Below is my write up of a recent visit to Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands.
I was kindly (Luckily) invited by my girlfriendâ€™s parents to go with them to Peter Island to celebrate Thanksgiving by spending a week on the Island with them. I went to Anguilla (Cap Juluca Resort) with them last year and they selected Peter Island for this yearâ€™s trip because they had visited the Island in February and loved it.
From what they had told me there were some high expectations from the resort. Sadly many of these expectations were not met and in some areas I was very disappointed in the resort. However not all things were bad.
I am not a world traveler and this is only my 2nd vacation in the Caribbean so I don't have a large base of information to compare against. What I do have is common sense and my experience from the trip to Cap Juluca in Anguilla last year. So the best I can do is share my experiences and provide some comparison for you.
Letâ€™s start with the positive aspects of the Island:
1) The Island is the resort. The resort owns 80-85% of the island which is great because it allows guests to access basically the entire Island. So you have access to multiple beaches with different things to see/experience.
Comparison: When in Anguilla at the Cap Juluca Resort you are basically limited to the resort which is only a small part of the island. You can exit the resort area but you are on your own and it is not recommended. So exploring the island is difficult to do. (+ for Peter Island)
2) Peter Island is mountainous which allows for some really breathtaking views. They also have mountain bikes you can take out and traverse the island with. Great source of exercise and also a great way to explore the island and see some of those breathtaking views.
Comparison: When in Anguilla at the Cap Juluca Resort you are basically limited to the resort which has some really terrific views but unless you pay for a boat ride or cab ride to other parts of the island all you get to see is the resort itself (+ for Peter Island)
3) Snorkeling right off the resort is fantastic. Again with not much to compare against this is more of a judgment call but there are a large variety of fish along with many different corals to see only 20+ yards off of the beach at the resort. This was very exciting to me since I love to snorkel. You don't have to pay for a trip or go long distances to see some pretty amazing stuff. There are better areas to snorkel with more to see on some of the other islands but to have easy access to decent snorkeling areas right at the resort is fantastic.
Comparison: When in Anguilla at the Cap Juluca Resort you are limited to the resorts groomed white sand beach or to the untouched beach next to the resort which is not part of the resort. At the resort beach the water is clear and nice to swim and relax in but there is little to see. One can find a few fish here and there but no corals and not much else. The untouched beach has more to offer with limestone rocks providing areas for fish and corals to live. However this untouched beach has pollution in and around it (Plastic bags, oil containers, etc.) just stuff you don't want to see or expect to see. On top of that it is a bit intimidating cause the limestone rock is very close to the surface and you can't get to far out into the water for fear of getting tangled up in it. And even if you get past all of that the amount of coral and fish you will find is disappointing. (+ for Peter Island)
4) Access to activities is easy. The resort has many activities available and access to the activities is easy. They have the typical hobie cat sail boats and over various water activities like kayaks, wind surfing and other types of sailing. They also have mountain bikes that can be used on the island trials. But where they exceed is in the fact that they have a PADI certified Scuba Diving center on the Island as well as a large sailboat sitting in the harbor that can be reserved for trips. Other things such as deep see fishing, golf outings, etc. can also be scheduled with the resort.
I have always wanted to try Scuba Diving and never have. It was either scared or it was too much of a hassle to do it. But on Peter Island everything was right there. We signed up for a beginner class and they gave us a lesson in the pool and then took us out on the boat to do a dive in 25-30 feet of water. It was a fantastic experience. The dive shop and teachers were fantastic and I am glad that I did it.
Comparison: When in Anguilla at the Cap Juluca Resort they offer many of the same activities. However if you want to go diving you need to make reservations with a dive shop outside of the resort and have them pick you up and so on and so fourth. It is just more of a hassle and was a big reason I did not even think about trying it last year. (+ for Peter Island)
Now letâ€™s discuss the negatives:
1) Transit to and from the Island was painful. I did not plan the trip but the fault did not lie with the planner. Instead it was the resort that seemed to lacking in their planning and ability to get guests to and from the Island in a comfortable manner.
On the way down we flew in to Beef Island airport on a small plane and expected that we would pick up a ferry right at the airport that would take us right to the Island. Well to our surprise we were told that we had to be driven to a ferry dock where we would catch the ferry to Peter Island. This trip equated to a 20+ min car ride to the ferry dock where the ferry was supposed to be waiting. However there was no ferry in sight and we ended up waiting for almost and hour before it came. All in all it took us about 2+ hours from the time we landed at Beef Island airport to get to Peter Island which we found to be unacceptable. The ferry should have been waiting for us and things should have been smoother.
Also on the way home we took power boat from Peter Island over to the US Virgin Island. They made two stops. One was at the customs agency where we quickly got out when thru customs and got back on the boat for the second half of the journey. We thought that this was the easy way to go thru customs and would save us a little bit of time and effort. After we arrived on St. Thomas the boat pulled up to a dock and there was no car or transportation waiting for us to take us to the airport as there was supposed to be. So we had to hail a cab for a ride to the airport. Again the resort should have made sure all of the transportation was worked out and things should have been a lot smoother. To add to the pain we found out that we had to go thru customs again when we got to the airport which made no sense to us. We later found out that there is US customs and US Virgin Island customs and they want you to go thru both for some unknown reason but it added to our confusion and pain in having to deal with travel home.
Comparison: Anguilla is mush easier to travel to since there is an airport on the island and then only a car ride to the resort. The only real pain is having to go thru San Juan PR airport where it is not uncommon for items to be stolen from bags and where customs can take forever to get thru. (+ for Cap Juluca Resort)
2) The rooms and accommodations were ok but far from where they should have been. There are a few different types of accommodations on the island. One was the beach front rooms which were nice and the other was the suites that were facing the water but on a rocky point with no access to the beach. When I got there I was very much disappointed. (That is a hard thing to say since I know I was lucky just to be there and truthfully I would be happy with anything). But the disappointment came from the fact that I knew good money was being spent on the vacation and for the accommodations. My thoughts were that there was not much of a difference between the room we were in (suite on rocky point area) and a normal/typical US hotel room. It was quite small, somewhat cramped and the bathroom was nothing to write home about. Even the location could have been better designed. We had a nice view but many of the other suites were blocked from having ocean views.
To add to the disappointment we found several of the screens in the bathroom windows were cut or had rips in them so we did not open the window louvers for the first day because we did not want bugs to get in. We had to request them to be fixed â€“ something that you should not even have to ask about (The rooms should be kept in tip top shape after every guest leaves).
Comparison: Cap Juluca by far has the better accommodation. I have had many a pleasant dream thinking about the rooms we stayed in at Cap Juluca. These rooms were the most beautiful accommodations I have ever seen or stayed in. They were huge, had beautiful furnishings, each one had a perfect ocean view and the bathrooms were unbelievable. If I am ever able to design my own house or even just the bathroom of my house I will use the rooms at Cap Juluca as inspiration. (+ for Cap Juluca Resort)- by far
3) The staff was lackluster but had a few bright shining stars. All in all I felt like the staff at the island was not very good. It seemed like many of the people were new and inexperienced. Others were not all that friendly and many seemed like they did not even want to serve you even though it was their job. The only way to explain this is to provide examples:
Example A: We requested that a picnic lunch be delivered to our room and put in our refrigerator while we were out taking the scuba lesson. They took the order at the front desk and said it would be taken care of. At 4:30PM when we got back from the lesson there was no picnic lunch in the room and we had to call to get it as they obviously had forgot. Then after we were done we placed the bag the lunch had come in outside of the front door so that it could be taken away. It sat there for 3 days and was still outside the door when we left. It should have been cleaned out the next day.
Example B: At breakfast they had a menu for ordering a la carte as well as a buffet that you could get if you so chose. We did not use the buffet for breakfast and preferred having out meals served to us off the menu. However one morning I ordered orange juice with my meal and was told by the waitress that if I wanted orange juice I could go to the buffet area to get itâ€¦ Are you kidding me- she should have went to get it for me. Then another day I ordered the omelets off the menu and was promptly asked if it was my first time to breakfast. I was then told that I had to go to the buffet area to order the omelets from the person making them in thereâ€¦. Again are you kidding me the item is on the menu and should have been taken as an order and the waitress should have took the order to the person making the omelets and had it made for me. Needless to say I did not drink any more orange juice for the rest of the week nor did I order another omelets. In many ways I was in shock that a place that is so fancy and supposed to be a resort with top notch service had service people telling me I had to get up to get my food and drinks. What is the point of having a waitress if I have to do all the work.
I hate to sound like a pre-Madonna here but the point is good money was paid for us to be at the resort and we should have been taken care of by the staff. We never should have had to serve yourself drinks or food and I found the service to be unacceptable.
Now having said all of that there were a few bright shining starts when it came to the service staff at the resort.
- Stephen who works at dead mans chest the lunch and dinner restaurant on the beach was outstanding. He is by far the best waiter and most friendly person I think I have ever come across. He is perfect for the job he does and in my opinion should be in charge of the entire restaurant. His attitude is excellent and it is contagious. I actually looked forward to seeing him each day.
- Jean is a waitress that worked at breakfast and lunch. She too had a fantastic attitude and was very friendly. She made it a point to memorize your name and always had a warm greeting for you each and every day.
- The name escapes me but the gentleman who was in charge of the water sports at the resort was also extremely nice. He took time to teach us how to operate the Hobie Cat sailboat and actually went out on it with us even in the high wind. He was very nice and very friendly. We appreciated his help.
- The managers/assistant managers were also very cordial and friendly. We did not see them much but when we did they greeted us and were friendly. However they are not the ones we dealt with on a daily basis so I include them here but did not see them necessarily as service staff.
Comparison: Cap Juluca had its quirks too but at the end of the day I felt like I was more taken care of at Cap Juluca and the staff was better at what they did. I never had to serve myself or ask for things to be fixed. The people were friendly with a few exceptions and it made for a more enjoyable experience. (+ for Cap Juluca Resort)
So in the end how does one sum it all up? I am not sure but here is my attempt. Peter Island is a very beautiful and interesting place to visit. I think the island itself has a lot to offer and you should not completely remove the destination from your list of places to visit. However I feel like the resort is currently having some issues with its staff as well as with some new laws handed down by the BVI. Either way they need to get things together and re-group to get the resort up to speed and back on track as a top resort with great service. Right now they are far from there and until they get there I feel that for the money it may not be worth the trip. There are a lot of places to stay and I am no expert but I am sure you could spend the same if not less for a similar or better experience on another resort in the Caribbean.
I think the resortâ€™s design could have been thought out a lot better. The rooms are nice but not what I expected, especially having been to Cap Juluca the year before. Maybe it is and unfair comparison but in my mind the rooms between the two resorts could not even be compared. The other poor design aspects are the location of the power generator and water plant which are on the back side of the main restaurant right on the rocky shoreline. It is sort of hidden from site while on the island but can easily be seen from the water. The worst part about it is that it is somewhat loud and the hum from the plant can be herd over the beautiful nature sounds in the suites on the rocky cost area of the resort. The last thing I want to hear is the hum of a generator while on vacation.
In my mind the perfect situation would be to take the accommodations and wait staff from Cap Juluca and place them on Peter Island. That would make for the perfect mix of accommodations, activities and overall enjoyment. The other additions would be Steven, Jean and the water sports guy from the Peter Island resort.
I was happy to go and lucky to have been taken there. If the family wanted to take me there again I would not hesitate to say yes. However at the same time if I had to plan a vacation to the Caribbean and pay for the trip using my own money I think that I would try someplace different just to see what else was out there and to get a different experience. The resort was nice and the Island itself was very interesting but as an overall experience it did not make me feel like I had to come back for a return visit. I think with some minor changes it could easily be a place that people could fall in love with and return to year after year.