Snorkel Masks > Covid Masks
Y’all have been asking for a St. Thomas travel blog and you’ve been so patient! First of all, we had an incredible trip. We planned this last minute and got killer deals on flights and excursions before everyone jumped back into traveling and prices skyrocketed. I know so many of you followed along with our adventures via Instagram stories and you know that this was the perfect trip for our water babies! It was hot and the water was warm. The views and the villa and our driver were all incredible! St. Thomas isn't a big island but it has so much to enjoy and explore. We didn't scratch the surface when it comes to the island but we tried a new beach each day and each day we had a different experience and vibe. It was exactly what we were looking for!
That being said, what most of you saw via stories on social media was the highlight reel.
St. Thomas is not what I would consider a family friendly vacation if you have little ones. We knew this going into it and we still would have made it happen. I have lots of reasons for saying that but the biggest reason is because it is not easy to get to the island and it is not easy to get around once you are there. Direct flights were scarce from our neck of the woods so we took two flights and a taxi before we made it to our villa. We also had to go through a security checkpoint when we got off the place in St. Thomas. At the checkpoint we had to show our negative Covid tests with a QR code issued by the USVI Portal that basically gives you permission to enter the airport. St Thomas is US territory but you do have to go through customs on your way back to the mainland. All of those things complicated the traveling portion tremendously. For us, it was worth it because we were craving the clear water to snorkel and such.
We were able to experience beaches at Secret Harbor, Lindquist Beach, Sapphire Beach and Magens Bay on St. Thomas. We also got to check out Maho Bay, Lovango Bay and Christmas Cove on St. John. I recommend ALL of them as family friendly beaches and experiences. Keep in mind, many of the beaches require a small fee to access and cash is the only option!
While we were on St. Thomas we hired a driver. Originally I had rented a car but because I read so many things about the island and knew they drive on the left side of the road, I decided I would rather have an experienced driver for my family than attempt to white knuckle while driving to the beach each day. I also saw hundreds of reviews saying that people had booked a rental car and when they arrived they were told that they didn’t have a car available. Apparently when you rent a car on the island, you are just making a reservation but those reservations are subject to availability of a car when you arrive without a guarantee. Taxi’s charge per person so for my family of 6 we would be looking at $30 rides for two or three miles down the road and $30 back, plus tips. The island also isn’t conducive to walking because of dangerous roads and steep hills so for all of these reasons, we went with a driver! We hired Jermaine Petty through a recommendation from Michaela at Caribbean Concierge. He was the 2nd most expensive part of the trip (after the villa) and he was worth his weight in gold! He ended up just loving baby Marigold and the quarantine baby actually reached her little arms out to him for a hug on the last day. We all masked up during the drives and he was professional, kind and personable. If you travel to St. Thomas, call him! 340-642-3904 is his cell phone number. He will take the absolute best care of you. Tell him baby Marigold sent ya.
Onto our villa! This villa was through AirBnB. It was as pictured and the beds were comfy and clean. The kitchen was well stocked and the caretakers and owners were attentive. Of course, island bugs and lizards are everywhere but that didn’t really concern beachy people like us. As a really grateful and happy vacationer, I’d give this villa a 10/10. As a consumer and realistic person, it was probably more of a 6/10. The oven didn’t work, the fence along the pool is still broken from a past hurricane and the doors didn’t lock when we arrived. Like I said, you saw my highlight reel via social media so I’m sharing these bits here too. Non of those issues were big enough for us to really care but everyone has different expectations so I’m going full disclosure! The location was amazing and just a quick ride to Red Hook (town) but the views were honestly just so incredible. We had a perfect view of St. John from our "breakfast balcony" on the front of the house. Off the pool deck on the back of the house we had even more beautiful views and a perfect sunset spot.
We ordered takeout most nights and had one pretty good dinner out with all of us. We went to 3 Palms and while it cost a small fortune, the margs were fabulous and we ordered appetizers and big meals like we were kings and queens so we deserved that bill. I didn't love my meal here but everyone else was super happy with theirs so it deserves a mention. Plus, it had a pretty view of the marina and I was able to get this great photo of my son and I. He loves pictures with his mother. He really does.
We grilled burgers at the villa one night and bought our cooking supplies at the well-stocked Moe's Market in Red Hook. Most people I ran into seemed to think that Moe's and groceries on the USVI in general were super expensive but I guess coming from a beach town myself, I didn't really see many huge increases in price of groceries. You could totally buy your groceries and cook nightly if you wanted to save money on meals. Our breakfasts at the house were really my favorite! Having avocado toast, banana pancakes and good old cereal in the morning was clutch without having to rush to get anywhere. PERFECTION. Plus, we brought our IceMule Cooler from home because it is so easily packed in a suitcase and managed to pack lunches, snacks, libations and cold water for our beach days with the supplies we bought at Moe's.
On Easter Sunday we had brunch reservations at "The Easterly." This was our absolute favorite spot and we were all trying to politely lick our plates. They serve a brussel sprout and sweet potato hash that I will be trying to recreate for the rest of my life. It was fabulous! I wish we would have gone back for dinner but we were trying to experience many different places! Baby Gold couldn't hang because she was so stimulated the entire vacation experiencing new things and new people for the first time in her entire life (pandemic babies... am I right?) She slept her way through brunch but who can blame her with that handsome guy to lay her head on? ;)
Our last night there we managed to leave the big kids with the little kids and had an incredible, late night dinner out at Sunset Grille in Secret Harbor. Our food and drinks were great. Our appetizer was portioned for tiny mice but whatever! When you're on vacation in paradise and your appetizer is small... its just whatever... you know? ;) After dinner we hit last call at Tap & Still. It was still relatively early... like 11ish, but Covid has everything closing down early on St. Thomas.
Our best takeout was Pesce Italian for sure! Joey got grilled lobster and my go-to Italian meal of chicken parm was out of this world. Chicken Parm not pictured because I ate it before I thought about a pic... Just image the best chicky parm you have ever had... and this one was better.
The HIGHLIGHT of our trip was booking a full day charter with Adventure Awaits. This team of people had the knowledge and know how to get us to the best snorkeling spots and they couldn’t have been any better. Our captain and first mate were top notch. They were kind, genuine and they were more than just the boat operators... they became a part of our day and our vacation. We honestly can't put into words how much we loved this charter! If we would have had another day, we would have done another full day charter with them! We saw sea turtles, hundreds of fish, coral, stingrays, starfish and the list goes on and on! They knew all of the best spots and treated our kids like their own. While it's not a part of their job at all, it was incredibly reassuring to know that they had their eyes on our kids and their safety was a priority for them. When you're traveling with 5 kids, extra sets of eyes are ALWAYS appreciated. The owners were so sweet and when I called to book I explained that we have big kids and tiny ones... they brought their own pack n' play onboard so Goldie could snooze during her real nap time and that was EVERYTHING. Jason and I actually got a chance to snorkel together and swim with a sea turtle... our first date since Covid. God, I love that man. So we're probably going to have a 5th kid now that we finally went on a date. Don't tell anybody though.
So, that's a pretty lengthy post and if you made it this far... I'd say book the trip! Check in with Michaela at Caribbean Concierge and she will make your vacation dreams come true! She has an awesome Facebook group too with lots of info and people who weigh in and give tips and advice.
We love to travel as a family. It's a really special time to connect with my people and disconnect from the general to-dos of my own home that take up so much more time than any of us realize. It was so good to feel somewhat normal again and get to travel even though we did have to jump through some Covid hoops to make it happen. It was absolutely incredible to see the stress of the past year just melt off of all of us. I knew that I needed a vacation but I had no idea how good it would be for the kids after this bonkers year and I am so glad we ripped the bandaid off and took this trip.
We will absolutely be back to the Virgin Islands with our kids in tow! While this trip was work and required lots of prep and planning, it was worth it because a trip like this is unique and special and bonded all of us in a big way. I know COVID and the last year has changed so much, especially how we think about travel, but I'm a big believer that it is time to live life and live it well. Tomorrow isn't promised to any of us any way. xoxo - Audra