BVIs and USVIs Trip Report 2009
10.09.2009 - 10.18.2009
Day 1 - Virgin Gorda
Background: My husband and I have been enjoying vacation every year in the Virgin Islands for our anniversary. This was going to be our 7th year in the Virgin Islands and 6 for St. John. Well after last year’s trip consisting of an earthquake, hurricane and complete washout we were ready to go back and enjoy some sun. Luckily tropical storm Henri quickly disappeared and we were on our way. This year since Caneel (our favorite) was closed we decided to give their sister resort Little Dix Bay a try. I had originally booked airfare to St. Thomas but later changed it to Tortola, causing a 3 hour delay in San Juan. Surprisingly our 3 hour layover went by painlessly and we boarded the Cape Air flight to Tortola. The flight was about 30 min. give or take and about the same as flying to St. Thomas. We did fly past St. John and although I was a little sad, I knew that we would be there in a few days. We landed at the Tortola airport and it was completely quiet, besides the customs agent. When we walked outside a friendly smile was waiting for us. A young nice lady had a little sign with our name on it for Little Dix Bay. She took us to their check in office and were told that we would be upgraded to a beachfront cottage. Nice! We then left the office and were directed to the Little Dix Ferry waiting for us. Besides my husband and myself, only the staff were on the boat. We were giving a welcome rum punch and a cool face towel to wash our faces. We were on our way!
We reached Little Dix Bay after about a 25 min. ferry ride and were given an informative tour while on our way to our room. Once we reached our room we were very impressed. The beachfront cottage was beautiful. While the views of the ocean were impaired with the overgrowth of vegetation, we were still steps away from the ocean and good hear it. The room consisted of a large king size bed, full bathroom and an outdoor shower. We had an outdoor patio complete with two lounge chairs. It was perfect
After settling in a bit we wanted to get a few things for our room (beer). I heard about a grocery store close by so I figured that we could just walk to it from the resort. We started walking and when we pasted the security guard, he reconfirmed that there was a grocery store near just outside of the resort. Well what we didn’t realize, about halfway from the resort, the road took a split.
We went towards the left (even though we were supposed to stay to the right). We made it to the main road and just kept walking. We found a side street and started to walk down the road. There was no sign of a grocery store and it was really hot out. After another block or so we did see some sort of building with a sign indicating a mini-mart. We found it! Or so we thought. We walked in and there a few beers in the fridge but nothing really as far as stocking our room. We walked out of the store completely disappointed when a pick up truck pulled up asking us if we needed a ride. Two nice locals picked us up and we were on our way to the correct grocery store. The driver dropped off his passenger and continued on to Spanishtown. He told us how he was originally from England and visited the island while on holiday and never returned. He also mentioned that the island was very safe and no crime. I was pretty surprised to hear that. Well we got to the correct store and he showed us where to get the beer. Now beer there was sold separately, so you basically had to take an empty carton and put any 6 beers together. This works well when you’re not sure what you want. My husband offered to grab him a 6 pack and he thanked us. He then took us back to Little Dix Bay. This is when we noticed that we took the wrong road to town. It was about a 5 min. drive back to the resort. He dropped us off and my husband gave him a tip for his generosity. At first he didn’t take it, but after my husband’s persistence he obliged. I think his name was Alex. Very nice guy - thanks Alex!
After a few beers, we got ready for dinner.
Being it was our first night at the resort we decided to dine at the Sugar Mill Restaurant (only restaurant available for dinner). We didn’t need reservations since the resort was nearly empty. We had a short stroll to the restaurant were seated right away. The server first told us about the buffet that they were offering at $45 per person. At first I thought that it was too high of a price for what they had. Then we opened the menus and realized that the buffet was a good deal. When we usually stay at Caneel, we opt for the breakfast/dinner option so I never take a look at the prices that well. However, I felt that the prices at Little Dix Bay were very high. For example, they charged $18 for a ceasar salad?! Entrees ranged from $38 to $45. Needless to say, we decided on the buffet. I also looked at the wine list and found the cheapest red wine for $45. Again the prices (for us anyway) seemed exceptionally high. The food was good but for those prices I would think that it should be great. When we received the bill we noticed that in the BVIs they charge a gratuity/service tax. We realized that an additional tip was not necessary. After a nice first dinner we headed back to our room. We were exhausted (up since 3:15 in the morning).
Mill restaurant for breakfast. Similar to Caneel, Little Dix had a buffet set with an egg station where eggs are cooked to order. You can also order eggs benedict, waffle and pancakes but would have to ask the server and then they would bring it out to you. We sat at a table right near the beach. We ate at the same restaurant the night before, but we didn’t realize how beautiful the setting was since dark.
After a satisfying breakfast we went to grab our snorkel gear at the water activities desk. There we were informed that Little Dix offers complimentary transportation (via boat) to any nearby beaches. We decided to make a reservation for the next day to take us to the Baths. We went to the Baths 6 years ago on a day sail and I never brought my camera with me so I thought it would be a good idea to back and enjoy it at our own pace.
Since it was our first full day at the resort we just decided to grab a couple of chairs on the beach and just relax.
I did some snorkeling while my husband read and saw a few stingrays, a turtle and a jellyfish. Several fish I saw as well, but not nearly as abundant as St. John. Unlike Caneel, Little Dix just has one main beach which is crescent shaped and a decent size. We saw a few guests that would walk the beach from time to time but the resort was overall very quiet.
After a long day of doing nothing, we went to the activities desk to book a reservation for dinner. Our options were pretty limited being it was still low season but decided to give the restaurant the Rock Cafe a try. I had read about the cafe and to be sure to eat outside. We had a taxi pick us about 10 min. before our reservation. Basically the taxi driver was one guy, Andy. He was great. Every time we would need a taxi he would be there. It was like having our own private chauffeur.
The Rock Cafe didn’t look like much from the outside, but the back of the building had a beautiful setting of large boulders (like the Baths) and lit waterfalls. There was only one other table seated so eating outside was not a problem. The menu had a nice selection of food but we were informed that they did not have lobster. I was a little disappointed but figured that I would have it somewhere else. (Little did I know that the BVIs have seasons for lobster, and during October you cannot get lobster like in the USVIs). The food had an italian flare to it. We thought it was good but not great. Nevertheless, we still have an enjoyable dinner. Andy picked us up and headed back to Little Dix and then called it a night.
After another good breakfast at the Sugar Mill, we went to grab our stuff for the boat that was taking us to the Baths. Our reservation was for 10am but the guy didn’t show up until 10:20 or so (island time). He had an umbrella in his hand that he carried to the boat. Now when I say boat, I should say a small motorboat. I think the boat could only accommodate maybe four people total. It was small. After a bumpy ride to the Baths, we arrived at Devils Bay. He gave us the umbrella for us to use while we were on the beach. We told him to pick us up around 1pm. He said no problem and then he left.
We left the umbrella on the beach and headed towards the Baths trail. There were already a few day trippers there but it wasn’t too crowded. It was really nice to explore the Baths just the two of us. We would occasionally run into a few people and one large tour group, but that was basically it.
We walked to the end of the trail and saw that there was a little bar there. I just figured that we would go to the Top of the Baths restaurant for a drink. We walked back through the Baths and to Devils Bay. I saw a sign for the parking lot and thought that maybe the restaurant would be that way. We walked for about 1/2 mile at least and it the trail just kept going. We were getting tired and thirsty so we decided to turn around and head back to Devils Bay. Along the way my husband spotted a small snake. I guess Virgin Gorda doesn’t have any mongoose on it. We made it back and never did find the restaurant. I still do not know where it is.
By the time we got back to the resort, we noticed it was after 1pm. It was a Sunday and the Giants were playing. Well Little Dix, like Caneel, does not have any TVs in the room, but they do have an activities room with a TV. We walked up to the room and saw that there were a few people doing the same thing. Unfortunately we could only get the Pittsburgh game and nothing else. They did have a couple of computers where I was able to check the score online. When I checked it was 34 to 7 and I figure they were playing the Raiders that the score should be good enough to be comfortable. We then went to the activites desk to book another reservation. I heard that this place called the Mine Shaft was supposed to be pretty good so we made a reservation there. We headed back to our room and relaxed by the beach until it was time for dinner.
Again we hooked up with Andy and headed to the Mine Shaft Cafe. Another reason that we chose this place was for the view and to watch the sunset. Unfortunately some evening showers rolled in so there wasn’t much of a sunset.
There was also a small wedding reception out on the deck so we had to sit inside. My husband had the the coconut curry shrimp and I had the grouper with creole sauce. The service was a bit off because of the wedding and the food wasn’t that good. We called for the cab when we were done and headed back to Little Dix.
We did notice that a lot of the restaurants and resorts (Bitter End, Biras Creek, etc.) were closed while we were there so it did limit our dining experience. We were told that the island is solely a resort island, so when resorts and restaurants are closed, there really isn’t much to do.
Our last full day in Virgin Gorda and felt that we wanted to spend it enjoying the resort.
During breakfast, we saw that they were having a manager’s cocktail reception and grand buffet that evening. We thought perfect for our last night there. We just spent our day relaxing and snorkeling.
The cocktail reception began at 6:30 and we headed over for a few drinks. They had a few guys playing steel drums so that gave it a nice ambience. I wish more places in the caribbean would play steel drums. I know it sounds so cliché but I love listening to it and now all you really hear when you go to bars, is the same old stuff you hear back in the states. All well, back to the report...
After the free drinks (or should I say cocktail reception) we headed to the Sugar Mill Restaurant for the grand buffet. This buffet cost $75 a person (vs. $45 the other night). The buffet was more elaborate then the previous night but again, felt for that price, the food should be better. After eating way too much (not quite $75 worth - well maybe my husband did) we headed back to our room.
Day 5 - St. John
We fully enjoyed our 4 nights stay and thought that it was a perfect start to our vacation. The resort was a very nice alternative to Caneel. I would have liked to stay longer to get around the island more but it was time to head back to St. John.
To get to St. John there are a couple of options, either take several ferries and/or use the air taxi. Since it was low season and the ferry schedule is hit or miss we thought our best bet would be the air taxi. When it was time to leave, the receptionist at Little Dix picked up our luggage and drove us to the Virgin Gorda airport. There we were greeted by the pilot who would be taking us to St. Thomas. He took our luggage and brought us into the tiny little airport. We had to basically pay a $15 per person departure tax and fill out a customs form to bring with us. About 5 min. later, we were on the plane ready for take off.
I know the Cape Air planes are small, but this plane (Fly BVI) was even smaller. When we took off from the sand runway we were immediately overwhelmed with the views of the islands. It was one of the highlights of our trip. The pilot pointed out different islands along the way to St. Thomas. We passed over St. John and knew we would soon be there to meet our friends who were already there. After a 15 - 20 min. flight, we landed in St. Thomas. The pilot then escorted us into the airport where we would have to go through customs. We had to wait a bit for someone to show up but eventually we made it through.
Friends of ours were married at the Westin a couple years ago and they were vacationing there again this year and we thought that we would join them. We checked in at the airport and were told that our oceanview room was upgraded to a beachfront room. The taxi took us to the Crown Bay Marina where we got onto the Westin ferry. We were taken to our room and were told that the water was going to be shut off for an hour or so for maintenance and would come back on. No worries I thought. The room itself was very nice and right near the beach. I myself prefer the gardenview and/or oceanview rooms since they are further back and quieter. Then again the view from our room was very nice. After we unpacked a few things, it was time to meet our friends.
We went back to our room and I checked the water and we still had no water. I called the front desk and they assured me it would come back in another half hour or so. Eventually it came back on luckily just in time for us to get ready for dinner. We grabbed a taxi and headed to Cruz Bay. We had a few drinks at Joe’s Rum Hut as we contemplated where to eat.
The Balcony was recently reopened but with a very limited menu. The bartender told us that he was out of almost everything. It probably wasn’t the best choice for our first meal on St. John but we all managed to pick something to eat. The food was very good at least and hopefully as the season picks up so will the selection on the menu. After dinner we headed to the Beach Bar for an after dinner drink. Soon it was time to head back to the Westin and get some sleep for our day sail tomorrow on the Scubadu.
Day 6 - Scubadu
We woke up to another sunny day and headed to town for breakfast. Our favorite spot for breakfast is JJ’s.
We all had a great breakfast and headed to the National Park Dock to meet Captain Joe on the Scubadu. We walked over and were warmly greeted by Captain Joe and his first mate Brenda. We have been sailing with him since 2003 so its always great to see him every year. We sailed to Jost Van Dyke and headed to Foxy’s. Unfortunately Foxy’s wasn’t open yet so we just stopped and waited for the first mate to check us in to customs before heading to the Soggy Dollar Bar.
When we reached the Soggy Dollar Bar, we couldn’t believe how quiet it was. I had never seen it so empty. It was great! He anchored the catamaran and we swam to shore. There we had several painkillers and enjoyed the views of White Bay.
After a couple hours we started to get hungry and knew it was time for Joe’s fish tacos. As soon as we boarded there waiting for us homemade mahi mahi tacos with a side of ginger black beans.
The luncheon was delicious and hit the spot. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to St. John. We docked back into St. John and checked into customs and said our good byes. We told Joe that we would see him again next year. It was a great day.
Still in our swim suits we decided that we would grab something to eat in town before heading back to the Westin. We weren’t too hungry so we headed to High Tide for a bite. I noticed on the menu that they did have lobster and I thought that maybe I should give it a try. Everyone else had a burger but I was very glad I ordered the lobster. Surprisingly it was very good.
We grabbed a taxi and headed back to the Westin. Once we got back to the Westin, we agreed that we would freshen up and meet in a half hour at the bar for a night cap, or so we thought.
Tired and desperately needing a shower, we head back to our room and inserted the key card and nothing. Not even a light or a sound. We head back to the lobby and they ask us for ID and luckily I had my passport with me from the day sail and then the receptionist reactivated the cards. We were assured that the cards would now work. My husband didn’t buy it but we went back to our room and tried again – nothing. So we went back to the front desk again and the lady at the front desk told us she would call maintenance. Meanwhile, our friends were at the bar waiting for us. About 20 min. later we finally see a golf cart at our room with a security guard. Long story short - the battery in our door died. Usually the back up battery will work if they charge it - no dice. They had to call for more people to help. Basically they had another security guard go around the room to the front (which faces the beach) and take out the glass portion from the door. When we walked in, our room was untouched by housekeeping because they couldn’t get in. Now the one thing that really bothered me, was why didn’t housekeeping alert the front desk? Over an hour and a half since we got to the Westin, we finally get in to shower while they were fixing the door. By the time both us of freshened up, the security guards fixed the door. I gave it a quick test with the key card and it worked. After that we both really need a drink! So we headed to the bar, met up with our friends and told them the story over a few rum punches and painkillers then called it a night!
We woke up to another great day on St. John. This was our first full day on the island so we wanted to rent a vehicle. The Westin has a car rental on their property so we walked over to reserve a Dodge Nitro, met up with our friends and headed to Cruz Bay for breakfast. We went back to JJ’s for a great breakfast of huervos rancheros.
With our stomachs full, we headed to our first beach - Hawksnest.
During the summer, I went ahead and bought a snorkel mask at home so this was my first time trying it out. We parked the car and found a great spot to relax and enjoy the quiet beach. I put on my mask and it fit perfectly. The water was very clear and I saw a good variety of fish and several squid.
We drove past Trunk since it was really crowded and stopped at Cinnamon Bay. We walked down the beach a bit and found a nice empty spot on the beach. Finding an empty spot during this time of year isn’t too difficult. I tried snorkeling again but I really didn’t see too much. I saw people way out but I just didn’t want to go out that far again without fins. Note to self: buy fins for next year!
Our next stop was Skinny Legs. We drove up to Coral Bay and stopped in for a few beers. My friends were hungry and all had a burger.
We were only going to stop by for a little while, but then we got engrossed by the “balloon boy” footage on the TV. Little did we know it would wind up being a complete hoax. That’s 2 hours of my life I won’t get back - haha. So after we watched the footage we headed back towards Cruz Bay and stopped at Rum Hut for a couple.
That night I was planning on meeting up with my one friend and her boyfriend who lives on St. Thomas. Realizing it was getting late, we headed back to the Westin to freshen up. Our friends were going to eat at the Waterfront Bistro and we told them we would meet up with them later. We wound up meeting up with my friend at Woody’s. Contemplating where to eat we decided on the Fish Trap. My husband and I had never eaten at the Fish Trap before, since it is usually closed while we’re there, so we were excited to try something new. We started off with appetizers of scallops and fried callamari. For entrees, we ordered maha mahi, shrimp and linguini and fish and chips. Everything was really good and reasonably priced too. I was quite impressed with this place. I would definitely go back there again. After dinner we walked over to the Waterfront Bistro for a couple of drinks and met up with our friends. It was a great night seeing my friend and meeting her boyfriend. I think it was by far our latest night out the entire trip - 11:20! At this time, finding a taxi wasn’t easy but we managed to find one by the ferry dock and headed back to the Westin.
Day 8 - our last full day
Being it was our last full day, we kept the car rental for another day. We had a bit of a late start since we were up late the night before so finding a spot near the dock wasn’t easy. There wasn’t any parking spots available near the docks, but my husband squeezed the car towards the entrance to the parking lot. We didn’t think it would be a problem. We walked back to JJ’s for another great breakfast. Since we hadn’t gone shopping yet, we walked over to St. John Spice and grabbed several bottles of Jerome’s and some other souvenirs to bring home. While our friends were paying for their items, I noticed my cell phone rang and it said “unknown”. I thought maybe it was work or something so I didn’t answer it. Then my husband said “wait you should have gotten that, it could be the car rental place, I gave them your cell # as a contact”. So we walked over back to the car and it was still in the same spot. No worries - headed back over to the Wharfside shops and looked around some more, but I really didn’t see anything. (My birthday was October 7th so like last year, I figured I would just get something while we were there on St. John) It was time to go back to our car and head to Mongoose Junction. Well we walked back to where we left the car and it was gone. I checked my phone and I had a voicemail message and it was from the car rental place. It said that they were notified that our car was parked in a bad spot and that we should move it. Well it looked like someone moved it for us. At this point we just kind of stopped and looked around not knowing what to do. Then I noticed right behind Joe’s BBQ, a silver Dodge Nitro. I pointed it to my husband and asked him if that was it? He used the key and thankfully it opened. It was our car! So somehow they moved it, but not very far. That was a HUGE relief. We got in our car and headed towards Mongoose.
We made it to Mongoose and walked in to R & I Patton. I found a nice sterling silver bracelet with the petroglyph in the center. It was perfect and it matched my necklace that I wore. It was getting hot and we were getting thirsty, so we stopped at the Gecko gazebo/Sun Dog Cafe for a couple of beers. We were debating about what beach to go to. My husband mentioned Caneel, but then I wasn’t sure if we could drive in if the resort was closed. Well we figured we would give it a try and if we could get in, we would just go to Trunk. When we got to the gate (the new entrance is quite impressive), a security guard did stop us and told us that the resort was closed. Anyway, he said that if we parked our car on the road, we could walk in and use Caneel’s main beach only (and also could swim over to Honeymoon Beach). So with that, we parked our car and walked to the beach. I thought the walk would be really far, but it wasn’t too bad. It was so odd to see the resort deserted like it was. There were several people there working at the resort. The entire beach bar terrace and breakfast area was stripped of all furniture and pictures. I assume they were taking the opportunity to do some upgrades to the resort while they were closed. We found a nice spot on the beach and immediately went in the water.
We drove back to Cruz Bay and we stopped by the marketplace outside of the Westin to grab some beers. It was a nice alternative to the now closed down Simple Feast (loved that place!)
We dropped off the rental and headed back to our room. When we got to the room, no housekeeping. We were gone from 9am and got back to the room around 4:30 pm and no one had come by. I called the front desk and they said someone would be over to clean our room. Being it was our last night, we were going over our dining options. I heard that La Tapa would be reopening that night and I really wanted to go. It’s one of my favorite restaurants on St. John. I called the restaurant and they were indeed open and made a reservation for 6:45pm to sit outside. Another hour passed and still no housekeeping. I called the front desk again and they told me the same thing, someone would be down shortly. Long story short, I had to call 4 or 5 times before someone finally came to our door. Of course while my husband was in the shower I heard a knock on the door “housekeeping”. By this time, it was too late so I just asked her for some clean towels.
We met up with our friends and took a cab to La Tapa. We started out with a nice bottle of sauvignon blanc and a bunch of appetizers: mussels, langostinos and escargot.
Then we ordered their sangria to go with dinner. It was really good. For our entrees my friend and I shared the paella and the guys both ordered the mahi mahi.
The food was amazing - probably the best meal during the entire trip. It was really good and it was their first night open. Everyone else had the same idea because it was pretty crowded. After dinner we walked over to Joe’s Rum Hut for our last after dinner drink. Then it was time to get back to the Westin and get a good night sleep for our flight back home the next day.
Day 9 - Back home
We had breakfast at the Westin and loaded onto the ferry. After a windy ride back to St. Thomas, we got to the Crown Bay Marina where we were put in a couple of taxis. They took us to the airport where they dropped us off. Then we waited for a separate vehicle containing our luggage to arrive. We got our luggage, checked in and headed to the little eating area near baggage claim. We were right outside of the liquor store, but were told by the ticket agent at the Continental counter that there was a new duty free shop inside (which I already knew about) and they had cigarettes, liquor, etc.
So my husband and friend wanted to get a few cartons to bring back home but figured they would wait until we got inside. That was a mistake. When we got through customs and into the terminal, we went into the duty free shop. Well no cigarettes - just liquor and perfume. At $22 a carton vs. $76+ up here in NJ, my husband and friend were pretty upset. Unfortunately once your in, your in. With that we did buy a few bottles of Petron and Cruzan Rum. It was very convenient because you didn’t have to check it. We just took the box as a carry on.
Soon we heard announced on the plane that it was unseasonably cold in NJ and to prepare ourselves and children with jackets, etc. Welcome home!
Until next time!