Alibaba's Sea Breeze - Review Page 1
Reviewed by Steve & Jill Wooler in February 2006 and 2011
Alibaba’s Sea Breeze consists of four self-contained studio apartments located immediately adjacent to the smallest, and prettiest, of Castara’s two beaches.
Sea Breeze was designed and built by local tour operator Brian ‘Alibaba’ Taylor and his German wife, Stephanie. Their tour service is one of the most established and well-respected on Tobago. Phase 1 of their holiday apartment project was to build the basic unit containing the four apartments. Phase 2 added an upper floor to house Brian and Stephanie’s home and office.
The first visitors stayed at Sea Breeze in the summer of 2004, on completion of phase 1. We conducted our first review in February 2006. We were hugely impressed – both by the standard of accommodation and by the fact that Brian and Stephanie were charging such reasonable rates even though they have one of the best beachside locations on Tobago. We assumed it was a marketing ploy to promote the new business. Perhaps we didn’t appreciate the sort of people they are!
Five years later, the Sea Breeze apartment rates have increased by less than the rate of inflation. Phase 2 of the project has been completed and the property melds into the background so naturally that it looks as if it has always been there. The salt-laden sea air corrodes things so quickly that we were intrigued to discover how the apartments had fared since our first visit, when everything was new and pristine. Had Brian and Steph managed to maintain the enthusiasm and dedication that assures guests of good service and a great holiday? We need not have feared.
Alibaba’s Sea Breeze is located at the northern end of Castara’s Little Bay (more often referred to by the more glamorous, but technically incorrect, name of Heavenly Bay). Access to the property is via Depot Road, a steep lane leading from the main North Coast Road that winds through Castara on its way to Parlatuvier and Englishman’s Bay. Steep, narrow, twisty and potholed, Depot Road used to be something of a nightmare. Fortunately it has been resurfaced in the past year and while care is still needed, it no longer presents the challenge it once did.
Two rocky outcrops separate Little Bay from Big Bay and the main beach. At low tide it is possible to wade waist-deep from one beach to the other, but few do. Other than the Boat House Restaurant, there are no facilities in Little Bay, so walking to shops and restaurants does mean walking up the hill to the main road, then back down to the rest of the village. Best avoided in the heat of the day, it can be a pleasant walk that shouldn’t faze anyone and a cold beer always tastes so much better at the end of the walk.
As with most accommodation in Tobago, I repeat my usual recommendation that holidaymakers should budget to hire a car or jeep. There are several small rental agencies in the village and cars and SUVs (4x4) can be rented by the day or week. A self-drive is by far the best way to get the best out of Tobago – although you will certainly not require transport around Castara itself.
Castara is a 50-minute drive from the airport. The normal arrangement is for Alibaba’s to meet your incoming flight and transfer you back to Castara, via one of the main supermarkets. Shopping facilities are very limited in Castara. So, you will almost certainly need to plan a weekly trip to the main supermarkets at the populated end of the island. Even there, the golden rule is “if in stock, buy it”. Don’t assume that they will have something tomorrow just because it’s on the shelf today.
When Sea Breeze first opened, there was only one other holiday apartment property in Little Bay. Sadly, it is now starting to look very different, with a hospitality stock of more than 30 rooms – potentially some 75 holidaymakers per night – within a minute’s walk of the golden sands of Heavenly Bay.
Castara is a place that you will love or hate. The lovers will decry my words and say that I am missing the point. No, I am not – just not wanting to mislead those who have not visited the village before and come to it expecting a Starbucks on every corner. And please don’t think I’m being silly. During my 2010 visit I was waylaid by an angry American family while walking through the village. They accused me of hiding the truth about Castara. One comment that summarised their complaints and expectations was “the village is so primitive that we couldn’t even get fresh bagels or ground coffee for breakfast”.
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