This was our 2nd stay at CSA and third trip overall to Couples Resorts. We're in our late 20s and stayed for a week in late August. Previously, we have visited in the winter/spring and noticed some differences between high and low season, which I will note here.
Arrival: O'Neil Lawrence was our driver this time and he was great, pointing out local sights and even offering to buy some fruit from a street vendor when someone on the shuttle said they'd like to try it. If you want to arrange private transportation for an excursion, I'd recommend asking for him.
Room: We booked the cheapest room available, a Garden Deluxe I think. It was very similar to the next category up, an Atrium Suite - the main differences being the Garden room does not have the hammock on the balcony, all the windows are glass enclosed, and Garden room has a TV. Other than that they were almost identical and our Garden room was adjacent to where our Atrium room was last year. We were near the street and yes, you could hear occasional cars driving by, but it never bothered me. I brought earplugs just in case but never used them.
I think the rooms are Couples' biggest drawback. They are intentionally rustic with a Caribbean feel. If you are used to AI's in Mexico with sleek rooms and marble everywhere, you may be disappointed. Our room was clean but looked a bit 'tired' and I wish the bathrooms had better lighting. We were mainly in our room to nap or sleep, so this is an area we are willing to overlook because Couples has so many other fabulous points.
If you have an issue, let the front desk know so they can correct it. We called about our iron leaking, they gave us a brand new one right away while we were out, then called to confirm that we got it and the new one was working.
Water Sports Activities: One of the main reasons we are repeaters is we love the Dive Team (Franz, Shaggy, Jelani, Anthony, and now Glenroy) and the free unlimited SCUBA diving. They also got a new dive boat which is fast and comfortably accommodates a large number of divers/tanks/equipment. We completed our Advanced Open Water PADI certification this trip with Franz. I highly recommend the Night Dive for an extra $50. I was nervous beforehand but had a great time and would do it again. The divemasters keep it entertaining but safe.
We also took the kayak out and saw lots of starfish. Maybe next time I will try paddle boarding too (everything is free).
SeaGrapes Cafe - we ate here once or twice a day for healthy vegetarian/seafood fare. The sweet potato chips and dip are to die for!
Beach Grill - during our visit, this was inside Patois. Looked like they were re-thatching the grill hut so maybe it was temporary. Go here for Jamaican food like jerk burgers, jerk burgers, and beef patties.
Patois - was only open for dinner this trip. We like the food here but service seems to be either pretty good or pretty unimpressive.
Feathers - reservation only and men must wear long pants. This is the upscale restaurant and while the food was not as good as I remember from last year, it's still nice. We ate here twice. I also arranged with concierge to have them sing happy birthday and bring my husband a special dessert plate with a candle which was a nice touch.
Palms - this is a buffet for breakfast and lunch, and a la carte with a pasta/salad buffet for dinner. This is our least favorite option but is still decent food, especially for AI. I like the omelet station for breakfast, and they also have a self-serve mimosa and bloody mary station.
Bars - Our favorite daytime bar was the sunset tiki hut, and in the evenings we prefer the Martini Bar. This is where you will find top shelf liquor like Grey Goose and they can make any type of martini you want. After around 10 or 11, you can go to the Aura nightclub for drinks and a DJ (located above Patois). This was hit or miss depending on the crowd - one night we stayed til 1 AM dancing, another night it was totally dead.
Side note: I felt like some bartenders and waitstaff were not as friendly this time - in fact a few bartenders at the Palms wouldn't even say a word, just take your order and then hand you the drink without even a smile, even when you say hi and thanks first. There were often miscommunications about our lunch orders at SeaGrapes, and we had a couple of less than favorable encounters with waitstaff at Patois.
This was not the level of service I'm used to at Couples - don't get me wrong, many of the employees are wonderful and go out of their way to engage in conversation - but it happened enough for me to take notice. Not sure if it's a slow season thing or they are training a lot of new people or what. It seemed to be an issue about individual employees, not any one place though - for every poor service encounter, the next person would be over the top amazing.
Entertainment - I noticed a huge difference since this trip was during the slow season. The resort becomes very quiet at night, which was fine by us but those seeking nightlife may be underwhelmed. They didn't have live music during dinner at the Palms like I am used to, and the martini bar closed up shop early many nights. The steel drum band is very good, and we went to the bonfire acoustic guitar party one night. I also rarely saw the activities team this time - one girl put together a beach volleyball game one day, but to be fair we spent most of the days scuba diving.
The Beach - if you are a beach person you will be in heaven! CSA has a long strip of beach on '7 mile beach' with soft powdery sand and calm, clear water. This time of year, it was easy to find loungers any time of day even in the shade. Even the palapa huts were still available around 7:30 AM. With their flag service, you don't even have to get up - they will take your drink orders and bring them to you.
Pools - pools here are pretty basic, nothing grand. There's one by the Palms, an infinity pool with swim up bar by Patois, and a lap pool at the sports complex across the street.
Spa - I got the Bamboo Fusion massage this time. I was a little skeptical but it was one of the best massages I've ever received, and I get weekly massages at home. Ask for Annette. Tip: wear or bring your swimsuit over there and arrive early, then you can sit in the hot tub pool prior to your service. Also, spa employees are able to receive tips.
Housekeeping - my only issue with housekeeping is they did our room at different times throughout our stay. Otherwise, they work long hours and cleaned the rooms very thoroughly. I almost felt bad because sometimes we would leave in a hurry, and they would hang clothes, put things away, and straighten up above and beyond merely 'cleaning'. Turndown service was great. They always managed to sneak in when we were out, even though we ate dinner at different times every day.
Overall - was everything perfect? Of course not. This is a tropical location and if you can't get on island time, you may find fault. We visit with the mindset that we are on vacation and we won't let a few small hiccups ruin our trip - go with the flow and relax! This resort is truly all-inclusive and there aren't different levels of service depending on how much you pay. My husband loves that he puts his wallet in the safe and never has to take it out again unless we want to buy something from the vendors. We feel totally spoiled at Couples and always want to immediately book our next trip as soon as we return home.
Tips: do bring buy spray. I've never needed it in the past, but maybe due to the tropical storm there were lots of mosquitoes near the water at night. I also suggest bringing several large bags to put wet clothes in when you leave, since the humidity makes it difficult for swimsuits to dry. If you think you might ever return, sign up for their Romance Rewards program prior to your stay so you can get credit for the trip. Repeaters get perks like free massages and resort credits.