Welcome to the trip report for the great Tripadvisor trip of 2014. I say that because we met several couples who are active on the forum, and had a great time with them. We’re hoping to keep in touch and perhaps see them again on-island. I’ve split this report into 2 parts mainly because of its length. Feel free to stop anytime – I put in a lot of detail as I hope that everything will be useful to someone – as a result a lot of stuff isn’t great for everyone. So here goes:
Overall: I wont mention the weather every day, because it was spectacular the entire time we were there. I understand there had been several hours of rain on the 19th, but we never felt a drop the entire time we were on-island. There were a couple light showers in the overnights, but that was it. Additionally, apart from the last couple of days of our trip, the winds were very calm, meaning that the water was clear and easy to snorkel. I have some great pictures and videos that I will post once I’ve had the chance to clean them up.
Day 1: Saturday, April 19. Although we were not due to arrive on STJ until Easter Sunday, we left on Saturday evening because Delta had moved our flights around, necessitating an overnight in Atlanta if we were to arrive on STJ at a reasonable time. Just put this in here in case anyone is looking for advice on Atlanta stayovers. The Airport Marriott is located 2 minutes away from the terminal by monorail with service every 5 minutes. Very cheap on a Saturday night – I’d do it again.
Day 2: Sunday April 20. Didn’t have to get up too early because of our flight Sat evening, so nice easy trip to out 10:00 flight. Pretty uneventful, and we arrived pretty much on schedule. Our daughter had flown in from JFK, so we met her at the airport as we were picking up our rental. We went with Amalie this year after years of using Dependable. Nothing but positives for Amalie. Brand new Jeep. And with rubber mats on the floor to catch the sand – what a concept. Headed out to the car ferry, stopping for a quick trip to Kmart for a $15 beach chair for my wife, and then a $300 shopping spree at the Food Center. Although to be fair, not all of it was food, if you know what I mean. Caught the 3:30 ferry, which was lucky because the 4:00 is the one that’s still out for repairs. If we didn’t make the 3:30, it would have been 5:00. Got on-island and went to check in at the Westin – we have a timeshare there. We like the timeshare, and don’t spend much time at the Westin – at least during the day. Didn’t feel like cooking, so we went to the Beach Bar for dinner. We like to start off there or Joe’s Rum Hut. Met our first Tripadvisor friends there – AtSeaAnne and her husband – we wanted to meet before we went on our charter with Palm Tree later in the week. Had a couple of drinks with them and knew that the charter would be fun.
Day 3: Monday April 21. We had arranged to spend the afternoon and dinner with another Tripadvisor couple – Littlebenn and her husband. So we went out to Hawksnest for the morning. Got there around 9 and set up on the beach. Went snorkeling around 10:30 and when we got back around 12 my wife looked at the beach and said ‘It looks like Florida’. Sure enough, there were beach chairs literally all the way along the beach. Nothing spectacular snorkeling, although the coral does look better this year. Went back to the villa and got cleaned up before going over to meet our new friends. What a treat – they were great to hang out with and enjoyed many of the same things that we do. In fact we almost forgot to go snorkeling in the afternoon, but finally went for a snorkel around Klein Bay. Their villa had a great view over Rendezvous Bay and Ditliff Point. God snorkeling, including some squid, a Hawksbill turtle and a Southern stingray. Afterwards, had some more drinks and dinner with our friends. What a great day.
Day 4: Tuesday April 22. Went to Francis in the morning. Parked at the top of the gravel trail and walked down the walking trail so we would come out at the east end of the beach – best snorkeling is there. Snorkeled most of the way out to Mary Point, where it gets pretty deep. Saw a variety of sealife, including angelfish, squid, couple of different types of filefish. Also found an octopus’s garden, and saw the octopus, but couldn’t get him to come out of his hole. Francis wasn’t nearly as busy as Hawksnest, so much more pleasant. On the way back to the villa, stopped at Scoops for ice cream. Was excellent. Went to the Beach Bar for sunset, then ate at the villa
Day 5: Wednesday, April 23. We had booked a charter with Captain John of Palm Tree. We have gone with him for the past few years. He’s great, and very knowledgeable about the area and where to go. Started the day with breakfast sandwiches from the Deli Grotto, met with our Tripadvisor friends, and set off. It was a perfect day. The sea was very calm and the water was clear and the snorkeling was great. We went to Norman Island for our first snorkel spot – missed out of the Indians and Caves because we had done them many times before. The coral was great, as was the other sealife. Saw a couple of porcupinefish along with many other varieties. Went and snorkeled the Wreck of the Rhone. It’s really a diving site, but quite interesting of you’ve never been. Had lunch at Pussers on Marina Cay – very good. Then went to Monkey Point snorkeling. For me, this was one of the highlights of the trip. When we first got in the water, there were millions of little baitfish around – so much that I was afraid that we wouldn’t be able to really see anything else at all. Then came the highlight – there were at least half a dozen tarpon swimming slowly around. They ranged in size from probably 3 feet to maybe as much as 5. We have Border Collies, and it almost looked like the tarpon were herding the fish. I’d have loved to see the feeding. But it was amazing swimming close to these fish. Hopefully the photos and videos I took will come out well. Stopped off at Sandy Spit for a few minutes, then it was getting pretty late, so we decided not to go to the Soggy Dollar, rather just to go to the new Bee-Line bar, pretty much at Sandy Spit. Obviously a different vibe from SDB, but we really liked it. Certainly one of the best, if not the best charter, that we have ever had. Got back to town, and our friends were going to meet yet another Tripadvisor family that they had met, so we had a drink with them in the Tap Room. Again, really nice couple with their daughter. No cooking after all that, so we decided to try the Café Roma. We had never been in all our years on-island. It’s a very traditional, old-school Italian place – Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra providing the soundtrack, pasta, etc. It was very good.
Day 6: Thursday, April 24. Our daughter was leaving on Sunday, and wanted to do Honeymoon before she left. I thought that would be a good chance to try the walk in, so I put my GoPro on the head mount and walked in. I’ll post the video so people can get a good idea of what it’s like. It said it would be a 45 minute walk – took me 20, and really, it’s not a bad walk at all. Did some snorkeling around the point between Honeymoon and Salomon. Probably the most disappointing snorkel of the trip. It’s been good in the past, but there really wasn’t too much there this trip. So I went to the other end of the beach and snorkeled in towards Caneel. That was considerably better. On the way over I saw a turtle and a school of around 20-30 small squid. Also some nice coral, some angelfish and filefish. Had a drink at Caneel to work off the $20 parking fee, and decided to take a late afternoon snorkel at Maho. It’s never been one of my favorite snorkeling beaches, but that changed this trip. We snorkeled the south side around 4-5:30, and had another great ‘predator and prey’ experience. There were schools of smaller fish flowing in all directions in the shallow water, with the predators outside in the deeper water. I took some videos that I hope will come out well. Also found 2 different octopi. Unfortunately, as with the first, they wouldn’t come out to play. Also saw a stingray and a pretty big barracuda – maybe 3 feet or so. That was one thing I noticed – didn’t see so many barracuda this year, but the ones I did see were pretty big. Went back to the villa and ate there.
Day 7: Friday, April 25. Our daughter decided that she wanted to stay at the Westin pool today, so my wife and I went to Waterlemon. Our daughter really doesn’t like the walk there. We were the first people on the beach around 9:00, and we stayed there most of the day. My wife likes to read and sun herself on the beach, while I cant take sitting in the direct sun. So I read for a while in the shade, then decided to walk up the Johnny Horn trail to the top of the hill, where there are some ruins. I’d been half way up before, but if you are going to go, get to the top. The views were spectacular – from Waterlemon beach to the south, then turning clockwise you look over Leinster Bay and Francis, Mary Point, Sir Francis Drake Channel looking West, Tortola and West End to the North and finally down Sir Francis Drake channel to the East. Fantastic views. Came back down and went snorkeling. It was calm enough that we went completely round the Cay this year. It’s always good for turtles on the way out to the Cay, and this year was no exception. The sealife was great, including nice coral, angelfish, filefish and a variety of other fish. Swam back in and decided to go out to Leinster Point before finishing our snorkel. Saw another 3+ foot barracuda as well as porcupinefish and trumpetfish – saw a lot of those this year. Decided to go back to the Westin via Centerline Road to get a smoothie at Colombo’s. If you get the chance, it’s worth a visit. Met up with our daughter, got cleaned up and went to Virgin Fire for dinner. I know there have been mixed reviews, but I have nothing but positives to say. We all had different dishes and all were very good. I’d definitely return.
Day 8: Saturday, April 26. This was our daughter’s last day on-island, and she loves Little Lameshure, so off we went. People have asked about getting there with/without a 4 wheel drive. Here’s my opinion. I would not go to Little Lameshure without 3 things: 1 – 4 wheel drive, 2 – high clearance, and 3 – an empty bladder. Yes, maybe you could make it otherwise, but it wouldn’t necessarily be comfortable. But it’s worth it. For my money, on a calm, bright day, Little Lameshure is the most beautiful beach on the island. If you stand on the beach and look south, I swear you can see every shade of blue in the spectrum. Just fantastic. I decided to take a trip out Yawzi Point. It’s a nice little hike. There’s a small cove that you can use for entry to Great Lameshure there, but the winds were too strong to let me think about snorkeling over to Little Lameshure. Got back and went snorkeling. I have to say that Little Lameshure was disappointing to me in terms of snorkeling. You have to go a long way out before it gets good. If you get all the way out to the end of Yawzi Point on the east side, it starts to get pretty nice, but the wind was from the SE that day, and it was pretty rough around the point. I went over to the west side and snorkeled over to Europa Bay. That was considerably better, but again you have to get pretty far out before it gets good. Saw some nice angelfish, porcupinefish and a huge school of blue tang as well as a little 3-legged Hawksbill Turtle. Took the rattling ride back to Salt Pond and headed back to the Villa to eat in.
Day 9: Sunday, April 27th. Our timeshare week was up, and our daughter had to catch the 10:00 ferry. We said our goodbyes and headed over to the villa we rent in Coral Bay. I’ll pick it up there in the next post.