much in the way of how they operated revolved around providing whatever service in the most cost effective way, almost like the couple dollars they saved by not going that extra mile would keep them afloat next month…
The rooms were only serviced one time during our 4 day/3 night stay (by serviced, I mean the bed was made with the same sheets and the bathroom garbage was taken out). You are only issued one thin terrycloth towel per person that you use until you leave and there are no washcloths, bath mats, or hand towels. On day three I asked a staff member for fresh towels (in the damp tropical environment, the towels are not ever able to dry and they began to get ripe after repeated use), I was finally given fresh towels only after that staff member “encouraged” me to continue to reuse the towels to reduce my footprint on the environment, or whatever. I am as "green" as the next guy but for $400 per night, I should be able to AT LEAST get fresh towels without the brow beating and guilt trip, at a minimum without the snide comments.
The food was good and is served buffet style. Guests do not have a choice in what is being served but requests can be made if there is some local fare that you want for the next meal. For us, none of our requests made it to the dinner table- though they did make a special plate for another customer who couldn’t eat what was being served due to allergies or whatever. Food is served in a communal setting at the same times every day, and the staff sits down at the table and eats with you. Anyone in the staff will make you a drink from the bar whether it is wine or the daily mixed drink specials, depending on what is available at the time. A large group came in on the second day and cleaned out the bar in one night of all the mixers and most of the alcohol. Several staff members complained openly and almost angrily among themselves of how that group “raped the bar” and they would have to make a special trip to the shore for a resupply. Maybe that would be acceptable conversation for a frat house, but not for professionals running a business with most of their customers within earshot.
The diving is amazing and the dive master who I went with was very patient and knowledgeable about the reef and the sea life. My only issue was that we would always come up based on time and not on air. On my last dive, we surfaced and I still had a third of a tank left... again for the money, I would expect to be able to use the whole tank and explore more of the reef. Additionally, when we were talking about the dive package they offered up several choices to include a plane wreck dive, night dives, the shelf, the pillars, etc. But when it came to actually scheduling the dives, most were out of the question due to rough water (1-3’ swells) which is consistent this time of year. The dives that they took me on were short but very nice.
They offer some side adventures for minimal extra cost like snorkeling trips around the island, a short day hike to a lighthouse that offers a scenic view, and the pink boa constrictor tour. We saw several pink boas (more grey colored), which are only pink when very young, but cool to see in the wild nonetheless since this island is the only place on earth that they occur naturally. My group of four was folded in with the other eleven or so guests, apparently to avoid the staff having to do two or three separate tours, or maybe just keeping up with the communal theme… We all were taken on the hike/tour together which was fine, but with that many people on a thin trail, it’s impossible to hear what the tour guide in the front is saying and my 70 year old parents were having trouble keeping up with the 20-something tour guides who ended up leaving us behind. We eventually caught up to the pack at the lighthouse as one of the staffers was trying to jimmie the lock with a Gerber multi-tool... suggesting that we are really not allowed to be there? But regardless, I hear if you climb up to the top, the view is impressive. Apparently, someone had come through and fixed the lock on the lighthouse which required a sturdier tool than the Gerber to break in, and so one of the staffers ran back to the house to get one that would defeat the lock and get the door open. It was getting late so instead of waiting for staffer to get back and having to hike back in the dark, we walked back to the hotel on our own.
The following day we went to a small village on the next island but instead of taking the Melissa (large diving boat), all 18 of us piled into the 25’ boat and headed out... overcrowded with no life jackets on board. My group of four stayed on the island while the others went out to snorkel somewhere else, promising to be back in an hour. Two hours later with no sight of them, we hired a local boat to take us back to the TB. The other guests showed up later stating that the overcrowded boat almost sank when a wave in rougher water washed over and filled in the back end of the boat. Somehow they were able to save the boat and keep everyone from treading water until someone came along to save them, or they drown... whichever occurred first. After bailing out the water, the captain marooned half the group on a sandbar island and shuttled the smaller groups back and forth to the hotel. Overall, it was an unbelievable lack of responsibility that could have ended disastrously, especially since they have no way to communicate back to base for help. I am familiar with "relaxed" safety standards from living the last year of my life in Honduras, but this business caters to tourists and is run by Americans. There is no excuse for that kind of oversight or disregard to basic safety standards…
Overall, TB would be a great hostel-type destination and wonderful secret paradise… and worth the price if they did nothing but charged about a third as much. If they want to continue to charge the rates that they do, they really need to step up the service, professionalism, and reorganize the packages they are offering with the greater emphasis on customer service and safety. The staff is young and is inexperienced in the many of the basics of business management and safety protocol. It reminded me more of hanging out with friends of friends at their house instead of the resort experience that I would expect after paying several thousand dollars. They are trying hard and working out the kinks as they go, but in the short time I was there, several of the lapses in safety, occasional rudeness of a select few members of the staff, and the sheer cost of the experience were enough to assure that I will never be back and do not recommend it for others unless you have disposable income to burn, are patient and entirely self sufficient, and go there with the appropriate expectation management.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located on the untouched, tropical island of Isla Major in the Cayos Cochinos archipelago, Turtle Bay Eco Resort is situated on a 10 acre site hugging the shoreline of the Caribbean Sea. The crystal clear waters off the coast of the island are enhanced by the world's second largest barrier reef providing a stunning backdrop to your relaxing vacation. Turtle Bay Eco Resort was grandfathered into the Cayos Cochinos Marine Park and to this day, remains the exclusive resort or hotel in the area. This exclusivity remains one of the sole reasons that Cayos Cochinos has preserved its pristine waters, lush tropical forests and it's completely unique experience. Staying at the Turtle Bay Eco Resort is more than just a vacation at a Caribbean hotel, it is the feeling you get upon arrival, the complete relaxation of your body throughout your stay and it's the feeling of leaving more as friends than guests. As a resort with only 5 rooms, our small and intimate feel allows you to get to know our staff and let them guide you through the wonders that this incredible location can offer. We offer private diving, dining, hiking, kayaking, island touring and much more. After a long day of exploring the Cayos Cochinos, why not settle down with a delicious cocktail to enjoy watching the sun as it sets right in front of our bay. Even though we are only 24 miles from Roatan or Utila, our island paradise separates the hustle and bustle to give you what you are really searching for. ... more less