We often rely on Tripadvisor reviews and would like to contribute to the community. (Thank you to others who have contributed their opinions.) Since this is a big resort and takes quite a commitment, I will endeavor to do a full review.
We had a very pleasant and memorable week. The accommodations were upscale, the resort was full featured, and the service was very good, exceptional you might say. We would definitely stay again.
NOTE ON CONSTRUCTION:
Compliments to the Westin for making their ongoing refreshing of the resort very unobtrusive. It was perhaps the least obtrusive hotel remodel I have seen. I can sure tell you stories about other hotel remodels. If you want to know exactly what is being impacted by the construction, check their website, then give them a call if you need clarification. The only common area under construction during our visit was the Prime Restaurant. I found the Beachside Restaurant much preferable anyway. My wife is very annoyed by hotel remodels and she commented how unobtrusive the Westin’s remodel was.
TIME OF YEAR:
New Years week, so this would be a very busy time for the resort and the island. It was our second stay and our 5th or so visit to the island. We made our travel plans at the last minute so that had something of an affect on our trip. Small island + busy time means make your plans early if possible. Although we started our planning a little late, we had a great trip.
Arrived on a fairly quite afternoon and the check-in process was very quick, efficient, and welcoming. They made sure to ask for my SPG/Westin number, which was not on the reservation. Bell service was very available and helpful. We stayed in the Bay Vista Villas building 24. I was surprised how close the parking lot is to the Bay Vista Villas given how large the resort is. Like any beach community, parking is an important issue on St. John USVI.
We stayed in a 3-bed/ 3-bath Bay Vista Villa. Since each bedroom had is own en-suite bathroom it worked perfectly for our small group of two adults and a teenage boy and girl. That is fortunate since it was about the only accommodation available at the time. Being a Westin, the bedding was great. Interestingly, they do not provide daily housekeeping for the Villas, just a midweek refresh. The good part is not having to clear out of the room for housekeeping every day, the bad part is having to wash your own towels or call for replacements. The washer dryer unit in the Villa was very, very helpful. I would have packed less if I had known how helpful it was to have a washer and dryer.
The unit had a full kitchen with full size appliances and a huge dining area. The table could probably seat 8 easily. The condo has a few packs of laundry detergent but only one pack of dishwashing detergent, so bring your own.
We stayed in a 2nd floor unit. Unfortunately, it was the closest to the stairs so the balconies were spacious but not very private. A unit farther from the stairs/elevator would be more private. It is too bad the units don’t have much of a view of the cliff side they are nestled against because that is unique. The 3-bedroom Villa had a deck off the living room and also the master bedroom. The master bedroom deck lacked privacy so we did not use it much. We found our building to be quiet. The ceiling did transmit the noise of the large group above us. We did not like the way the Bay Vista Villas 3-bdrm was chopped up, however, the 3 ensuite full baths were very necessary for our party.
The master bathroom was spacious and had 2 separated sinks, a large shower, and a huge bathtub that we never used. Probably a little wasted space here that I would have rather had in the bedroom. The water closet was simply frosted glass. I would have preferred more privacy.
Since this resort has everything from king bed hotel rooms (most of which are being remodeled) to 3-bedroom villas, you biggest decision will be deciding what type of accommodation is best for you.
Not much of a view, but we knew this going in. Building 24 of the Bay Vista Villas is a 3-story building. We don’t like ground floor rooms although some people find them preferable since they have two nice walkout patios instead of balconies. You would assume the 3rd floor rooms would have the best views. Since the lovely landscaping has matured, the 2nd floor rooms did not have much of a view except for the grounds, the tops of trees, and a tiny slice of water on the horizon. At least the sun set directly over this view, which was nice to see from the couch in the living room. FYI, the view side of the villa was all windows and glass, which was nice. That is the downside of the Bay Vista Villas, not much of a view from the 2nd floor and you would assume no ocean view from the ground floor.
The resort is quite large. The rooms, many of which are being remodeled, have ocean views and ocean side accommodations. We did the trade-off of more space/bathrooms in a Villa for a less dramatic view.
THE RESORT GROUNDS:
Let’s face it – this is where the resort shines. The grounds are fantastic, picturesque and peaceful. The pool complex was even more amazing than the photos. Our teenagers used it a lot for sunning, however we never used it with some of the best beaches in the world a 15-minute drive away. During peak times, the Snorkels bar and grill at the pool, can be very slow. The only time I dined there, was during a lull in the afternoon and the service was about 20 minutes. We sat a table that was about 20 feet from the pool and 20 feet from the beach. Can you think of a more perfect place for a lazy lunch?
The beach at the Westin is much better than you would think. I think it is underrated. They have plenty of beach chairs and umbrellas and also a few extremely comfortable hammocks. How difficult a choice is that? Whether to sit on a beach lounge chair or a poolside lounge chair, or perhaps a table at the lounge? They also have water sports rentals. However, regarding watersports, during peak times, the small bay is very crowded with boats etc., so I don’t think it is that attractive for watersports. During nonpeak times, I would think it would be much nicer. In general, I found there water sports rentals to be a little old. If you can afford the Westin, you can afford to go to Cinnamon Bay beach and rent a kayak or hobie in my opinion. There are plenty of photos of the resort on tripadvisor. It is really as nice, or better, than the photos you have seen. Perhaps the grounds at the Grand Hyatt on Kauai are a little better but the grounds at the Westin are very nice. As you know, the only two resorts on the island with a beach are the Westin and Caneel Bay. Gallows Point Resort has a snorkel, i.e., rocky oceanfront.
The resort is spread out and has a few hills. However, staff with golf carts were very willing to offer rides. Show up at the front of the resort with a bag of groceries and it won’t be more than a few seconds before someone shows up in a cart to give you a lift. Usually, I preferred to walk barefoot in the grass instead of riding in a golf cart. Small criticism: The golf carts were gas powered. Most resorts I have stayed at have used quieter electric carts. Apparently eclectic carts are in the plans.
This is a non-smoking resort. Smoking is allowed in very limited areas and it is apparently strictly enforced. I thought it was great since cigarette smoke really bothers my allergies and is one of the few things that triggers my asthma. Come to think of it, it feels like most of the island of St. John is non-smoking. Personally, I think the resort should endeavor to make a more picturesque designated smoking area, so that those with the habit would have a nice place to indulge.
The concierge desk is always staffed. I found the concierge desk to be very knowledgeable and extremely helpful. When the resort is full, it is sometimes a wait for information because they spend a lot of time with each guest. They know every restaurant on the island.
I thought the restaurants at the resort were nice. My favorite was the Beach Café with tables 10 yards from the water. I thought the food was as upscale as you would like although the fine dining restaurant, Prime, is closed for remodeling. I preferred the casual elegance of the waterside Beach Café anyway. I thought the restaurant service was great. Those ladies made me feel pampered.
As mentioned, my son ate at the Snorkels poolside café and he said it took way too long for lunch. I ate there a short time later and it was fine. As mentioned above, this was a very busy time for the resort.
The Deli was not very well stocked and was minimal at best. I like a resort with a full coffee bar. The Westin did not have one, or I could not find it.
Our family loves the restaurants in Cruz Bay so we seldom ate dinner at the resort. I think I would have like to have one or two more meals at the resort and a few more drinks at the waterside bar.
The exercise room was medium sized and well equipped. We went to the Spa for a massage. The staff was very good, however considering the premium price of the Spa services, it was not very upscale. We heard that these areas will be remodeled in the next few years as part of the resort makeover. If you are a serious spa goer you will be disappointed
The swim shop and gift shop is very large and has pretty much anything you need for a beach vacation.
In my opinion, the resort was very clean and our condo was well maintained. In fact, the sidewalk and doormat outside our front door was cleaned of sand daily. Don’t be surprised if your room door is wet, as they wash down the outside hallways daily.
We found the service at the resort to be outstanding. I have read a few reviewers who found fault at times with the service. We found the service to be consistently outstanding. The service was prompt, professional, and warm. OK, once a young woman at the front desk at night was a little curt and unfriendly about a service request. However, the request could not have been accomplished faster.
A small note about interacting with folks on some islands: It is customary to say hello and greet a person properly before making a request. If you are from the Midwest, this will come naturally. Keep this in mind and you will find a lot a warm and friendly people on St. John. Besides, isn’t that why you come to St. John because of the relaxed vibe?
One drawback of the resort is that it is about an 8-minute drive to the center of Cruz Bay. It is not walking distance. We love the quaint and funky town of Cruz Bay and ate in town most nights. As in any beach town, parking is a hassle in Cruz Bay. We parked most nights at the Wharfside Village and walked to our destination. It was $3/hour. Always double-check what time the parking lot closes at night out of courtesy. Cruz Bay is a nice walking around town. The Westin has cabs readily available in front. Since they are safari style, they want to get a full load before heading off. I think this would test my patience. It is the same 15 minute drive to the national park beaches as most places in town.
There is a nice small food store a few blocks from the resort. Although it is not the largest in town, I think it has a better upscale selection than the other big market although some would disagree. The close market has a 15 percent discount for Westin guest on orders over $50.
I don’t think a review of an island resort would be complete without a discussion of the island itself. St. John USVI is probably our favorite Caribbean Island although there are so many great islands and a few not so great islands. The beaches are wonderful, and since most are US national parks, they are very open to the public. Trunk Bay Beach might have the best sand of any beach in the world. We managed to get to the beach every day except New Years Day. A favorite topic is which is your favorite beach? I think the group consensus was Maho, Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Hawksnest. I think most locals would say would say Cinnamon, Trunk, Hawksnest, Maho. Since these beaches are on national park land, they are not dominated be an onsite resort and are very accessible to public beach goers. FYI, the national park beaches are non-smoking except in designated areas.
The only drawback is the town and beaches can get very crowded when the large cruise ships dock on St. Thomas (usually on Tuesday and Wednesday). Check the Internet for the list of cruise ships in port and plan you days accordingly.
St. John is lower key than many Caribbean islands. For example, we found Antigua to be rather uptight. We like how laidback most of the folks and businesses in St. John are. It is large enough island to have a few things to do, and small enough to feel personal. If you take a drive to the west side of the island and sometimes on the east side, don’t be surprised if the cafes and shops have run out of certain foods or have decided to close early or stay open late because they were in the mood. If that kind of informality bothers you, you may not have the proper vibe for this island.
Since St. John is difficult to get to, there does not seem to be a problem with transients. We have never felt unsafe on the island. When on vacation, we like to get in the car and drive to some beach, shop or restaurant we have never been to before. St. John is conducive to that type of vacation. I have heard some people say they would be bored to death after a few days at the beach. This trip we spent 7 nights on the island and it was way too short.
I am not sure how to say this, but on some islands, such as Antigua, we felt we were constantly negotiating the level of service, and that folks were always trying to take advantage of you. We have never felt that way on St. John. FYI, we have never stayed on St. Thomas.
We rented a car in St. Thomas and took the car ferry since no rental cars were available in St. John. The only thing I don’t like about that is getting accustom to driving on the left side of the road while driving from the airport to the Red Hook Ferry port which has a lot of traffic. At least we didn’t have to load/unload bags at the car ferry. In my opinion, there is no easy way to get from the airport to St John regardless of where you are staying. The Westin has a personalized ferry service but it is pricy. If you don’t like to do things on your own, I would suggest spending the extra on the Westin Ferry service. On our next visit to the island I am not sure how we will travel from the airport to the resort. Probably cab to people ferry, and then take a cab to hotel. We usually pick up our rental car after we get to the condo, so Westin’s on premise car rental would be convenient. Some people say the rental car company at the Westin is more expensive but I would find the convenience more than makes up for it. However, they were out of cars during our stay.
We had a great and memorable week. There are pros and cons with every resort/condo/hotel on St. John. We liked the Westin Resort a lot and it worked perfectly for our recent family vacation. We are very likely to stay there again depending on our party makeup and the time of year.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.