by: Heidi Bloomer
During the month of April we had the opportunity to spend quality family time in St Thomas, USVI, for a long weekend with my parents and my brother and his wife/kids. This was a welcome break from the long stretch of never-ending Midwest winter this year. A great time had by all and super relaxing. Another place added to the “would definitely return and recommend,” list!
Ultimate Chef Services of the USVI was amazing. They come directly to your Villa and cook custom menus with authentic fresh flavors of the Caribbean. This is a perfect option for a group. We also had some yummy beach bar food and treated ourselves to some delicious meals at both the Caribbean Fish Market and one of the most famous beach bars in the islands -- Iggies Beach Bar.
We chartered a boat to accommodate four adults and three kids with Local Legends. It likely could have fit two to three more people on it, if needed. Apply sunscreen liberally as the boat offers minimal shade. Captain Kyle was an excellent host and driver. We cruised around St. Thomas and St. John’s, stopped three times to snorkel in crystal clear waters and made it to Lime Out - a famous floating taco spot on the water! Local Legends also does charters to the British VI, but we opted out due to short stay and knowing it would have added a layer of complexity due to current COVID-19 protocols. The highlight was definitely visiting Lime Out for lunch! Documented as a “Top 100 Things To Do In The World,” by Time Magazine - it is a taco floating bar in Coral Harbor, St. John, USVI. The drinks were tasty as well! Captain Kyle got us there safely from St. Thomas. We devoured the tacos so quickly there was no time for photographs. You’ll have to visit yourself to see (and taste) their deliciousness!
We visited Coki Beach (local, beach bar, beach side food & beverage service with music), Magen’s Bay (big, empty in the morning, but cars lined up to enter by noon, limited food service, quieter/family friendly), and Secret Harbor (small beach, sort of rocky so wear water shoes, with a nice restaurant (Sunsets) on site, and a dive center with a snack bar). We navigated each with ease and felt safe and comfortable with each of them. During our stay, the weather was perfect - 82 and sunny every day – with random five to ten-minute showers (mostly at night).
There are a plethora of Airbnb options scattered throughout the island. We choose to stay in the Red Hook area. Villa Mirino was a five-bed, four-bath house that easily slept ten people, plus could probably accommodate two to four more (if kids), as well as a pack-n-play and/or a crib. The lanai was huge, and the views were stunning. The grill and pool area were awesome! When traveling with multiple generations and staying for a shorter time, it really makes a difference to have access to a private pool and amenities. Nap attacks happen quickly in the Caribbean and you want to crash somewhere easy and breezy.
Safety, COVID And Other Logistics
COVID: USVI currently requires a test up to five days prior to your flight for unvaccinated travelers. If fully vaccinated, no testing is needed. Simply fill out a travel application form a few days before traveling and you will get a QR code to use. When you land in the USVI, you will get a temp check at the airport, show the QR code scan you received, and you’ll be on your way. To travel back to the mainland, no testing is needed. However, the check-in process at STT airport is generally horrible and inefficient. I recommend arriving a minimum of two to three hours before your scheduled flight.
Also in regards to flights, I noticed that flights were frequently late going to and from the island from all points of origin. If you have connecting flights to make I would suggest building in a decent layover time (one-and-a-half to two hours) to ensure you don’t have any issue with making layovers.
In April, masks were still mandatory at the STT airport, but were not mandatory at anywhere else on the island. When we returned from our trip we got to experience being in the Atlanta airport as the federal mask mandate in airports was officially lifted. What a site to watch people slowly take off masks as the “mask required” signs were being taken down. Another moment in history for the books.
Car Rental: Amalie Car rental was amazing. Easy to book online via email. What I liked the most was their personal service. Someone met us right outside baggage claim and got us all set up into the car. It was the most efficient activity at the airport and only took about 15 minutes max. Upon return, they met us on the curb of the airport check-in desks and we were off in 30 seconds! While one might think the island would be walkable, it’s not. Getting around was definitely easier in a car. Taxis are not as popular, there is no Uber, and depending on where you stay -- walking is a maybe. Know before you go: Roads in USVI are not marked well, especially in residential areas and you drive on the left side of the road. Perfect for the adventurous soul!