I should preface this by saying that our trip was not adventurous, or out of the norm, or even all that interesting. My SO and I needed a low key relaxing vacation, and got it ten-fold from Isla. This is a day by day recounting, more for my own sake & longing for Isla at this moment, but I hope it can be of use as other's reports from Isla were for me!
Priviledge Aluxes, I should start by saying, was amazing. To us, it could not have been better. The grounds are beautiful, the staff was attentive, and everything was just SO unbelievable! The resort was at very low capacity when we went (cheers for booking during hurricane season!) so we got the eyes and ears of the staff whenever we wanted them. They could not have been more helpful, and only made the amazing location that much nicer to stay at.
We booked the 2-story platinum suite. The extra cost (maybe +$40 a night which then added all inclusive as well) was worth everything. The suite is beyond anything I've stayed at (for such a price too---we paid $1200 for 7 days including flight and AI for 2 people in the platinum suite, eep!). The bathroom is big, the shower/jacuzzi was so perfect--great for relaxing and it's nice to have a sorta separate shower area to get sand off first! The living room is sparse but modern, as others have mentioned, but I like that look. Kitchen doesn't have much to it but a clean area to sit and we certainly made use of the mini bar and coffee essentials.
The bedroom and living room both attach to the lower floor balcony. It has 2 seats and a small table and is a medium size. We really enjoyed having the bedroom sliding door open and waking up to the breezes and sounds of the island. Upstairs is another bathroom that has a shower (which opens up to the patio--veranda? what word can I call that huge open rooftop heaven?!) The stairs lead right to the door to the outside (ok, we'll call it a patio for arguments sake, but know that it's nothing less than a small heaven), which has a little seating area with larger chairs and a table, then 3-4 (shoot, I can't remember-it's been too long!) lounge chairs near the farther end of the patio. To the left was our private "infinity" pool, that was clean, out of view from everyone, and overlooking the ocean and port. This was my favorite part of the suite. Our particular room location had us hidden from all other suites with this rooftop setup, but I could see other rooms that had more open pool or patio areas. Very glad ours was more hidden. A rooftop private tanning, reading, oceanview patio was SO amazing. My only complaint was a medium size exhaust tower thing sorta in the way of the view of the ocean, but I got used to it. It was worth it for the privacy, and I was told the building we were in had the highest rooms.
Anyways, just realized that monster of a paragraph was only about the rooftop, I'll move along.
We arrived on Wednesday 9/22 to clouds & rain but at least some nice warm weather. We ordered room service (which did take awhile longer than we were told to arrive) and settled in. Nap time was a necessity and then what do you know? It was time to eat again! (All inclusive and us being foodies ensured I was always ready to have a meal here).
We had our first dinner at Cafe del Mar-the one on the beach. I was floating from being there and would have eaten anything, but our grape leaves were yummy and the melon gazpacho was interesting!
I'll interject here re: the food at PA---the menu is trying. They have unique dishes with good ideas and delicious sounding food. That said, it doesn't always translate 100% on the plate. However, because it started out on the menu/in the minds of the chefs', as something tasty and top-rate, it ends up being no worse than "good" every single meal at every restaurant there. For the most part we were really happy with what we ate, and we were never grossly unhappy with it. Ok, moving on...
Bedtime for us (happy to have found 50 First Dates in English to watch) on our first night there!
The 2nd day was standard vacation--breakfast buffet, then pool for hours (love the strawberry daquirirs--I could always hear the whir of the blender from the pool bar through our open sliding doors and it made me feel so relaxed). The pool is so gorgeous. Actually, it's 2. One with the pool bar and a cool wooden bridge you can walk on/swim under. And the other smaller one next to the gym with the bed/palapas near it.
Dinner the 2nd night was Satay--I had the tuna which was a little funny tasting because of spice mixtures but again, unique and not bad to eat. Tons of champagne helped and the service was impeccable. That said, our trip back to the room did include some room service pizza before conking out. (I told you, we like to eat!)
Friday was more breakfast buffet (LOVE the tortilla wraps that are served near the egg station. Oh, and the goat cheese caramel danishes. I can't even believe how good those are. I don't even wanna talk about it, I miss them). We did more pool, then headed to the beach to see these amazingly clear waters I've heard so much about. They, and the beach, were beautiful. Honestly though, it's hard to beat the seclusion and peace (and daiquiris!) of our own pool just a few yards away, so that was our only visit to the "PA" section of beach.
Then it was lunch at Cafe del Mar (beach cafe) for an AWESOME lunch of ceviche and caprese salad. If my notes are correct, all we did was nap in between lunch & dinner, but in any case, dinner found us back at Sabor for a slightly less delicious meal than our first night there.
Saturday (and here I'm already getting sad since our trip was then "half over"). Did room service breakfast (slow but fine, love the yogurt+granola) Finally we ventured away from PA (we went out the 1st night but since then I had been cooped up while SO took runs all over the island) and enjoyed what town had to offer. Dinner we tried the buffet at Sabor. It was Mexican night and was alright, but the real treat was the band trying to make the best of classic American songs. (I hope I never forget their rendition of Eric Clapton's 'wonderful tonight' and the line "we go to the party...everyone goes to sleeeeep". Then it was a midnight dip in a private pool, and WE went to sleep.
Sunday started like all the others--SO ran & tried to find locals to play basketball with, and I went through more chick lit books to count and tanned upstairs. On this run he found us the beauty of North Beach, so we went and played in the shallow cove and tried to ignore the people selling us chairs and imaginary wifi for $50. The water by north beach is so shallow you can walk for ages and it'll be up to your calf! And the temperature was perfect. Man, love that place. We went to a random hotel restaurant for ceviche while we waited out a small storm, then headed to town for the Redskins game (the game and the sangrias served did nothing positive for anyone). We walked around Isla some more after and finally headed back for some more rooftop relaxing and not much else! (told you this was boring, is anyone still reading this?)
Monday was our action day. Ate my weight in goat cheese caramels, SO went running, then we were off! We rented a golf cart through the hotel (about $10 more expensive than another place but convenient to the max, and SO is all about that), and headed to sightsee. Although it made it colder than I would have liked, the rain made it a good day to get off the beach and see things! Our first stop were the Mayan ruins. The eastern cliff that the area is situated on is breathtaking. You feel like you're on the edge of the world. We paid the $3 american to see the temple up close and personal, but it had started to POUR by then so it ended up that we walked down to the guard rails near the path by the ocean (just below the temple itself) and just soaked in all the water coming down and all around and how crazy beautiful and intense it all was! I should note we had to pay (only $1) to use the bathroom there :P We had a quick coffee at the cafe on the premises (which is a part of garaphon discovery) while the rain died down.
Then we headed to my personal favorite, the tortuga farm!! They have sea turtles in swimming tanks that are open on top and are about chest height. There are a few types, but my obvious favorite were the baby sea turtles. So unreal cute. There were fish tanks around the perimeter of the room with very cool seahorses, some small rays, and more. Definitely worth the $5; I would have stayed all day but SO said the smell was going to make him keel over.
When we got back to PA the sunset was too gorgeous to pass up so we zipped in our golf cart back to north beach and laid in the sand and watched the gorgeous sights! We saw a couple little sand colored fish and a small sting ray :) By then I was burnt to a crisp so we went to the jacuzzi and soaked in a milk bath.
Dinner was at Satay, where they broke out the Sushi menu that had been hiding from me thusfar. It became apparent just WHY they would want to do this when I ordered so much sushi that the chef just sent out a sampler platter. The rice paper wrap things come highly recommended there. Again, the service was so on point. I mentioned that it was my SO's birthday and the waiter was very cute but not so subtle in asking "oh so sir, do you spell your name, please?" They brought out a nice dessert with Happy BIrthday on it, and I had too many glasses of champagne to count. Side note from Satay-the tempura ice cream is SO good. And the coffee jello is definitely worth trying once-just tell them to go easy on the Baileys that they put on top. All the desserts come out with a little lit up flaming fruit thing, which is cute. I do really love the decor and presentation at Satay. Definitely does not look like something some resort just threw together.
Tuesday we decided to rent our golf cart for a little longer and headed out to find the infamous Mango cafe. The sights while trying to find it were worth it though--the different areas of isla really vary greatly and it was cool to see these small seaside towns and villages. After a good effort though, we found it and enjoyed the french toast, fried empanadas, and yogurt. Everything was DELICIOUS. And authentic, and GOOD food. The guy running it is a classy guy who puts everything into his place, and it was great to have a chance to chat with him. Oh, and the ginger lemonade. Very yummy.
We got back to the hotel for our last daytime hours at PA and enjoyed the pool and took sunset pictures from the patio and just soaked in the last of our time there. Dinner was satay again--we sat outside which was a nice idea in theory but a little too close to the street to be VERY enjoyable.
The last morning, to my horror, there were NO goat cheese caramel danishes out. So, the head guy brought over a small bowl of the caramel for me to eat. Talk about service!! I ate them with my aforementioned favorite tortilla wraps (can I tell you that I'm actually a small girl? I talk about food like it's going out of style, but honest, I'm not a blimp!). The caramel is THAT good. Get it. Seek it out every time you're there.
So then we left. And I was sad. And while we didn't experience the true "real" Isla, we had a VERY relaxing vacation in one of the most beautiful locations I've seen. AI was a treat to have, and I appreciate the luxury of the room service, unlimited drinks, and not watching the bill at any meal. It was also nice (though not the idea for some people, I understand) to not have to trek off anywhere when it was meal time. We needed this to be low key, and Mexico was already a stretch for my SO!
I loved that place. I would recommend PA to anyone (oh and yes, the floors by the pool are slippery when wet--i noticed that as someone's "con" to not go there. It hardly was dealbreaker). Like I said, I miss it!!
Sorry & Thanks if anyone read this far. :)Edited: 04 November 2010, 06:59