Jackie Enos

US Virgin Island Vacation

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We’ve waited 4 years for our island vacay!!! Our trip was originally scheduled for May of 2020. We all know what happened that year. So sadly it was canceled. A lot of life has happened in the past 4 years. So this trip feels extra special and more appreciated, especially after moms battle with cancer.

The positive of the new trip is, now we get to experience both St. John and St. Thomas. We were able to use our Marriott points to stay at the BUOY HAUSE hotel in St. Thomas. The property is gorgeous and well landscape for the perfect tropical stroll. Stunning ocean views and the most calming sounds of waves at night when you lie in bed.

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They have a gym, beach access, a pool and a couple of restaurants.

We ate a couple lunches and all our breakfasts at The Salt Shack. Lots of options, friendly service and Chef Michael Key came out to greet us a few different days. He is actually from the Maryland area. We did have dinner here one night and you do need reservations. We didn’t make one, but they were able to fit us in. There are several kitties running around the property too. If you are lucky one may visit you at dinner.

As a hotel guest you are allowed to access the Westin next door which has a restaurant and 3 pools. There is a shuttle that will take you between the two hotel properties. The breakfast at the Shorebird has less options than The Salt Shack. We enjoyed dinner one night at Luna Mar (you do need reservations). There were also two cute kitties who loved that we gave them a few nibbles from our dinner. Also the sunsets are stunning!!!!

During the day the sights at the Westin are stunning from the balcony off the lobby bar. The decor is modern and more design inspired than BUOY HAUS. Would be a nice place for a cocktail and some pictures overlooking the water.

The beauty of the BUOY HAUS is its more intimate, more tropical, and beach access. After 3 busy days off island, we spent all day Thursday on property. We were able to sleep in, enjoy a workout in the small fitness center and a leisure breakfast at Salt Shack with the sound of waves and birds in the background. We then spent the afternoon at the pool. Gorgeous views, lots of lounge chairs with umbrella cover and lounge chairs in the water as well. We never took advantage of sitting on the beach but you should check that out as well.

*** Side note for Marriott members. If you have points to use, we used those for our stay here. We did chat with the concierge over at the Westin. While it is a Westin it is 3rd party owned. If you choose to stay there, be prepared for it not to meet your usual Marriott expectations and warm welcome. ***

Spend a Day on a Private Island- Lovango

While we didn’t buy out the island, due to it being the end of the slow season, we essentially had the island to ourselves for the day. The boat picked us up on dock D in Red Hook, 15 minutes later we exited onto the private island called Lovango.

We were greeted by amazing staff. Parker welcomed us, talked about the history of the island, explained where things were located, introduced us to the staff, got us situated on lounge chairs overlooking the ocean. Kelly was our waitress and got us drinks and food and checked on us frequently. The weather was perfect and the views spectacular.

***Side note as a fitness coach and trainer I do get asked how I get enough protein in when I travel. Click image below for how I managed to hit my protein even at the beach!***

We played a few games of corn hole (my dad even beat my husband in a game)! They also had a ball toss game as well. We later ventured up to the infinity pool which sat higher on the property. The views were even more amazing. Since we were having dinner later on property, they had two upper showers with yummy smelling body wash and shampoo as well as additional towels.

Dinner was lovely and romantic with all the twinkling string lights. It rained towards the end of dinner but we were protected from the elements. It was a great way to start the week and spend our first full day in the Virgin Islands.

Here is a video of our day on Lovango. Honestly it is worth the day pass. I also recommend visiting the Islands at the end of May before the busy season. It was so lovely to have a private Island to ourselves for the day!

Two days in St. John full of adventure, fun and stunning views

Since we are staying in St. Thomas we took the car ferry over to St. John two days in a row. We were advised to reserve the rental car in advance before our trip to guarantee we had a car when we arrived. We went through Alamo and ended up with a Nissan Kick. While it is small, which was nice for all the small winding roads, it does not have great horsepower for the hills! It is more costly, but next time we would rent the jeeps. However the Nissan did not waste much gas but it struggled on a few hills, we were literally crawling up a few!!!!

We also paid online before our trip for the Car Ferry. There is a people ferry you can take if you don’t plan on renting a car. Even though we had reserved specific ferry times, it still is first come, so get there early and get in line. The ride over was interesting as they pack you in like sardines.

Our first day, they had us back up right in front of a massive truck. The back windshield was so close to the truck grill. It looked much worse in person! But it was a smooth and quick ride over and they get you on and off quickly.

Before jumping in line for the ferry, we grabbed coffees and something to eat at Lattes in Paradise. We even had a large Iguana as a visitor looking for some breakfast. He may creep you out, but he was harmless.

We used the GPS to get us to Trunk Bay which is probably one of the more stunning beaches. However the parking lots are small. You could wait a bit to see if someone leaves. We ended up dropping my parents off at the beach and driving a mile and a half down the road for roadside parking. We got in extra steps and were able to take some pics at one of the overlook spots. Simply stunning.

It is $5 per person at this beach. They only took credit card which was interesting. However we visited two other beaches and there was no entry fee. We had taken towels from the hotel and had stopped at the COST U LESS in St. Thomas and purchased two $15 pop up beach umbrellas. They did come in handy. We decided not to purchase chairs. Glad we waited as chairs were $40-$60 each Cost U Less and Kmart. At some beaches you were able to rent them for just $10. We did not see chairs to rent at Trunk Bay. By the time we got situated we only had time to spend about an hour or so there. Despite the lack of time we did get to enjoy its beauty.

We had 1:45pm reservations with an express boat company called Salty Daze to drive us out to LIMEOUT which is a floating taco shop in the middle of the bay. It’s a must do activity and was such a cool experience. We did the Salt & Lime Express which was about $30 per person. They do give you a small float belt to wear. If you have kids I would recommend you bring a vest and arm floaties. It was not a crazy distance to swim but enough that you may need some assistance.

Our express captain was Tiger and he had a fascinating life story to share and gave us many laughs. Its a very short boat ride out. You exit the boat and swim to taco paradise.

***Side note, I purchased this pack of 3 waterproof cases in advance. That way two of us could bring our phones, and one we could put cash, credit card and car keys in. If you buy them on the island it will cost you $35 for one pouch so plan ahead.***

Lime Out is such a fun and unique way to have lunch and enjoy the water at the same time. There is a swim up bar with seating which is where we ate. Perfect as it acts as a table. There are green lily pad floats you can also sit at. However you do have to pull yourself up on those and there is no center table. If you choose to sit on those they have a huge floating tray they send out to you with your drinks and tacos.

Let’s talk tacos. If like me, you have food allergies, you can ask for corn vs. flour tacos and of course no cheese. They are 6 inches each. 1 is more like a snack, 2-3 is a full meal. Each taco is $12-$13 dollars but worth it. I had 2 shrimp tacos sub the spicy peppers. They were good. My last one was the curry chicken. Minus the jalepeno and chutney with added guac and my goodness it was heavenly!

My parents and husband Ryan all enjoyed the short rib tacos and raved about them. They enjoyed mock-tails and drinks. We finished a bit early and swam back to the boat and Tiger was already there waiting for us. Honestly its a MUST DO in St. John

Check out this Lime Out recap. It honestly is a MUST DO EXPERIENCE!

We drove past Colombos Smoothies which is one of many ice cream places. If you are visiting Cinnamon Bay or heading to Lime Out, its a nice place to check out. We didn’t this go around but next time.

When we left we headed to Hawks-nest Beach. The bathroom is not great but there is a bathroom no shower. It was quiet and calm and a great place to spend our remaining hours before heading back to the ferry.

When we left St. John we headed back to the resort, cleaned up and had dinner at The Salty Shack

I had the shrimp ceviche and a jerk chicken salad

Paradise Series by Ellen Hildabrand is a huge reason we wanted to visit the US Virigin Islands years ago. We were able to visit many of the landmarks, restaurants and beaches mentioned in the stories. If you have not read or listened on audible, I highly recommend.

When we were at Lovango, in one of the shops we spotted some of the books from the series. Mom attends several author events in person and online and will be attending one with Ellen soon. So of course we had to snap a pic!

On Wednesday we took the earlier ferry over and had breakfast at Cruz Bay Landing. It was a local hangout for many of the characters in the book series. The breakfast was good.

I am a creature of habit so I pretty much always get an egg white veggie omelette with spinach, no cheese, side sausage and potatoes. But someone at the table had pancakes and said they were good. Post breakfast we walked down through Mongoose Junction (full of shops and other eateries). We stopped in North Shore Deli my parents picked up a sandwich, chips and a cool drink to have later on the beach.

We then headed to Cinnamon Bay and ended up spending the whole day there instead of beach hoping. They had clean bathrooms, food trucks and alcohol, ice cream and you could rent chairs for $10 which my parents and Ryan did. The weather was gorgeous and the views stunning so we enjoyed several hours chilling in paradise. Not having an afternoon event allowed us to just chill.

Coffee shop hoping is a must on my list wherever I visit.

We left Cinnamon Bay and headed back to downtown a bit early before our ferry. My dad and Ryan grabbed an ice cream at Scoops. Side note they do not do milkshakes but there are several shops around the corner that do shakes or smoothies. Mom and I walked a couple blocks down to SIPS but sadly it was closed. We then drove to a place really close to the ferry.

Here are some other ice cream locations.

This barista was the sweetest gentleman. He gave us a sample Gelato (yes they have dairy free options too) and of course made us yummy coffees. They also make shakes too. Be sure to check out Giovanni Gelato when you exit or before getting back on your ferry.

Sight seeing around St. Thomas

While we spent most of our trip on St. John and Lovango, we did get to enjoy some of St. Thomas. After our day of sleep and lounging at the pool at the resort we ventured downtown for dinner. If you want cheap happy hour drinks then visit Greenhouse. Otherwise, don’t! We waited two hours for our dinner to arrive. Once it did, it was barely edible. And later that night two of our party ended up sick all night. Despite that we snagged a couple cute pictures.

There are many more places to eat so don’t get discouraged.

Island Time in Red Hook- Pizza

Pate Place

Virgilios– Italian

Twisted cork– in Frenchtown

Oceana– Steakhouse, Seafood, International

Our last full day on the Islands, we did a bit of everything. We started with breakfast downtown at Bumpas. Its a cute place with a pretty view. Its run by an older couple who have been running it for 35 years. She named it Bumpas as thats what she called her German Grandpa. We loved that as its what we called my moms grandpa on her mothers side.

We were able to find parking down one of the ally streets. If not there is a large parking lot next to the giant red building known as Fort Christian. We ended up doing some walking and shopping. First we walked to the I LOVE STT sign we had passed the night before. We have taken pictures with these signs in Philly and Aruba. We are tourists after all!!!!

We snagged some cheap goodies at the shops right next to the sign. Some of the sweetest ladies and they roped my dad into buying more lol!!! We then stopped in a few other local stores on our walk back to the car. A neighbor recommended these jewelry stores (Silver World, Eden, Artistic, and Lucky) . We passed them but didn’t end up going in, perhaps next time we visit.

We got in the car and drove about 10 minutes up hill to check out Phantasea Botanical Gardens. The woman who worked the front desk was very sweet and chatted to us for several minutes. She is from Virginia but retired to the island. We met so many who left the states or corporate life for island living. Its not a bad way to spend retirement! The gardens were lush full of greenery. Also there were turtles getting it on and a handful of kittens running about.

Be sure to check out Lola the parrot!

We drove 5 minutes further uphill to a place called Top Of The Mountain. Stunning views. An enormous gift shop and they sell famous banana daiquiris. I snagged some jewelry while my parents snagged gifts for the grandkids.

We also took some pictures at one of the overlook areas on the side of the mountain.

Check out our adventures below…..

Post adventure coffee is a must! We drove by this coffee spot all week and I kept saying we have to stop in. Turns out its less of a traditional coffee shop and more of an actual roasting location. Hence the name, Virgin Island Roasters. They had bags of coffee you could buy but we could also grab a cold brew or hot coffee. If you bought a bag of coffee, your drink was free, SCORE!

Mom and I grabbed a bag of decaf, its so yummy. I also got a regular blend and can’t wait to try it.

We headed back to our hotel, packed a bit, changed for dinner and had thee best dinner of the week! On top of that the service was amazing and the views were breath taking! I highly recommend you save Oceana for your final night!!!!

In the paradise book series I mentioned earlier in the blog, one of the main fishes the captain always catches is called Wahoo. While I am not an adventurous eater, clearly, we had planned to try it on this trip. However we never saw it on a single menu. Well, one of the appetizers was wahoo ceviche. So I had to try it. It tasted good like white fish. That could be because of the seasonings and other items in the ceviche so I say order it! For my main dish I ordered the Tuna Skewers. So good. I love a tuna steak and didn’t see that on any menu this week. I was happy to get some tuna.

Ryan had the Ribeye and said it was amazing. My parents both loved the Filet Mignon and said it was melt in your mouth tender. For dessert I had half of the flourless chocolate cake. It was so good but sooo rich. My parents split the Creme Brûlée I believe and enjoyed it. We give this place a 10!

We see why people come back to both islands year after year. We will be back. There were things on our list we didn’t get to do (see more beaches on St. John) and other things we saw once we were there. If you plan on visiting here are a few more St. Thomas attractions.

Magans Bay– I think its $10 to enter but looks so pretty

Coral World Ocean Park

Skyride– Paradise Point

99 steps

Half day sail– there are dozens of charters and snorkle ones too

Dockside sunset cruise– it sold out

After seeing our trip, would you visit the US VIRGIN ISLANDS?

If you have been before share some of your fave things to do below!!!

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