Review of Villa Cofresi Hotel in Puerto Rico

Villa Cofresi Hotel in Puerto Rico is a good play to stay if you are not expecting anything extra special from your hotel. The hotel is located in Rincon which is on the west coast of the island of Puerto Rico. Rooms cost about $130 per night. There are also rooms with kitchens and two bedrooms which can sleep six people.

If you plan to spend a lot of time on Rincon beach, this is a good place to stay because all you need to do to get there is walk out of your door. It is a very nice, long sandy beach that was not very busy any of the days we were there. There were waves in the ocean and you will probably notice some surfers during your stay.

The swimming pool is clean and overlooks the ocean. It is rather small and not anything special. I definitely preferred to spend my time in the ocean instead.

The lobby is open-air so you feel as if your vacation has begun as soon as you arrive at the hotel. The guest rooms were average size. They had tile instead of carpet on the floor which I love in hotel rooms because it feels cleaner to me. The rooms were decorated with bright, tropical patterns that were fitting of the area but were not especially attractive.

We were told that at the right time of year you can see whales in the ocean from the hotel but we did not see any during our stay.

There is a restaurant on site which serves hamburgers, pinchos, and local Puerto Rican food. The food is good and moderately priced, but you will probably not want to eat all of your meals here as there are many other places to try out in town.

The bar is famous for their “Pirate rum” drinks which they make in a coconut. They are tasty and fun to watch the bartenders cut open the coconuts. On Saturday night there is a loud band in the bar which can be heard all over the hotel.

One of my favorite things about the hotel is that it is on the west side of the island so you get great views of the sunset right from your room.

Overall, keep in mind that this is not a luxury hotel and that you get what you pay for with the cheaper price. This hotel seems to be more popular with locals than with tourists.

Scuba Diving in Guanica Puerto Rico

On the south-western corner of Puerto Rico sits the sleepy little fishing village of Guánica. It sits nestled on a natural harbor protected by rocky cliffs. Guánica boasts the beautiful beaches of Playa Santa, the protected Guánica Dry Forest Reserve (the arid counterpoint to Puerto Rico’s El Yunque Rain Forest on the opposite side of the island), and even a nearby bioluminescent bay. It is this unique coastal landscape that sets a beautiful backdrop to some of the island’s best diving.

The underwater landscape matches the shore in that Guánica’s most famous sites are walls. The reef starts very close to the surface at the mouth of the natural harbor making navigation a bit tricky during low tide. The depth slowly increases until you hit the wall, where it drops off vertically down a few hundred feet. There is something surreal about wall diving, when the coral is next to and even above you rather than carpeting the floor.

While diving Guánica, take your underwater camera. We encountered several photo favorites, including several very large nurse sharks, many moray eels, a beautiful green turtle, lobsters, groupers and huge schools of snapper and grunt. There are also a healthy number of fancy reef fish, like angelfish, parrotfish, damsels, and butterfly fish. Depths range from shallow (20-30 ft) to medium (60 ft) on the coral reefs, and drop from 60 ft to 150 – 200 ft on the wall. The diving is all year long, but the in season is summer, from May to September. We went diving in October and the water was still in the 70’s. Winter diving brings clear water conditions and high visibility.

We stayed at the Copamarina Resort. Since they require only 2 divers to schedule a dive, bring your buddy on the off season and have the boat to yourself. That’s what we did. However, I could tell the operation was clearly able to handle larger groups with ease. Other options are to rent a room or apartment on Punta Gorda, a beautiful pennisula right next to the famous Playa Santa beach and just across from Gilligan’s Island.

There are other boarding options, including summer cottage rentals and the Puerto Rican hostels called Paradors. After the diving is done, spend some time on the Playa Santa beaches, or take a ferry out to the mangrove covered Gilligan’s Island to layout on the beach or swim in the small channels cutting through the mini islands. There are picnic tables and grills. Or hike one of the 12 trails in the Guánica Dry Forest Reserve, or “Bosque Seco” as known locally. After hiking, cool off with a jump in one of Puerto Rico’s best beaches.

Copamarina Beach Resort
Resort Hotel
Phone Within U.S.
1-800-468-4553
Phone International
1-787-821-0505
http://www.copamarina.com/index.cfm

Mary Lee’s by the Sea
Room and Apartment Rentals
Ph. 787.821.3600
http://www.maryleesbythesea.com/

Ocean Club West in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Island

Vacationing in the Turks and Caicos Islands is a wonderful experience and the ideal base camp is the Ocean Club West on Providenciales Island. Located just 60 feet from the beautiful Grace Bay Beach, the beautifully designed Ocean Club West is the perfect choice for luxury accommodations and easy access to the beach and water activities.

Known as a popular venue for families or couples the Ocean Club West on Providenciales offers guests casual luxury accommodations with spacious rooms, state-of-the-art amenities, and a variety of outdoor activities. The various guests’ accommodations available range anywhere from a single studio up to a three bedrooms suite simply depending on the needs and availability of the guests. All guest rooms feature central sir, full kitchens, balconies or screened porches depending on accommodations, some units have washer dryer facilities, cable television, telephones, coffee and tea, children’s furniture as requested, in-room safes, complimentary Internet access, the use of chaise lounges, umbrellas and beach towels and much more. There is also a shuttle available for guests of the Ocean Club West to take to and from shopping centers and markets on Providenciales.

Guests to the island of Providenciales also enjoy the beautiful contrast of the white sand and beautiful sea. This is the ideal location to enjoy horseback riding, sailing, fishing, snorkeling, swimming and other water sports. The beach is also a grand place for a couple or family picnic. Golfing is available nearby as well as tennis and an assortment of other activities.

In terms of dining while staying at Ocean Club West in Providenciales there is an on-site café which prepares excellent casual fare. There are three additional restaurants that serve international cuisine and Caribbean fare including the Cabana Bar and Grill, the Opus Wine Bar and Grill and the Opus Bar. For guests that are attending or hosting a special event such as a private party, wedding or reception, banquet accommodations are available at the Ocean Club West on Turks and Caicos.

Guests to the Ocean Club West can fly directly into the Providenciales International Airport on Turks and Caicos via several major air carriers. Ground transportation to and from the hotel is available by means of private taxi for approximately $15 per person one way.

Vacationing in the Caribbean Consider Belize, Central America for Your Next Trip

Belize City airport is serviced by a few carriers including Continental, American, Delta, and Taca Airlines. Many airlines have daily flights arriving from key hubs such as Dallas, Houston, Miami, and Atlanta.

Activities on Mainland Belize

Once you arrive in Belize City, the possibilities are endless. Local carriers, such as Maya and Tropic Air, offer numerous flights to Ambergris Caye and other popular destinations within the country. Destinations like Placencia, Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker and San Ignacio are some of the more popular spots to stay.

On the mainland, cave tubing, zip lining, and the Belize Zoo are popular activities, while Mayan ruins such as Xunantunich, Altun Ha, and Lamanai are not to be missed. The south of the country is noted for areas such as Dangriga, with its beautiful waterfalls, and Placencia, known for great fishing and local seafood.

Ambergris Caye

If you head for the islands, Ambergris Caye has great beaches, a relaxed atmosphere, and incredible snorkeling and scuba diving off the Belize Barrier Reef System. Belize’s reef system is an endangered UNESCO World Heritage Site and second largest reef in the world. Popular snorkel trips include Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley, while the famed Blue Hole is one of the most popular dive trips, requiring divers to depart around 6am for the 4+ hour boat ride out.

Flights to the Caye are as plentiful as taxis, departing hourly. Hotels on the island can range from the downright cheap to more luxurious. The hostel, Pedro’s Inn, is popular with the backpackers and can be as cheap as $10 a night. Waterfront hotels can range from $70 to $300 or more a night.

Those looking for the best of both worlds with beautiful beaches and lots of activities will not be disappointed in Ambergris Caye. Ambergris is a 45 minute boat ride back to the mainland and any of the day trips are available from the Caye. Tour companies have regular tours arranged through the hotels and will pick you up right on your own hotel dock! How’s that for service? The ride over is a great way to experience the islands and enjoy the beautiful turquoise waters.

Dining in Belize

Food in Belize can be cheap and delicious. An excellent seafood meal on the Caye can run about $10-$15 USD pp, or a little more if you go to a restaurant at one of the fancier hotels. Many hotels include a continental breakfast and most all-day tours include lunch as well. Do not look for recognizable chains on the Caye as you will only find “mom and pop” type places. The island is filled with numerous types of cuisine, including Mexican, Caribbean and other regional ethnic dishes, American, and even Chinese.

For those looking for an upscale dining experience, be sure to check out Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn down on the peninsula in Placencia. This open air restaurant is popular with honeymooners and others looking to experience a romantic waterfront dinner. The Turtle Inn features an extensive wine list and many local fresh seafood entrees.

Belize pretty much offers something for everyone. You can fill your days with excursions, or just lounge on the beach, and still have an amazing time. I love coming back to the Caye and seeing the same people who have become friends throughout the years. Although the secret is slowly getting out and tourism continues to increase, I hope Belize will always retain the same charm and excellent value that brings many of us back year after year.

Top 5 Tropical Getaways on a Budget

Has winter weather left you yearning for white sand beaches, lulling surf and the caress of trade winds? Has the economy left your wallet thinner than you’d like? Fear not! You can have a tropical vacation for less than you might think. Here are 5 options for a tropical vacation on a budget.

1) Cruise the Caribbean. The beauty of a cruise is the all-inclusive package. You’ll get lodging, transportation, meals, non-alcoholic beverages and onboard entertainment from $80/night, per person. Save even more by driving to your departure port a day before you sail. Carnival has Caribbean departures from Mobile, Miami, New Orleans, Galveston, Charleston, and New York City, just to name a few. Even better, hotels that cater to cruise passengers often let you park your car for free while you’re onboard.

2) Cruise the Mexican Riviera. Departing out of Los Angeles or San Diego, a Mexican Riviera cruise will take you to Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan, picturesque ports that aren’t impacted by drug violence in other parts of Mexico. Rates start at $399 per person for 7 nights, with additional discounts possible for children or 3rd/4th guests in the same cabin. Looking to beat the ship’s price for shore excursions? Do an internet search for “Mazatlan Frank” who can help you with Puerto Vallarta, too.

3) Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula truly has it all for sun-seekers. You’ll find miles of pristine beaches, crystal blue water, great food, world-class snorkeling, dolphin encounters, boutique shopping and great rates on accommodations. Check out www.cheapcaribbean.com for 5 nights for $525 per person, air included. If you visit the Mayan ruins at Tulum, take along some single dollar bills or local pocket change. Bathrooms are free, but you’ll need to tip if you want toilet paper.

4) St. Petersburg – Clearwater, Florida. Located just outside of Tampa, the St. Petersburg – Clearwater area offers beaches, crab shacks, nightlife and budget hotels starting at $70/night. The theme-park addicted can visit Busch Gardens in Tampa while nature lovers hunt for shells and sand dollars at Caladesi Island State Park. To avoid Spring Break crowds, skip April and go in May.

5) Camp the Florida Keys. Are you game for sleeping on the beach? If so, pack up your camping gear and head for the Florida Keys. You’ll have access to boating, fishing, beaches and restaurants without the cost of a hotel. Rates average $40/night, hookups included. You’ll need reservations, and you may need to make them a year in advance.