Anyone have any suggestions for the best beachfront lodging on St. Thomas? Will be there starting the end of March. Also, is Jost Van Dyke worth a visit?
I've probably been to St. Thomas a dozen times over the years, but have always been coming off cruise ships. I've also seen every inch of that island, too.
We've got to where we now take a ferry over to St. John where we spend the afternoon in a tiki bar on the beach. The U.S. Virgin Islands is a very beautiful place, as are the British Virgins.
Let me refer you to TripAdvisor.com for opinions on where to stay.
My close friend rented a 50' power cat out of St. John a year ago. He's on his way back there this year. They traveled to a different island every day to anchor on, and said it was an incredible week in a gorgeous place.
The Ritz Carlton St Thomas is a very nice, large resort hotel, on a small stretch of beach. The hotel is excellent, but not on the most spectacular beach. We have stayed there, as a stopover before flying home the next day, after visiting St. John or one of the British Virgin Islands. For the best beachfront lodging in the USVI, consider Caneel Bay, on St. John. It is expensive, but the setting is the best! The rooms at Caneel are spread out over the large property, some directly on one of the seven (yes, seven!) gorgeous, private beaches. I'm sure there are less expensive choices to consider on St. John. We prefer it to St. Thomas because a great portion of the island is a national park, so it is less crowded and commercialized.
Jost Van Dyke is in the BVI, so you would need a passport. We have stayed several times at the Sandcastle, on White Bay. It is a small hotel, right on a gorgeous stretch of beach, with comfortable, simple rooms, and good food. Only two of the rooms are air conditioned, if that is an issue for you. Interesting places to visit along the beach, such as Ivan's, Seddy's One Love, and Jewel's. Jost is a beautiful, friendly island, most definitely worth a visit. We have not been for several years, and it seems to have gotten more popular (crowded) than it was in the past.
The Carribbean is a special destination, with a small amount of mass tourism, and a big base of "old Carribbean", which means low-key, no-children in season, gracious and tasteful living. The USVI have both, with exceptionally attractive beaches available. Your personal desires (i.e. activities, golf, dinner in or out, tours or sitting still) and your budget are both crucial decisions. We stayed in several different places in the USVI: A very urban B&B in Charlotte Amalie, a gay-friendly (we're not gay) EXTREMELY private off-beach resort (walk to beach access nearby) Pavilions and Pools, and the very old and expensive Caneel Bay on St. Johns. (That island has even better beaches than St. Thomas, and is easy to get to. I mean world-famous beaches.)
This is very OLD DATA, but we were surprised how old the clientele were at Caneel Bay, and how bad the desalinated water tasted, ruining coffee for example. Our luxury cove-front room was harmed by all-night gentle water lapping sounds reflecting off the tile floors and hardwood ceiling - we had to put in earplugs, despite the nice quiet "resort".
Edit: As someone who has stayed also in the BVI, I think of Jost Van Dyke as a likely day-sail excursion snorkeling stop, perhaps not setting food on land. You might be able to simulate the experience by renting a car and going to a remote part of St. Thomas, or better, a remote part of St. Johns. I would guess that it's less busy by the end of March.
For St. Thomas, yes, as another poster mentioned the Ritz Carlton is the nicest.
And, for the very best beaches, I also agree with previous posters that St. John wins by far.
We were JUST at Caneel Bay Resort this time last month. And, we stayed on Scott Beach, which is truly one of the most fabulous beaches just about anywhere with the caveat that IF you like peaceful, uncrowded beaches. It is a very peaceful place. Scott Beach is an adult only beach, but Caneel offers 7 beaches, with Honeymoon Beach being among the busiest, because it is more accessible by the general public and boats that stop there with patrons from other places that have paid to go snorkeling at various stops.
Caneel is not inexpensive (rates drop as spring progresses and summer arrives, then more (it seems) in the fall. They are closed for two months, I think September/October..not positive, during which they do their major renovations, etc. But, you can often snag a last-minute 30% off rate (as we did last month), likely due to last-minute cancellations by others. So, if they are booked when you want to go, just keep checking.
The rooms on Scott Beach have been totally redecorated, with new floors, baths, updated porches, etc. We were amazed at just how nice they are now, compared to 15 or 20 years ago, when there were the tile floors Tim referenced in his post and the rooms were dark. . There is nothing like walking out and being about 25-30 steps away from a lovely, calm ocean. In the morning when we saw 2 other people, we joked the beach was getting crowded. If you want to spend less for a room, the Garden View Rooms (which used to be called the Tennis Garden Rooms offer a good value (we stayed there on a previous trip)...just make sure you get the ones with the big curved wood doors to the patio. But, those rooms do not offer ocean-front or ocean view....a short walk. Hawks Nest is also popular and offers some of the best snorkeling (in our opinion). My husband saw several sea turtles and an eagle ray (which is supposed to be somewhat rare there). Hawks Nest gets the morning sun, and Scott gets more afternoon sun....but all the beaches offer sea grape and palm trees for those of us who can't take a full day of sun.
But Caneel is updating rooms section by section, so if you want an updated room, be sure to ask which ones. I think some of the Hawks Nest rooms have had some renovations, but not sure to what extent.
Jost Van Dyke is definitely a great destination for a day-sail. Foxy's was named the top spot to celebrate New Year's Eve in 2000. It has its own charm (and humor). Good for a drink or a meal, too. But, for our January trip we stayed just on the Caneel property, as it is hard to top. But, on other trips over the years, for the times we stayed on St. Thomas, we would do a day sail or power boat to Jost. The Baths on Virgin Gorda is also a spectacular day trip, but try to have your driver time for when the large cruise ships are NOT in port.
If you have time, and if you have not been to St. John before, it's worth it to pay a taxi to give you an island tour (again if you love natural beauty). Lots of hills, curves, etc. and you will be glad a local is driving (since cars drive on the opposite side of the road than the mainland).
Oh and note for Tim: No more bad-tasting water at Caneel. It has new owners and the food/service/staff attitude and attention was remarkably wonderful compared to a decade and more ago. It's a new place, but with the same lovely traditions and environment.
Thank you Margaret for the updated information. Because you also wrote about Caneel Bay, I want to amplify something I didn't make more explicit in my own post, for fear of appearing, well, "class-ist". The OP was very brief and vague. But I was trying to get at the idea that there isn't much point in going to the Carribean for a Florida experience. I mean, the beaches may be less crowded and better, but I would try to get the highest-end experience I could afford.
BTW, the reason we had a few days at the B&B was that we brought a fiber case with drygood groceries for a few days of at-home impoverished eating to finance the stay at Pavilions and Pools. (I'll never make the mistake of taking a fiber case through customs at either end, again. DON'T DO IT.)
Our stay at Caneel was paired with a slightly longer stay at the sister property in the BVI, Little Dix Bay, with their own boat transferring us between the two. Now there's the Old Carribbean for you. We liked Little Dix a lot better. But I hear today, Little Dix has ..... phones, TVs, and air conditioning. That's the "New Carribean"! (Again, ONE night at Little Dix, we had tuna from the can in our room, to finance later trips to the dining room!)
Besides the water, another problem at Caneel Bay was that they MADE US take seats in Siberia in the half-empty dining rooms, because we were among the few guests who could handle the TWO STEPS up to Siberia!
For Tim (and KevinK and anyone else reading),
Yes, Little Dix Bay was wonderful when we stayed there several years ago. We got an incredible deal at $300something a night, including breakfasts, that year. It was early December, so I guess a very slow time then. But, nonetheless we totally enjoyed it.
Little Dix Bay, though, is completely closed at this time for a total renovation. My guess (just a guess) is that it will be even more high-priced once it opens.....we'll find out once they post their rates. But, yes, at the time, we did prefer the smallness of Little Dix.
Caneel and Little Dix used to be sister resorts (thus, the boat that connected the two resorts when Tim was there). Caneel is no longer owned by Rosewood (Little Dix is). The new owners of Caneel are the ones that seem to be really, slowly but surely, making signifcant upgrades to Caneel, but still keeping the wonderful vibe of the place. The old Sugar Mill restaurant is now outsourced, but the Turtle Bay Estate House is still managed by the property, as is the restaurant near the arrival area (the big breakfast buffet). What was a nice surprise this time, is that in the bar area (can't recall the name), one can actually get lunch/dinner for under $20, and the three times we dined there, the food was fabulous. Turtle Bay Estate House was also delicious, but the casual environment of the other restaurant was just more low-key and quicker for most nights, and one can see the sunset from there, too. We did not make it to Zo-Zo's (the renamed Sugar Mill restaurant) but those who did go there seemed to enjoy it.
I would not hesitate to recommend Caneel. Yes, there are some older patrons, but no one seemed on death's doorstep, and granted, we've aged a bit since the first time we visited. But, everyone seemed active, and we did not experience being seated in Siberia. I requested window seats at Turtle Bay, and that's what we got.
And, again, I just can't stress enough how lovely the grounds are, right in the middle of the Virgin Islands National Park, which is the same land the developer of Caneel Bay, Laurence Rockefeller, donated for the park. It's a very, very special place. The small deer, the friendly donkeys, mongoose, and iguana are among the friendly wildlife, in addition to turtles, rays, and fish.
Caneel provides all the snorkel gear for guests, rafts, no fees for beach chairs/towels, sunfish and sea kayaks all included.
I will pile on with everyone else. We got married at the Ritz Carlton St. Thomas. Super nice and honestly not a bad value. Spent our first anniversary at Little Dix Bay, loved it and totally undervalued at the time. Also I have stayed at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef and Morning Star as a layover. Morning star was probably our best value ever in the Carribean. I'm not the biggest fan of USVI, but I'd consider the others suggestions of St. John. If this is your first Caribbean trip you will be just fine in the USVI. JVD is totally worth the trip. I've only done it from a sailboat a couple of times. Caneel would be my first choice too but we did it years ago when it was a Rosewood property. We were 20 somethings at the time and didn't notice it being 'too old'. Friends went over Christmas and LOVED it! As an aside, if you see Anagad lobster on a menu, get it. It's expensive but totally worth it! Next trip, try the French West Indies for a Francophile experience:)
Thanks for the great advice! We have six nights bridging March and April so I think we're gonna do two in one spot and four in another. Still trying to figure everything out.