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Trip Report, St John, Virgin Gorda & Tortola

North Carolina USA
posts: 1,125
reviews: 64
Trip Report, St John, Virgin Gorda & Tortola

Our 25th wedding anniversary was marked by a trip to the Virgin Islands. We vacationed on 3 islands and stayed for 5 days each. We took a new approach and rented villas versus staying at resorts. I loved the difference. I love the independence, freedom and privacy that staying in a villa provides. Dave on the other hand sometimes likes to have things easier and prefers the resort approach. We started at US Virgin Island St John, then ferried to British Virgin Island (BVI) Virgin Gorda and our final island was BVI Tortola. Our typical day was to get up early, relax with a cup of tea (for me) on our porch/patio/pool deck, have breakfast and then pack lunch and head for a beach. Having a vehicle gave us the freedom to visit a different beach every day if we wanted and they were all very different. We would snorkel for an hour or two before lunch, eat lunch and just hang around the beach for an hour and then snorkel for another hour or two in the afternoon and then as Mellisa says it was “beer 30”, so time to head back to our villa for pool/hot tub time and then dinner. Of the five nights we ate dinner out three times and cooked in for 2 as the restaurants could not beat the view from our balconies. Grocery shopping was certainly an experience in the VI. We paid $8 for a half gallon of milk and $7 for a box of Cheerios. We really never had a bad meal. We stayed in every evening after dinner. TMI if I go into more details . This vacation is now in our top 5 vacations. We can never top our 20th wedding anniversary trip to the South Pacific islands off Tahiti even if we returned there.

Favorites:

Island:

For me it was St John as the villa was amazing, the views were awesome and the snorkeling was phenomenal.

For Dave it was Virgin Gorda, because in Virgin Gorda we had a spectacular beach with great snorkeling that was only a 2-minute walk from our villa.

Villa

My favorite was Le Chateau at St John. Dave’s was Bellamare in Virgin Gorda. I loved the way Le Chateau felt. It was an older villa with no air conditioning but it was big and airy and had a tropical feel about it that I just soaked in. I wish I was there now. The views were so stunning that all the photos we took really do not capture the full feeling. We went grocery shopping the first night and got back after dark and the sounds outside reminded me of a jungle movie sound track. So we were watching a Twilight Zone DVD and we heard a horrible sound outside. It sounded like a large monster and instead was just small frogs in the fountain outside the door. After that, we had to keep that door closed as the frogs tried to jump in through the doorway. They woke me up most nights as they were LOUD!! The villa was situated 850 feet up a mountain, on the second day we decided to take the shortcut to Cinnamon Bay. Honestly, the road was soooo very bad. There is actually a sign on the road that reads “beyond this point, there be monsters” and we believed it and never used that road again.

Dave loved Bellamare as he loved being so close to the beach and the villa was fairly new and well kept and the gardens were very, very lush. He also liked the air conditioning in the bedroom.

The Sterling House in Tortola had the easiest access to the beach. We were literally on the water and I loved “beer 30” in Tortola, as it was exhilarating to sit on the lawn right over the turquoise water and watch the waves crash over the rocks.

Snorkeling:

Hands down – Watermelon Cay in St John. The coral is healthy and gorgeous and there were so many silversides (sardine-looking fish) in the water that you could not see the bottom when we were only in 5 feet of water. The downside to Watermelon Cay is that there is really no sandy beach and it’s a mile walk to the best spot to enter the water.

Now if I had to vote for best snorkel/beach combination it would be Cinnamon Bay in St John. The beach in my opinion is just as pretty as the infamous Trunk Bay. There are facilities there and the snorkeling around the Cay was excellent. We saw several tarpons and big schools of blue tang. The water visibility was excellent on the day we were there.

Dinner:

We loved our meal at the Mine Shaft in Virgin Gorda. I had curry coconut shrimp with crisp tender veggies and Caribbean rice, yummy yummy. The view is awesome there, way up on the hilltop and provided an excellent view of the tree-nesting hens and roosters just 6 feet away in the treetop. The Mine Shaft had a local guitar player who claimed to have played a Beatles medley for McCartney in February of this year. Dave’s favorite meal was at the Long Bay resort in Tortola. He had jerk pork tenderloin. The Long Bay resort was the only restaurant we frequented more then once as many restaurants were closed in Tortola and the resort was next door to our villa, so it was very convenient and the food was always good. I ate lots of fish and Dave ate lots of beef. When we cooked in we gilled hamburgers or chicken.

Experience/Day trip:

I loved our trip to The Baths in Virgin Gorda. The Baths are unique unusual rock formations that look like giant granite boulders thrown all over the beach like dice, they form labyrinths and pools as the tide runs in amongst them. Let me elaborate on this day. Our plan was to enter the water at Spring Bay and then snorkel to The Baths. Well, Dave had a mask malfunction just as we entered the water, so we had to drive to our villa to get a new mask. On the way back we picked up a honeymoon couple along the roadside and they joined us on our excursion. Tropical Storm Maria was just north of the coast so the water was a little rougher than we had hoped for but the day was beautiful and sunny. Well, Spring Bay looks very much like The Baths, only in my opinion it is much nicer, larger beach and a great area to just swim around in and as it was off season we had the beach to ourselves. After 45 minutes of snorkeling, the current really turned rough and we decided to head back into shore and it was then that we discovered we had snorkeled right past The Baths and were actually at Devil’s Bay. We climbed thru the labyrinths of rocks, following the very narrow trail back to The Baths and from there walked back on the road to Spring Bay. We ate lunch (that we had packed) at Spring Bay and enjoyed the beautiful beach there with our new friends. The snorkel and the climb through the rocks were a lot of fun even though the water was so rough at the end we thought we might drown . Dave actually had to rescue himself by grabbing onto a boat mooring buoy about 50 yards from shore just to catch his breath.

Dive:

The Wreck of the Rhone. This is a MUST dive while in the BVI. The Rhone was built in 1865 and sunk by a Hurricane in 1867. In the 1950s she was blown up as she was thought to be a shipping hazard, which fortunately for divers adds to the ability to really see the ship. She lies at a depth of 86 feet. She was featured in the 1977 movie The Deep and if you recall from the movie, Jacqueline Bisset had an encounter with a moray eel. We were not to be disappointed as we had just reached the wreck and we saw a moray eel. I also saw an eagle ray and two turtles. The ship itself is fascinating. There are still many features that are clear and very impressive including a port hole that is highly polished brass from divers rubbing it for good luck and a spoon that the dive masters claim to be the captains spoon.

Beaches:

In St John we snorkeled Cinnamon Bay, Maho Bay where we saw two large sea turtles (alas I did not have my camera with me), Trunk Bay, Hawk’s Nest, Watermelon Cay & Haulover Bay which provided views of the healthiest coral we saw on our trip.

In Virgin Gorda we snorkeled Mahoe Bay (which was the bay just next to our villa), The Baths, Little Dix Resort Bay where we saw several turtles and a string ray. We dove/snorkeled with Dive BVI at The Chimney/The Dogs. I dove and Dave snorkeled above us. It was a 45 foot dive that lasted about an hour. It was very pleasant and the caves around The Chimney were very colorful. Dave and I were the only customers aboard that day with the Dive Master. Highlights were the lobsters and a nurse shark.

In Tortola we snorkeled every day in Long Bay just off our villa, the Sterling House. Not only was it convenient, but the snorkeling was very good with views of larger schools of fish. We saw a reef tip shark combing the shallow waters among the rocks several days, but only once when we were in the water and there were always gobs of fish to be seen around the rocks to the right of our villa. Long Bay snorkeling is not for beginners as the current is sometimes very strong and it is difficult to get past the breakers if the surf is up, but the water visibility is excellent and the rocks are cool to look at. We snorkeled Brewers Bay where the water was very murky, but there were several large tarpons, one even bumped into Dave while we were snorkeling. Dave uttered a mild explicative which I will not write here. We also snorkeled in Smuggler’s Cove. Dave enjoyed it as it was a very pretty beach and very easy to get in the water, but I was not as impressed as there is not much large coral, so not multitudes of fish as we had seen on other beaches. (over by the rocks on the left side was nice). In Tortola we took a day sail on the White Squall II which is a 1938 era, 80 foot wooden sail boat. We ran on sail power most of the day and had a fantastic time. We stopped to snorkel at the Indians and the Norman Island Caves and ate lunch at the infamous Willy Ts. The Captain made Dave steer the ship for almost 2 hours heading out, which didn’t do much to settle his motion sickness. He was more than ready to hit the water when we finally arrived as the Indians. It was a full day of fun. We set sail at 9AM and did not return until 4:30 PM. In Tortola, I dove the Wreck of the Rhone and Dave enjoyed a leisure day.

North Pole, New York
posts: 4,886
reviews: 97
1. Re: Trip Report, St John, Virgin Gorda & Tortola

Nice report, glad you enjoyed yourselves. We too love the Mineshaft, the panoramic view is extraordinary and the food great. Did you try the Cave In?

We also became fans of Smugglers Cove and Long Bay Beach (Tortola) for the view and overall beauty. I hope you were able to enjoy some of Patricia's grilled or jerk chicken or her burger or dog on Smuggler's? Truly amazing, csn't believe what she can do with her grill!

Thanks again, I know you put alot of research into the trip and that always adds to the quality of the experience.

Bradenton, FL
posts: 542
reviews: 57
2. Re: Trip Report, St John, Virgin Gorda & Tortola

Thanks for the detailed report. We're considering Tortola for our next trip and are avid snorkelers, so your comments and descriptions were very helpful.

east longmeadow, ma
posts: 182
reviews: 6
3. Re: Trip Report, St John, Virgin Gorda & Tortola

Thanks for the trip report........We're the oppositite of you folks.....my wife likes the ammenities of a big resort, and I like the intimacy/living like a local of villa rental. that being said, the BVI are a great spot......thanks for sharing!!!

Illinois, United...
posts: 4
reviews: 11
4. Re: Trip Report, St John, Virgin Gorda & Tortola

Great trip report! Thank you for posting all your favorites. I love St. John USVI, as we took a family trip there several years ago. So beautiful and we just loved exploring all the beaches. This May, just my husband and I are coming to Tortola. We are opting for a villa this time. When we went as a family to St. John we stayed at the Westin. I can always see benefits to both. For this trip, we really want to relax and getaway, so we opted for the villa. We didn't do any snorkeling in St. John and are really looking forward to snorkeling this trip. I think I'll look into doing a day sail like you did.

Charlottesville...
posts: 2,030
reviews: 115
5. Re: Trip Report, St John, Virgin Gorda & Tortola

Thanks for your very helpful and insightful trip report! We've been to all 3 islands, but not St. John since 04, so we are glad to hear how much you enjoyed your stay there. The folks at Dive BVI are great and the Chimney is a very colorful dive. You are right about the Wreck of the Rhone being a MUST dive, I think I've been on 10 or 12 dives there and it never gets old. What dive company did you use on Tortola?

We are also big fans of villas, where we find we get "more bang for our buck," in terms of more rooms, generally more privacy, and often our own pool. So glad to hear you had a wonderful 25th, may you have many more!

All the best, alashas http://www.youtube.com/user/honeymoon2

North Carolina USA
posts: 1,125
reviews: 64
6. Re: Trip Report, St John, Virgin Gorda & Tortola

We used Blue Water Divers in Nanny Cay on Tortola.

Keller, Texas
posts: 504
reviews: 58
7. Re: Trip Report, St John, Virgin Gorda & Tortola

So glad to hear that you enjoyed Sterling House. We are bareboating for a week at BVI in Oct. and wanted to relax for a week afterwards. Thinking of renting SH with another couple. Is there anything else you can tell me about the house, beach, area?

Thanks

Tampa, Florida
posts: 248
reviews: 34
8. Re: Trip Report, St John, Virgin Gorda & Tortola

Loved your report. We have been 2 St. John twice and are planning a trip to Tortola. Your faves are ours as well on St. John so this gives me a good idea of what to explore on Tortola.

North Carolina USA
posts: 1,125
reviews: 64
9. Re: Trip Report, St John, Virgin Gorda & Tortola

To Lcrich56

The Sterling House in Tortola had the easiest access to the beach of the three villas we stayed at. We were literally on the water and I loved early evenings after a day at the beach in Tortola, as it was exhilarating to sit on the lawn right over the turquoise water and watch the waves crash over the rocks.

See:

tripadvisor.com/…photos

See my review at: tripadvisor.com/…

Pros:

RIGHT on the water

Great snorkeling right off the shore

Water visibility is excellent

Loved the electric blinds. The blinds close off the sun and the heat inside

The pool can be heated to perfect not too hot, not too cool temp.

The pool is private

Plenty of different places to sit outside

Covered patio for rainy times

Table outside right over the water or on covered patio.

Well decorated

Well maintained

Furniture plush.

Safe in bedrooms

Shower in one master has door that leads right to pool.

House small enough that the bedroom ACs will AC the whole house

Beach is lovely

Long bay resort right next door and the food there is very good.

CONs

House is small

There is NO real kitchen area.

Only a small inside table for two in living room

Kitchen is small

Pool is small

Water is very rocky making it difficult to get in and out.

Long Bay snorkeling is not for beginners as the current is sometimes very strong and it is difficult to get past the breakers if the surf is up.

Keller, Texas
posts: 504
reviews: 58
10. Re: Trip Report, St John, Virgin Gorda & Tortola

Thanks for your reply. Very helpful! Are the bedrooms the same as far as size, decor, or is there one that is better than the other?

Also, the dining close by - walkable?

Thanks again,

L