Reviewers Rating: Excellent
My husband and I stayed at Villa Serenity from June 4-11, 2004. First the abridged version of this review: Villa Serenity is a comfortable, fully equipped, and completely private villa that offers the perfect location for guests who love nature, privacy, and quick access to the North Shore beaches. We will certainly try to rent it for our next visit to St. John.
Now for the unabridged version:
Villa Serenity is located on a hill behind Francis Bay, south of Mary Point. It is about 20-25 minutes from Cruz Bay and 10-15 minutes from Coral Bay. The only other houses on the hill are completely out of view – the only thing you can see from the villa is nature, and no one can see you either. Your eye views nothing but treetops straight from the villa to Francis Bay to the west, to Mary Creek to the north, and to Leinster Bay to the east. Talk about private! As you drive to Cruz Bay, you will pass green, wooded, undeveloped land all the way until Peter Bay. The only buildings you will see are the stone ruins at Annaberg and Cinnamon Bay. You will truly feel set apart from it all!
Villa Serenity’s location on the North Shore, inside the National park, is its biggest selling (or should I say “renting”) point! Its location on a hill behind Francis Bay means you have quick access to the North Shore beaches, especially Cinnamon Bay, Maho Bay, Francis Bay, and Leinster Bay. Francis Bay is located down the paved hill and the .3 mile-long dirt road to the dirt Francis Bay parking lot, right at the beach – a walkable distance from the villa. You can also access Francis Beach on foot via the Francis Bay Trail that starts just before the paved Francis Bay parking lot. The awesome snorkeling at Waterlemon Cay is less than a 5-minute drive away. And Maho Bay Campground is just around the corner, where you have convenient access to the campground store, restaurant, and activities.
The villa itself is a clean 4-bedroom, fully air-conditioned, 2-level house. It is easily reached via a paved road and driveway. Large square terra cotta tiles lead from the driveway to the front door, as well as to the outdoor shower to the right. The front yard is full of flowering shrubs and vines – bougainvillea, hibiscus, plumbago, and mandevilla, to name a few. The living room, kitchen, dining room, and two bedrooms are on the main floor at ground level. Stairs both outside off of the deck, and out front on the left side of the house, lead down to two additional bedrooms and a laundry room. The bedrooms are not equivalent—something to keep in mind if renting with other couples.
The living areas have ceiling fans and are well lit during the day via several sets of screened sliding-glass doors, which also allow you to take full advantage of the wonderful breezes. The living room is comfortably and casually furnished with cushioned wicker furniture (a sofa and 3 chairs), a coffee table topped with local guidebooks, end tables, a stereo system on a cabinet full of CDs, a TV (PBS, NBC, and CBS) on a cabinet full of VHS tapes and DVDs, both DVD and VCR players, and ample lighting from table and floor lamps and a ceiling fan light. The furniture faces the screened sliding-glass doors that open onto the covered “gazebo” portion of the deck and offer a beautiful view of Mary Creek, Leinster Bay, Waterlemon Cay, Tortola, and azure water. A round table with cushioned seating for 6 sits in the middle of the gazebo, citronella candles included. (We enjoyed sitting here in the shade and breezes before dinner, sipping a rum punch and reading the guidebooks.) Finches and banana quits frequently stop by to take a dip in or sip from the dish of sugar water sitting on the deck railing. A small desk sits against a wall of the living room. Next to this desk is a basket full of beach towels, and a couple of beach bags.
Another set of screened sliding glass doors sits between the living room and the dining room and opens to the back part of the deck and the stairs that lead down to the lower level. These are the doors we usually used to access the deck. To the left of these doors is a bookcase/cabinet stocked with guidebooks, novels, USVI art books, games, binoculars, even a jump rope. “Feet, Fins, and Four-Wheel Drive” is here, as is “Off the Beaten Track.”
An attractive glass dining table and 8 cushioned rattan dining chairs are to the left, in front of yet another set of screened sliding-glass doors. These doors offer a view of the green hills of Mary Point. There are 3 lighted ceiling fans in the large dining and kitchen area. The kitchen has plenty of counter space and is fully stocked with all the major appliances, dishes, glassware, and utensils you would have at home. On the far end of the long counter, toward the living room, sits a huge basket full of sunscreens, bug sprays, sunglasses, and even a pair of reading glasses. In the kitchen drawers and pantry you will find flashlights, tape, a sewing kit, a hammer, an iron, an ironing board, a vacuum, etc. The kitchen was also stocked with basics such as sugar, salt, pepper, paper plates, coffee filters, garbage bags, paper towels, and dish detergent for the sink and dishwasher—but what’s there probably depends in part on what previous renters left. The phone works fine, and an island phone book is provided. A mug full of pens and a pair of scissors sits next to the phone.
The master bedroom we stayed in is off of the living room, to the right of the front door. The head of the bed rests against an attractive stone wall, and the high ceiling is made of wood beams. There is a lighted ceiling fan as well as a wall sconce, table lamp, and floor lamp. Screened sliding glass doors open out to a narrow part of the deck past the gazebo and let in great breezes for sleeping. (The villa is fully air-conditioned, but we never needed to use it.) You can see Mary Creek from the bed. My favorite view from the bedroom, however, is the view straight through to the sliding glass doors by the dining area and out to the hammock gently swinging on the deck. The mattress is extremely comfortable, and there are ample drawers, tables, and shelves for your stuff. The master bath has a single sink and a tile and stonework shower stall.
At the opposite end of the main floor is another bathroom and separate bedroom with a queen bed. This bedroom also has screened sliding glass doors that open to the west end of the deck, which runs the full length of the house and then wraps slightly around the sides. In addition to the table and chairs at the east-facing gazebo end of the deck, there are 2 cushioned chaise lounges and additional chairs and side tables on the deck on the west-facing end. From this end you can see over the trees to Francis Bay, Whistling Cay, and St. Thomas in the distance. As I mentioned earlier, the hammock sits outside the dining area doors. Clothespins are provided for hanging up your wet swimsuits, etc.
The entire main floor is terra-cotta tile. A scatter rug lies near the entrance and under the coffee table in the living room.
We only took a quick peak at the bedrooms on the lower level, both of which have their own exterior entrances. One appeared to have a full-sized bed in it, and the other had 3 twin beds. Both rooms had their own bathrooms as well. A very large, separate laundry room has tons of extra bed linens and towels, as well as the washer and dryer.
Outside the front entrance, there is a well-used collection of fins, aqua socks, snorkels, and masks.
Those are the sights, now for the sounds: We loved falling asleep to the sound of breezes blowing through the trees, the frogs, and the sound of the water lapping the banks of Mary Creek below us. Throughout the day you can hear the sporadic braying of donkeys from the hidden road below us, the Mary Creek trail, and the land right around the villa. At mealtime you may hear the meowing of a hungry cat, hoping for some handouts. Two cats visited us--one was a black cat who would linger for hours, begging to be petted, rubbing against the screen or simply sitting guard by the deck steps. The other cat is a very shy, dark gray tabby cat, who visited us much less often. In the afternoon, you might hear the whir of a helicopter passing overhead, giving tours of the North Shore.
We rented Villa Serenity through Caribbean Villas, as we had a great experience with them last visit. Our island contact was Terry Witham, who personally manages the villa. Terry is a wonderful, incredibly helpful, and reliable hostess. She knows the island inside and out, and we truly believe that she would do anything for her guests.
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