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ContinuousWave: Trips and Rendezvous
St Thomas USVI & surrounding areas
|Author||Topic: St Thomas USVI & surrounding areas|
posted 12-08-2005 12:18 AM ET (US)
Heading to St Thomas and St John in March for 8 days for wife's B-Day. Anyone been there and what should I do/stay, etc? We only have a hotel for the first 3 nights at the Galleon House in downtown. I did not want to get stuck being on the wrong side of the island, at leat here I am a $5 water taxi to anywhere I want to go....I think:) I LOVE good local joints to hang out at or eat at...none of that tourist junk. Should I rent a car/scooter?
I also saw a write-up in Boat US Mag about BEYC(Bitter End Yacht Club) about 30 miles away that rents Whalers(11'?) Any ideas on that place and is it worth the trip, etc. Are there any other places in St Thomas, John, Croix, Tortola, etc that rent boats for the day(preferrably a Whaler)? If not what about a good snorkel/cruise/beer day trip?
posted 12-08-2005 11:09 AM ET (US)
I was on St. John in August, fantastic! We were near Cruz bay. We rented a jeep the whole time we were there and drove all over, snorkling a lot everyday. There were a line of matching Whalers lined up in Cruz Bay , which I assumed were rentals. The National Park service in Cruz Bay is like a Boston Whaler ad, at least six 22' and up whalers docked there at one time, all different engines! Snorkling in Truk Bay was amazing, we've snorkled all over the caribbean and keys this was the best, and we just swam off deserted beaches half the time. We are palnning on going back this year again with all the kids! I wish I could remember the thing about which side of the island to stay on at times of year, we stayed on the right side Cruz Bay in summer, the other side is better in winter, something about the wind and waves. We never even got to St. Thomas, and if you rent something get the Jeep Liberty, drinving on the left with cars designed for the right is a little weird and the roads are real steep, with extereme sharp turns! You still are in America there and we really didn't see the poverty that you see on some islands. All that said it is a laid back Island that is about 75% Natinal park courtesy of Mr. Rockefeller, and if you aren't into the nature thing, St. Thomas might be better, although there are bars everywhere and we stopped at different ones everyday! E-mail me if you need something else......Jack
posted 12-08-2005 01:31 PM ET (US)
I swore I would never go to aplace that has a McDonald's so I know St John is gonna be more my style. I hear Caneel & cinnamon bay are really nice. I already own a Jeep Liberty so I will probably chose something different but I hear ya about the left side deal. if you remember any SPECIAL place that stands out, let me know.
posted 12-08-2005 02:46 PM ET (US)
Caneel Bay is a fairly expensive resort, not far away is Cinnamon Bay Campgrounds, which is a few hundred dollars less per night, and still very nice.
A few trip ideas:
A day trip to The Baths on Virgin Gorda.
The Bitter End is nice but but all that unique.
posted 12-08-2005 03:15 PM ET (US)
Been there many, many times, but always chartering a boat. Do yourself a favor and get over to the BVI as fast as you can. It just seems such a shame to stay in an "American" city when you have the BVIs just a few miles away.
It all depends on what you want.
Virgin Gorda is home to some great resorts - the Bitter End is probably the biggest and most eastblished of any of the resorts in the BVI. Right across Gorda Sound on Mosquito Island is Drake's Anchorage. Extremely elegant, but in an understated way, and some of the best food I've ever eaten. Much more laid back, too. Where the Bitter End always feels busy, Drakes Anchorage has a very small number of people given its size.
For real solitude and quiet check out the Anegada Reefs hotel on Anegada. It is off the beaten path because in general there are pretty steep restrictions on charter boats going there becauuse of the Reefs. You can also rent jeeps from a guy on the island named Winfred - a great way to explore the North Shore. This is the place to go if you want to sit on a beautiful beach with a book and drink rum concotions.
Check out TripAdvisor.com for lots of other reccomendations.
posted 12-08-2005 03:31 PM ET (US)
I am going in the latter part of April. In terms of resorts, you have basically a choice of two, and they are both very expensive.
Hyatt. Beautiful modern hotel with a great pool, crappy beach.
Caneel Bay. Old 1970's hotel that hasn't been updated, but on the most beautiful part of the island.
I agonized between the two, and penultimately chose Caneel Bay. However, it ate at me that we were going to pay $10 grand for hotel only, when the hotel was crappy (not the surroundings though).
Ultimately I found this option:
It cost me half the price, is within walking distance of all the restaurants and supermarkets we might need, and we arranged for a jeep rental for us to use for the week. We will snorkel in all the right places, day in and out, and come back to a nice modern condo, within close proximity of evening dining, and with a great view. I have read good things about these condos, but as you are going before me, I can't give you firsthand experience. In 1990 my wife and I spent our honeymoon in St Thomas, but were only in St John for a half day.
We are toying with chartering a 46' Sea Ray to take us all over one day, including the BVI hot spots. I have heard this is a must-do, but it is expensive. Then again we are saving money by not doing Caneel. Hmmmm.
posted 12-08-2005 03:35 PM ET (US)
Also check out http://www.water-island.com/ . I know people who have stayed there and say it was great. Sort of a B&B thing without the breakfast - the family that owns it lives on site.
posted 12-08-2005 11:48 PM ET (US)
Sal...where the hell are you staying for $10 grand for a week....with Donald Trump? I got roundtrip airfare from Spirit for $69 each way and my Hotel is $103/night. Most expensive I have seen is less than $400/night.
posted 12-09-2005 05:54 AM ET (US)
I have a family of five. They won't allow us to saty in one room or suite. Nearly all island destinations have had their local governments pass "3 to a room" rules to drive up hotel occupancy. The rates for Hyatt and Caneel are about $550/night plus taxes, and we need two rooms. That is why the condo option is working out much better. My airfare is about $450/person multiplied by 5.
In researching tourist reviews I found it interesting that while both hotes I mentioned are rated about the same, the standard deviation was much greater with the Caneel. Either people loved it ot hated it. Its location is amazing. If you are easy going, and don't care about the rooms and amenities, and know this going in, you will rate Caneel a 10. If you are from the Upper East Side in NYC, are needy, and had your last vacation in Thailand, in some sick hotel, where cabana boys followed you around and dropped flowers by your feet, you will likely rate Caneel Bay poorly.
At least this vacation for us, as currently booked, will cost no more than a week in DisneyWorld, which I can't/won't do anymore.
Spend as much time as possible on St. John, with excursions to neighboring BVI's. I can't wait to go, Nick. And I hope you will post back your experiences so I get to read them before we go! I know that 2 of our 7 days will involve boating (1 day sail. 1 day power). No fishing though.
posted 12-09-2005 05:56 AM ET (US)
Caneel Bay Rates:
posted 12-09-2005 09:41 AM ET (US)
I haven't been to the US side of the Islands since the mid 70's so I'm sure it has changed a lot. Spent a week sailing on the British side in October and it was fantastic. A sailboat is a great way to see the islands. The boat is your hotel and transportation. You can cook all your meals aboard and it makes a great fishing platform. We caught tuna, king mackeral, red fish, shark and jack just sailing from island to island. The pirate ship at Norman Island is a must do. Foxy's at Jost van Dike was a big blur from too many bushwackers. Full moon party at the Bomba Shack is memorable. Snorkeling at Norman Island and The Baths is awesome. The Bitter End Yacht Club is good for upper end meal but don't fondle the wooden carving of the bare breasted woman at the reception area......the guy at the front desk doesn't think it's funny.
posted 12-09-2005 01:23 PM ET (US)
Have any of you been to Bequia and the Grenadines? Did that for our honeymoon in 97 and chartered a 45' Ketch for 2 days and sailed to a few of the small islands. I did most of the sailing because the capt(looked like Morgan Freeman) just laid in the stern with a handline between his toes and smoked joints all day. He used to be Bob Dylan's personal capt back in the days....go figure:)
Anyway Bequia is a VERY small island that has only 1 hotel with A/C, rest have mosquito nets and no windows that close nor have screens per say. They have 1 gas station, 1 record/CD store, 1 grocery store, etc and the whole friggin island goes to a "jump up" every night so you never have to worry what bar is happening because the whole island is at a different bar each night. Awesome place and so damn friendly. I dropped my wallet and a guy came running up to me to give it back. No crime because if you get busted, you get DEPORTED(no bullshit). Can't wait to get back but it aint cheap to get there. Once you are there beer is a buck(everywhere), flying fish sandwiches are like $1.50, etc. You can't spend $ if you tried and if you do I guarantee you won't remember it($1 Beer, actually Guiness was $1.50). Diving is also fantastic.
I am assuming that St John and maybe the BVI are like that on a larger scale. Also have to try new places. Was gonna go back to Barbados/Bequia again but the airfare was so cheap, had to try it out.
Sal....will post results when I get back or maybe while I am there. Have you looked into a condo/villa for the week? You can get an awesome one for under $4k and a 2 star for about $1k.
HappyJim...In Bermuda the hotel had a butter sculpture of Santa ringing a bell in the dining room....improvised a carrot in a strategic spot and they were not too thrilled at that. They also had a nativity set up in the lobby. EVERY day I would take the ears off a sheep and put them on one of the king's heads so he looked like he had horns...I thought Brits had a sense of humor?
posted 12-09-2005 11:51 PM ET (US)
Above comments are correct, get to the BVI's. St. John's is great but BVI's are another world, The Baths, Peter Island, Norman Island Jost Van Dyke.
It's in the top 3 sailing destinations in the world. Stay few days in a hotel, Then charter a boat with a captain and mate for 4 days.
Cane Garden Bay where Buffet lived (Don't miss the Bomba Shack)
It's a can't miss vacation.
posted 12-13-2005 08:15 PM ET (US)
Lived in St Thomas for a year about a decade ago on a sailboat, and just recently came back from getting married in St Johns. Advise, bypass Charlotte Amalie and head straight for St Johns, or preferably the BVI's. We stayed at the Holiday Inn for 2 nights in Charlotte because of the marriage paperwork to pick up and then stayed for a week at Gallows Point (3C) on St Johns. I highly recommend this resort unless you are more into the sports star/hollywood set that hangs out at Caneel (yes stunning) or the Westin (yes stunning). If you stay at the Gallow Resort, get room 3C as it has the best view! They offer good packages on dinners, cars, boats, etc so consider their package deals. You will have to reserve 3C like we did well in advance. You can visit any resort to have a nice lunch or dinner and use their facilities. Staying in Cruz Bay allows you to walk downtown (very small) at night. Naughty Nymph has boat rentals in Red Hook and Cruz Bay as well there are other jet ski and boat rentals available. You might consider renting a Jeep Wrangler in Charlotte and taking the car ferry to St Johns to save yourself the higher rate of a St John rental. Taxi's are expensive on either island and soon eat up the rental car daily charge. hauling luggage between the islands IS NOT FUN so renting the jeep at the airport has advantages. Most St Johns restaurants are very good to world class, St Thomas poor to good with a few exceptions. Nicest affordable resort on St Thomas is Frenchmans Reef that has been completely rebuilt. Lunch there is worth the modest price. Stay away from Cruise Ship tourists if at all possible...... YOU SHOULD have a 4 wheel drive vehicle on St Johns and watch out for donkeys. The suger mill is worth the visit and take the hike up the stairs from the parking lot. Make sure you have a digital camera with lots of memory and spare batteries as every turn in the road offers another set of pictures. magens Bay on St Thomas is nice, but pales in comparison the St Johns beaches. Make sure you snorkel Trunk Bay and look for Tarpons and Turtles.
VI's are a great place to visit and St Johns the best, but the BVI's are the best. People in the VI's and BVI's are nice if you are nice and say "Good Morning, etc." Leave the typical American rudeness at home and be prepared to slow down and be friendly, the more you are the more they are. Be careful but not paranoid about being out at night as anywhere else in the world. Again, manners are very important to VI's as well conservative dress. some (young)VI's can be extremely rude, crude, and shrewd so if approached be courteous and walk away. Rarely will they physically confront anyone. Many VI's are upset with "selling" there property to "non-VI's" so some resentment building up as they become displaced.
Hope this helps, enjoy the trip, enjoy the people, enjoy the food and the beautiful weather and landscape.
posted 12-14-2005 04:58 PM ET (US)
One thing to keep in mind is that all of the beaches on St. Thomas and St. John are public. You may visit Caneel Bay or any other resort without incurring a fee. The only beach you must pay to enter is public at Magans Bay on St. Thomas. I would advise not going to Magans on the weekend because of all the locals. Caneel has a nice daily lunch buffet and Magans has a pretty good snack bar that serves good burgers.
If you plan on fishing, make arrangements to keep at least one of your fish before you charter as many captains will not allow you to take the fish...as they want to sell your catch to the local restaurants. You may bring your catch to several of the restaurants and they will gladly cook it for you (it will usually end up being the house special that night for other diners as well!). Please e-mail if you should want other more specific information. Above all, have a great time!
posted 03-19-2006 08:07 AM ET (US)
I am about a month out now from my trip. How was yours? Any recommendations?
posted 03-23-2006 02:29 PM ET (US)
Got back last week and let me say that St Thomas is like Key west with BIG hills. It is pretty much a cruise destination and tourists are crazy Americans who are in a rush and pushy, not my style. If I want to spend my vacation with Americans, I would stay in FL:) St John is nicer and more expensive but is a tad boring. I don't mind boring if it is cheap and local caribe style. Boring USA style with $12 Cheeseburgers is again not my style. St Croix is cheaper and has gambling. People will tell you it is not safe there but they are full of BS. Years back some tourists got in the middle of a drug related shooting and it gave the island a bad rap. The snorkeling is pretty lack luster, even on St John. You really need to get out in a boat and hit a reef for any color. I have a friend who lives there and met up with another friend while down there so it was a good time. Other than the company, I rate the USVI a 5 on a 1-10 scale of the carribean. I would however go there again just to do what was recommended above and that is go to the BVI. The BVI has less Americans, better food, and more caribe flavor. They also use american currency so no conversions per say. You can also take a hopper plane to anywhere in the caribbean for cheap from St Thomas and I might do that as well.
The few good things about the USVI are: jewelry/watches are on the cheap side with no tax, you can drink and drive...literally, and you get non-roaming cellular service. Drugs and alcohol are ridiculously cheap as well. Plenty of Rastas to buy from and coke is direct from Columbia and is $20/gram. So if you are a coke head, not a bad place to visit:) I however just enjoyed the $6 bottles of rum and $16 cartons of cigs. You must at least go out on one of the charter sail boats for the day, lots of fun but not cheap at $110 per person. Might be cheaper with your crew to rent a whole boat. Don't worry, there are plenty of free brochures on what to do down there and if you have a cell phone, just call around for free. Try the BBQ Ox tail, local favorite and good. Tastes like lamb.
posted 03-23-2006 05:51 PM ET (US)
A few years back I stayed with family at an eco resort in the St. John National Park. The resort, while it got you very close to nature, was a nightmare in some respects as it was built on a hillside and a visit to the beach required a 200 step nearly vertical climb back to the room, plus another 100 more up to the restaurant.
Booze is cheap, and the drinking age is 18, which was a major bonus for me, being 19 at the time. The entire family brought home their maximum of liquor, though I dropped my case in the airport, much to my father's dismay. I was amazed at the excellent in-network cell phone reception I got with what was then AT&T Wireless (now Cingular), despite being in a rather remote area. In the one night we spent in Charlotte Amelie (sp?) I did observe some prostitution, but that was about it. Most time was spent on St. John, snorkeling, swimming, or just relaxing on the beach. The best way to see the island is definitely to rent a Wrangler. Take the panels off and the top down and enjoy the breeze. Driving on the left takes some getting use to, but if you've ever driven in England, this is much easier than that. Other than occasionaly turning into the wrong lane (which is not a major concern due to low levels of traffic and slow speeds), the primary problem is seeing around left-hand curves. There are plenty of little bars and restaurants around the island, which mostly seem to serve the usual tourist fare. Most are nautical themed in some regard.
All of that aside the natural beauty is absolutely stunning. Cinnamon bay was neat, but I actually preferred the bay that our resort was located on, though I forget the name, I did manage to see several sea turtles, a first for me at the time. One sure gave me a scare when I stumbled upon him only 3' away!
posted 03-23-2006 07:17 PM ET (US)
Thanks for the feedback. I am surprised you found the snorkling lacklusterom St John. I'll make sure we hit the right spots. We will not go to St Thomas, as my wife and I spent 5 days there for our honeymoon 17 years ago. I also am going to go light on the illegal drugs; although I would be ok with getting stoned with my 12 year old, I think it would be too irresponsible of me to expose my younger ones to that.
We have changed our reservation from the condo, to a last minute opening at the Westin. We figure that the younger kids would really like a nice pool to come back to and lounge in after a busy 3/4 day going on adventures. We are chartering a nice diesel-powered chesapeake-style boat to take us to the Baths and Jost Van Dyke in the BVI on one of our days there. I know my wife and oldest son are going to jump on a party snorkel boat on second day, while I hang with the younger kids. All the other feedback I have gotten is that St John has no parallel in the Carribean, and I hope that is the case. I don't mind quiet and boring, and actually look forward to that.
As an aside I wanted to bare-boat rent one of the Fountains, or one of the Mako center consoles, from the local outfits, as I have heard the waters are easy to navigate and calm. My family voted "no", as they wanted someone experienced with the waters to power us in case something should go wrong; I think the engines on those boats are made by Mercury (that is a joke).
posted 03-24-2006 01:20 PM ET (US)
I called a couple places that rent the fountains(most with Yammies) and none called me back. I talked to a couple people and they said unless you have a capt'n license many places won't let you take it alone, must pay for a capt'n. I call BS on that but I never did get a REAl answer from a rental place. You are gonna have a great time in the BVI's as well as St John. I hear the Westin is real nice as well. If you go to Bomba's shack on Tortola. Get the tea and talk to Bomba himself. The tea has some natural ingredients grown on cow patties that will make you see things in a different light...or color:) Many told me about that place but again I did not get over there. Did not want to sound like I hated St Thomas, just was not my style. St John was more my style but I already had the hotel and had to meet up with friends on St Thomas. Enjoy your trip and take some good pics of Whalers.
posted 03-28-2006 09:56 AM ET (US)
Started going as a kid in the late 70s, have been at least every 3 or 4 years since. The USVI have, IMHO, completely lost whatever charm they had, with the possible exception of St. Croix.
Most of my experience has been by sailboat.
Best mellow party atmosphere is Foxy's on Jost van Dyke.
Best place to spend a day on a remote island is Green Cay (btw, Cay is pronounced just like Key) between JvD and Tortola. It is a small island owned by the Rocefeller Family and prserved as an undeveloped oasis. The Baths is also way cool, but can be crowded.
Best Snorkeling in the main BVI is Pelican Rock and the Indians south of Tortola, or perhaps George Dog. Absolute best is north side of Anegada in Loblolly Bay, but that is more work to get to.
Best lobster dinner: Wilfred's on the West End of Anegada. Also very good at the Anegada Reefs Hotel.
Best Hole in the wall Restaurant: Neptune's Treasure on Anegada.
Best Deserted beaches: Anegada north shore. Begining to see a trend here?
Best Food overall, and best get away from it all resort: Drake's Anchorage. You can run across the sound to do stuff at the Bitter End, or stay here and relax on the Beach.
Best "Resorty" Resort. Bitter End on Gorda Sound.
posted 04-08-2006 04:55 PM ET (US)
I just returned from a trip to St. John.
The Virgin Islands National Park Service has a number of Brunswick CGP boats. The dock at the Cruz Bay Visitor Center usually held a bunch of their Whalers. I saw a 22' Guardian with twin 90 E-TECs, a 25' Challenger, a 27' Challenger, a 27' Justice, a 26' Justice, and a Sentry.
Around the corner from the Visitor Center dock is a fuel dock that had three smaller Whalers including a 17 Guardian owned by Caneel Bay.
I also saw a Park Service Baja 28' Intruder at the dock in Red Hook on St. Thomas.
There was an older Whaler hull for sale on the beach on Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands.
posted 04-12-2006 03:06 PM ET (US)
I saw a bunch as well. Mainly 13 &17's and a few dauntless'. I did see a 22? off the beach down by Red hook that looked like a outrage cuddy without the console. Was too far away to be sure and it might have been a revenge with no windshield but the cuddy looked rounded and small. Had a single 225 Johnson on it.
posted 04-15-2006 03:29 PM ET (US)
We're headed to the VI first week in May and was wondering if anyone had experience with Absolutely Paradise Villas on St. Thomas? Will be staying with a friend at Caneel Bay Campgrounds St. John for the first week , then at our Villa for the end of our trip.
After reading posts here I've decided that the BVI's deserve a look also. We've been told about a bar on Virgin Gorda where you "earn" a T-shirt by diving in the water and come up sans your shirt ? Wife wants to try that.
And that reefer is easily had from locals? Curious as to the local laws on that. Drinking age is 18, was just wondering if they strickly inforce that , as we'll be with our 16 yo son.
posted 04-17-2006 08:21 PM ET (US)
That's the William Thornton at the Bight on Norman Island. It's a floating bar.
posted 04-18-2006 01:28 PM ET (US)
Willy T's....great experience from what I have heard and seen in pics. drinking age is not enforced, your son will get poluted a few times.
posted 04-30-2006 06:33 AM ET (US)
We just returned last night from St John. One of the best vacations we have ever taken. A quick review and some suggestions:
Accomodations: The Westin was great for our family (3 kids; 12,10,6) The first half of our vacation was non-stop adventure, and it was nice for the kids to have a lazy pool the last few days to cool off in. We were upgraded to a Villa, which is a small apartment in the back of the property. They will try to sell you a timeshare. They clean your room later in the day rather than earlier, which is the only negative of the resort. The service is not what you would expect stateside, but if you go in there knowing that, laid back and relaxed, you won't care.
We did visit Caneel Bay for a day. It was so beautiful, and if I were going with just my wife, Caneel would have been the place. We had a great lunch there after a morning of snorkling, and the service seemed noticeably superior to the service in the Westin.
Restaurants: Lime Inn, ZoZo's, Stone Terrace, Morgan's Mango all are great choices and better than on property restuarants at the resorts. Brunch/lunch at Caneel Bay is a must.
We ate at the Willy T. I wanted to buy a few women t-shirts, so that they wouldnt feel compelled to strip. Actually, I think normally reserved men and women feel young on this boat, and do things they normally wouldn't, and I have no problem with that; thats what vacations are for sometimes. The Willy T has a nice history to it, and my boys were all giggles hoping to catch a glimpse of boobies. They were bummed out that the women stripped and jumped at the precise times I sent them to the bar to get me Tabasco sauce, etc. They are not bright boys.
PS Foxy's at Jost is a hole; not worth it. Better watering holes where your scenery is not 3 burned out cars, six broken Evinrudes, three goats, and 32 eyes that burn your skin saying, " my uncle is chief of police... I could make you disappear and no-one would ever know mon."
Hire a boat one day. We chartered Born To Rhumb. Captain Kevin took us to The Baths, the Willy T for lunch, Snorkling at the Indians, Jost..... This is the way to snorkle. My family couldn't believe the sights they saw. Captain Kevin's first mate Andie was beautiful, and awesome to my family.
Rent a dingy. My boys and I took a dingy for a 10 mile jaunt that took us to some neat snorkling that we could have only reached by water. Just watch the ferry wakes out of Cruz Bay....
Rent a jeep and visit the Sugar Mills. Cool history, and incredible roadside view getting there.
Here are some pictures:
And here is a link to Captain Kevin's Born To Rhumb:
He is a New Englander (Boston and Maine) who does half his year chartering in St John. Nice Life.
All in all this was an incredible vacation, and highly worth the 20 or 25% premium in cost over other Carribean Islands. It is a lot cheaper if you are not tied to children's spring break schedules also, and can plan ahead.
posted 04-30-2006 03:36 PM ET (US)
Sal, we went as couples last year to St. John, stayed at the Westin for free, some Mack connection! We thought it was so much better then most we have been at, that our friends and us are taking our familes. We rented a house on the water in Cruxz Bay, that includes two kayaks, but no Whaler. We are going last week in July. Glad you had a good time.................Jack
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