This has been a crazy summer. Our primary house sold right outside of Nashville, TN and then we sold our Condo in North Carolina. Both properties sold within the first two days of being listed! We then began our 8 unplanned weeks of living in hotels. (yes I said hotels). One of which was in the Virgin Islands.
I’m not going to complain because it could have been so much worse. Seriously, 10 days in the Virgin Islands made everything better. We knew we were going to be out of a house for a few weeks so we decided to plan a trip during that time. After all, we were staying in hotels regardless.
Hotel and Lodging in the Virgin Islands
First, we researched all we could about the Virgin Islands. Next, we figured out where we wanted to stay. We are huge Marriott customers so we immediately started looking for Marriott properties in the US Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands are not very big and don’t have an enormous amount of places to stay in comparison to a city in the US. The choice for us was easy we choose the Frenchman’s Reef Resort by Marriott. We read tons of reviews on this property and even though the average rating was about a 3.5 we still decided to take a chance.
Frenchman’s Reef Resort was the hotel we choose because of the beautiful views, the easy access to the beach and a large number of activities you could participate in directly from the hotel. All of these things exceeded our expectations.
I want to be completely realistic and transparent. We were not overly impressed with the rooms and the food at the resort. This resort was probably absolutely beautiful when it was first built however as many avid beach travelers know, sand and salt water take a toll on even the nicest properties. Some of the communal areas, including the restaurants and outdoor spaces, are in need of a little bit of updating. The rooms could also use a little bit of some refreshing as well. But that being said the resort offers so many wonderful views and activities we weren’t too concerned about it. We spent most of our time away from the hotel enjoying the islands
Things to Do in The Virgin Islands
Out of all the US Virgin Islands, we choose to stay in St. Thomas because there were tons of things for young children and teenagers to do. The Frenchman’s Reef Resort has an adventure center located directly in the lobby of the hotel. This is the place you can book all of your activities and many of them leave directly from the dock at the hotel. Not only were the activities tons of fun but they were super convenient. Are you ready to hear the breakdown of each activity?
Night kayaking is exactly as it sounds. You go out into the ocean at night in a kayak and paddle around. However, the night kayak has two unique features. First, it has a clear bottom for easy viewing of the ocean below. Second, it has lights surrounding the base of the kayak that illuminated the ocean at night. This allows kayakers to see a unique view of the ocean and all the sea creatures that come out at night. We were really excited for this one of a kind kayaking experience.
We arrived and checked into our hotel in the afternoon. Just in time to schedule a night kayaking adventure for that evening. We enjoyed the beach for a few hours and then went to the dock at the back of the hotel around 7pm. Being the first group of the night we had a smaller group which was really nice. The guides encourage the group to stay fairly close together. It could possibly be a bit overwhelming if there were a lot of other people in the group.
We were given simple instructions as well as life vests before we each boarded our kayaks. The two teen boys shared one, my husband went solo and I had my 6-year-old with me. The guides were, patient, fun and very passionate. The guides also worked very hard to make sure we saw sea life and in fact spent extra time providing us with the best experience.
During the kayaking experience, we saw fish, sea turtles and a ton of stingrays. We enjoyed a spectacular waterfall and music display from a mansion that can be seen from the water. Historic ruins were also in view and we were captivated by the breathtaking view of the ocean and city view of St. Thomas at night.
Tour of St.Thomas
The first day on St. Thomas we decided to schedule a tour of the island. This tour is in a closed van which is air conditioned but was still extremely hot. You may want to keep in mind if you are looking for a private tour, this is not one. You may have several others join you in the taxi so make sure you ask beforehand if that is an issue. The taxi driver was extremely nice and informative. My biggest complaint would be that I much rather have been in an open vehicle so that we could really experience the environment around us as we drove.
During the tour, we stopped for several scenic views that overlooked the islands. We also went to the Botanical Gardens which was really pretty but again it was very hot. Our last stop was to a huge gift shop where the kids enjoyed shopping. My youngest son enjoyed petting a cat. My husband and I enjoyed the world famous Banana daiquiris. All in all, we enjoyed the tour but if you have a short amount of time on the islands this would be the one thing I would suggest skipping.
Tour of St. Johns
[clickToTweet tweet=”I would absolutely recommend the tour of St. John’s as one of the top adventures to schedule.” quote=”I would absolutely recommend the tour of St. John’s as one of the top adventures to schedule while visiting the islands.”]I would absolutely recommend the tour of St. John’s as one of the top adventures to schedule while visiting the islands. In fact, it was so fun we contemplated going back on our own and renting a jeep to explore the island.
After a short wait on the dock located right outside of the Marriot Frenchman’s Resort, we all loaded a ferry for a beautiful and very enjoyable ride to St. John’s. Next groups of approximately 20 travelers were assigned to open sided vehicles. I was really excited to see that we would not be traveling in closed vans. During this tour, we had several stops, one of the most memorable ones was the Rum Plantation Ruins.
The last stop was Trunk Bay, the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen in my life. I really enjoyed not only the scenery but the facilities. This beach has easy access to showers, bathrooms, a snack/lunch area, a small store and snorkeling rentals. The beach is very natural and has a snorkeling trail that was really fun to explore.
After about an hour and a half on the beach, we returned to our tour vehicles and returned to town. We had about an hour to explore the small shops and restaurants.
We loved St. Johns and it’s less commercial feel so much that we would probably book a trip just to stay on that islands. It is really worth experiencing, so don’t miss out on that tour.
Private Sailboat and Snorkel with Turtles
If you want to snorkel with sea turtles you have two options:
1: You can take the “cat” which is a 54′ catamaran. This boat holds quite a few people and is a great cost if you are traveling with large groups. Keep in mind there most likely will be other groups on the cat with you.
2: You can book a private sailboat called The Island Girl which is for small groups. (I believe 6 is the limit however you can check when booking to make sure.)
We opted for the private sailboat. Both boats board at the same time and from the same dock. They also take visitors to the same location. The biggest difference is that to get to the Island Girl your small group has to ride an inflatable dingy. This was actually quite fun. Then you have to climb a ladder to get onto the boat. Keep all this in mind if you have certain physical limitations. Climbing up and down the latter was a little challenging for me and I am in pretty good shape. My 6-year-old was a little nervous but did just fine with help.
After boarding the awesome captain offered us drinks and we enjoyed those on the way out to the snorkeling area. Once we arrived he provided us with snorkeling gear and flotation devices. The water is so salty, I actually was able to snorkel without a float for nearly an hour. If you want to try this just make sure you lay on your belly as much as possible with your head in the water (and use a snorkel too)! The water is extremely deep so make sure if you aren’t a strong swimmer, to wear a float or grab a noodle.
During our time snorkeling, we had many close encounters with huge sea turtles. It was a once in a lifetime experience that none of us will ever forget. After snorkeling with the turtles we boarded the sailboat and headed back. On the way back we ate snacks provided by the captain!
Coral World and Swim with Sea Lion
The reviews for Coral World may leave a bad taste in your mouth. I’ve seen reviews that even call it a “3rd world Sea World”. You can only imagine what I was expecting! But to my surprise I was quite pleased with our trip to Coral World.
Coral World is a small marine park located on Coki Beach. It has a place to eat, several exhibits and a few hands-on experiences. You may pet docile sea life, you can feed tropical birds and you can pay for other experiences like the Sea Lion Swim. View all other experiences here.
One of the most exciting and invigorating experiences of my life would have to be swimming with the Sea Lion. The three kids, my husband and I all hopped in the tank and spent nearly 20 minutes with this gigantic and incredibly smart creature.
The instructors always put safety first and fun second. We felt safe at all times and were highly entertained and amazed by the trainer and the Sea Lion!
After visiting all of the exhibits at Coral World we walked down to Coki beach. The walk is directly located to the left of the front entrance and literally takes seconds to get to the beach. Out of all the beaches, we went to Coki Beach had the best snorkeling! You can literally stand in the water and see thousands of fish surrounding you. Now, don’t be surprised if someone tries to sell you a dog biscuit. That is the trick that the locals use to get the fish to come to the beach. Even small children who can’t go under water yet can enjoy the fish. They are literally everywhere.
Coki Beach also has snorkel rentals, local cuisine, chair and umbrella rentals and much more! All things that make this beach a must!
Places to Eat in The Virgin Islands
Greengos- is located directly in the downtown shopping district on the second row of the main strip. It’s absolutely delicious Mexican food. Attire is casual.
The Greenhouse– located directly on the main strip The Greenhouse is a bar/eatery. The wait is substantially long and the food was ok. Attire is casual.
Sunset Grille– takes about 30 minutes to get to from the downtown area of St.Thomas. It’s located at another resort. The food is more high-end and was very good! The setting is really nice as you overlook the beach. Attire is resort casual.
Oceana– is a high-end restaurant located off the beaten bath in downtown. It’s absolutely delicious and the view was incredible. We took three kids with us but keep in mind this is higher end and high priced. Mostly couples with dates were dining. Although we did not feel uncomfortable I wouldn’t suggest bringing kids under 6 to this restaurant. (no kids menu available). If you are looking for a romantic place for a date, Oceana is the place to go! Attire is resort casual to dressy. ( I wouldn’t recommend tourist t-shirts or sleeveless shirts for men)
When I say we had the vacation of a lifetime I truly mean that. Our time there was spent enjoying family, nature, great food, and adventures. There is no doubt that we will visit the US Virgin Islands again and to be honest I think I’d move there in a heartbeat. Have you ever been to the Virgin Islands? What are some of your favorite places to stay, things to eat and adventures???