We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Staying at Renaissance Carambola in Nov. 2013, advice/tips?

Which St. Croix hotels are on sale?
mm/dd/yyyy mm/dd/yyyy
See hotels
Shelton, Connecticut
posts: 47
reviews: 75
Staying at Renaissance Carambola in Nov. 2013, advice/tips?

My wife and I will be vacationing there mid November (9th to 16th). We're in our mid 40's and both work long hours in stressful jobs, so we're looking forward to this being primarily a "chill out and relax" trip more so than an active trip. We've been to many other Caribbean islands but this will be our first visit here. We decided to redeem our Marriott points and the Carambola looked really nice. We're looking very forward to getting there and enjoying ourselves. Since we haven't been here before we were looking for some advice and tips from the TA community here that might help us have a better time there. So here goes.

I have seen between the forums and the reviews of the resort that there is an overwhelming majority that say to rent a car, especially if you're staying at the Carambola because of it's seclusion. I have preferred status with Avis so I reserved a Toyota Corolla for our entire stay there. This will give us the freedom to drive ourselves to and from the airport and also explore the island at our leisure. My wife has concerns about us driving ourselves around and having to drive on the opposite side of the road that we're used to, and I'd be lying if I said i wasn't a little concerned about it, too. So my first question would be how difficult is this to get used to? I have to imagine that if so many from the US do it, it can't be too bad to get used to. As far as getting around the island, I assume they give you a map, but I was also planning on using Google Maps and navigation with my Verizon smartphone. Is this possible and practical with Verizon? I already heard that the coverage is spotty with Verizon around the resort but what about everywhere else you drive around? It's an extra $14 a day to rent their GPS so I'd rather save that and use my own phone for free (provided it will work when I get there that is.) Any other dos and dont's about renting and driving around there? My wife likes taking nice pictures so what would be some picturesque places to see there? We'd also like to tour the rum distillery. How long of a drive is it from Airport to Carambola, Carambola to the two major towns?

As far as the resort goes, we've never been let down by the other Marriott places we've stayed at in the area (AUA, SJU, STT, etc.) so we're expecting a similar experience here. I can't remember which room category we have reserved so I'll have to look it up and let you know. As far as hanging around the resort, is there difficulty getting chairs/space here by the beach or pool? Are there chairs in the shade available as well as in the sun? Is it buggy at all? Should insect repellent be brought? There will be some days where we just chill on the beach all day reading, napping, eating, repeat, so any other pointers you think are relevant, let us know.

As far as eating at the resort, How many dining options are there for breakfast, lunch, dinner? Do the restaurants change themes at all or is it the same menu every day/night? Are any of the restaurants must-do or must avoid in your opinion? As far as leaving the resort in the rental car, I know I will have to follow the golden rule of keep your left shoulder on the left shoulder, but how are the roads generally as far as condition wise. Anything to know ahead of time about driving besides stay on the left? Any restaurant recommendations for lunch & dinner, both upscale as well as casual? We're pretty open to a lot of cuisines and always like to sample the local flavor of where we visit. Are there any areas to avoid driving through or around, whether for the road conditions or safety reasons? What's it like to park if you go to one of the major towns to eat, shop, or explore? How plentiful are the gas stations there? Do they take credit cards right at the pump like mainland US? (I'm starting to nitpick, I'd better start wrapping up the first post here.)

What is one thing you wish you knew before you got there, about the hotel, airport, rental car, touring, beaches, sightseeing, etc?

Well, I think I've bombarded you with enough questions for one sitting here, sorry for all this at once! I'm looking very forward to your replies and as you can probably tell, we're looking forward to getting there. If you have any more questions for us, feel free to ask away, too.

Thanks again,

Jim.

45 replies to this topic
St. Croix
Destination Expert
for St. Croix
posts: 1,462
reviews: 75
1. Re: Staying at Renaissance Carambola in Nov. 2013, advice/tips?

Glad you have a car. You will get used to driving on the left quickly. Just tell your pilot to keep saying "keep left" the first day or so. I hope you are arriving during daylight hours. If not, be sure to get good directions before leaving the airport because Carambola can be difficult to find in the dark. You will get a map and sometimes a GPS will work but we do not have Verizon so your roaming charges will be huge. I do not recommend getting a GPS; you really won't need it. The island is only 26 x3 so it doesn't take long to get from one end to the other. It will take you about 45 min to get to Christiansted from Carambola.

There are plenty of chairs at Carambola and lots of shade. There are a couple of restaurants but I recommend you try the ones at Cane Bay just a few minutes away as well. EAT at Cane Bay, Off the Wall, Sprat Net are all good and just a little further up the road are several other great places to eat. St.Croix has fabulous restaurants. High end: Kendrick's, Beachside Café at Sandcastles, Savant, Duggan's. Less expensive: Breezez, Tutto Bene. There are lots of beach bars with good food. Lost Dog pizza is yummy as is Blue Water's. Bug spray will probably be needed as the sun goes down but can be purchased here. There are lots of gas stations but not too many of them take credit cards - most places are cash only.

There are lots of beaches to explore. It is always advisable not to leave valuables in your car or lying on the beach while snorkeling.

Am sure I've left some things out. Have a wonderful time..

Elkhart Indiana
Destination Expert
for St. Croix
posts: 925
2. Re: Staying at Renaissance Carambola in Nov. 2013, advice/tips?

In agreement with everything Crabgroupie said especially about getting good directions from the airport to Carambola .. we also were very concerned the first year with driving left and getting lost... rental cars have a sticker on the bottom windshield that says STAY LEFT and the islanders are pretty darn friendly about allowing for silly tourists that forget and they will toot at you and point :) We over-thought the mapping out routes the first year also and were continually stressing that we were lost ... after that we never called it being lost we merely looked at it as an adventure and said we were "exploring". As for GPS ... a lot of the highways and roads on the island really don't have names and you will see JCT signs however it never really tells you what Junctions ... it is a beautiful island and you and your wife should come home not only rested but also planning to return. Enjoy planning

Santa Monica, CA
Destination Expert
for Santa Monica
posts: 7,018
reviews: 159
3. Re: Staying at Renaissance Carambola in Nov. 2013, advice/tips?

The Carambola is gorgeous! We went there planning to settle my mother onto a chair at the beach, then we were going to do the hike to the tidepool, but the water was too inviting and we just splashed around and enjoyed their beach. That area is my favorite (in fact, I've got that Corolla picked out from Avis for our December trip).

Be sure to visit nearby Cane Bay. There are a few neat beach bars and restaurants there: Eat at Cane Bay, Spratnet bar, Above the Cliff, Rowdy Joe's, and probably a couple I cannot remember.

Salt River is also nearby. There are interesting kayak tours, at night to see bioluminescent sea plankton.

A visit to the Mt. Pellier Domino Club to see the beer drinking pigs is silly and fun. Good food at the bar!

A boat trip to Buck Island.

The St. George Village Botanical garden and nearby Cruzan rum tour is a must-do for us.

Don't worry too much about driving on the other side. St. Croix is not a crowded island, so you can practice on some neighborhood roads. That's what we did. Who knows, you could really take to it - if so, then try driving on the other side of the road with the steering wheel in the opposite place! We've done that too. Just make sure the passenger is helping you with gentle reminders, especially when you turn right (we all do this incorrectly and we all seem to activate the windshield wipers, too.) You'll be fine, just take it slow and be very careful at night - it's super dark!

St. Croix, IMO, is very unique. It is an island that is not overrun with tourists, and I love that. Yet, it is home to some great restaurants, miles of beautiful beaches, and lovely people (they are a bit reserved, especially if you've been somewhere like Barbados, but if you greet the locals with a "good morning/good afternoon/good night - and greet them first, they are very kind).

I wish I had known how beautiful, affordable, and easy to self-tour this island was years ago, I'd have been here sooner!

Shelton, Connecticut
posts: 47
reviews: 75
4. Re: Staying at Renaissance Carambola in Nov. 2013, advice/tips?

Thank you all so much for all this input, please keep it coming!

I looked up the online reservation that my wife did to redeem her Marriott points and the room category on it says: "Guest Room, 1 King, Sofabed, Beachfront" Beachfront sounds good to me.

On the subject of using my Verizon Samsung Galaxy S3 as a mapping/navigation system while driving down there, Verizon's website says: "Any data usage in Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands is considered domestic and will deduct from domestic allowances when available or would be billed at domestic overage/pay per use rates. See your current data plan or feature for details." And since I have an unlimited data plan, I think I should be ok with using it at will down there with no add'l fees. Texting is also same as home rates and voice calls are $1.99/min. I think this was also the exact case when we went to STT a couple years ago as well. I'm going to call VZW just before we leave to confirm all this though. Thier St. Croix coverage map looks like it covers at least 80% plus of the island. It looks like the area of the resort and part of Cane Bay is spotty but hopefully by then we'll be close enough to wing it. Between the phone and a decent map we should be good to go.

How about ATM machines in case you need more cash while you're down there? Are they commonplace and plentiful in most built up areas?

Since I heard that the breakfasts at the resort can be pricey, what is the opinion on preparing your own breakfast in the room, or on days where you are hitting the road early, stopping somewhere cheaper to eat breakfast? Where would you eat breakfast or where would you purchase supplies to make your own stuff?

In response to when we are landing, we are flying from JFK (unfortunately via SJU, couldn't get a non-stop) and scheduled to land at 4:35pm. So at least on our inaugural car ride to the resort, we should be doing it all in daylight, barring a serious flight delay. But there will be other times where we'll be driving after dark I'm sure, if we are going out to dine for dinner outside the resort, but hopefully by then we will have gotten a feel for driving and the roads.

Thanks also for all the restaurant recommendations, I'll do some research on them soon. I heard about the beer-drinking pigs. I can't see how you can be this close to beer drinking pigs and NOT see beer-drinking pigs. We'll have to see if that fits into our plans one day.

Once again, I can't thank enough the people that replied. Looking forward to hearing more!

Thanks,

Jim.

Elkhart Indiana
Destination Expert
for St. Croix
posts: 925
5. Re: Staying at Renaissance Carambola in Nov. 2013, advice/tips?

I think that the biggest problem with Verizon on St. Croix is that you are not going to get a signal and if you do it is going to be extended because you are getting a signal from someplace that is not in your plan coverage map ... after our first two trips there we switched to AT&T (not sure exactly who my husband thought we needed to call while there but we switched) and we texted, called, everything last year without incurring any extra fees ... of course with AT&T here at home we have to crawl up on the roof and face southwest to get a signal and if we text anyone we have to hold the phone over our head for the message to go. Other Verizon user will probably have a better explanation.

So glad you are getting to the island and looking for Carambola in the day light. Night driving is a little tricky also because even though you drive on the left there the cars are manufactured off island in the States and the headlights are set for on-coming traffic being on your LEFT so there is a terrible glare from on coming traffic ... as mentioned above the turning right is a thrill at first and another lesson to practice is where we can "turn right on red" in St. Croix you can "turn left ON RED"

The Palms has a great Sunday brunch with steel drums ... this would be on your way into Christiansted ... on your way east out of Christiansted the Reef also has a good Sunday Brunch ..another thing to keep in mind while in St. Croix is that just because a place appears to be a gas station with locals sitting out front playing dominos it is more than likely to have great sandwiches for sale ... or there is Ziggy's that is a gas station but a great out door bar and restaurant and place to play pool. If you like Mexican food there is also Maria's which used to be a gas station also ...I'm sure someone will jump on but there are some great bakeries in LeReine which you will pass through on the way from the airport to Carambola where you could pick up some breakfast goodies

Santa Monica, CA
Destination Expert
for Santa Monica
posts: 7,018
reviews: 159
6. Re: Staying at Renaissance Carambola in Nov. 2013, advice/tips?

It is a wise idea to get some breakfast, liquor, and snacks from the grocery store. There's a large one (Plaza West?) on the way from the airport; ask the person you get your car from to give you the location. I'm on a quest for bakeries. Found one in Christensted - no sign on it, but directly across the street from Singh's Roti shop (don't you just love directions like that?). I hear Polly's at Fredriksted pier is good, too.

I think I read there are kitchenettes at Carambola? Heck, I'd even get eggs and bagels, then!

At Cane Bay, there's a Sunday brunch at EAT@Cane Bay, in Fredriksted is another beach party on Sundays. In fact, that seems to be the big day for those beach events.

We were last there in 2011 and my son had his iPhone with Verizon service. I recall that for navigating, it was not always helpful as service is spotty, but there are really not that many roads to get lost on, so you shouldn't have too much trouble with the map they give you at the rental car stand.

A little hint I read from another St. Croix visitor was to bring some white ribbon with you and tie it around bushes along your driving route (where the headlights will pick up the color in the dark). Doing this, they never missed their turn at night! On their last day, they just collected their ribbon on the way to the airport. Clever, and something I'm bringing along just in case! But otherwise, a paper map, a bit of confusion, and turn around to go back the other way. No worries! Luckily, we found the drivers there were mostly patient when we made a boneheaded turn or something of the like!

Did you happen to see Andrew Zimmern's food show on St. Croix? travelchannel.com/tv-shows/bizarre-foods/epi…

Try to find a replay of it. Very interesting and a neat view of St. Croix and it's hardworking entrepreneurs - and unusual places to eat, too!

I don't have a good recollection of ATMs, hope someone else can help you with that.

The restaurant list and reviews here on TripAdvisor are pretty accurate, at least from the my experience, so don't be afraid to choose any of them. If you visit Fredriksted, you have to get a sandwich from Turtle's Deli (I had a great salad, too). That place is wonderful and the sandwich is impossible to eat in one sitting.

I'm getting really excited to return.

Greenville, South...
posts: 137
reviews: 111
7. Re: Staying at Renaissance Carambola in Nov. 2013, advice/tips?

I think you've picked the perfect spot for your first trip to St. Croix. When you round "The Beast" and head downhill toward to Carambola, the sight will take your breath away. Please ask for a second floor room as they have a beautiful vaulted ceiling, which helps to make the room appear bigger. We love their screened-in porches, which every room has. You certainly can make your own breakfast, but part of the joy of being in Paradise is eating on the open terrace of the Carambola and watching the ocean. I would take bug spray to use at night. As far as restaurants, Rowdy Joe's and Eat @Cane Bay are great choices, which are close by. Our first trip to STX, we stayed on site for evening meals, but once we learned our way around the island during the day, we now venture out at night with no issues. We also love Angry Nate's in Christiansted. Great jerk chicken!! Please drive to Pt. Udall - the eastern most point of the US - wonderful views! Buck Island is spectacular - a four hour trip is sufficient to snorkel and enjoy the beach. Enjoy your trip and please post a trip report. You're going to love STX!!!

Shelton, Connecticut
posts: 47
reviews: 75
8. Re: Staying at Renaissance Carambola in Nov. 2013, advice/tips?

Lynne R, thanks for all the advice. When we went to St.Thomas, it was the same case with VZW as it will be on St.Croix and I didn't get charged a dime while using the phone down there since I didn't make any voice calls, just text'd and used data. Except for $1.99/min if I made a voice call, it was the same scenario using the phone down there as if i was at home on my back porch. Even if there are data signal drops here and there, between using google maps, the three offline maps I already loaded into the phone, and whatever physical maps we're given there, I'm sure we'll manage. It'll be part of the adventure. I'll also check out your dining recommendations.

PlumeriaD, it's my understanding that our room will be equipped with a stovetop, microwave, fridge, etc (toaster? not sure) so yes we can prepare meals in-room if we choose to. And I'll try to dig up that food show on demand or on the net somewhere, thanks.

Wanda S, there will definitely be some days where we eat the hotel breakfasts and enjoy the nice views as you recommend, but it's nice to know we can also take advantage of the cooking options within the room, so I'm guessing we'll probably do a mix of both depending on the situation and our mood. It's also not the first time I heard that the second floor rooms feel more open and large with the vaulted ceilings so we will no doubt try to pursue getting one of those rooms if we can.

Once again thanks to all who replied and that have yet to reply. This is all very helpful.

Anyone have input on the ATM question?

I heard they have mongoose there. Are they bothersome to us or do they just kind of mind their own business and tend to avoid us like squirrels here? What's the plural of mongoose? Mongeese? Mongooses? Or neither? Just mongoose either way? "There goes a mongoose." "There goes a group of mongoose." It should be interesting to see them. We're more used to the geckos & lizards like in AUA, STT.

Thanks,

Jim.

st. croix USVI
posts: 417
reviews: 70
9. Re: Staying at Renaissance Carambola in Nov. 2013, advice/tips?

Plural for mongoose is mongoose dem, or mongooses. Try http://cruciandictionary.com for some other island vernacular.

For the amount of time you have here, maybe pick 4 things you really want do and happy if you accomplish two things. The Carambola is an outstanding resort and I believe the hotel has completed their upgrades in the rooms. You really can't get lost... it's an island. Istill get unchosen scenic routes from time to time and we've lived here full time for seven years. I am direction-challenged and have often relied on the sun during different times of the day. It's fun, though.

KY
posts: 912
reviews: 28
10. Re: Staying at Renaissance Carambola in Nov. 2013, advice/tips?

I would think there would be an ATM at the Carambola, if not there are two ATM's located on the waterfront in downtown Fredriksted which is just a short scenic drive from the Carambola. Speaking of Fredriksted, I would recommend the Beachside café @Sandcastles for good food, service, and beautiful ocean views. Also Polly's at the Pier for great smoothies and the best grilled cheese sandwich ever.

Something I would like to do on our next trip is to go the Fri. night Pirate party at the Carambola with the Mocko Jumbies. I hope they still offer this.

As Rcarp stated it is Mongooses and less frequently referred to as Mongeese. They were introduced to the island and are a mixed bag of good and bad. Some think the island is overrun with them. They will do you no harm but don't be surprised if one darts across the road in front of you while you are driving in the rainforest.

Enjoy!

Reply to: Staying at Renaissance Carambola in Nov. 2013, advice/tips?
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted