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Planning our first trip to STT

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Planning our first trip to STT

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Posts: 4
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Topic starter

My family and I will be making our first trip to the the VIs and STT this summer. We will be staying at the Watergate Villas East at Bolongo Bay from June 27th to July 7th.. My husband and I and our two sons, ages 20 and 17, cannot wait to arrive. We haven't been on a "real" family vacation in about 10 years, so we all want this one to be very memorable and enjoyable. Our oldest son is in college and the other is going to be entering his Senior year of high school and getting ready to go to college, so--we do have a somewhat limited budget--enought to be able to enjoy our visit and do some things, but not so much that we can spend extravagantly every day. I have been searching the web for things to do, best restaurants, beaches, "must sees", etc. This board seems like a great place for information and I've read a lot of it. I decided to join the board so I could post my specific questions in hopes you will share your experience and advice with me. I will be happy to contribute and share once we return.

I'm especially interested in "budget friendly" restaurants and places that have good bars...we're not picky eaters so any kind of food is okay. I'd also like to know what the best drinks are on the island (frozen mixed drinks/margaritas are usually what I go with my husband likes beer as well as frozen drinks) We'd probably like to do an all-you-can-eat meal at least once. I've read about Iggy's and Mims which are very near our condo and also Fergie's but I don't remember reading exactly where it's located. We tend to like the more laid back casual atmosphere-nothing too upscale.

I've read that some people bring frozen meats, fruits and veggies with them on the airplane--I didn't realize you could do that...I'm not a frequent air traveler--it's been 22 years since my first and only flight. My husband and my youngest son have never flown.
I've also considered stocking the condo after we arrive with breakfast foods, snacks, beverages and items for a few evening meals we could cook at the condo--is outdoor grilling allowed--like on the decks or porches of the condos?

These are some of the places we plan on visiting and things we're considering doing:

Coral World and Coki Beach--can we do this in a day or would it be better to make it two days?

St. John's for the 4th of July--stay for the fireworks or watch back at STT?

Shopping in SA--best places??

Visit Mountain Top and try the famous banana daquiri


Magen's Bay --as far as beaches go, my husband and I want to visit the ones with the clearest water, whitest sand, and those that are the least crowded...but I bet you can guess where the boys will want to be!

Is Frenchtown worth a visit? If so where should we go?

We're not planning on renting a car...I've heard driving is dangerous and the rental cars are in terrible shape??? That seems to be what some of you have experienced, but I'm open for suggestions. We'll definitely need a way to get around the island.

Is bringing a laptop a good idea if we'd like to or would you definitely advise leaving it at home?

Will we have cell phone service? If so, our cell phone service is through AT&T. Should I contact them before we travel to check on rates/coverage, etc?

Oh...any advice on items to pack (or in my case what NOT to pack) that we might not think of--will we need a light jacket? I have a tendency to overpack when it comes to clothes and shoes so I'm really going to attempt NOT to do that on this trip--I only want to bring what is absolutely necessary as far as those items are concerned.

Our trip will be 10 days, so I'm hoping to have a combination of laid back days and fully planned days, so if someone could just plan our itinerary and budget---I'd be a happy girl 🙂

I know I've asked a lot of questions, but again, your advice seems worth taking so thanks for whatever you will share with me.


Posted : May 6, 2009 2:27 am
Posts: 844
Prominent Member

For 4 adults for 10 days on a budget I would definitely suggest renting a car. Getting around in taxis is going to be very expensive.

Posted : May 6, 2009 6:14 am
Posts: 763
Prominent Member

Driving is not that hard nor is it that scary. It will be your biggest cost saver. Nothing fancy just wheels are required for STT.

If you are on a budget you may want to rethink the golf. I had always heard that green fees at Mahogany Run were pretty expensive so I decide to check on line. This is what they say about fees...

"Mahogany Run Golf Course has a fluctuating rate schedule based on the tourism season. Please contact the course directly for a rate quote, or make a reservation on-line for the date and time desired within the next 60 day period."

You are going off season but I think the green fees may not equal the experience. Blue water is free and is hard to find at home.

Posted : May 6, 2009 7:07 am
Posts: 3316
Famed Member

I'm sure you'll get all kinds of responses and I have a few things to suggest but this post is about renting a car as I feel compelled to reiterate that it's one of the first things you should plan on doing! Driving is NOT dangerous here, We drive on the left in standard American vehicles but the speed limit is 35MPH and you'll usually be driving between 20-30MPH. The rental cars aren't "rent-a-wrecks' by any stretch. A couple of very minor scratches and dings is the norm for EVERY car here!

If you go to the top of this page and click on "St Thomas" and scroll down to "Transportation/Taxi rates" you'll see that the taxis charge per person and this expense adds up VERY fast. With your own vehicle you'll save a ton of money and also be able to explore the island which is a "must" for any visitor. With the exception of Hertz, the rental car agencies allow their cars to be taken on the car barge to St John so you can also explore that beautiful island and its pristine beaches.

Hope this helps for a start! Apart from the contributions from forum members there is a ton of general information on this site so read up even more so you get more of an overview. Happy planning and I know you'll enjoy a wonderful stay here. Cheers!

Posted : May 6, 2009 8:42 am
Posts: 82
Trusted Member

I second and third renting a car. Other suggestions:

1. Delly Deck (Havensight) for a great budget meal
2. Wednesday is Carnival night at Bolongo - you can just walk over and watch the show. Check to make sure they will be having it, though because it is low season.
3. Tram is often free on Wed between 5 and 7 pm
4. Go to beaches: Secret Harbour, Sapphire (we always watch the fireworks from this beach on 7/4) and Lindquist (Smith Bay Park).
5. Buritto Bay Deli (In Red Hook) for great lunch.
6. Johnny Mango (Ft. Mylner shopping center) for a fantastic meal at a great price - loads of food that tastes great.

That is all for now.

Posted : May 6, 2009 9:22 am
Posts: 9
Active Member

My favorite restaurants for a nice evening out:

Romanos-Smith Bay-on the way to Coki Beach
Excellent Italian food-probably one of the most expensive restaurants on the island, but the food and service makes it well worth it. Reservations a must 340.775.6350

Blue Moon Cafe-at Secret Harbor Resort. (I actually had my wedding reception there) Excellent Continental cuisine and view right on the beach – open air

Room with a View- at Blue Beards Castle. Beautiful view of downtown Charlotte Amalie -wonderful food and service-Continental cuisine (my favorite)

Havana Blue-at the Frenchman’s Reef. Excellent Cuban food-a little pricy, the atmosphere is spectacular, right on the ocean-open air with white candles everywhere. Try a Mohito!

Craig & Sally's- French Town,Varied menu that changes daily. Great food

My favorite restaurants for a more casual nite out:

Burrito Bay Deli-Red Hook, Excellent breakfast burittos

Molly Malones-Red Hook, Irish pub style food. Awesome grilled Reuben's (better than any sandwich around here)
Green House-down twon
Duffy’s Love shack- Red Hook,fun place for drinks! We always hit this place a couple nights and have a blast.

This and that:

Windows on the Harbour-at Frenchmans Reef, Excellent Sunday Brunch

Utter Delight-By Magens Bay-awesome ice cream and shakes. A must if your in the area-busy beach

Coki Beach. Nice beach they also have an underwater observatory.

Magens Bay not to be missed. Beautiful beach-busy on the weekends because of the locals. National Geographic named this one of the top 10 beaches in the world.

Secret Harbor Beach is also very nice....very peaceful (Blue moon cafe is there for food-I recommend dinner here)

Great website to look at for things to do is

When you arrive at the airport be sure to pick up the free magazine St Thomas This Week. It has so much information as to what is happening when. You can find it on your way out of the airport. Another way I use this book is -it lists all the ships in port each day, I see which day the least amount of ships are in and that's that day I go into town shopping.

Fun evening out:

Lattitude 18-near Red Hook—
Greenhouse-in Charlotte Amalie-Two for Tuesday-Buy one get two free
Paradise Point-by the Ships-Wed nights are good
Duffys-Red Hook-Fri/Sat/Sun are the hopping nights

St John is a nice place to visit for the day. I have also spent a day on Tortolla and Virgin Gorda-both beautiful islands, you do need a passport if you decide to go.

I usually rent a car from Budget-they are located right at the airport.


Lime Inn-Casual Excellent food- Cruz Bay-Continental Cuisine

Skinny Leggs-Coral Bay-best burgers in the Caribbean

J .J . Texas Café-Mexican food - **Bloody Marys

Posted : May 6, 2009 10:09 am
Posts: 1634
Noble Member

Couple things I've learned about going to STT.

Rent a car....period. It's just too expensive if you want to get around the Island. The driving is only bad through Charlotte Amalie. Once you get out of that area, you'll be fine and you'll be able to go everywhere. Taxi's are just too expensive.

Bring a cooler. Some days you just want to cook in. We have always done this, even if it's just for myself and husband. You have a 22 year old and a 17 year old....they can eat, they'll always want something to eat or they'll be thinking about eating. Bring some hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, bacon, etc. Freeze everything, pop it in the cooler and take it with you.

You can go to either the Food Market or Marina Market and get everything else you need. Buy by the day, not by the week or you may end up with leftovers that you won't be able to use.

Coki Beach and Coral World are connected. Coki is a great place for snorkeling. I'm not sure the 22 or 17 year old would appreciate Coral World. It's not that big and they are a little too old, I think. But...they may want to do some things at Coral World, like a introduction to Scuba or other things that they have available, so check that out.

You can take your car over to STJ on the ferry, if allowed by the car rental company you rent from. I suggest Discount and a jeep, then you get on the car barge. Take the day to visit some of the beaches and hang around Cruz Bay.

Mountaintop is beautiful and there's a little shopping there. Just the drive up is really cool. Also try to get to Paradise Point, BUT not on a cruise day. Go for the's gorgeous.
Visit Mountain Top and try the famous banana daquiri

Golfing = Mahogany Run.

Magens Bay is pretty, very pretty, but not really a snorkeling place.

Sapphire is another gorgeous beach with very good snorkeling.

Linqvuist OR Smith Bay (same beach) is beautiful. Little hard to find the entrance, but really really gorgeous.

If you REALLY need internet access, you can go to the lobby at Sapphire Beach. They have a computer you can use there, and they also have wireless service. We just used the computer. It wasn't very expensive at all.

The only time I've used a sweater when my husband insists on freezing me out with the AC. I've never worn a jacket or sweater outside and when you're going, there should be NO problem at all.

As a girl I would pack bathing suits, something to throw over the bathing suits, t shirts, shorts and flip flops, maybe one pair of water shoes or sneakers. DO NOT overpack. It's very casual in the islands. Even a cute sundress is perfect for going out at night.

Have a great time. You'll love it!

Posted : May 6, 2009 10:45 am
Posts: 3316
Famed Member

Connie - Lindqvist (Smith Bay Park) isn't at all difficult to find now. The land immediately past what used to be the entrance to it has been totally cleared, there's a big sign, a brand new road entrance and a $2 entry fee. All sorts of things changing here and by the time you get back there will probably be lots more! Cheers!

Posted : May 6, 2009 10:55 am
Posts: 1634
Noble Member

Hey STT...I saw the new entrance to Smith, which is definetly easier, but if you don't know where it is you could pass it very easily.

Hope I get back soon.

Posted : May 6, 2009 12:43 pm
Posts: 3316
Famed Member

Think you were here when the temporary makeshift sign was in place. That's all changed!

Posted : May 6, 2009 3:19 pm
Posts: 4
Active Member
Topic starter

Thanks for all who have responded to my questions/concerns. I've gotten lots of wonderful advice and information. I will read this board as often as I have a chance. I'm also going to read through the FAQs again.

PS...I'm all for the flip flops too...:-)

Posted : May 6, 2009 8:06 pm
Posts: 264
Reputable Member

Purchase a Rotary Club Coupon book for meals at a variety of locations. You will end up saving money as well as supporting a worthy scholarship program.

Posted : May 6, 2009 10:41 pm
Posts: 7
Active Member

Hello rm:

I visited St T for the first time last year, and quickly returned again this year. You will really enjoy yourself in St T, especially with 10 days there. You'll have plenty of time to do all you want and to relax as well. Where you are staying on the East End of the island is very beautiful.

Again, I recommend reserving a rental car which you can pick up right at the airport. Taxis charge per person, not per party so fares will add up tremendously over a 10 day period. With a car you can come and go as you like which is more convenient. We rented a car from Budget the first year and did get a bad car....with bald tires, and bad brakes being the worst. This year we rented from Avis and were given a nearly new Altima. If you can afford to rent a Jeep, it sits up higher from the road which will be better for getting around on St John and a few East End roads which have deep pot holes. Also when you back onto the car barge for St. John you won't scrape the underside of the car. We had that problem both times.

We brought a soft sided cooler on wheels for our food that looks like typical luggage with handle. We purchased it at Costco several years ago. It was just the right size to bring frozen meats, lunch meats, juice cans, condiments, butter, etc. This way, you get to eat exactly what you want. You can purchase your sodas, alcohol, bread, eggs, milk, etc at the local food stores. We did not find very fresh fruits and veggies....just to warn you. If you have room, bring some. Also be prepared for sticker shock in the grocery stores. Over the course of 10 days, your eating out budget will go quickly with the high cost of food in St T. When you are out for the day....especially at the beaches.... it's wonderful to have your cooler full of sandwiches, cool drinks and snacks. You will appreciate having more money to spend for drinks and dinner out in the evening. It isn't necessary to freeze cool packs for your plane trip because your food will stay frozen in the cooler, but you will want to bring them so you can keep your lunch cool for your day trips. Check with your condo about what they offer for cooking in the kitchen. We didn't need to bring spices for example. I hope this info helps you out.

You received some good suggestions for eating out. Your boys might enjoy casual Duffy's Love Shack in Red Hook. ...great hamburgers. Cuzzins in Charlotte Amalie has great food with large portions....don't miss it. I understand Toad and Tart...not near the water but on the way to the larger K-Mart shopping center....has great food...we'll get try it next time. We enjoyed watching the cruise ships leave the harbour while we had dinner at The Turtle at Yatch Haven Grande. We liked Off The Hook for seafood which is on the harbour in Red Hook. The boys can walk around the docks and look at all the boats.

Good beaches were already mentioned. If your sons love the water, then they will probably have the most fun on beach days. You have plenty of time to try out several. A word of caution about Coki Beach which is adjacent. to Coral World. We didn't appreciate Coki when we were there. Yes, the water is pretty as it is at most beaches. Unless things have changed for the better, this is what we didn't appreciate. Some of the waiters on the beach smoke dope openly and play loud reggae music. The beach sand was littered with butts and beer caps, and trash cans were overflowing. It appears that no one maintains this beach. The restrooms were disgusting and unusable. We asked if we could use the restrooms at Coral World.....which we did for a fee. After you leave Megan's Bay beach, be sure to stop at the VI's Dairy Bay...forgot the name, it might be Udder can't miss it. DELICIOUS ice cream and shakes.

Definitely take the car barge over to St John for the day. We did this twice because there is so much to see. You can beach hop to several beaches, or spend the day at one. We loved Cinnamon, Trunk (underwater snorkel trail), Hawks nest. If your boys are adventurous, I understand that the hike to Salt Pond Bay is alot of fun, as is Leicester Bay. Your day there will be great snorkeling days. We ate at Skinny Legs in Coral Bay which had wonderful hamburgers and sandwiches and great casual atmosphere. Make sure you know when the last car barges depart for St. Thomas so you don't get stranded.

Shopping or even just looking in downtown Charlotte Amalie is a full day. Check the cruise ship schedule and plan your day for when there aren't too many cruise ships in the harbour. You'll find a lot of old world charm in the buildings, so be sure to walk around the area. You can scout out a fun place to have dinner there that day. Most places post their menus with prices. Again, Cuzzins which we really liked is on Back Street (I think). You will pick up maps and magazines at the airport on your way to pick up the rental car. You'll find loads of info in those.

Yes, Mountain Top has a great view, but make sure you go on a clear day or all you'll see is fog. The banana daiquiris are delicious. Aside from the view and the bar, you will find loads of shopping there. Nothing that you didn't see in Charlotte Amalie or Havensight though. The ride there and back is lovely, but might bore your boys....don't tell them.

Enjoy your vacation with your sons. It will be a trip that you'll all remember for a long time.

Posted : May 7, 2009 5:14 pm
Posts: 2
New Member

If you were not from Texas, I would charge you $3,000.00 to answer all your questions. But, we are from San Ant./ New Braunfels. Actually I do not think I can answer all your questions....I suggest you speak with the concierge at your hotel and tell them exactly what you and your family would like to accomplish on your visit. I am sure they can map it all out for you....and keep in mind you may not have enough time to do it pick out the things that are most important to you and your family, and include those on your visit. My wife and I travel extensively...we were in Whistler BC a couple of years ago and some friends suggested we take the ferry over to Vancouver Island for a weekend. So we prob...we will rent a Harley and ride the island...see the Fortunately we met a gent on the ferry that was an executive with the Oak Bay Marine Group. They own the ferry and the entire marine operation in Campbell River and Nassau. We explained what we wanted to do"over the weekend"..I was looking at a map of Victoria Island...he just laughed and then explained , no way no how could we see it all in three days. He helped us pick the right places and plan the time accordingly.
I travel every week...believe me, your hotel will steer you in the right direction. Hope you and your family have a great vacation!

Posted : May 7, 2009 9:26 pm
Posts: 407
Reputable Member


The original poster with all the questions will be staying at Watergate Villas, a condominium complex. No hotel. No concierge.

And guess what! This travel board was created to do exactly what he/she is seeking: answer questions about travel plans. And luckily, all those questions are being answered for free, as they are for everyone who asks here, no matter from where they hail. No need for a concierge at all.

Welcome to the message board, Poptop. You've only posted twice. I invite you to stick around and you'll find just how friendly, helpful and knowledgeable the folks here are. And if you have any questions about upcoming travel to the Virgin Islands, don't hesitate to ask.

Posted : May 7, 2009 11:25 pm
Posts: 2023
Noble Member

STVacation: Off the Hook is no more.

Poptop: If you are from New Branfels, I'll bet you know how to do the chicken dance, huh??:D

Posted : May 8, 2009 4:24 pm
Posts: 274
Reputable Member

You should absolutely rent a car Because if you dont you wont experience the WHOLE island and there is just so much to see!
Also you can have a plan to do all sorts of things but the minute you get there you switch over to Island Time and all those things you planned on doing kinda seem to wash out the door;) So take a list and just play it day by day.

Duffy's Luv Shack is fun on a Friday night, I think the Boys would like it.
Do an excursion over to the BVI's, New Horizon II states you only need Birth Certificates
Go to St. John For the day
Drive over to the West End (Sooo Pretty)
Print out a cruise Ship Schedule and avoid Coki Beach on a cruise ship day

You will be hooked and i am sure we will be hearing about your return trip in no time after you get back
Have a great time
Safe travels

Posted : May 9, 2009 11:59 am
Posts: 50
Trusted Member

When did Off the Hook close? What's going on with that space now? Total bummer.................
I hate this economy!!!

Posted : May 9, 2009 5:09 pm
Posts: 50
Trusted Member

Get a price for a car rental from Dependable and Discount Car Rental companies. There off property from the airport but they will pick you up and drop you off and they're not far at all. Dependable is right outside the entrance.t I rented from Avis for years and finally tried Dependable last year and saved quite a bit and it was worth a "tiny" bit of inconvenience, just plan a little extra time heading back to the airport because they'll come out and inspect the car before they drive you to the airport. Also, they will let their cars go to STJ but Discount prohibits their cars from riding the car barge, only jeeps and that will run you somewhere over $500 - $550 for your 10 day trip. I had a Camry and rode the barge just take it slow going up and down the ramps. A car vs a jeep is approximately a $200.00 savings. Also, the driveways into many of the places we frequent (the Food Market for instance) at the east end are a little steep so just plan on taking your time and you'll be fine. Have fun......

Posted : May 9, 2009 5:25 pm
Posts: 50
Trusted Member

I didn't see a reply to your cell phone question. When we started going regularly we had Nextel and had to rent from Cingular which cost a fortune because my husband is on the phone for 2 hours every morning with our business. We quickly changed to AT&T and they work fine in the USVI but I've heard that they will not in the BVI's should you decide to take a day trip so heads up on that.

Posted : May 9, 2009 5:36 pm
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