Tag: Caribbean

British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands

A Destination Guide for Your Luxury Caribbean Vacation
MARIA DIEGO

The British Virgin Islands, made up of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, and Scrub Island, along with many other smaller islands is one of the best destinations in the Caribbean for luxury travel. I was invited on a FAM trip (the travel industry’s term for familiarization trip) hosted by the British Virgin Islands Tourism Board, where we got to see the top luxury hotels, resorts, private islands, and villas and many different islands. They also introduced us to many different experiences that are possible on the British Virgin Islands, including chartering private yachts, sail boats, and catamarans, renting Moke cars to ride around the islands, exploring The Baths National Park, and all the other fun you can have on the BVI. If you love beautiful beaches, perfect weather, luxury hotels and villas at a great price point, and the best rum cocktails in the world, then you will love the British Virgin Islands!

Perfect For: Families | Destination Weddings | Luxury Honeymoon | Couples Groups | Multi-Generational Families | Scuba Divers | Snorkelers | Adventure Seekers

Getting to the BVI

Getting to the British Virgin Islands

Getting to BVI isn’t easy, which is why it is perhaps such a popular spot for the jet setters who want a more exclusive experience and privacy. For ease of flights, it’s sometimes better to fly into STT (St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands) because it is a direct flight from many major US cities. From St. Thomas, you can take a boat over to British Virgin Islands, even though you will need to stop by boat to clear customs.

Otherwise, you can fly into the British Virgin Island’s main airport in Tortola, the Terrence B. Lettsome airport (EIS), which you will need to connect through Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, or Antigua. You have additional smaller airports at Virgin Gorda (VIJ) and Anegada (NGD), and other smaller landing sites for private aviation. When you utilize Diego Travel’s trip planning service, we handle all of the logistics of travel to the US Virgin Island and British Virgin Islands so you don’t have to worry about any of it.

BVI
  • 18.4223,-64.6192

    Tortola

  • 18.4461,-64.4341

    Virgin Gorda

The Baths Virgin Gorda

The British Virgin Islands Luxury Travel Guide

What to do in the BVI

  • The Baths National Park

    The most visited site in the British Virgin Islands is 7-acres of coastline called The Baths National Park, an iconic location of large boulders and white sand located at Devil’s Bay on Virgin Gorda. Instagram has catapulted its popularity, with influencers getting their obligatory shot between or on these impressive boulders. You can crouch down through narrow passage ways to snorkel or scuba dive your way around them from the water. If you’re visiting the BVI, you cannot miss The Baths.

  • Yacht Charter in the BVI

  • Yacht & Catamaran Charters

    As I discussed in my guide to the US Virgin Islands, the Caribbean just might be the Yacht Charter Capital of the World, and you will find many luxury boats, yachts and catamarans to rent in the region. The problem is, where can you find one of these that fit your budget?

    I’ll let you in on a secret. The yacht charter with crew experience is more affordable than you think, especially when traveling with a group of family or friends. I have worked with one of the boating industry’s top yacht brokers for over a decade, and she has 30+ years in the industry. Together, at no additional cost to the client, we are able to pair Diego Travel clients to the best boat and crew at your budget.

    Whether you opt for a live-on boat charter experience, or opt for a day charter to experience the ocean from your hotel or private villa, we have the best contacts to ensure you’re getting the most value for your budget while boating around Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, or Jost Van Dyke.

  • Diving

    My husband and I started out in the travel industry operating a marina with boat charters and ground transfers, and many people are surprised to know that I have never scuba dived before because I feel like I learned everything there is to know about it. A health condition prevents me from scuba diving, so I stick to snorkeling in shallow reef area. Despite my inability to scuba dive, I can tell you that the British Virgin Islands is perfect for both scuba diving and snorkeling, especially at islands like Anegada, the only flat coral island in the BVI. The island is surrounded by a series of reef mazes and tunnels and are full of interesting types of sea life that you won’t find any many other places. In Virgin Gorda, don’t miss visits to Savannah Bay, Pond Bay, Devil’s Bay (where The Baths are located), Mahoe Bay and Spring Bay.

  • BVI Catamaran Charter

  • BVI Scuba

  • Sailing

    The BVI has consistent trade winds that makes it ideal for constant sailing, whether you are a novice or experienced sailor. Similar to the boat charters, sailing deserves its own category in things to do in the British Virgin Islands because you can take sailing classes on a small sail boat or even a Hobie cat or wind surf. When we visited Moskito Island, where Richard Branson owns an estate and is right next to Necker Island, a skipper took us out on a Hobie cat, so we could just sit back and relax while she transferred us on the water to the private beach club of Moskito Island. It was one of the most adventurous, wet and funny moments of our trip!

  • Shopping

    Along with luxury accommodations usually comes luxury shops that pop up that caters for the high-end clientele that frequents these islands. My first stop to the British Virgin Islands was at Oil Nut Bay, and we popped into Luna Boutique BVI at the marina next to Nova Restaurant. A chic boutique that carries unique and well-known brands and a great range of items from swimsuits and coverups to straw bags and candles. Even if you’re not staying on Oil Nut Bay, I highly recommend a visit to the restaurant and the few shops around it here. At Rosewood Little Dix Bay, you can also visit their boutique that is also full of beautiful clothes and souvenirs to take home. And while we didn’t have a lot of time to shop, a departing gift from our lovely hostess from the Tourism Board was a set of spices and teas, all local products that are typical products you can buy on your trip to the British Virgin Islands (and of course, don’t forget to bring home some alcohol, distilled there on the islands).

  • BVI Drinks

  • Luna Boutique BVI

  • Drinking

    I would be remiss to skip the importance of drinking on the British Virgin Islands – cocktails and the on-island distilleries are a huge part of BVI island life, and will definitely make your vacation more fun and unforgettable (or forgettable, depending on how much is consumed). I’ll discuss bars and places to visit for the best cocktails in the BVI under restaurants.

Oil nut bay

Where to Stay in The British Virgin Islands

One of the best destinations in the Caribbean for luxury private villas and homes is the British Virgin Islands. The Rosewood Little Dix Bay Resort on Virgin Gorda is probably the best hotel in the British Virgin Islands, and underwent a massive renovation in 2019, only to reopen just at the start of the pandemic.

Rosewood Little Dix Bay

Rosewood Little Dix Bay

The Rosewood Little Dix Bay is perfect for honeymooners, anniversary trips, and even great for families. The hotel is located on a wide crescent bay with a very long beach for walking that is completely private for the resort. This makes it ideal if you want privacy and a beautiful sandy beach. Little Dix Bay has a long history and has had return visitors for years, and when I asked the general manager what he loved most about the resort, he said that the returning guests who celebrate their honeymoon and then their 25th wedding anniversary 25 years later is one of the things that makes the property so special. The main pool is nothing to write home about, but is a nice distance from the main restaurant and beach that it is quiet. There is another pool at the spa that overlooks the open ocean on the opposite side of the property, and I almost preferred this pool to the other. One thing that is worthy of writing home about is the tennis courts, pickle ball courts, and huge gym with fitness equipment. For guests who want to stay active and play sports on property, there are definitely many options. Finally, another advantage of staying at Little Dix Bay is its proximity to The Baths National Park in Virgin Gorda.

Book with Diego Travel to Receive the Following Rosewood Elite Amenities:

  • Exclusive Rosewood Elite Offers
  • Complimentary one category upgrade upon arrival, based on availability
  • Daily Full American breakfast for up to two people per bedroom
  • USD125 food and beverage credit
  • Welcome note and amenity
  • Priority Upgrade if Available
  • Priority Early Check-In/Late Check-Out
  • VIP Status
  • Diego Travel Welcome Box when Using the Travel Planning ServiceTravel Planning Service

Diego Travel Recommends Rosewood Little Dix Bay For: Honeymooners | Destination Weddings | Couples Groups | Multi- Generational Families | Anniversary Trips | Romantic Getaways | Incentive Trips

Moskito Island

Moskito Island

Moskito Island was perhaps my favorite destination in British Virgin Islands and is an exclusive experience that not many people will ever get to experience. There are only a handful of homes on the entire island, owned by Richard Branson and his billionaire friends. Fortunately, you too can have this experience, and rent out one of the homes that is between 7 and 11 bedrooms in each estate. The island itself has its own communal beach club, beachside pool and outdoor living area, tennis courts, gym, and water sports center, all for your own private use. Each estate has its own team of friendly staff that make the experience of staying on Moskito Island so exceptional.

I was lucky enough to stay at the Branson Estate and slept in the bedroom next to Richard Branson’s at the Headland House, which is a perfect setup for a family with children or teens. The home has its own kitchen and communal areas, but then there are two other stand alone buildings that make the Branson Estate ideal for multiple families traveling together, or even 11 couples who want to gather at night for gourmet meals and karaoke at night. That evening, we kicked it off with a private rum tasting with rum expert at Branson team member, Goran. This rum tasting comes included with your stay when you book with Diego Travel.

Later, we enjoyed one of the best meals of my life, followed by a night of karaoke that lasted well into the night, joined by fun staff who made the entire experience. The next day, we were whisked to the beach for a captained experience on a Hobie cat, where they took us around the island and dropped us off at the communal beach club, where we enjoyed cocktails and a beautiful beachside meal. It was heaven, and I still pinch myself that I got to have this experience.

The other estates are The Oasis, where Paris Hilton recently honeymooned, and modeled after a cruise ship, which sleeps 18 with 6 family rooms close together and 3 separated villas for invited staff or friends. The Point is the closest to the beach and has 8 rooms that are completely separated bungalows, so likely not ideal for young kids but a great experience for couples. The Point sleeps 22 people.

Summer 2022 will see the opening of The Village to the Moskito Island rental program, which will be the premiere party house with a water slide, full light display and a DJ booth that comes up from the floor. There are 8 rooms total, with 7 separated pods. Again, this estate is ideal for the ultimate party and for the huge celebration you won’t be able to have anywhere else. So how much does it cost to stay on Moskito Island? Well, considering all food and house drinks are included, as well as full staff that provides housekeeping, entertainment, gourmet meals, and even around the clock babysitting for your little ones, the nightly rate in low season is around $22,000 plus taxes and fees. Whether you rent out each estate for just you and your plus one, or a large group of friends, the nightly rate remains the same.

The most unique element of Moskito Island are the experiences that they can create to really wow their guests, which is why the price is completely accessible when considering what you get. They create events like family style Olympic Games, bonfires, BBQ and s’mores, will have pizza night at the beach house, and create romantic dinner setups for parents to enjoy time on their own, while they set up a kids table for a kid-friendly dinner with babysitters down at The Cove.

Doesn’t it sound like paradise? It is. And when you book your stay with Diego Travel, I work with the island manager directly to make sure every detail is accounted for and can pair you with the estate that matches your needs.

Oil Nut Bay

Oil Nut Bay

Oil Nut Bay is another hybrid private island experience set up with resort amenities, with a beautiful beach club with private villas, both beachfront and perched up on the hills overlooking the bay. You need a golf cart to get around this expansive island, and homes vary in both size and decor. You can also visit as a couple only, which would be ideal for a honeymoon, with a base suite starting at just $600/night in low season. Homes are new and well-designed, with most offering private pools and full kitchens.

Whale peak season is March and April, when I highly recommend renting a villa on Whale Point; in fact, one of my favorite villas is called Whale Point and is a brand new 2-bedroom villa with pool and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. In low season, rates start at $1700/night+ + which makes it very affordable to go with another couple.

My favorite large home that would be perfect for a group of adults or traveling with teenagers, is Maranti, a 5-bedroom villa with separated en-suite rooms. All homes can provide provisions and a chef is available to prepare dinner each night, or you can enjoy dinner at the restaurant down at the pool and beach club.

They are currently building a spa, and currently have a gym and kids club, so Oil Nut Bay is one of my top picks for multi-generational trips that want privacy, quiet, and a beautiful setting for extended stays. It’s not uncommon for guests to rent these homes for a month-long stay, and with rates being so accessible, it might be worthwhile to consider an extended vacation.

BVI Villas

Private Villas

While in the British Virgin Islands, I met the “Queen of BVI” and owner/ founder of a destination management company that covers all of the islands. After working 30+ years in the hospitality industry, from her role as general manager at Rosewood Little Dix Bay to president of the tourism board, she now runs her own company and works exclusively with travel advisors. I was lucky enough to spend half a day with her, where she gave us tours of some of her favorite private villas at a range of prices. Villas ran from beachfront from $6,000/week for a 4-Bedroom home to upwards of $40,000/week. What is great about working with this person is that she literally knows every single villa and boat rental on the islands, and is able to match my clients to the perfect vacation rental and works with me to build an itinerary that is perfect for your needs. Need a babysitter? She has the contact. Want an in-house private chef and your kitchen fully stocked before arrival? We have you covered.

Two of my favorite villas that we toured and had lunch and dinner at were Baraka Point and Aquamare Villas. Both are beachfront and excellent options for families. Baraka Point is up on a cliff and has beach access that is just a couple minutes walk to get there. Both of these villas are very close to Sugar Cane restaurant, which I will cover in the next section.

Guana Island is 850 acres of private island with seven beaches, mountains, gardens and hiking and private villas that offer first-class luxury service as well. Guana Island is completely private, with gorgeous white sand beaches and an ideal destination when you want to get away from it all. At any of the above villas, when you book your BVI vacation with Diego Travel, we will make sure you are paired with the perfect match to fit your needs.

Moskito Island Dinning

Where to eat in the British Virgin Islands?

Some British Virgin Islands favorites, and very unique to the BVI dining options:

  • Nova on Oil Nut Bay – Built on a dock that extends out over the ocean, Nova is the perfect spot to spend a leisurely afternoon enjoying fresh sushi or local fish and sipping on fancy cocktails from their extensive and modern bar. It’s fun to people watch and check out the yachts at this marina restaurant.

    CocoMaya Restaurant – Just minutes from the iconic Baths in Virgin Gorda, Cocomaya is an iconic beach club and bar that is a must-see when visiting the British Virgin Islands. Plan to reserve a day bed and spend at least a few hours here, whether for lunch or into the night for dinner.

  • Nova on Oil Nut Bay

  • Sugarcane Restaurant – Sugarcane is located in Nail Bay on Virgin Gorda, walkable to Baraka Point and very close to Aquamare Villas. This fun spot perched up on a hill overlooking the water has delicious food, drinks and even a sports club that includes pool and tennis club. When you’re a guest a Baraka Point, you even get free access to their sport club and gym.

    Reef House at Little Dix Bay – You can make dining reservations here even if you’re not a guest at Rosewood Little Dix Bay. This beachfront restaurant is worth a stop, whether you’re visiting the islands by land or by private yacht. Reserve in advance if you’re not staying at the hotel.

  • Willy T at Cooper Island Beach Club – The legendary floating bar of the BVI’s where all you need to know is “what happens at Willy T’s stays at Willy T’s.”

    Did you know that when you utilize Diego Travel’s trip planning service, we make all your dining and activity reservations for you? Find out how you can implement our concierge service into your travel plans to make planning your trip to BVI as easy and seamless as possible.

A Few of My Favorite Things

The British Virgin Islands

Private Islands Galore

If you can swing it, the British Virgin Islands is worth the splurge on a private island experience. There are several to choose from, ranging from Necker Island to Moskito Island (the more famous due to Richard Branson’s famous name), to Aerial Island Resort and Guana Island. Whatever your budget and reason for celebration may be, I am happy to walk you through the different options and help you select which private island escape will be right for you and your occasion.

The Privacy and Exclusivity

After having visited both British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands all within two weeks of each other, I can say that what is notably different about British Virgin Islands is the element of exclusivity about it. While less buzzy and pretentious than its fellow Jetsetter Caribbean competition over at St. Barths, British Virgin Islands is no doubt a playground and hot spot for the rich and famous who are looking to vacation in private at some of the best beaches in the world. While many places come with a hefty price tag, the good news is that the average person can still experience the luxury element of BVI without spending a small fortune.

The Service

I didn’t experience a single bad meal while visiting the BVI, but what stood out most was the level of service at all the places we stayed, most notably at Moskito Island. Many people come to work seasonally at British Virgin Islands and never leave, while others are native to the islands and have such a happy disposition about life. It makes you feel like family by the time it’s time to leave, and you’ll never want to go home.

If you’re interested in a chartering a yacht or catamaran in the British Virgin Islands, or book the Rosewood Little Dix Bay or any other private villa or vacation rental, I would be happy to provide you my guidance and match you with the perfect boat + crew or hotel accommodation. You can contact me directly to inquire.

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United States Virgin Islands

US Virgin Islands

US Virgin Islands

A Destination Guide for Your Caribbean Vacation
MARIA DIEGO

The US Virgin Islands, made up of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, is a boater and diver’s paradise of many islands, beautiful beaches, and plenty of dive spots to explore. We were looking for a remote region to charter a private catamaran with crew to spend a week of bonding and adventure with our kids, and settled on the USVI as the perfect destination. Private yachts, sail boats, and catamarans are available throughout the US Virgin Islands and Diego Travel works with the best yacht broker for our clients’ needs.

Perfect For: Families | Destination Weddings | Honeymoon | Couples Groups | Multi-Generational Families | Scuba Divers | Snorkelers | Scuba Divers

Long Bay Marina-Charlotte Amalie

Getting to US Virgin Islands

Getting to USVI is perhaps one of its biggest draws, since there are so many direct flights into St. Thomas (STT) from major cities like Chicago, Dulles, Newark and Miami. From St. Thomas, it’s an easy boat ride to St. John, and a full day boat ride to St. Croix, so most people visiting St. Croix will take the direct flight from Miami. US Virgin Islands is extremely close to British Virgin Islands. Before Covid, visitors could visit the islands interchangeably pretty easily, but now the restrictions make it more difficult. For ease of flights, it’s sometimes better to fly into STT and take a boat over to British Virgin Islands, even though you will need to stop by boat to clear customs. When you utilize Diego Travel’s trip planning service, we handle all of the logistics of travel to the US Virgin Island and British Virgin Islands so you don’t have to worry about any of it.

USVI
  • 18.3411,-64.9328

    St Thomas

  • 18.3308,-64.7945

    St John

United States Virgin Islands Catamaran Charter

Catamaran Charter

YACHT AND CATAMARAN CHARTERS

The Caribbean just might be the Yacht Charter Capital of the World, and you will find many luxury boats, yachts and catamarans in the region. The problem is, where can you find one of these that fit your budget? I’ll let you in on a secret. The yacht charter with crew experience is more affordable than you think, especially when traveling with a group of family or friends. I have worked with one of the boating industry’s top yacht brokers for over a decade, and she has 30+ years in the industry. Together, at no additional cost to the client, we are able to pair Diego Travel clients to the best boat and crew at your budget. When I reached out to her for our personal vacation, we were considering two boats in our price range, and she told me one crew would be better than the other with our young kids. She was right! And whether you’re looking for a charter in Greece, Italy, or the Caribbean, she knows the boats and crew and directs me to the right choice once we have a discussion about you and what your needs are.

The US Virgin Islands are so popular for yacht charters because there are so many islands and protected bays for mooring at night, with not much distance or rough seas in between destinations. You can go for a full week or two without touching land, just exploring different waters, with each beach and bay being extremely unique. We spent our seven nights in Monde Bay, Little Lameshur Bay, Long Bay, Francis Bay, Caneel Bay, and finally Brewers Bay. The cool thing about our captain, who had 10 years experience, was that he knew to get us one bay ahead of the rest, so at each stop, due to our timing, we had each bay essentially to ourselves.

USVI Catamaran Charters

While we opted for a catamaran charter with crew, there are also bareboat catamaran and sailboat charters available (meaning less cost without crew). If you are the do-it-yourself type and want to man your own boat, you have this option available in the USVI. For those that want to learn how to sail, the USVI also affords a variety of options to get ASA certified during on your crewed charter.  Keep in mind that boat charters are regularly 7 nights.

  • Scuba Diving

    Scuba diving and snorkeling are the number 1 attraction of the US Virgin Islands, with so many reef dives, wreck dives, drift dives, and rocky islets that are home to a myriad of fish and sea life. Our 11-year-old daughter tried scuba diving for the first time, and on her second attempt stayed underwater for 25 minutes.

    The USVI is full of national wildlife reserves like Buck Island and the Virgin Islands National Park & Coral Reef National Monument. Because of the amount of protection surrounding the islands, the water is full of sea life, making the perfect paradise for both scuba divers and snorkelers.

  • Watersports USVI

  • It’s worthwhile to mention the amount of sea life we saw off our boat. From constant fish, sting rays and octopus, our favorite was swimming with the sea turtles, where there is a bay with hundreds of them. My 4- and 6-year-olds swam on their own as we patiently followed a little sea turtle as he would slowly surface for a breath every few minutes, where we’d get an up close look and then watch him plunge back to the sand. The fine of touching any turtle starts at $5,000, so this ensures these beautiful creatures can remain unharmed and explore freely in their natural habitat for years to come.

  • Watersports and Day charters

    For those who prefer to be landbased instead of chartering a yacht or catamaran, the US Virgin Islands offers plenty of oportunities to experience the natural beauty of these islands.

    There are a wide range of activities available directly from the beach like taking sailing classes on a small sail boat or a Hobie cat. The USVI is a great introduction to sailing for kids if they are interested in learning to sail. There are also many otions to go kayaking or stand up paddleboarding or even learning to windsurf or kiteboard

    Fishing charters offer an unique oportunity to fish the Puerto Rico Trench where you can find some of the best offshore fishing in the Caribbean, located only six miles from shore.

    Many operators offer snorkeling tours, day sailing catamaran trips and sunset sailing experiences. Private day charters are also available aboard both sail boats and powerboats.

  • USVI Bars

  • Shopping

    Charlotte Amalie is the main cruise ship port where the large cruise ships arrive and depart. In St. Thomas, you don’t pay sales tax, so it’s the perfect place to buy a luxury watch or jewelry. Charlotte Amalie is full of your more touristy shops that cater to the cruise ships, while St. John has some more boutique shopping with local shops that sell everything from board shorts and rash guards for men to swim suits and cover ups for women. In the USVI, you won’t wear or need much more than that, as even in the winter time, the evenings rarely get cold enough to require a sweater.

    On our week-long charter, we only stopped twice for shopping and to walk around, and my favorite spot was Mongoose Junction in Cruz Bay in St. John. This small shopping center has a few bars and restaurants, but my favorite shop was Lulee, which carries all my favorite brands and where I bought a replacement pair of my favorite Agolde denim cut-offs.

  • Rum Tasting

    While we truthfully did not explore the USVI by land that much, we had been in the past when visiting by cruise ship and were told of the many rum distilleries on both St. Thomas and St. John. And just as any good Caribbean island should offer, a good bar and opportunity to taste a dozen rums abounds in the US Virgin Islands.

    One of country music’s most famous singers, Kenny Chesney, has a home on Cinnamon Bay in the USVI and often sings about island life and its plentiful drinks. Two of our favorite spots are the Windmill Bar on St. John, perched on a hilltop in an old sugar mill with live music and stunning views, and for a more refined wine tasting experience, try Kati Ligo in St. John, a cozy wine bar.

  • St John Shopping

Ritz Carlton St Thomas Aerial View

Where to Stay in the USVI

The Ritz Carlton St Thomas

The Ritz Carlton St. Thomas

The Ritz Carlton St. Thomas is perfect for families, multi-generational families (we saw a ton of large family groups during Christmas week), and even great for couples during non-holiday travel times.  The hotel is located on a small bay with a somewhat short beach and two pools.  One pool was originally redesigned to be adult-only, but the sales director told me that families werent having it and that they eventually gave in and have kids welcome at both pools.  Having said that, families with young and noisy kids tend to gravitate to the pool located next to the winding water slide, a new addition from the renovation.  Right next to the water slide pool is a fantastic kids club, where both indoor and outdoor activities are completely complimentary for ages 5-12.  Cabanas incur an extra cost and are located around both pools.

 Aside from the pools and beach, you also have tennis courts and a huge brand new gym with state of the art equipment.  You have an amazing spa, and fun boutique, and four restaurants.  To really add to the experience, I highly recommend a private beach dinner, where theyll set your table up under a romantic sea grape tree that sits on the beach.  It is the perfect spot to celebrate an anniversary or have a proposal. 

Lets talk about Club level at this Ritz Carlton hotel.  If youre a Marriott or Ritz Carlton loyalist, I am sure you are aware of club level by now.  The club level rooms give access to a special club lounge for its guests.  In my opinion, at some properties, this added benefit is well worth it and at other properties, its not worth the price difference.  At Ritz Carlton St. Thomas, the Club level is definitely worth it.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served buffet style with a wine and coffee bar, all complimentary to Club level guests.  They also have their own outdoor terrace space, so its almost like having access to your own exclusive restaurant that is completely free.

The cost of meals at a resort like this can really add up, so we saw plenty of families eating all their meals in the Club lounge.  Finally, Diego Travel is a preferred partner to Marriott STARS program, which includes all Ritz Carltons, so even if youre Bonvoy Ambassador Elite, you will still get additional perks when booking your Marriott stays with Diego Travel.  The only time these perks dont apply is when youre booking your stay using points.  

Book with Diego Travel to Receive the Following STARS Amenities:

  •  Welcome Amenity
  •  Complimentary Breakfast for 2 at Bleuwater Restaurant
  • $100 Hotel Credit
  • Complimentary Wi-FI
  • Priority Upgrade if Available
  • Priority Early Check-In/Late Check-Out
  • VIP Status with In-Person Warm Welcome
  • Diego Travel Welcome Box when Using the Travel Planning Service

Diego Travel Recommends Ritz Carlton St. Thomas For: Families | Destination Weddings | Couples Groups | Multi-Generational Families Corporate Groups | Incentive Groups

Where To Eat in US Virgin Islands?

  • Two US Virgin Islands favorites:

    Lime Out A floating taco bar based in Coral Bay, St. John.

    Pizza Pi A small boat with a pizza oven offering delivery by dinghy based in Christmas Cove, Little St. James.  They make gluten-free pizza too! Started by a couple who left their corporate world behind and covered a boat into a large pizza oven/delivery restaurant.  Talk about chasing your dreams!

  • Lovango Cay

  • Our favorite day and dinner experience:

    Lovango Cay A beach and pool club with limited daily memberships starting at $100 per person, private cabana rentals, and waterfront dining based off Lovango Cay.

  • Our other favorite food experiences:

    Dave and Jerry’s  Fine dining in St. John that offers excellent steaks and a ton of food.  We outdid ourselves!

    Prime Fine dining in St. Thomas, would recommend for a final evening on the dock if youre chartering a yacht or catamaran.  

     ZoZos Waterfront dining in Caneel Bay, St. John and also a happy hour option with live music and a cute gift shop.

    Skinny Legs This is a very local hang in St. John serving up burgers and drinks.  The name says it all for appropriate dress attire.

A Few of My Favorite Things

USVI

Beaches and Bays

Don’t miss Turtle Bay and Cinnamon Beach on St. Johns. Even though there are more tourists here than other areas, it’s for good reason. It’s so neat to swim with so many sea turtles and a unique experience to the USVI. Cinnamon Beach is long and with soft, white sand, perfect for a long beach walk and located where you have many multi-million dollar villas that are available for rental. Diego Travel can assist you with these villa rentals too. Little Lamashur Bay was less crowded and we saw sea turtles and sting rays there too.

Water Sports

One of the best things about chartering a yacht or catamaran with crew, is the direct access to a lot of sea toys like tubing, stand up paddle boarding, eFoils (we saw tons of these), kite surfing and water skiing or wake boarding right off the back our catamaran. Our kids had so much fun doing all of these things, that you could never get bored. So between gourmet meals prepared by our chef, Erika, our captain, Tyler, would take us out for fun on the water in between. Although, I have to admit that sometimes I would let my husband take the kids while I stayed behind on the quiet boat to read a good book (and work remotely).

The People

The community of US Virgin Islands is a huge boating community who love the water and the easy way of life. Though after witnessing how hard our crew worked aboard the boat throughout our week stay, I realized that they work hard and likely play harder. The people are very friendly, easy-going, and work hard to provide excellent service when you charter a yacht or catamaran. They come from all over the world to work on boats in the Caribbean, and most of them are well-traveled and well-educated, spending part of the year working very hard and able to take time off in their off season to travel to other places. I learned a lot from our crew, a couple who has been married 5 years and in the yachting industry for 10, and hope to someday charter with them again.

If you’re interested in a chartering a yacht or catamaran in the US Virgin Islands, or book the Ritz Carlton St. Thomas, I would be happy to provide you my guidance and match you with the perfect boat + crew or hotel accommodation. You can email me here to inquire.

 

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Belmond La Samanna

Hotel Review: Hotel Belmond La Samanna

Hotel Review

Hotel Belmond La Samanna

A Luxury Boutique Hotel on the Caribbean Island of Saint Maarten or St Martin
MARIA DIEGO

Belmond La Samanna is perched above one of the most amazing beaches in the West French Indies of the Caribbean and made up of 83 villas, cottages and suites. Recently renovated in 2020, Belmond La Samanna is a quiet, peaceful retreat overlooking beautiful sunsets and sparkling turquoise ocean waters of the Caribbean sea. 

Perfect For: Small families | Honeymooners | Romantic Getaways | A Quiet Escape | A Stopover for Multi- Caribbean Island Vacation

18.0552,-63.1386

La Samanna

Location: Spelled St. Martin or St. Maarten, it is a Caribbean island in the northeast section of the Caribbean islands, about 190 miles east of Puerto Rico.  The flight from Miami to St. Martin is about 3 hours.  The flight from New York to St. Martin is about 4 hours.

Getting There: St. Maarten is one of the easier Caribbean islands to arrive to, with non-stop flights from airports such as Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, New York and Newark.  The island is a hub to fly on to St. Barts or Anguilla, so you may want to consider adding an extra couple of nights to your vacation in order to experience Belmond La Samanna.

La Samanna Vibe

Vibe: The vibe at Belmond La Samanna is very laid back, much more so than its neighboring island of St. Barts, where the scene is to see and be seen. While the crowd at Belmond La Samanna is very chic, it’s less champagne popping and people watching, and more book reading and lounge chair lazing. There’s not a lot to do at the resort, unless you count a small spa, a tennis court and a tough decision between pool and beach activity enough. If you’re looking for more than that plus a boat outing, than St. Martin may not be for you.

Accomodations: Belmond La Samanna ranges from 83 deluxe ocean view rooms and suites to 8 3- and 4-bedroom villas and cottages. Because of these larger accommodations, it is ideal for families to come with grandparents, cousins, and even nannies. We saw more than two families during our stay that included aunts and uncles, many children and grandparents. The private pool villas have their own private wraparound pool, which is nice if you are just looking for privacy.

  • La Samanna Rooms

  • Bathroom La Samanna

Cocktails at La Samanna

Food & Beverage: The restaurant, Corail is where breakfast is served each morning, as well as lunch. Breakfast is served buffet style, or items can be ordered a la carte. Service is slow, as to be expected from a Caribbean island, and food was hit or miss. The most memorable item on the menu was the pineapple, which was probably the best pineapple I’ve ever had in my life. The hotel did offer gluten free bread as well, which is always a pleasant surprise at these small boutique island hotels. Other items like salt and butter were imported from France, so a simple breakfast of toast with butter and jam were very much enjoyed!

Baie Longue bar is the perfect spot to catch the sunset while sipping amazing cocktails, and the beachside restaurant La Plaj was very similar in feel to St. Barts. Finally, for dinner the option is L’Oursin, where everyone gathers for the more formal nighttime meals.

Wellness: The spa at Belmond La Samanna is small yet inviting. They also have a boutique next door that sells natural locally-made products like essential oils and soaps. The sun is so strong that it was the first time in a long time that we all got sun burns, so I had to make a trip to the spa for after-sun care products.

La Samanna Relax

St Martin Cave

Things to Do around the Island: If you’re visiting for more than 2 nights, I recommend chartering a boat to take you to explore the local beaches and different islands. The concierge provides great recommendations, but we booked with a charter company that was about half the price, and our captain a Frenchman, born in France but raised in Sint Maarten who could have been a model on the cover of GQ. I’m not giving away my secrets, but I’ll be happy to book him for you when you plan your trip to St Martin with me!

I suggest an 8 hour charter – even though it seems like a long day, it goes by quickly and allows you to stop for lunch at Yellow Beach on Pinel Island.  The highlight of our day was our stop at Tintamarre, or Flat Island, where we collected sea glass and played in the water in this little island paradise.

What  Sets  It  Apart: There is no other property in St Martin or St. Maarten that even compares remotely close to Belmond La Samanna, and the beach is one of the best and most secluded in the Caribbean. The other hotels are more like 2 to 3 star hotels, and the island in general is very poor, particularly after being destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017. However, it still has a very French vibe, so if you want to feel worlds away and like you’re in the French Riviera, without having the budget for St. Barts, then St. Martin is a fantastic alternative. I love that all the rooms are direct ocean views, and what a beautiful ocean it is…. While the beach is very steep, the sand is beautiful, and most people lounge in the sun from morning until evening with no complaints. So, if you’re looking for a relaxed and dreamy place to lounge with the crashing sound of waves, this could be the ideal Caribbean resort for you.

La Samanna St Martin
Belmond La Samanna

How Much Does Hotel Belmond La Samanna Cost? This island resort closes seasonally, and staff go over to Italy where they work in the Belmond properties of Positano and Portofino. Due to this, Belmond La Samanna doesn’t really have a low season. Rates vary from about $800 per night plus taxes and fees for an entry level room to about $6,000 per night for a 4-bedroom villa.

Diego Travel Loves: The chic updated décor mixed with the traditional island building is the ultimate in barefoot luxury.  Unpretentious yet refined, Belmond La Samanna is the perfect blend of island life with French style.  I loved the soft coral pink and white striped umbrellas and the blue and white color palette in the rooms.  The people at the resort are not stuffy, and care enough without being in your face.  Remember that you’re on island time, and you’ll be snoozing to the sound of the crashing waves in no time.

La Samanna
La Samanna Inclusions

Extras You’ll Get with Diego Travel:

  • Belmond Bellini Club
  • Complimentary breakfast for two daily
  • Complimentary room upgrades on arrival, based on availability
  • For any $5,000 booking, receive a $500 gift voucher to be used for any new Belmond product (train, barge, or hotel or resort) of at least $2,500.
  • Fully flexible hotel or resort credit up to $200 per stay
  • Complimentary upgrade at check-in
  • Free internet access
  • Personalized in-room welcome amenity
  • VIP recognition by property management and staff
  • Waitlist priority for high demand properties or experiences

    Belmond La Samanna Insider Tips:

    If centralized air is important to you, this is not the hotel for you.  Like many small island hotels, rooms are cooled on mini-splits, so be sure to request a room with a mini-split that doesn’t blow directly onto the bed.  When you use a travel advisor, it’s these kind of details that are taken care of for you, as well as getting premiere choice in room location.  Even though La Samanna is located in one of the best beaches in the island, a boat trip is a must to discover St Martin’s hidden gems.  Over “Festive Period” or Christmas to New Years Eve season, be sure to book well in advance.  It’s a popular spot for holiday vacation!

    Tintamare Island

    Summary of Our Stay at Hotel Belmond La Samanna:

    After receiving an invitation for a 3-night stay for 2 to Belmond La Samanna, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity, even though I was in the midst of a literal hurricane in my work and personal life.  My family was selling our home, our kids were changing schools, and work had never been busier since the start of the pandemic.  I was quite literally fried and spinning my wheels, working 20 hours a day and scrambling to get our home packed up.  We had two weeks until closing, and I turned to my husband one night while we were falling asleep and asked, “Why don’t we go to St. Martin this weekend with the kids?”  He agreed, and less than 48 hours later, we were on the plane after getting our negative Covid tests.  The flight is easy, the hotel picked us up from the airport, and honestly, it was a much-needed work trip where I actually disconnected and recharged my batteries.  

    La Samanna Restaurant

    Because Belmond La Samanna is a one-man show in St Maarten, I didn’t have the pressure to do multiple site visits like I normally do on work trips.  I truly took the three-night trip to be present with my husband and kids.  We watched them as they body surfed and tumbled down the steep beach, on repeat for hours on end.  I read a good book.  I worked minimally.  And we took an unforgettable boat ride where I thought to myself, “How did I get so lucky?”  I have my dream job, with my dream family, and while it’s not always glamourous traveling, St. Martin offered me time to slow down and appreciate the moments that are…and boy, Belmond La Samanna sure made me feel pretty glamorous. 

    Hotel Bel-Air Pool

    Looking around, it felt like the crowd was primarily babymooners, with very pregnant bellies walking the soft sand on the beach.  I loved that it was such a peaceful environment and really lent itself to just disconnecting and relaxation.  If you’re in the mood for a gorgeous beach, a good beach novel that you can dive into, and reconnecting with the one you love, then let’s start planning a trip to St Martin. 

    La Samanna Beach

    If you have any questions about visiting St Martin or any other Caribbean Island for that matter, I’d be happy to answer them or help you book your stay so that you get all the added value mentioned above. Plus, once you travel VIP style with Diego Travel, you’ll never want to leave home without us again.  You can get in touch with us on our Contact Us form, to get started on planning your next trip right now!

    La Samanna Beach Restaurant

    Design My Trip!

    Belmond La Samanna Sunset


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