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Posted: Sat Aug 14, 2004 2:56 pm
Am thinking about returning to Arnos Vale after a 20 year absence. The few reviews sound encouraging that it is regaining its old reputation. I haven't seen anything lately, and am wondering if it is just unknown after years of being sub par. I would appreciate any comments or other suggestions that have some of the features that make Arnos vale so special, i.e. snorkeling, birds, gardens,etc.
Posted: Sat Aug 14, 2004 3:05 pm
Funnily enough, my last stay at the Arnos Vale was around 1988, so not too different to you.
The snorkelling, birds and gardens at the Arnos Vale are still very much up to par. The accommodation - or at least a large part of it - has been upgraded in the past year and I was frankly impressed when I toured the property last February. So much so that we're considering it for a review next year - but that's only a 50/50 possibility at the moment, we'll just have to see how our itinerary pans out.
Can't make any suggestions for alternatives unless we know very much more what time of accommodation you're looking for and how much you're willing to pay. I suggest that you go through our accommodation listings. Anything on the Caribbean coast is going to be within a short ride of Arnos Vale and offer easy access to that area.
Posted: Sat Aug 14, 2004 4:24 pm
We are big fans of the Arnos Vale Hotel and have stayed there 5 times over the last 3 years!
It is not a hotel for those looking for fancy anything, but if you have visited it before, you will know that already. The rooms are clean and sufficient, we like to stay in Jacaranda by the pool on the first floor, easy access to the pool, a balcony and a good size room with a decent bathroom.
the gardens and birdlife are wonderful, nothing more lovely than having breakfast with the mot mots and the humming birds.
We like the fact that with only 32 rooms the staff quickly get to know you and do their upmost to make sure you have a very enjoyable stay.
The food has vastly improved over the last couple of years and we usually eat dinner at the hotel, the menu has a good choice of meat/fish for main course with a choice of starter/salad and a dessert. The meals are beautifully presented and the ambience is lovely.
The Arnos Vale was the hotel we stayed in when we first visited Tobago and we have never been tempted to try anywhere else on the island as we love its peace, charm and the beautiful surroundings. It is not for everyone but it certainly works for us.
Posted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 7:29 am
Based partly on responses on this thread - we stayed at Arnos vale during the thanksgiving week this year. Let me add a few specifics that will help people get more realistic feeling about this place
1) We asked for "Jacaranda room overlooking the pool" based on Wanda's post. We were put in room 41 on second floor of Jacamar building. The view was nice but it was a garden view. This was the only room with king bed. We needed a king bed since our baby daughter sleeps with us. I would recommend couples ask for room 44 in jacamar building. This is the one that overlooks the pool and has a partial oceanview.
2) The beach, like it has been noted elsewhere in this forum, is nothing to write home about. It is not very wide and slopes little bit into the water thus making not really ideal for toddlers.
3) Open air hotel at the top of the hill has excellent ambience. The food is good but not very much variety for vegetarians. It is also very expensive. Soup and main dish with no drinks for two people was $50+ The service was excellent.
4) The birds and bird feeding is nice esp for children. But this is not a world class event. We had visiting Asa Wright center in Trinidad and after seeing the hummingbirds there [which is world class] this was nice but not great.
5) They have two parrots that whenever someone starts playing the piano fly and sit near the piano. Very gratifying to your ego
6) Pipes that carry hot water in the bathroom, become really really hot and are child hazard since they are exposed.
And finally you probably don't need a reservation during thanksgiving. The hotel was pretty empty. Though if you want the choice rooms you might want to reserve ahead.
Posted: Sat Dec 18, 2004 12:36 am
I too have just returned from a stay at Arnos Vale.
We stayed in a beach-side suite, which was probably 3*, at 5* prices.
Despite the rather more basic accomodation than we had expected, we had a thoroughly good time there.
The staff were very willing, the food was pretty good, and the beach is not as poor as some would make out. In fact Arnoss Vale has its own little bay, protected by an off-shore coral reef. The snorkelling was unmatched.
As is my habit, I took home an Irish Blackbush Whiskey botttle, filled with a sample of typical local sand.
It doesn't bare comparison with 'Anse Lazio' sand, from Praslin, in the Seychelles Islands.
I reckon that Tobago is almost as much fun, but I'll wend my way back to 'La Reserve' on Praslin, next year.
Arnos Vale January 2005
Posted: Mon Jan 24, 2005 9:53 pm
We are just back from our first visit to the island - many, many thanks Steve for all the really useful info in this site - hope this report helps anyone thinking of the Arnos Vale. We liked it, with reservations. It's ideal for those looking for off-the-beaten-track peace and quiet but you do need a car. Fabulous for beginners birdwatching - most of the birds are very tame and feed very close to your table at breakfast – when the light is perfect for photographs. They are also fed at the Arnos Vale Afternoon Tea, but we thought this was expensive, and the light is poor for photos. The hotel setting is superb, the main building overlooks a small steep valley packed with wonderful trees and flowers, leading to a pool area and a very pretty small sandy beach. Anyone with mobility difficulties should be aware that there are lots of steps and steep paths. The sea was quite rough during our stay, and too churned up for snorkelling, but other guests said conditions had been excellent the week before, with turtles in the cove. Accommodation is split between the beach and the top of the hill, near the main building. We were in Coral building, which has three junior suites and 2 small standard rooms. All have a deck looking down towards the beach – fantastic for early morning bird watching. The rooms are clean, and the décor is adequate but very tired. The new(ish) manager, Kenny, told us that they were in the process of a major refurbishment. We saw one of two beachside suites, which had wooden floors and antique furniture – very nice, but (for us) too remote from the main house.
Catering consists of a buffet breakfast of fruit, cereal, toast, bacon, eggs and local dishes; an International-style snack lunch menu at the beach bar; and a buffet dinner in the main house. This was good for picking and choosing exactly what you wanted to eat, but could be expensive if you only wanted soup (which was always good) and a salad. There is a piano player 2 or 3 evenings a week and on Friday night a fabulous, funny and very talented calypso group with wonderful voices.
The place just seems to lack a bit of TLC. The staff are all pleasant, but sometimes under pressure - many of them seem to double up at the Water Wheel Restaurant up the hill. Kenny is very “hands-on” and always around to answer questions – we wish him luck with the refurbishment.
In summary, a nice quiet place, perfect to switch off, unwind, and enjoy the gardens, the beach and the birds, but not in the top league at the moment.
Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 4:24 pm
Thanks for the great report. We will be staying in Castara but want to come to Arnos Vale for snorkelling at least once, maybe more. What are the lunch prices like at the beach bar? How much for a salad, a sandwich? You can give the prices in TTs. Thanks.
Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 8:15 pm
Just a bit of advice; If you are planning to visit Arnos Vale to go snorkelling, and are not a resident, you will probably find a closed gate as you drive up, and a security guard on a mission to stop you from entering.
In my experience, they are happy to accommodate you if you have already telephoned them to make a lunch booking for the pool side restaurant. If you do this, your name (and number of visitors in your party) will be left with the security guard at the gate.
You can then arrive a little early, and get some snorkelling in both before and after your lunch, with much less hassle about getting in.
I seem to remember that a simple lunch (burger & chips, fish & chips) was about 50-80TT, with beers at about 14TT, perhaps 30TT for a Pina Colada.
Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 8:53 pm
Is the pool-side restaurant the same as the beach bar, or are there 2 separate places to eat?
Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 9:07 pm
The poolside restaurant is between the pool and the sea, with about 4 tables directly overlooking the beach. The beach bar is actually in the middle of the (small) pool, with a small bridge walkway from the restaurant side, and another towards the main path that leads up to the exit and main hillside accomodation area.
The same staff serve at both and you can order your drinks and food at either. The pool is usually empty in my experience.
Oh yes, and don't expect much food to be available before about 1:00 to 1:30, it is a bit laid back!
Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 11:41 pm
We were quite put off by that experience with the guards. A few years ago, we wandered out and about and had lunch at the Arnos Vale Watermill Restaurant. On the way back, we thought we'd check out the hotel itself. The security guard adamantly turned us back (at the time, we were told that the place was owned by Italian soccer players and thought they didn't want visitors). It seemed strange that we couldn't drive to see what it was like; maybe we would have liked it and booked it. Perhaps they're discouraging people from using "their" beach, bu we had no such intentions. Does the Italian soccer team still own it?
Arnos Vale Beach Restaurant
Posted: Wed Jan 26, 2005 8:45 am
The set up is as Steve describes - we placed our orders at the bar and then went to enjoy the view in the open sided restaurant overlooking the beach and waited, and waited ...! There were very long delays over the first two days but to be fair this was because they had lost their cook and they brought all the food down from the main house. Later in the week a really great cook turned up and things improved dramatically. The prices Steve mentions are about what we paid a couple of weeks ago.
We were stopped by a security guard to check we were residents every time we arrived, but I must admit it didn't occur to us that this was to stop non residents using the beach - just routine hotel security. I think that some of the people using the beach were not residents and there were local visitors on the beach at the weekend, and kids came to play football at one end of the beach after school - which we really liked to see. I never had the impression that it was a private beach - there was even a sign saying $44TT to non residents to hire a sun-lounger.
Posted: Wed Jan 26, 2005 11:07 am
If you want to snorkel at Arnos Vale (which is a lovely spot for it) your other alternative from Castara is to go by boat. We went as part of a day long trip and stopped off at the bay on our way down to Buccoo and didn't visit the hotel at all. Depends whether you see that as part of the point of the visit. I'm sure any of the operators from Castara will stop there if you ask them to.
Posted: Wed Jan 26, 2005 9:19 pm
I have visited Arnos Vale several times and never have I been stopped by the security guard ... I just drive through and nod at him ... maybe they don't argue if you look hungry and have that vacant and determined expression of 'I'm a silly tourist and I'm here to have fun' look on your face.
Park down on the left and then bimble down to the beach, marvelling at all the lizards as you go.
Always used the resturant which is OK and they have never been under-stocked on Rum Punches (something I read somewhere).
The swimming pool is very inviting, yet small, and surrounds the bar ... I have never used it because there are no fish to look at in it, but I was told I could use it when I asked once.
Last year I went for the bird feeding at about 1600 hours and the manager escorted us all the way from the beach up the sweat inducing hill to see the veritable feast ... there is a lovely parrot up there who loves having his photo taken whilst perched on your shoulder ... he also seems quite keen on scoffing all the Earl Grey tea bags which I thought was quite shocking considering the prices they charge for afternoon tea !!
Also got some nice shots of a Mot Mot ... real cracker !
The beach is lovely and quiet ... I would caution young children playing in the waves because the coral is sharp and comes right up to the surf line so wear protection on your feet. There is also always the risk of sea urchins around coral so that advice actually applies to many beaches in Tobago.
The sunbeds are extortionately expensive ... but it is nice and that is what matters.
As for the snorkelling, take care when there is heavy surf and do not go in from the middle of the beach because the coral is close to the surface and the swells can make you catch the coral, injuring yourself (and the coral), especially at low tides.
There is a channel to the left (west) of the beach which is very safe ... you just swim out and around the surf and the snorkelling is sublime. Every year I have seen a small Turtle, Rainbow Fish and vast shoals of 'Doreens' ... ref: Finding Nemo (Disney film).
I hope this little contribution helps.
Posted: Thu Jan 27, 2005 4:12 pm
Your "little contribution" helps alot. Thanks!!
Posted: Thu Jan 27, 2005 4:36 pm
The first reports about non-residents not being allowed into the Arnos Vale Hotel appeared just a day or two before I left for Tobago. As they have been repeated, I decided to investigate. This is only a preliminary report, because I have been unable to get an appointment with the hotel’s new manager yet. I will report the ‘official’ position once I have met with him and/or the Brontes, who own the hotel.
I visited the Arnos Vale Hotel last week. The gates of the hotel were firmly closed and a uniformed guard sat in the guard box next to the gate. When I drew up, he stayed in his box. It was obvious that he expected me to get out of the car and go over to him, rather than the other way around. I just sat there and he eventually came over to me and demanded “what do you want?” I said I wanted to see the birds at the main house and possibly have lunch. He said I couldn’t go in unless I had a reservation. His manner was quite aggressive. I changed the subject and asked him above other general matters, not specifically related to the hotel and he relaxed and turned out to be a nice friendly guy. He has simply been given VERY firm instructions to keep the public out.
I then went and chatted to a number of property owners I know in the Arnos Vale and Plymouth area. They tell me that the hotel is allegedly trying to block public access and keep the public beach for their resident guests. They apparently don’t even really want the public to experience the tradition of afternoon tea with the birds. They are, however, still accepting non-residents for meals, but one visitor tells me that they paid nearly TT$600 for two people for a very mediocre two-course meal with just a single glass of house wine each. He also reported that the pool is so filthy that you cannot see the bottom. This has since been confirmed by other people who have stayed at the property during this past two weeks.
The Bronte’s are obviously perfectly entitled to close their gates to the public if they so desire. It is, after all, private property. The beach, however, is NOT private property and what disturbs me about the situation is that they have erected an ugly fence around the property and appear to have ‘appropriated’ part of the public footpath that leads from the main road down to the beach. I understand that it is still possible to get down the footpath to the beach, but it was very muddy and slippery last week when I visited, so I didn’t attempt it. It seemed fairly obvious that attempts had been made to obliterate the track. However, local kids love their game of football on the beach and have trampled a new path. Now the weather has changed, it should soon dry out and become perfectly passable.
So, forget tea with the birds, but if you want to experience the gorgeous beach and/or sample the generally-excellent snorkelling in Arnos Bay, don’t expect to do it by parking and walking down to the beach through the hotel. Simply park your vehicle in the lane alongside the hotel entrance (the lane is not private property and they cannot stop you parking there). You will see the fence surrounding the hotel and at the far left, almost adjacent to the junction with the main road (from where you can access the trail), you will see the path running down the left-hand side of the fence. Just follow it all the way down to the beach. It’s only a 2-minute walk.
I’ll update this thread as soon as I hear anything more.
p.s. The weather has been typical and gorgeous January dry-season weather for the past five days. It is past the new moon and the seas are settling – in fact I had a problem taking a photo in Store Bay yesterdays because it was so still that I couldn’t capture any breaking white wavelettes to show the waterline. Normal conditions have resumed I think.
Posted: Thu Jan 27, 2005 5:41 pm
Aren't hoteliers odd! Last July my wife and I visited on three occasions, bought lunch three times, several drinks, coffees etc. and went up to watch the 'expensive' birds. We weren't staying, but we spent some decent money in a very quiet hotel. So now I suppose it will just be very quiet without as much cash coming in from passing custom. The thinking defeats me. Neil Roberts.
Posted: Thu Jan 27, 2005 5:41 pm
That's sad news and a great shame.
It has to be counter productive to the hotel business ... I yearn for any logical reasoning for this.
I wonder if you can use the hotel facilities (i.e.; bar) if you took the footpath down to the beach?
Posted: Thu Jan 27, 2005 6:40 pm
Just read your report. It is a bit disconcerting because I have just booked to stay at Arnos Vale in six weeks time. Hope the issues are resolved soon. Until recently all we heard were good reports about the hotel generally.
An a happier note glad the weather is improving.
You may also have read my post about taxis from the airport. This seems a realy stupid question now because I have since explored the website more and discovered all the answers to my questions and more.
I am trying to establish the services guests receive at Arnos Vale i.e. room/beach towels, tea making, fridge etc. Do you by any chance know or will I find the answer to this on a page I have yet to discover on the website.
Posted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 5:33 pm
I will be visting for a week starting Feb. 25th so will be able to get a first hand reading on both the access and the dirty pool (which is distressing my wife). I will also try to give a complete review of our stay. Despite the situation, I am looking forward to returning after 20+ years.