Situated immediately adjacent to the smallest and prettiest of Castara's two beaches, Alibaba's Sea Breeze offer four self-contained studio apartments. Sea Breeze is owned and managed by Brian 'Alibaba' Taylor, one of the most respected and influential local citizens of this popular fishing village, and his German wife Stephanie. Alibaba Tours are probably best known for their hugely popular fishing, snorkelling, rainforest and island tours.
We conducted our first review of Sea Breeze in February 2006, about 18 months after the property first opened. We were hugely impressed by the standards of accommodation offered, particularly given the 'back to basics' ethos of most accommodation in Castara. We were also impressed that the rental rates for the Sea Breeze apartments did not seem to take into account the stunning beachside location; possible one of the best in Tobago. We assumed that the low rates were a marketing ploy to promote the new apartments. Ten years later, the rates have risen by less than the rate of inflation. Despite being one of the most popular holiday apartments in the village, Brian and Steph do not take advantage of visitors.
Alibaba's Sea Breeze is located at the northern end of Castara's Little Bay (more often referred to by the glamorous, but technically incorrect, name of Heavenly Bay). Access to the property is via Depot Road, a steep and twisty road that drops down from the main North Coast Road which wends its way through Castara en route to Parlatuvier and Englishman's Bay.
Two rocky outcrops separate Little Bay from the Big Bay 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 often 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 in most of our reviews, I repeat my usual recommendation that holidaymakers would be advised to budget for the hire of a car or jeep. Very conveniently, Castara's best car rental service shares offices with Alibaba Tours. 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. They can arrange to meet your incoming flight and transfer you back to Castara, via one of the main supermarkets. Shopping facilities are still limited in Castara, despite improvements in recent years. You will almost certainly need to plan a weekly trip to one of the main supermarkets near the airport. Even there, the golden rule is "if in stock, buy it". Don't assume that something will be available tomorrow just because it is on the shelf today.
Castara will not suit everyone. Those that love the village will decry my words and say that I miss the point. No, I do not – but neither do I wish to mislead those who have not stayed in any rural village before and come to Castara expecting and wanting to find a Starbucks or MacDonald's on every corner. Like the stroppy American family who accosted me in 2010 and accused me of hiding the truth about Castara. The comment that summed up their complaints and expectations was "the village is so primitive that we couldn't even get fresh bagels or ground coffee for breakfast". And long may it continue so.
Architecture & General Layout
Like most of the houses in Castara and other mountainous parts of Tobago, Sea Breeze is built on the side of a steep cliff-side on sturdy reinforced concrete supports. The two storey building is of block and concrete construction, with wooden verandas, balustrades and roof facia.
Although the house is perched some seven metres above the beach, surprisingly little of the building can be seen from the sand. Great care was taken to preserve the trees and shrubs lower down the slope; not least because the foliage provides essential shade to beach users. Judicious pruning ensures a good balance between the natural look of the bay and beach whilst preserving the wonderful views offered from each apartment's balcony.
And what amazing views they are. There are half a dozen properties in Castara that claim to have the best views in the village and I hesitate to judge a winner. Each has different merits and without any false diplomacy, I couldn't the best! Few visitors will have the opportunity to judge them all, and even less will care. It would be a cold-hearted individual who is less than satisfied with any.
Sea Breeze is located at the very end of Little Bay beach. The balconies face south-west, facing the centre of Castara Bay, with open sea to the right and views of both the main Big Bay beach and Little Bay beach to the left. Being able to see both beaches at the same time is an almost unrivalled feature – and being a working fishing village, the beach is where the 'action' happens and your eye constantly enticed.
The entrance to the apartment is immediately behind the Boathouse Restaurant. A narrow concrete driveway leads up to the house, through a small car park. Fifteen shallow steps lead up to the entrance corridor at the back of the building. Due to the mountainous terrain, Castara is not a good option for wheelchair users and no mobility aids are fitted at Sea Breeze.
Inside the entrance corridor, a notice board offers visitors a variety of useful information and a collection of novels and reading matter, in both English and German. Flotation rings and a waterbed for children are also available. Although finished in different colours and with a slightly different theme, the four apartments are basically identical. The end apartment is around a foot (30cm) wider than the others, but otherwise they are of identical size.