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

One Particular Harbour 06/13/2006
Reviewers Rating: Great
We rented this villa for two weeks in May 2006. To put this report in perspective, weíre a couple in their late 40s-early 50s and we have visited St. John 10 times between us over a 20+ year period, as well as several other islands. This was our first stay at One Particular Harbour and our first experience with Caribbean Villas & Resorts, which manages the property. Joining us for part of the stay were two younger, single adults visiting St. John for the first time.

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS. OPH is a cute little house, less than two years old at the time of our visit. Itís not a luxury house by any means, but all the basics are included and it represents a good value, especially during the low season. OPH is probably best suited for one or two couples or a small family with older children. It would not be a good choice for anyone with limited mobility or young children. The photographs and descriptions offered on the Caribbean Villas web site were faithful. The screens and doors are in good shape, and for the most part critters that are supposed to be outside stayed there. There were plenty of good quality beach chairs and towels available.

LOCATION. OPH was carved (or blasted) out of a hillside high above Coral Bayís western shore. The house is reached by a very steep climb up Route 108, most of which is paved and not at all difficult, at least during the daylight and when sober. The last section before the driveway is unpaved and was becoming deeply rutted during our visit. This part was slow going and while we thought it was fun, others might find it intimidating until/unless the road is repaired. 4-wheel drive is a necessity and we used low gear most of the way up. The effort is rewarded by magnificent views of Coral Bay and the East End below, and straight down Drakeís Channel, which is flanked by Tortola to the left and the smaller BVIs to the right with Virgin Gorda in the distance. The relative inaccessibility also adds to the feeling of security, as only the most determined burglars are likely to work that hard when there are much easier pickings down below.

The pool deck and bottom two floors are very private Ė you canít see or be seen by your neighbors on these levels. The top floor can be partly observed from a corner of the villa next up the road and from the pool area of the house immediately below. There is presently another villa under construction above OPH but it isnít likely to cause any privacy problems.

LAYOUT. It was surely a lot easier to build this house up than out, so it was constructed on 3 levels (3 Ĺ if you count the pool deck, which is between floors 1 and 2). The master bedroom is on the ground floor right off the driveway and has a separate entrance and key ó it cannot be accessed from the interior of the house. Two slightly smaller bedrooms are on level 2, which are primarily reached from the interior staircase of the 3rd floor. The top floor contains the living area, indoor dining area and kitchen in the same room, and a wraparound deck with additional dining and lounging options. The washer & dryer are in a storage closet on the pool level. A gas grill is also on this level.

All this means there are a LOT of steps. If youíre in the living room and left something in the lower bedroom, you have to go down and back up three sets of stairs. Weíre in decent shape so it wasnít a physical problem so much as an annoyance by the second week, but anyone who finds steps difficult to manage should not rent this villa. And owing to the limited horizontal space, the rooms are not large. This is fine for a smaller group, but a larger one might feel a bit cramped. More on this below.

MASTER BEDROOM. Queen bed which I found comfortable but my wife thought was a little hard. A support post in the middle of the room requires some caution when walking around in the dark. The only closet was locked, presumably for the ownersí personal use, leaving no place to hang clothes or stash your luggage (we frankly thought this was a little tacky). There were ample drawers however, and a small cabinet with shelves for storage. Small to average bathroom with one sink and a shower stall. There is a deck off the bedroom, but the views are partly obscured by vegetation and we never used it. The deck is also uncovered, allowing for ample light in the bedroom. Unfortunately, this also meant running the AC 24/7, since it was very hot & humid most of the time and thereís no cross-ventilation to take full advantage of the breezes (all windows but one small one in the bathroom are on the same wall, and you canít leave the door open because it has no screen). On the plus side, the AC noise effectively drowned out the roosters, which on STJ like to get several hours head start on dawn.

A plus or minus, depending on your point of view, is the fact that the MBR is accessible only from the outside and not directly connected to the main house. This adds to the privacy but itís quite a trek to run up and check on the kids or whatever. And because the all the doors can be locked without using a key, itís not that hard to lock yourself out.

OTHER BEDROOMS. The two smaller bedrooms on the 2nd floor seem quite comfortable, with ample closet space (one of which contains the safe) and drawers, private bathrooms, and AC. One has a queen bed, the other two twins. (I looked for linens that would accommodate pushing the twins together to make a king, but couldnít find any.) If we rented this house again, we might even prefer one of these to the MBR. Itís a lot shorter route to the main living area upstairs, and thereís a better view from the deck. On the downside, they share a wall and the deck so there is less privacy if both rooms are in use. Also, there are no curtains covering the east-facing sliding doors, so it helps to be an early riser or a heavy sleeper.

KITCHEN. There is a spacious kitchen area adjacent to the dining area and living space. Itís not a gourmet kitchen but it is handsome and functional and features good quality appliances (Kenmore stainless). Nice cabinets and tile counter top. Microwave, toaster, and we found at least three blenders. Large refrigerator with ice maker in the bottom freezer. For those of you who use the kitchen to make breakfast, maybe sandwiches for the beach and cocktails before heading out to dinner, youíll be perfectly happy with it.

But if you cook a lot of your meals in, as we do, to save money or just enjoy the spectacular views, we had a couple of nits to pick. Maybe this is routine at rentals these days, but the refrigerator and cabinets had been completely cleaned out of anything left behind by previous guests. So be prepared to stock your pantry from scratch with mustard, ketchup, aluminum foil, olive oil, etc. The pots and pans were abundant and of decent quality. The cutlery was also reasonable quality but extremely dull and would have benefited greatly from a serrated bread knife. Also, why donít all villas have toaster ovens? The last thing you want to do is heat up a large oven when itís 90 degrees. The good news is the gas grill is a good one, with a side burner that allows you to do a lot outside. The tank was full with a full spare on the side. Unfortunately, the grill is a long flight of stairs down from the kitchen so there was a lot of running up and down to flip the burgers, etc.

LIVING & DINING AREA. Wicker (or is it rattan) sofa and chairs, with fairly comfy cushions in good shape. TV with built-in VCR and DVD player in the corner on a small cabinet with a growing collection of videos left behind by previous guests. CD player was a little quirky but worked OK and was as loud as anyone needs to get. Powder room. Sliding doors everywhere afford great views from almost any part of the room. Three powerful ceiling fans supplement the breezes just fine and there was only one extremely still day where we would have liked AC in the main room. There is a dining table and chairs off to the side that I guess some people might use, but we ate all our meals out on the covered deck or at the little side counter. The table instead became the place to stash our stuff, which leads to the main complaint about the room.

Neat freak alert! There are no closets of any kind in the main room and really no place to store things. The broom & dustpan lean against a wall next to the door, along with three coolers of various sizes. Board games and books left behind are piled on top of the TV or on a small shelf that exceeded capacity long ago. This all makes the room seem a bit cluttered and messy in the way of an informal beach house, which probably wonít bother most people, but if it does you really donít have many options.

POOL. A nice pool with a fabulous view and plenty of privacy. Not big enough for laps but a real pool for cooling off, floating, or whatever, with a lighted bottom for those midnight dips. The pool is heated but this was hardly necessary in mid-May (if we had known how to turn the heater off, we would have). Sturdy lounge chairs on the deck. In late May the pool gets shade around 3:00 but the deck is sunny for another hour or so. We spent a lot of time here.

I donít know much about availability of construction materials in the USVI, but I was curious why all the decks were wood and nails rather than composite and screws. After only two years, some of the planks are starting to splinter and it could be a losing battle keeping the nail heads in their place. Keep those flip-flops on!

RENTAL AGENCY. Caribbean Villas gets high marks in every category. Everything from booking to rendezvous at the ferry dock all the way through checkout was flawless and uncomplicated. They called twice to ask how everything was going. They were responsive to the most trivial comments and requests and seemed genuinely concerned that we just relax and enjoy ourselves as much as possible. We would be very pleased to rent from them again.

BOTTOM LINE. We gave One Particular Harbour 3 stars. People who have the budget and refinement for really lavish homes will think this is too generous. Yet other experienced travelers on this forum have rated it even higher. The views are spectacular, although thatís typical for villas at this elevation. The house has a lot of charm and a very casual ambiance that encourages you to walk right in and get comfortable. And it is a truly fine property for this price bracket. We would be quite happy to stay here again, although our search for the elusive perfect villa continues. The Coral Bay area is our preferred location and when/if we return there will undoubtedly be many more new homes available to make us happily miserable as we try to make up our minds.


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