June 14, 2024

During the first week of 2008, our family went to visit the Virgin Islands. We stayed at a condo on St Thomas. But we spent most of the time on the beaches at St John.

We flew there with Spirit Airlines. They were the cheapest out of any of the airlines. They can make it cheap by filling up all the seats and you have to pay for snacks and for check-in luggage. The airplanes are nice. But the ticket lines are long.

I found a condo through Vacation Rental By Owner. We stayed at a condo in Sapphire Beach. And it was a smooth process dealing with the owner. I’d recommend the condo. It’s an ocean front condo and Sapphire Beach is not at all crowded. But, best of all is that it’s less than 1 mile to Red Hook so it’s convenient to take a car ferry to St John.

When we arrived at the airport on STT, they were giving a way free samples of rum punch. I had reserved a car with Thrifty. And since they were located off-airport, I had to call them for a shuttle. But no one answered. I called the main Thrifty number and I waited forever while they tried to reach them also. I asked if they are closed and they said they shouldn’t be. Well, I didn’t really know what to do, so I decided to take a taxi to the Thrifty location. Turned out that they were closed. Great. So we went back to the airport. And the taxi driver then added insult to injury by charging us $40. What I found while staying on VI is that some of the locals will take advantage of you, moreso on STT than on STJ. So I ended up renting a car with Budget for a week. So, don’t ever get a car from Thrifty on STT. Use Budget. They are at the airport and have the largest car fleet on the island.

You drive on the left side on the Virgin Islands. And that was very weird. I had to keep saying to myself, “Left, left.” When we finally left the airport with our car, it was late afternoon. And after stopping at a Subway for dinner, it was dark when we drove to the condo. And it was a bit scary driving at night. You see these headlights headed toward you on the right side of the road and I kept feeling, “That car is going to crash into you!” Roads on the VI are somewhat decent. Though at times there are potholes you’ll need to watch out for.

When we arrived at the condo, the keys were inside and a bottle of Cruzan Rum was next to it. That was nice, except that I don’t really drink alcohol. I do drink occasionally, so that bottle would’ve lasted me at least a year.

I’m so glad we decided to get a condo. We were contemplating staying at a hotel or even an eco-tent. But, having two bathrooms and a separate sleeping and living rooms is almost a necessity. Mold and rust though was a problem. But I guess everywhere on the islands has these problems.

The car ferry runs every 30 minutes in the daytime between STT and STJ. You just drive your car on the ferry and during the trip an attendent will collect money from you. Depending on the barge you happen to get, it can cost either $42 or $50 for a round-trip ticket.

We went to STJ five of the seven days we were there. More than half of STJ is a national park, so it’s much more natural than STT or STX. If you go to STJ, make sure you stop by the visitors center and pick up all the free info that you can get. Also stop by the Starfish Market in Cruz Bay. It’s pretty much the only grocery store in STJ, but selection is good and prices are reasonable.

Pretty much all the meals we ate on VI was the hot meals from the grocery stores. For $9, you get very large servings of sides and a meat (usually stewed chicken or beef). I didn’t see a lot of tourists getting these, but this it’s popular with the locals.

On STJ, we visited Hawksnest Bay, Jumbie Bay, Trunk Bay, and Leinster Bay. Trunk Bay is the most popular since all the tour buses and cruise ship passengers go there. But, even though it’s the most populated, it’s definitely worth visiting. The underwater trail is interesting and I got to see some stingrays there.

Hawksnest is the closet beach and has showering facilities. Jumbie beach has some coral right next to the beach so it’s was great place for the kids to go snorkeling. Leinster Bay requires walking over rocks for almost a mile. But, it probably had the best snorkeling there. We got to see some starfish and a sea turtle. Fortunately, my dad gave us an underwater camera for Christmas, so we got to take some pictures of those.

One day we were driving around the other end of Cruz Bay and stopped by the Westin. And we were fortunate that they were feeding the iguanas while we were there. So we got to see a whole bunch of them.

On Sunday, we visited St Thomas Community Baptist Church. It was a small church and only black locals were there. I think they didn’t really know how to respond with us Asian tourists there. I think at the end they warmed up to us and said that they were glad we visited.

Overall, the trip to the Virgin Islands went well except for the mishap with Thrifty. We got to snorkel at several places and we all made it back safe and sound. I’d highly recommend visiting St John if you go to the Carribeans.

Here are some pictures from the trip:
Virgin Islands 2008

Here are some underwater videos:
Sea Turtle
Sea Turtle