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virgin islands on line : st. john : hotel & villa reviews

Orchid Knoll 07/03/2004
Reviewers Rating: Stars Excellent
Trip Report: St. John June 2004

This was our first trip to St. John. While I had done a lot of online research, we still did not know exactly what to expect. We had a wonderful first time experience.

Lodging:
Oh, wow! We rented a villa from Caribbean Villas. It was Orchid Knoll and was located almost at the top of Bordeaux Mountain. From the back porch, we could see from St. Thomas to Virgin Gorda. And, nearly half of St. John was within view. The house was beautifully furnished and decorated. The pool was on the lower level and was totally private. The grounds were beautifully landscaped with flowers and shrubs including orchids. The only downside was the high humidity on the mountain.

Travel:
The trip to St. John and return was very easy. US Airways even put our luggage on the plane, which was a pleasant surprise. The baggage handling was a little slow in St. Thomas, but of course, not as slow as Philadelphia when we got back home.
We were apprehensive about the taxi to the ferry based on what we had read on the forums. As we left the terminal, there was a dispatcher who very efficiently loaded the taxis by the visitor’s destination. We had the same experience when we arrived in Red Hook on our way back to the airport. The ferry runs on island time, not on the posted schedule. But, that was a sure sign that we were there.

Rental car & Driving:
We were met at the ferry dock by Amelia from Caribbean Villas. She drove us to the office and handed me a set of keys for a Suzuki Vitara with less than 5000 miles on it. That was a great relief. The main roads on St. John are in excellent condition. They are narrow, windy, and hilly. The speed limit is 20 mph and it takes a real effort to go faster, especially driving on the left. Just watch out for the 18-wheeler coming around the curve. When you leave the main road, you will be glad you have the 4-wheel drive. The last stretch of road to our villa did not fit the definition of road. Gas was only about $.20 a gallon more than on the U.S. mainland.

Sightseeing & Excursions:
We drove 200 miles on this tiny island and also hiked many miles. We were there for the beaches and mainly drove and hiked to beaches. But, the hikes were very enjoyable. Our favorite hike was Ramshead, but it is somewhat strenuous. Take lots of water when hiking, we usually carried 3 quarts. Blue cobblestone bay is fascinating for the sound of the stones and surf. We also visited several ruins that were interesting, try Annaberg and Catherineberg.
This was the start of carnival, which is officially celebrated on July 4th. There was a street festival in Cruz Bay when we arrived and a steel band competition on Sunday. That was fun, especially seeing some of the young drum players.


Beaches:
We went to St. John for the beaches! We visited 17 beaches in 6 days. I did a little snorkeling, my wife did not. There are some wonderful beaches and I will comment on a few:
Trunk – A nice beach, but too many tourists (You know, them, not us.) We went so that I could do the snorkel trail. That was fun, but we left when I was done before the crowds arrived.
Salomon & Honeymoon- Two nice beaches, a long hike, unless you go through Caneel, but enjoyable. Boats are close to shore and party boats bring resort visitors here.
Jumbie – One of our favorites, small but nice.
Francis – Long beach with few visitors.
Salt Pond – Popular snorkeling spot on trail to Ramshead.
Parrot – On the east (Atlantic) side. More surf and rocky bottom, but empty.
Little Hawksnest – The best! Soft sand, crystal clear water, and probably all yours. But, you have to find it.

We also visited: Blue Cobblestone, Lameshur, Little Lameshur, Hawksnest, Brown, Haulover, Leinster, Denis, and Maho.

About the swimwear police. The National Park is strictly enforcing the no nudity law. Rangers in boats patrol and observe swimwear. One day, there were two topless women on our beach. One was discreet and one was not. A Ranger appeared and both women quickly put their tops on. No fines were issued but the Ranger said he could have issued a $50 fine. However, there are only 5 Rangers for the whole park.


Food:
We eat out every night when on vacation. But my wife and I are trying to preserve our youthful figures. Supper consists of two beverages, one alcoholic and one not plus an entr饠for each of us. Cost includes tip.
Rhumblines – In Cruz Bay. Cuban Mojo Pork and Wahoo with Crab Sauce. More spicy than we are used to, but good. $62.50
Shipwreck Landing – In Coral Bay. Simple, but excellent. Steak and Fish & Chips. Very Casual. $57.75 including one salad.
Morgan’s Mango – In Mongoose Junction overlooking the docks. Seating very tight on the porch. Swordfish and Grilled chicken salad. Very good. $60.
Chateaux Bordeaux – On Bordeaux Mtn. Our most disappointing meal. Steak & Pork. The steak was tough. Good service. $83. (I suggest you skip dinner and stop for a drink and the view during daylight.)
The Lime Inn – Cruz Bay. All-you-can-eat-shrimp and Sesame Chicken & scallops, one chowder. Busy, fun place. Excellent food, best value. $56.40.
Skinny Legs (Lunch) – Coral Bay. Cheeseburger and hot dogs w/kraut. Fun place. $25.
Fish trap – Cruz Bay. Snapper & Tuna Stir Fry. Very Good. $52.

So, there are lots of good places to eat on St. John and it is possible to have an excellent meal for a reasonable price. Reservations – We never made reservations (except for Chateaux Bordeaux) and did not have trouble. We do like to eat early.

Bugs and weather:
Are there bugs in St. John? Yes, especially with the amount of rain this year. We saw mosquitoes and had problems with no-see-ums. We used bug repellent and sunscreen with bug repellent and that took care of most of the critters. A couple of beaches had flies and bees near the tree lines.
While we did not have much rain while we were there, we had a few very cloudy days. These days were less than ideal for the beach, but probably kept me from being fried. And, it was windy up on the mountain.


Ed





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