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Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure







It was many years ago that I discovered the existence of Jade Mountain Resort on the island of St. Lucia. This was years before I discovered my true love of travel and the miles and points game which made it all possible; all I knew was that this incredible place existed and that I want to stay there, preferably to celebrate my tenth wedding anniversary. The fact that rooms are between $2000 and $3000 a night didn't faze me much; clearly, by the time I was married for ten years I'd be a millionaire (at least!) and able to afford it, no problem.

Well as the years went by my tenth anniversary inched ever closer, but the million dollars remained elusive. It was becoming clear that there is no way in the world that I am blowing ten grand on a few night's worth of Jade Mountain. While the resort has remained on my bucket list, for the last few years I've been vaguely looking for an alternative place to go.

While the Maldives or Bora Bora were the obvious candidates, we needed something closer as we couldn't leave our daughter for too long. My main objectives were privacy and incredible snorkeling; with that and the time constraints, the obvious answer was somewhere in the Caribbean.

And so I found myself a few months ago marching into the house, cold, wet, and exhausted. I had just finished shoveling three feet of snow off the driveway and I was sick of it. I plopped down on the couch with one goal: book a tropical vacation.

Looking through a collection of "top places to snorkel" type lists, one unlikely place kept on popping up: the Bay Islands of Honduras. I had never even heard of these islands, and yet here they were, touted as a snorkeling and diving mecca. Further research showed that this was indeed true - despite not exactly being on a typical tourist's radar, the underwater world here is absolutely beautiful and pristine.

Still sitting on my couch on that cold, cold, wet day, a magical word jumped out at me: cheap private island.

Cheap private island? If there was an oxymoron in the travel world, surely this is it. Private islands are for the likes of Richard Branson and I don't know... the Queen of England? No way that a schlub like me could ever afford to even rent one for a few nights.

But if the internet says that a cheap private island can be had in Honduras, it's gotta be true. Do I duly did some research, and lo, not only does it exist, but the reviews were numerous and positive!

A private island? Incredible snorkeling? Cheap, to boot? Sign me up! I immediately fired off an email to the owner and got the booking-ball rolling.

The first thing I needed to do is choose an island. Yes, it turns out that there are actually two  to choose from... Sandy Cay is the smaller one of the two, but offered more privacy and a better reef. Little Cay is a bit bigger (yes, I know...), has a larger and nicer house, and a protected swimming area great for kids. Considering that our priorities were privacy and snorkeling, Sandy Cay easily emerged as the winner.

And so, for the princely sum of $140 a night, we became the sole inhabitants of a private island in paradise.

And by private, I mean private. There is nothing on the island but sand, palm trees, and a single house. No neighbors, no staff, no yentas insistent on learning your entire family history. Just utter and complete privacy.

The reviews were invaluable for a number of reasons, most importantly for helping to set expectations. This was not a 5-star resort; if I had to quantify the house, I'd compare it to a bungalow in the Catskills. Large and decent, but not new or fancy by any stretch of the imagination (I'll expound on these details greatly further along in this TR). The pictures on their website were somewhat out of date; but recent reviews and trip reports more than made up for that.

Booking the island was somewhat of an adventure in and of itself. Honduras, being the third-world country that it is, is slow enough. Couple that with "island time" and every email took three days to get a response to. Eventually we learned to live with it; that's just how things are done there (we had the same exact experience with every Honduran we dealt with). Payment was by Money Gram only, and 50% up front was required to secure the reservation. Not something I'd normally be comfortable with, but reading many people's positive experiences sure helped. It took over a week, but eventually everything was all set.



Now we had to figure out how to get there; this was by far easier said than done.

Getting to Honduras itself is easy; there are tons of flights to San Pedro Sula (SAP), which is the biggest city in the country and its main point of entry. UA, AV, and CM all fly there, so there was even decent *A award availability. The problem with that (of course there's a problem!) is that getting from there to the islands involves an overnight. With SAP holding the honorable distinction of the third most dangerous city in the world (recently downgraded from #1), that was not a particularly relishing thought.

Additionally, there were a few other wrinkles that complicated the flight planning tremendously. As per anecdotal accounts online, the mainland airports were far stricter at customs than on the islands; the flights to SAP mostly left between 1 and 3am, which was highly undesirable; and if I was going to Honduras, I really really wanted to fly in and out of TGU, which has been on my bucket list forever.

To top all that off, I had won a raffle recently for $600 worth of airfare which I wanted to use on this trip, which made me lean away from using only points. In any case, pretty much all the award availability was in J, which seemed like a waste on such relatively short flights.

And then came the internal flights... There are very few scheduled flights to the islands, none on "real" airlines, and most are on Shabbos anyway. But we could charter a plane for quite cheap... Or should we instead take a pair of ferries, which takes 4 hours but costs less...?

As you can imagine, adding all this up into a comprehensive itinerary resulted in the mother of all spreadsheets.

After weeks of looking, booking, and cancelling, I had an itinerary in place. On Sunday, we'd fly United to Houston and on to Roatan - the "big" airport on the islands. Overnight on Roatan. Monday morning we'd charter a plane to the next, smaller island, Utila. In Utila we'd meet the owner of our island and be taken over by boat, where we'd stay for three nights.

For the return, we'd take boat back to Utila early Thursday morning. We'll fly a hinky-dinky airline called Aerolineas Sosa to La Ceiba (on the mainland) and continue over to Tegucigalpa. From there we'd fly Copa to Panama City, have lunch in town, and fly home to JFK.

United: EWR-IAH-RTB; $436 x2, -$600 from the raffle. Booked in Y, got Y+ due to status, got upgraded to J on the second leg.
Private charter: RTB-UII; $278 for the plane.
Aerolineas Sosa: UII-LCE-TGU; $139 x2.
Copa: TGU-PTY-JFK; 30k UA x2, booked in J.







With an overnight on Roatan, only one thing was left: find a hotel. Luckily, this turned out to be a rather easy task: the top rated hotel on Trip Advisor was also the cheapest. $75 secured us a room in the lovely Seagrape Plantation Resort, which we ended up being extremely pleased with.



And so after a few weeks of planning, we were all set for an epic anniversary trip.

July 04, 2017, 01:16:04 AM
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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
Wow. Insane!
Can't wait for pictures.
(next time try figuring out what value PP you on the redemptions)
Show some love with that like button.
Doesn't bite,  nor does a browser, you can leave the taptalk app for 20 seconds to like since that feature is blacklisted.

June 11, 2018, 09:30:01 PM
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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison
I apologize in advance if I make any grammar mistakes

I'll let it slide.

input any unreliable or false information

Excusable.

bad photos

Off with his head!


(In all seriousness, looks like an awesome TR, looking forward to the rest and some pics. I'll also reread the first post when I'm a bit less tired, there seems to be a ton of great info there.)

June 11, 2018, 11:59:04 PM
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Re: Need help finding a ticket? Post here! Award ticket edition (Master thread) Need help booking. Iíve been searching. Seems like I can get 12,500 on return. Nothing for that price  on outbound. Any other advice on how to book? Checked awardhacker but it just shows me general picture. Not date specific.
Have bunch of miles in the main currencies. Marriott/spg, Chase alex BA,UA AA

NYC- Denver RT economy class (may consider business if lie flat)
Depart 2/13(late) or 2/14( early)
Arrive 2/17(late) or 2/18 (early)

1-2 people
TIA

October 22, 2018, 01:16:18 PM
1