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Sands at Grace Bay: Loved It!

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new jersey
Destination Expert
for Charlevoix, Michigan
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4,665 posts
56 reviews
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Sands at Grace Bay: Loved It!

We just returned from a stay at the Sands at Grace Bay. We loved it! My husband and I took our children (ages 11, 9 and 7). After much research, and reading many reviews on TripAdvisor, we selected the Sands. In the weeks prior to our arrival on April 2 we started to read some negative reviews. We were somewhat concerned but decided to stick with our reservation. We are so happy we did!

The beach was fantastic. My husband is in the travel industry and spends most of the winter on various tropical islands throughout the world. The beach here is by far the best. The water was gentle and blue and we were less than a 20 minute walk to Coral Gardens for snorkeling.

Our children loved the pools. The river pools were lots of fun and the main pool was great. For those with younger children, you should be aware that there is tropical foliage that blocks the view around the river pool. You will not be able to sit on a lounge chair and watch your child swim in the rivers. The rivers are only 2 1/2 feet deep but you may need to enjoy the river with your young child.

Our 2 bedroom oceanview suite was fantastic. We had two bedrooms each with a King bed and a comfortable (so says our 11 year old) fold out sofa. The kitchen was well stocked with dishes, silverware, dish and dishwasher soap and a blender for frozen drinks. The washer and dryer came in handy.

Some prior reviews indicate that people have trouble with the staff. We found them courteous, friendly and helpful. Our room was always cleaned by the time we returned from the beach for lunch. The front desk staff provided us ample information about activities and tours and arranged rides for us. The rum punch was very welcomed upon our arrival as we checked in. We liked Germaine as a taxi driver. He told us about the island and quickly picked us up after any activity when called. One thing to note, we asked the conceirge to make us dinner reservations at Bay Bistro on the night we arrived. We arrived at the restaurant and they did not have our reservation. We were told by the restaurant staff that this happens with most of the hotel conceirge services and it is best to book reservations on your own. We did this each of the following nights. The staff at Hemingways was very nice and took drink orders when we were at the pool and on the beach. Our kids loved this.

As for food, we found wonderful food on this island. We loved walking down the beach to Bay Bistro. The food was fantastic. The service was slow but not inattentive. We also liked Iguana and Hemingways. With every restaurant in the TCI we found it necessary to adjust our American speed expectations and to try to savor the leisurely evening meal. This is not New York City where they are trying to turn over the table as soon as possible. In the TCI you are treated to friendly people, delicious food and a memorable experience. If your children can't sit through a long meal, most restaurants are in close proximity to the beach, so one of you can take them there to pass some time.

We took the Native Adventure Snorkeling trip with J & B tours. It was great. Clearly, the world has not yet discovered and destroyed the barrier reef around the islands. The coral and fish were so colorful and full of life. It was fantastic. Our children took into school today the conch shells they retrieved from one of the stops on the trip.

Just a note, for the those considering Beaches, your vacation will likely be quite different from the vacation I decribed above. Beaches contained the only overcrowded beach on Grace Bay. It was loud and there wasn't any walking room between the chairs. They seem to have the narrowest beach on Grace Bay. Beaches looked a bit tired and reminded us of Disney World. The rest of Grace Bay is not like Disney World at all. It is beautiful, relaxing and laid back. Just a word to those considering Beaches.

We loved TCI and will be returning in November. We plan on staying at the Sands again!

Boston, MA
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51 posts
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1. Re: Sands at Grace Bay: Loved It!

Thanks for a great report!

We're leaving on Tuesday for 8 days with our 7 and 12 year olds. Any final words about what to bring? How's the snorkling equipment at the Sands? (Should we bring our own?) Is it safe to leave our stuff on the beach at Coral Gardens while we snorkel? Is there a place there to get drinks and lunch?

Thanks so much!

new jersey
Destination Expert
for Charlevoix, Michigan
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4,665 posts
56 reviews
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2. Re: Sands at Grace Bay: Loved It!

Have a great time! As for food, we packed cereal, lots of snacks, Kraft Mac and Cheese and soup. We were happy we did. Our kids wake up hungry and want to eat promptly so the breakfast food was great to have. We usually returned to the room at lunch for a break from the sun and ate lunch in. My husband and I ordered take out Conch Fingers (delicious) and a salad from Hemingways and took it back to the room with the kids. We bought milk, bread, butter and some fruit at the convenience store...EXPENSIVE. We did not go the the IGA but will on our next trip. There is a shuttle that goes from the Sands at 9:00 a.m.

As for Coral Gardens, we took our stuff and left it on the beach with no problem. We did not leave any money or valuables with our towels and gear. There is a restaurant/bar on the beach at the Coral Gardens hotel. The day we went there we ate lunch at the restaurant. It was expensive but good. ($100.00 plus tip for lunch) We probably won't have lunch there again but will definetly do drinks there. We took our own snorkeling equipment but used the fins from the Sands.

Have a wonderful time! It was a great trip!

Boston, MA
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51 posts
11 reviews
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3. Re: Sands at Grace Bay: Loved It!

Thanks for taking the time to write such a lengthy and HELPFUL report!

Montreal
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4. Re: Sands at Grace Bay: Loved It!

moms

can you tell me more about the snorkelling excursion...did the kids go, how long was it was it worth the money?

thanks

Montreal
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698 posts
15 reviews
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5. Re: Sands at Grace Bay: Loved It!

I m there in late Oct, maybe We'll see you there!!

new jersey
Destination Expert
for Charlevoix, Michigan
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4,665 posts
56 reviews
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6. Re: Sands at Grace Bay: Loved It!

The snorkeling trip included my children. We introduced them to snorkeling two years ago at Xel Ha near Cancun. It was a protected cove with lots of coral. Our youngest was 5 and has always been daring. I wear a life vest as does she and she rides on my back with her googles on. When I see a good fish or coral, she looks in the water then looks up again. We have snorkeled this way 3 times in the past and she has loved it.

The snorkeling trip on TCI was a bit too much for her. The first stop was out on the barrier reef. When she was on my back all she could see was water everywhere. Lucky for me that the coral reef was amazing so I did not need to stay in long. After that she was not interested in snorkeling much so my husband and I traded off youngest daughter duty.

The trip was well worth the money for the other two children and us. The older two are still talking about snorkeling for conch shells and sand dollars! It may not be the best trip for young new snorkelers. We are going to go on the REEF PEEPERS tour in November. It is a glass bottom boat tour that anchors and permits snorkeling for those who are so inclined. Our youngest will have a chance to see the coral and hopefully rekindle her former enjoyment of snorkeling!

Hope this helps!