My girlfriend and I just returned from CSA. It was her second trip, my 19th or 20th (I've been coming for eleven years, twice a year, but I went somewhere else several times and came to CSA three times in one year.) As one of the "old timers", I thought I'd lend my comments to the vast array of reviews already posted.
For those of you heading to CSA for the first time, it is NOT any one of the following: a 5-star European Hotel, an Amazon Book Cruise, a luxury ocean liner, or a dude ranch. What it is can easily be described in two words: tropical paradise.
Take any image of a beach, with miles of coconut groves just a few yards in from the waves. And right behind the coconuts, with even taller, thicker vegetation growing into a jungle canopy, there are dozens of two- and three-story wood and concrete huts. (Okay, upgrade the huts to comfortable, air-conditioned rooms with a bed that's tough to leave in the morning.) That's what you'll see at CSA as you walk the grounds on your first day.
You can eat and drink around the clock, remember - all-inclusive. Pace yourself. The food has remained high quality for all the years I've eaten it. I'm not much of a breakfast person, but if it's the main meal of your day, you'll feast like a king. Make sure you try the Jamaican food at the Palms at the beginning of the omelet station on the right. Ackee and saltfish are served Sunday and Wednesday, my personal favorite. Add some pepper sauce and it tastes better than bacon and eggs (healthier, as well.)
Lunch for us, since we're far too lazy to put on flip-flops and a t-shirt, is at the beach grill at the south end of the resort. I've been cooking jerk chicken since 1983 (my first trip to Couples) and the stuff they cook there is on the money for flavor and tenderness. There's pepper sauce on every table to boost the heat, no problem, mon. (Go across the street to Ossie's while you're there and try some of the best jerk on that side of the island.)
Dinner, at the end of a long day on the best beach in the world, is either an okay-but-I'm-not-really-hungry meal or a ravenous feast. The Beach Party on Friday is for the latter, and the best dinner you'll have there. The dinners at The Palms are for the former, and don't expect to rave about it. The appetizers are very small, but you can get as many as you want. The entrees are just slightly larger and not the quality they used to be. We ate one night at Patois and had a much better meal, although identical in portion size. However, a mass of large wedding parties took over that end of the resort for most of our nine days, making it impossible to try another meal there.
The Repeaters Dinner was equally disappointing, and has been for several years. I think, for a while, we're going to go to the Manager's cocktail party (great hors d'ouvres) where we can talk to the folks at the top and then head over to the International Buffet.
Then there's the beach…
What else can you say? It's the greatest beach in the world. Pure, soft sand, hard-packed at the water's edge making it wonderful for a long walk. Floating cushions and beach chairs are in abundance, and wherever you sit on the beach, someone will bring you a drink. What a great concept. Of course, the "palapa situation" remains unsolved. I doubt it ever will. But if you came to Jamaica to sit in the shade, my first question is: why?
Snorkeling (pronounced "snarklin'") has always been a necessity for me. I bring my own gear in a specially designed backpack. There are 5 or 6 different chunks of the same reef. Sometimes there's stuff to see, most of the time it's just a nice way to relax and get some exercise.
Physically, the resort has been maintained better than could be expected. You can walk everywhere and the grounds are clean, the pathways swept, and landscape in perfect harmony with your mood. The best rooms, in my opinion, are the Atrium Suites. The second floor, with the hammock and the view of either the gardens or the beach captures the true spirit of the tropical paradise. I finally got back into an Atrium Suite, 2nd floor, and it took six emails to make it happen, so thanks for that. Nice work with the minibar in the room and the upgrades to the bathroom. (Okay, we're getting further and further away from your image of a beach hut and closer to that 5-star European hotel, but we'll get no closer.)
Last, but certainly not least, welcome back to Karen Lanigan, the new GM. Sad to see Ricardo leave, but that's life in the big corporation. (Ha!) We'll be back October 19th.
Ricky Ginsburg Boca Raton, Florida
(just a 75 minute plane flight from paradise)