Friday, August 31, 2012

Providenciales Dining

I'm not the type of person to do the same thing twice if it's not necessary so I'm just going to link you to my food blog, racheerachheats, for my Providenciales food-related posts.

Yes, the food in Provo is pricey but it's also delicious and there are plenty of amazing restaurants.

And this post looks so empty, so I'll just throw in a few photos.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Providenciales: Snorkeling Bight Reef

Bight Reef is in the Grace Bay area, with multiple hotels nearby (Coral Gardens is the closest, I'd say). If you're not staying immediately nearby, you can bike or drive here. There's parking available in a little cul-de-sac-ish area next to the Coral Gardens parking lot.

When you're driving down Penn's Road, you'll see some dilapidated looking buildings on your left surrounded by chain-link fence and wooden posts. Don't worry; you're in the right place.

Always look for the "Beach Access Parking" signs.

View Providenciales, Turks & Caicos in a larger map

Bight Reef is great for beginners and experts alike, as there's tons to see in the shallower parts of the water as well as the deeper areas. You can go waist deep, look down, and you'll see plenty of fish and coral because the water is so crystal clear (unless it has recently stormed). It's a beautiful beach by itself so if you're only interested in getting a tan, it'll be great for you as well. Relax and enjoy the postcard-worthy view.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Snorkeling Tools

Snorkeling is one of my most favorite activities ever. You burn a few calories while getting in tune with nature and if you're snorkeling in a good spot, you'll see a lot of cool stuff.

It's a good idea to bring an underwater camera, if you can, because you're going to see a lot of cool stuff and capturing it in a photo will help you reminisce in the future.

As I mentioned before, I bought a bunch of stuff for my trip to Provo and it was definitely worth it.

I used my iPhone in its underwater case a LOT. The case itself was sturdy, durable, and 100% waterproof. My phone is still in tact, functional, and fine. I 100% recommend this underwater case. I haven't developed the photos from the disposable camera yet so no reviews there but I promise I will do that soon.

At first, I had a bit of difficulty because the touchscreen was unresponsive underwater sometimes and sometimes it was too sensitive. After a few tries, I found that the GorillaCam app was easiest to use and I abandoned the default camera app altogether (except to take videos). And of course, it's free!

GorillaCam was the better camera app because I could set the self-timer and do a three-shot burst. This way, I'd hit the camera button above water where the touchscreen sensitivity was always normal and then go underwater to get the shot. The three shot burst meant that if my hand wasn't as steady, I had three chances to get a decent photo. You can also set the "Press Anywhere" option which means you don't have to hit that little center button to snap a photo. You can tap any part of the screen to snap a photo, which is pretty helpful when waves are swishing you around.

I'll review the Provo snorkeling spots in the next few posts. Here's a teaser photo, taken with my iPhone.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Providenciales: Renting a Car

I started off hesitant about renting a car because of the "dangerous drivers" and having to drive on the wrong side of the road. But my friend Holly ended up giving me a nudge and I ended up booking a car. I rented from Avis because they seemed to have the cheapest rates, at least in the time period that I was booking. Hertz and Budget are two other well-known car rental companies with locations on the islands. You could also rent from Scooter Bob's or Grace Bay Car Rental or a bunch of other places. A little googling will point you in the right direction.

If you want to be guaranteed a right-hand-driver's-sided car, you should go with Grace Bay Car Rentals because their whole fleet is made up of cars that are meant to be driven on the left side of the road. Most other rental places have regular left-hand-driver's-side cars.

Why rent a car? If you love to snorkel, dine out, and venture to secluded beaches, you should rent a car. At Avis, it was around $35 per day. In comparison, a cab ride will be something like $20 per ride and sometimes they'll charge you per person. So if you're staying at an all-inclusive resort or you're just going to lounge on the closest beach, then a car is probably unnecessary.

A little bit of advice: I'd say, if you're arriving on the island at night time, just take a taxi to your hotel because you'll have a difficult enough time navigating the roads without having to also concentrate on driving on the left. Even if you land in the day time, if you're nervous about driving, I'd say take a taxi just to get a feel for the driving habits and book your rental for the next day. Another important piece of advice: NEVER leave valuables in the car and NEVER lock the car door because if someone's interested in looting your car, they won't have to break a window if it's unlocked and they won't have anything to steal if you don't leave anything in there.

Also note that there are no traffic lights on the island, just roundabouts. The roundabouts are easy enough to navigate, just yield to anyone coming around on your right side and always drive clockwise (which makes sense since you're driving on the left). And be wary of crazy drivers that don't stop, even at stop signs. Just drive cautiously, keep to the speed limits (usually 40 km/h or less) and pay attention.

Avis has a four locations on the island. The Grace Bay location was within walking distance of our hotel so we walked over and picked up our car. The woman who helped us was friendly and helpful and said that the manual transmission car I'd booked hadn't been returned yet so she gave me a free upgrade. I'd wanted the manual car because it guaranteed a right-side-driver's seat but I wasn't going to argue the free upgrade.
We saw tons of Celerios on the island. It's a cute and tiny car but there isn't much storage space.
Driving on the left side of the road wasn't as weird as I thought it would be. It took a bit of getting used to but eventually after a day or two, it was easy. Same thing with the roundabouts. I was nervous at first but pretty soon, it was just second nature.
We wanted to return our car to the airport, which was simple enough. Since we had an early morning flight, we just had to fill out the form (shown in the first photo) with the mileage and amount of gas, and give the keys to the ticket booth attendant.

Go forth and drive!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Providenciales: Royal West Indies

We booked our trip to Provo through Expedia, which wrapped up hotels and flights together into one package. There were 20 or so hotels to choose from that were in a comfortable price range and then a handful that were really expensive ($1000+ per night) and then a few that were much cheaper due to a poor location and/or sub-par facilities. After doing some research on Trip Advisor, we settled on the Royal West Indies. What lured us in was the proximity to a more secluded/less popular beach, the positive reviews about the cleanliness of the rooms and the friendliness of the staff, and the fact that rooms have a kitchen or kitchenette (depending on the size).

I thought RWI was a great hotel. The staff really was v. friendly and they have a small, but substantial, library of books and DVDs to borrow (so we borrowed one every night to watch before bed). The cleaning staff is diligent and does a great job and any employee you meet on the property will greet you with a smile and a hello. They also have beach cruisers (bikes) to borrow for 2 hours at a time from 8am to 6pm; there are taller "boy bikes" and shorter "girl bikes" to suit differing heights.

I will say that pretty much all resorts and hotels in the Grace Bay area are right on the beach so what it all comes down to is how much you're willing to spend and how much you think your dollar is worth. I do recommend that you check out the hotel website as well as Trip Advisor for real human reviews before making a decision. Because icky lodging can definitely ruin your holiday, even if you're not spending a tremendous amount of time in the room.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Key West

I'm back from Provo! I'm still in relaxed, lazy vacation mode so I'm not quite ready to do the meaty posts on my holiday yet. I've just uploaded the photos to my computer and I have to sort them and edit and plan my posts and all that jazz so today, I'm just sharing a few photos from my day trip to Key West (which is a 4 hour drive from West Palm Beach).
giant lobster in Islamorada

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