Antigua & Barbuda Hotel, Resort & Villa Reviews Reviews
Pelican Isles 07/06/2004
Reviewers Rating: Excellent
Trip Report - Antigua March 2004:
If I told you that the airline lost all of our luggage, it rained, our rental car was junk, and a critter got into our kitchen, would you believe we had a wonderful time? Well, we did!
Location, location, location! What a beautiful setting. We stayed at Pelican Isles on Johnsons Point. Pelican Isles is a collection of 7 private villas. Most were built in 1977. The villas look to the west toward Montserrat. They sit above Turners beach. The ocean breezes are refreshing. And you hear the sound of the surf night and day. Michael, the on site manager, greeted us on arrival and showed us to our villa. There was no sign-in and the key was in the door. We stayed in two different villas; the first was one of the original and needed some TLC. It was more than comfortable, but some new appliances and some scrubbing were in order. The second was newer and was right above Turners Beach. We could watch the sunset each night from our porch. This villa was in better condition, but lacked an outside shower and the mattress was very hard.
Michael was the perfect host. If you had a question or needed something he was there to help. When things were all set, he stayed out of sight. With this great location, we would go back.
Since we were flying on a US Airways flight that originated in Philadelphia and was nonstop, we felt safe to check all our luggage. The flight down was relatively uneventful except that the movie was only in Spanish. We arrived on time and proceeded into customs. No luggage. There is more coming, no there is not. We checked three bags and not one arrived. A long line formed to complete lost luggage forms. So here we are in jeans and long sleeve shirts.
The next day, after getting some sun, we went for a drive. We found ourselves near the airport at flight time. We asked lots of questions about lost luggage and got no real answers. So we talked our way backward through customs and immediately spotted two of our bags. Searching around, we found the third. Now we had to talk our way through customs again since we only had part of our paperwork with us. But, hurray we have more than the few items we bought yesterday. US Airways and Philly Airport; what were we thinking when we did not carry-on one change of clothes?
It seems like all the major flights leaving Antigua depart mid-afternoon. One was a 747. So, there were long lines at check in and longer lines at security. There is one common waiting area that was mobbed and moving around was tough. Needless to say, you cannot quite understand the boarding announcements and all flights leave through the same airport exit. But, we successfully boarded and US Airways even decided to put our luggage on with us.
If you are interested, we booked our flight online directly with US Airways. The price was $403.50 each.
Rental car & Driving:
In the rental car area, all the agents were working out of brief cases. We found Thrifty, and the paperwork went quickly. I pay my $20 cash for my temporary license. Then the agent says to go wait outside and he disappears. Some time later, he arrives with a well-worn Suzuki Sidekick. He wants me to list any problems with the car. This car has seen 50K miles of tough use, so there are a few problems. And, by the way, no matter what, insurance or otherwise, you are responsible for the tires. So off we go, squeaks and tears, scratches and rattles. Wait a minute, why do I have a left hand drive car in a country where they drive on the left?
The stories about the roads are all true. The roads are occupied by chickens, goats, donkeys, cows and children. The road conditions go from great, to filled with potholes, to unpotholes, i.e. far more potholes than road. Once in a very great while, there is an occasional street sign. But, the main hazard is Antiguan drivers. Even though gas is $3.00/gallon, they drive flat out. Forget the 40 mph limit and the passing zones. At one point, we saw a bus pass a car and immediately stop to pick up passengers. And, they honk at everything. To say hello, to say we are passing, to signal friends, and to swear at the stupid tourists. One day it rained quite a bit and the potholes became puddles. We drove through a puddle and somehow the exhaust of the car seemed to swallow some water. For the rest of our visit, our Sidekick sounded like it was gargling as we drove along.
I tried running while we were there. I was pleasantly surprised that the Antiguan drivers were much more courteous to runners than to other drivers.
When we returned the car, our deposit credit car slip was returned and we paid the agreed amount. Only later did I realize that my $20 temporary license charge was also on my credit card. So where is my cash?
Sightseeing & Excursions:
Being careful with the sun and rainy weather gave us opportunities to sightsee. We drove 300 miles during the week. While, the road signs are poor, the main loops are easy to find. Like most Caribbean islands, there is much poverty and it covers most of the island. But, driving was perfectly safe. Here are some spots we visited:
Nelsons Dockyard- This historic naval yard does not know what it wants to be. Part of it is museum, part is local vendors selling their wares to tourists, and part is a modern yacht yard.
Dows Interpretive Centre- This site offers a great overview of English Harbor. It has an interesting 20-minute program on the history of Antigua. Your Nelsons Dockyard ticket also allows you in the centre.
Bettys Hope- The largest sugar windmills on the island.
Devils Bridge On the east coast, a natural bridge created by the Atlantic Ocean. A stark, but beautiful area.
Fig Tree Drive A pretty drive through the rain forest side of the island.
Excursions The only excursion we did was Dees Exotic Destination Mini-boats. These are self-drive inflatable speedboats with 25 hp motors. They can go and with the chop of the ocean it is quite a ride. Our guide took us to Bird Island and back. Great fun!
We went to Antigua for the beaches! Antigua claims to have 365 beaches, one for each day of the year. Unfortunately, many of these beaches are on cays that require a boat to get there. Worse, although all beaches in Antigua are public, resorts have been permitted to restrict access. Then, many beaches have no road access and those that have roads often cannot be found. Finally, what looks like one beach, may have multiple names. But, having said all that, there are some wonderful beaches:
Turners Large and beautiful with easy access. Snorkeling at south end. One small resort. Periodically, European cruise ships send their passengers here for the day. Vendors, horses, and watersports available.
Longs - On east side of island. Nice sand, but dominated by two resorts.
Half Moon - Also, on east. Large and beautiful. Empty, but probably because it was raining while we were there.
Runaway Bay & Dickenson Bay Much of this beach is dominated by resorts. Some open and empty area near Fort James.
Darkwood On the road with a small restaurant. Nice beach, easy access.
Ffryes I hate to mention this one. One of the best beaches we have ever visited. Beautiful, great sand, large and deserted. On most days, the next blanket is over 100 yards away. However, the excursion boats, booze cruises, use it for a lunch stop; lots of people, but live music. Even at these times there is space at the end.
Bird Island Two small beaches, grassy bottom. Snorkeling. Many excursion boats.
We eat out every night when on vacation. But my wife and I are trying to preserve our youthful figures. So supper consists of two beverages, one alcoholic and one not plus an entrée for each of us. How many calories does it take to lie in the sun anyway?
Turners Beach Grill On the beach, ocean & sunset view. Good service. Snapper very good, bbq chicken adequate. This was the only meal that included salad. $44.
Commissioners Grill Downtown St. Johns. Interesting ambiance. Service OK. Steak and Mixed Grill. Both good, but not hot. How do you grill a steak and not get it hot? $77, expensive to eat beef in a seafood country.
Peters BBQ At Jolly Harbor. Seating very tight, almost family style. Grilled pork and baby ribs. Very good. $46
Cocos At Coco Bay. Restaurant opened late because it rained today. Heh? A little pretentious, maybe that is what the guests at Coco Bay want. Live music, but too loud for conversation. Wahoo and Mahi-Mahi. Good. $56.
Melinis At Jolly Harbor. Chicken & pasta and Picata Milanese. Very good. $42.
Gibsons North end of Turners Beach. On the beach, your feet are in the sand and the ocean is 6 feet away. The ocean is threatening to wash the eating area away. Salmon with fruit salsa, excellent and Butterfish, good. $47.
Dogwatch At Jolly Harbor. Stuffed chicken and Fish & chips. Good, but
We ordered off the special menu. Apparently the price changed after we entered and we were charge the higher price. $58, too much for this meal.
Banana Bar Upstairs at the airport. Good place to eat for trip home. A burger and a club sandwich. I forgot the price, but good value.
Tipping It seems every restaurant is different. We found bills with no service charge, bills with a service charge and no space for a tip and bills with a service charge and an obvious space for the tip. Tough to deal with.
Reservations We never made reservations and did not have trouble, but if the restaurant is part of a resort, either eat early or get a reservation.
Bugs & Critters:
Are there bugs in Antigua? Yes, we saw mosquitoes and other bugs and yes we got a few bites. But, we never used the mosquito net for the bed and we never used any insect repellent. They were not a problem.
One morning we awoke to find tracks in the kitchen. Also, a pile of white flakes. The flakes were a chewed up plastic container. We never saw the critter, but it was creepy especially since the tracks were too large for a mouse.
Power: The electrical power went off several times during our visit. There was no pattern to this and fortunately, usually occurred during the day. Each time the outage was only for a few minutes.
People: We did not find the Antiguans to be particularly friendly. We tried to be courteous and friendly to every one. While they did their jobs, it was rarely with a smile. On the other hand, we never felt concerned or threatened anywhere on the island. We think that the Antiguans were anxious about the national elections when we were there.
Politics: We were there for the national elections. It was an exciting time. It reminded us of a college pep rally, but obviously the stakes were higher. In fact as we left we learned that some old regime officials were being arrested.
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