I intended to write this trip report as soon as we got back, but you know how that goes. There's a ton to talk about, and this probably won't be very organized. But I'll do my best!
We first went to Provo last July and, after loving it so much, immediately booked a return trip with my parents. While we stayed on Grace Bay at the Gansevoort in July and loved it, we decided to rent a villa in Silly Creek for this trip. Truthfully, I second-guessed that decision a lot. Grace Bay was SO beautiful, and I wondered if we'd feel too isolated in Silly Creek. However, when I posted about my concerns, someone said, "If I could have one more week with my parents, I'd want to be in a private house." That sold it for me.
Of course, like most concerns that travelers have, all that worrying was for nothing. We stayed at Villa Osprey and absolutely LOVED it. Silly Creek is a great little community and, while it is a 15-20 minute drive from most things along GB, we never minded making that trip. We went to GB at least once every single day--for dinner or snorkeling or a quick shopping trip. The island is so small, driving isn't much of a hassle.
There was an upside to having a house on that side of the island, too. Grace Bay actually ended up being quite windy and rough for most of our trip. But, since we felt like we had easy access to beaches on both sides of the island, we just went where the water was calm. Some days we stayed back at Taylor Bay, and some days we hung out on Grace Bay. It ended up working out perfectly!
With my parents there, we felt very safe. If we went back again with just the 2 of us, we'd probably stay on GB, but with 2 couples, the house is the best option.
The house itself is really beautiful. I'd probably give the interior 4 out of 5 stars. Compared to some other homes we've stayed in, a few things could use updating and it wasn't quite as clean as we would have liked (but we have VERY high expectations in that department). However, spend 5 minutes outside and you couldn't possibly complain about that other stuff. The location is what makes this particular villa so perfect. The outdoor space is HUGE--there are 5 different seating areas, a hill-top gazebo that has the most amazing view of the ocean that you've ever seen, an infinity pool, a hot tub... I could go on and on. When you are at the villa, you feel like you have the whole island to yourself. It is very, very private. Also, Elite Destination Homes was a great company to work with. They were always available. We enjoyed the house so much, in fact, that we've already started looking for dates NEXT January. (Yes--I think we're addicted.)
We spent a lot of time snorkeling this trip, and we saw much more than we saw in July. For starters, we snorkeled off the back deck of our house a few days. While we were a little too chicken to venture far out, as soon as we were in the water we'd see lots of small fish, starfish, sea cucumbers, sea slugs and even a couple barracuda one day. It was nice to have such quick access to all of that!
We loved Bight Reef at Coral Gardens in July, and we took my parents there twice this time. The first day we went, the water was very rough and visibility wasn't the best. However, even with those conditions, it was some of the best snorkeling we've done. As usual, we saw TONS of colorful parrot fish, a school of baby barracuda, HUGE lobsters, lion fish and tons more. When we went back the second time, we saw a sea turtle--my first! It was magic. Others had said that they'd seen a reef shark earlier in the day, but we missed it.
We also ventured out to Smith's Reef for the very first time. After reading about the strong currents, I have to admit I was a little worried. However, the swimming there was much easier than I'd anticipated, and I think that the water was rougher than usual on the day we went. We also didn't have much trouble finding it. As usual, I followed directions from Trip Advisor pros and we easily found the spot. Luckily, there were 8-10 other people snorkeling when we arrived. I was happy to see other people in the water (again--I was a little chicken about this one). I never had the balls to go out too far. I think I hovered around the first reef for most of the time, swam briefly over the second, and never made it to the last one. This probably explains why I didn't see too much. I was really hoping to see turtles or eagle rays and, when we go back next year, I'll try to get the courage to explore a little further. Baby steps, right? :)
My parents are scuba freaks (which is one of the reasons they wanted to visit TCI to begin with) and they spent two days scuba diving with Flamingo divers. They both say it was the best time they've ever had scuba diving. They saw lots of reef sharks (apparently a couple of big ones, too), eagle rays, etc. They raved about Flamingo, and I'm pretty sure that their experience with them is one of the main reasons that they're so eager to return to the island.
My father is also a fly fisherman, and he went fishing for bonefish with Darren of DB Tours. He spent two mornings with Darren, and he had a great time. He caught several bonefish, and he said that--when we go back to Provo--he's going to fish with Darren again. In addition to the fishing (which he LOVED), he said that the excursions were also like an eco-tour. He saw more wildlife than we did snorkeling. On the first day a bull shark keep swimming around their boat, and on the second day they were followed by a huge lemon shark. (These stories were part of the reason I was so chicken at Smith's Reef.)
Aside from snorkeling and fishing, we didn't do much else. We had planned to do another 1/2 day trip with Island Vibes, but it just didn't work with our schedule. We would've had to do it on our last day, and we all really wanted to have that day to just loaf around.
We ate a lot, and we spent a lot of time at or in the water. Contrary to what I'd been reading, the water wasn't too cool. We swam nearly every single day and, while it was certainly cooler than the bathtub temps. in July, it was still warmer than lots of beach spots we've visited. We also lucked out with the weather. I was obsessing about it before we left, checking the forecast every single day. And, while the various forecasts predicted tons of rain, we didn't see a drop while we were there. Come to think of it, we spent a total of 14 days on Provo in the last 8 months, and we never saw anything but sunshine. For most of this trip, the weather was in the low 80's.
Now, let's talk about food. I realize that isn't the smoothest segue, but the chow was a big part of our (any) trip. I think it's best if I break it down by restaurant. Here we go:
Las Brisas: We ate lunch here between the airport and check-in. Chalk Sound is as beautiful as I remembered and, when you add the great food to the great view, you've got a winner. This is still one of my favorite places on the island. We ate fish sandwiches, lobster clubs, conch fritters (had to introduce conch to my parents as part of their first TCI meal), and rum cake. YUM. My parents said, "we'll have to eat here again before we leave." But they ended up saying that a lot. :)
Coco Bistro: This was the first restaurant that came to mind when we thought, "Where do we want to eat again?" It didn't disappoint. The food and atmosphere are wonderful, and if you're only going to do one "nice" meal on the island, this should be it. My grilled lobster was everyone's favorite dish of the night. I ended up eating lobster every single day in Provo (why not?), and that was the best I had.
Da Conch Shack: Another must do, IMO. It was the only place we actually did go back to twice. We ate there the last day (after having eaten several high-end meals that week), and my parents both agreed that it was their favorite place on the island. They loved the crack conch, of course. I tried the cracked lobster on our second trip, and it was very good.
Somewhere: The fish tacos here are one of my top 3 favorite things on the island. SO GOOD. We ate a casual lunch there after snorkeling at Bight Reef, and it was delicious.
Mango Reef: I've read many mixed reviews on this place, and I was a little nervous about it. Half of the things we ate (the curry lobster and open-faced lobster ravioli) were some of the best things we ate all week. Other things (coconut shrimp and paella) weren't that impressive. So, it's a little inconsistent, but we'd probably go again. The lobster ravioli is probably were a trip in and of itself.
Coyaba: This was our first time there, too. I knew going in that it'd be the most expensive meal of the week, and it was--nearly $500 for 4, including 3 courses and drinks. That said, it was worth every single penny, and the food rivals the best restaurants we have in Chicago. The lobster thermidor and whole fried snapper were highlights.
Bay Bistro: This was our dinner spot for our last night. We ate there last time, and the bouillabasse was my favorite meal. So, of course, I ate it again. And it was divine... again. We all loved this meal. My parents said that, for the money, they'd go back to Mango Reef and Bay Bistro over Coco and Coyaba. If you ask me, they are all great, and it'd be hard to choose.
Somerset Lobster Madness: Okay, this was the only disappointing meal we've ever had on Provo, and we REALLY wanted to love it. We originally had reservations somewhere else, but--after some TA pros said that it's a lot of fun and good food--we decided to do the beach lobster BBQ here. From the time we arrived, things just weren't great. The website boasted a price of around $40/person, but our bill for 4 was $280 (not including drinks). If it was less money, we probably would have liked it more. But, for that much, it was just average-quality buffet food. And we really went for the lobster, but all 4 of our lobster tails were small and very over-cooked. The food was just... okay. The atmosphere was also disappointing. We were looking forward to a relaxing evening on the water (chairs are in the sand), and the website said there would be live music. We expected a local island band, and instead we got the WORST DJ I've ever heard blasting Katy Perry and Kesha songs so loudly that the speakers kept cracking--literally. We had to scream to talk. It was like a cheesy cruise ship party, and we just didn't love it. But you win some, you lose some.
A couple more random things:
-We rented through Grace Bay Car Rentals again and it was great.
-We went to the big IGA for the first time and were SO surprised that we liked it a million times more than Graceway Gourmet. I've read that GG is so much "nicer," but I have to disagree. I was blown away by the selection at the IGA, and it was every bit as nice as our (cleaner, newer) grocery stores in Chicago. I won't go back to GG again.
-Potcake Place. Swoon. That is all.
Overall, it was an amazing trip. We are even more in love with Provo than we were before. Here are some photos for you to enjoy:
I didn't take my "good camera" because, well, I didn't want to have to worry about anything. I didn't want the pressure of carrying it around.
Next time I go to Provo, I probably will take even less than I did this time (less dresses, only flip-flops, who needs jewelry?). That island teaches me to relax and let go. And that's exactly why we can't stop going.