Just returned from two fabulous weeks in the Virgin Islands; one week on Virgin Gorda and one on St. John. Both of these islands are exceptionally beautiful and unspoiled and boast some of the best beaches in the entire Caribbean.
On Virgin Gorda, we spent a week at the delightful Sand Castle villa, which is located on the gorgeous sugar white sand beach of Mahoe Bay. The villa is a very spacious and a casual “home away from home” as it offers everything you would want in a vacation home from its views and private pool to its large hot tub. The views from Sand Castle of the Caribbean Sea, the islands of the “Dogs” offshore and Tortola in the distance are exceptional. Another plus to the villa is it is extremely private from the neighboring villas at Mahoe Bay and set apart with some of the lushest and prettiest gardens we’ve seen at a villa. It’s a wonderful choice for couples as the bedrooms are all fairly equal and of a good size.
The beach is extremely unspoiled and there were times we were the only people on the beach (of course this was early November) but it’s a quiet beach used mainly by the villa guests staying there. You won’t find day-trippers from cruise ships and you won’t find any vendors. Instead, you will find a long beach that is perfect for walking, beautiful, soft white sand and crystal clear waters. Just beyond are two live reefs teaming with ocean life. One is within swimming distance of the shore and the other can be reached by a kayak. Kayaks can be rented if you stay at any of these villas in the Mahoe Bay area and delivered to the villa for your enjoyment.
We also were fortunate to be at Sand Castle during a full moon, which lit up the beach like a lunar landscape; so very special to be able to walk a beach at night under the moonlight. We took a couple of beach chairs and some rum punch and savored the moon and the stars. It was magical.
We arranged to have massage therapists come to Sand Castle and enjoyed the most relaxing massages while we listened to the gently lapping waves.
We enjoyed some wonderful dining on Virgin Gorda at the Rock Cafe, which has recently undergone a total refurbishment that brought it up to a whole other level. Here, we had our choice of dining outside amongst the boulders or in the indoor Piano Bar which boasted an excellent piano playing/singing musician every night. No matter where you dine on the island, if you are looking for some good entertainment the Piano Bar is the place to go. Be sure to check with them as one night a month they also bring in an excellent band from nearby Tortola and we found ourselves dancing until the wee hours of the morning. Since we were staying in early November, it was most fortunate that they had just opened the Anegada Lobster season. Shameful, but we must have had at least three fresh lobster dinners at the Rock Cafe with the lobsters weighing in at 1.5-3 pounds.
Another great place to eat with a very sophisticated “vibe” and a beachfront location is Coco Maya. Diners will enjoy the sound of the surf, exceptional small plates and a menu that caters to an Asian-Fusion blend. After dinner, we enjoyed sitting by the fire pit and enjoying after-dinner drinks.
For casual meals, a day trip to Saba Rock for lunch was especially good and it was fun to be whisked over on their dingy from Leverick Bay. For BBQ enthusiasts, Hog Heaven is a must, which is a very, very casual spot (think picnic tables and white plastic chairs). The BBQ is fabulous (to say the least), as are the views from high above overlooking the North Sound. Do be sure to at least stop there for a drink to enjoy the views.
Between all of the beach time and all of the great eating we were sad to leave but we took the ferry for another week of bliss on St. John. Island hopping via the ferry is a delightful experience, especially if you are fortunate enough to catch the direct ferries between the islands. We were able to enjoy the sun on our faces and the beautiful vistas of nearby islands as the boat skimmed across the water.
St. John never disappoints with its world renowned beaches, great snorkeling and hiking, and too many top notch restaurants to choose from. We stayed at the spectacular Cinnamon Breeze villa, which is located in the exclusive, gated Peter Bay Estates. The villa evokes a Mediterranean feel. Entrance to the villa is through stunning iron doors that lead through brick walkways to the various living and bedroom areas of the home. Windows and trellises are draped with flowering vines, bougainvillea, hibiscus and oleander. The house commands jaw-dropping, panoramic views of Cinnamon Bay Beach, Peter Bay Beach, Tortola and the island’s mountains. We truly had a really hard time mustering up any desire to go anywhere else. The furnishings and appointments are sure to please the most discerning travelers. Of special note are the many decks and places to enjoy the outdoors and the views from the pool deck, an upper level deck – perfect for watching the falling stars – the alfresco dining area overlooking the ocean and even a second alfresco area for dining and relaxing, complete with a brick waterfall. A two-minute drive down the hill and we were at the private Peter Bay Beach with nary a soul. Heaven on earth to be exact.
We enjoyed some outstanding and some “casual” meals on St. John. Top kudos would go to ZoZo’s, which is located in the old sugar mill on the grounds of the exclusive Caneel Bay Resort (Hint: tell them when you come in through the gates to the resort that you are dining at ZoZo’s and they waive any parking fees). The views from the restaurant of the ocean, the lights of St. Thomas and the lush grounds of the resort are spectacular. If you can, try to schedule a dinner around 5:30 and ask for a table looking out towards St. Thomas as you will be richly rewarded with stunning sunset views and then the lights from St. Thomas dancing across the water.
The main restaurant at the Caneel Bay Resort offers some special dining options as well. On Monday nights, they have an all-you-can-eat $80 seafood buffet (for adults) with fresh lobster and more food than you could possibly imagine. The resort’s Sunday brunch is legendary as well.
Again, for any trips/visits to Caneel Bay Resort, be sure to tell them when you reach the entrance gate that you plan on dining at one of the restaurants located on their grounds and they will waive the $20 parking fee.
La Tapa is a very casual place located right in town with open-air seating but it offers wonderful small plates and the food is top notch. Two other favorites are Asolare (views and food) and the romantic Terrace Restaurant. The best sushi on the island can be found at the Caneel Bay Beach Bar & Grill. For more casual meals, Woody’s (burgers), the Lime Inn (Wednesday night all-you -can-eat shrimp, pasta, burgers) and The Beach Bar on the beach in Cruz Bay are great spots. The Deli Grotto at Mongoose Junction is an excellent spot for freshly prepared sandwiches served on homemade bread; either to dine at the cafe or take with you for a picnic on the beach.
If you are looking for unspoiled islands with some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, both Virgin Gorda and St. John are sure to please!