Island Life and My Best Friend’s Wedding in Paradise: USVI and BVI


I spent five days last week pretending that I gave up my career and fulfilled my long time fantasy of moving to the islands while celebrating my best friend’s marriage to the man of her dreams. Sadly, I did only have five days to pretend I didn’t have to come back to life on the mainland with all that that entails (work, ew), but I maximized my time in St. John and BVI. And today, as I sit back at my desk, daydreaming of all the places I’d rather be, I thought I would share a few notable restaurants, travel tips, and adventures, and add better views to your day through pictures.
Kevin, Mal, Me, Jason

The Journey to St. John: 

Jason and I took separate flights to St. Thomas (booking with travel reward points), but landing at St. Thomas within a few minutes of each other. Upon arrival to STT, we were greeted with complimentary Cruzan rum shots, and Jason had a beer from the bar located at the baggage claim. I don’t know why more airports don’t have bars at baggage claim! It would certainly help cut the tension for people who have bags that are lost.Another tip about STT: the flight attendant announced that we must arrive 3 hours prior to departure on the trip out. I’m terrible about underestimating the length of time it will take me to get through security and/or customs, and always cut it very close when traveling. On the return trip, I had a 1:50pm flight out of STT. I took the 11:00am Westin ferry on the Westin concierge’s recommendation, which had me to the airport by 11:45am. I had plenty of time to get through customs and security and still had about an hour to sit before boarding, so I think you can probably take the the “three hour” as a suggestion and not a hard cut “MUST” rule, but do keep in mind you have two steps to get to your gate: customs and security. Arrival an hour and fifty minutes prior to flight time was plenty for me, but I didn’t check bags and the lines were reasonable. I did hear one man say it took him several hours to get through customs and security on another trip out of there…


 

 

From there we started our journey to The Westin St. John Resort and Villas. The Westin as its own ferry service that goes from the airport directly to the hotel, but it is $120/person (round trip), so Jason and I decided to be adventurous and take the public ferry ($6/person for ferry, plus $20/person for taxis), which required a 45 minute taxi ride to Red Hook, and then a 10-15 minute public ferry ride to Cruz Bay, and another 8-10 minute taxi ride to The Westin. I think it would actually be worth it next time to do the Westin ferry, because you can ride it as many times as you want during your stay, and it saves a significant amount of time (2.5 hours via the public transportation vs. 45 minutes door to airport via the Westin ferry). Despite our somewhat lengthy journey over, it was enjoyable because we completely embraced it, enjoyed the open air taxis and ferry, and a few drinks along the way. We were greeted by Mallory (best friend), Blythe (college friend), and Ellie (Mal’s mom), and an iguana upon our arrival to The Westin.

Where We Stayed: The Westin St. John Resort and Villas

walking to our room
one of many iguanas that roam the grounds and sleep in trees

 

The resort is undergoing construction, but it was fortunately all contained to back areas, and the restaurants were open. There is a nicer restaurant on premise open for all three meals. Snorkel’s is the outdoor restaurant which is pictured below and backs up to the pool on one side and the beach on the other and is great for those light lunches or afternoon snacks. They also have a bar that serves a variety of drinks including the island signature cocktail the Painkiller, and rum drinks out of children’s sand buckets called voodoo juice. The voodoo juice does work out to be a great choice because it doesn’t taste like alcohol, but is $15 for the initial drink, and $12 refills, and each bucket is the equivalent of four drinks, so it’s perfect for sharing.
first rum drink in a children’s sand bucket

 

rum drink in a children’s sand bucket #?

 

The resort has a beautiful large pool and is on Great Cruz Bay which allows for a variety of both motorized and nonmotorized water sports that are either included or are for a very small fee. Mal, Blythe, J, and I rented snorkels to take to Trunk Bay (see below). Jason and I also gave paddle boarding a whirl. I mastered it. Jason took a dip in the bay (to his credit he was trying to take a picture of me when he fell, but it was a slow motion fall, so I was doubled over laughing then spent the rest of the day bragging at my superior paddle boarding skills 🙂 ) Some other people from our group took out kayaks through the bay on another afternoon, and enjoyed it.As I mentioned we were there for Mallory and Kevin’s wedding with an intimate group of awesome people, which really allowed us to maximize our time with everyone at the wedding and enjoy each others’ company.

first time paddle boarding pro!
The Restaurants, Food, and Drinks: 

I had quite a few very good meals in the Virgin Islands. Most restaurants we went to were reasonably priced by normal U.S. standards, but not in line with other islands I’ve been too where food and drinks are ridiculously cheap. We did find some places with $3 beers, and probably could have sought out cheaper options, but went for places that were highly recommended and more comfortable since we had some people in the group that haven’t traveled extensively and/or wouldn’t have enjoyed the more local/rustic (read: shack or dive bar-ish) places. The food in the Virgin Islands brings in influences from other Caribbean Islands, the U.S., and other international places, but isn’t what I would consider exotic food by any means, and they focus on using fresh locally sourced ingredients.
The Lime Inn & Restaurant: Our first night, the “young” people of the group met for dinner at Lime Inn in Cruz Bay, which was the perfect opening to the weekend of festivities. It is a low key open air restaurant with amazing fresh food and great cocktails, and they cordially accommodated our group of 12 with no reservation for an 8pm dinner. We started dinner with a range of appetizers including pizzas that were the perfect start to soak up the first round of rum drinks. Several of us had one of the specials of night, which was a locally caught mahi mahi. The mahi was some of the freshest I’ve had and came on top of a small amount of lobster cream sauce to add depth and contrast the freshness and slight citrus flavor of the fish. I would definitely recommend Lime Inn if you’re looking for fresh fish and the very laid back island atmosphere with great service from the staff and owner, who stopped by our table and chatted with us several times. (Sadly all weekend I pulled my bad (or good?) habit of being too lost in my food and company to take any pictures of my food.)
Ocean Grill: Our first dinner with the entire group was the rehearsal dinner hosted by Kevin’s parents at Ocean Grill in Cruz Bay. It is again another open air restaurant, and they seated all 18 of us upstairs in a balcony area overlooking the courtyard. They hosted our group and allowed us to all order off of the normal dinner menu without even having to put in the order in advance, which I liked. I find it silly/annoying when restaurants act like they cannot accommodate groups of that size if we don’t go with a prefix or pre-ordered menu. Again, another great set of servers dealing with our rum drinking crew. I switched it up from fish and went for the pecan crusted rack of lamb with an onion demi glace and garlic mashed potatoes, and my god was it the right choice! The lamb could not have been cooked more perfectly or been juicier and more flavorful. Definitely order the rack of lamb if you go; I met other people throughout the trip that went there and said the same. The restaurant also has a notable pastry chef, so save room for dessert. I had John’s chocolate cake, which was a simple moist chocolate cake (not fruffy or complicated as they described it) and Tahitian vanilla ice cream. Perfect end to dinner followed by drinks at the Beach Bar, which is literally on the beach and you can take your drink down and stand in the sand and listen to the live music playing.
Morgan’s Mango: This was by far the favorite meal of the weekend! The concierge recommended and totally nailed it. I’m normally a bit hesitant with recommendations from the concierge, but am certainly glad I went with this one. Morgan’s Mango has an extensive list of cocktails that come in large glasses, and have lots of fresh fruit in them. We only had five of us make it out to this dinner, but started with lobster and pork ravoli, cajun shrimp, steak and brie quesadillas, and mushroom soup. The mushroom soup was a special for the night and is one I would love to recreate. It had the consistence of a light potato soup, with incredible mushroom and buttery flavor and had little button mushrooms throughout. The first bowl was so good, that we had to order a second bowl to share, and even that was not enough because we practically licked the bowls clean. Main courses for the evening were filets with chimichurri (again perfectly cooked and fresh chimichurri) and paella with a saffron cream sauce. Both dishes blew our taste buds away. The boys determined the paella was the best they had ever had due to the freshness of the seafood and mainly the saffron cream sauce. It was one of the few times I’ve taken food home with me from a restaurant because it was too good to leave behind. We didn’t make it to desert because of the massive amount of food we had and the fruity frozen cocktails. If you can only have one meal in St. John, go here and order ridiculous amounts of food.
Cooper Island Beach Club: We went here on our catamaran tour of BVI, and the space is open air overlooking the ocean and surrounding islands with outdoor lounge chairs and rum bar. Many people in our group were not pleased with their food (mainly the chicken wraps and chicken sandwiches, which were apparently dry and terribly lacking in flavor); however, I got the chicken roti and enjoyed it. It wasn’t as good as the one I had in St. Lucia a few years ago, but certainly flavorful and not a dish that pisses me off as a waste of space and calories. I ordered it under my theory that if ever questioning what to order, go with a local choice, because it’s normally what they do best. This restaurant also had good strong cocktails, and put up these drink holder post tables in the water, so you can take your drinks out and stand in the ocean while sipping on them!
Cooper Island Beach Club (notice the drink holder posts in the water)
The Adventures: 
Outside of time spent playing at the resort in the pool and doing water sports, we had several other adventures that filled our time.
Trunk Bay: We took a 30 minute cab ride to Trunk Bay to go snorkeling. It has a 225 yard long underwater snorkel trail. We spent about an hour and a half snorkeling through the trail, and then around the tiny island to which the trail abuts. The water in Trunk Bay is the clearest water I’ve ever seen, and there is cool sea life and coral. The fee to get into the park was $4/person. There is a sandwich shop and showers on site.
Definitely add Trunk Bay to the list of beaches you must visit.
Trunk Bay
ray and fish in Trunk Bay
merman
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pretending to be a mermaid

Bad Kitty: I’d highly suggest taking this tour or another one of this company’s day tours. Nine of us from the wedding party took a catamaran tour of the BVI on the Bad Kitty. It was an awesome way to see five different notable spots in the BVI. We started the day out bright and early (7:30am!) and took a peaceful ride with breakfast over to Virgin Gorda to get through customs and do a quick bit of shopping.

Stop two of the day was to The Baths, which an area where huge granite boulders were formed on the beach by volcanic activity. The only other similar location in the world is in the Seychelles Islands. We swam seventy yards from the boat to The Baths where we walked through, between, on top, and under these huge boulders learning cool facts about their formation and events that have taken place there. The Baths were so so cool and should definitely be added to your “must see before you die” places! (I’ve definitely added the Seychelles Islands to see the baths there to my list.)
The Baths: View from inside back out to sea
The Baths: View from on top
Next stop was to Cooper Island for lunch (see above), and then to Norman Island for some snorkeling. There were three caves in the side of the cliffs at Norman Island, and the snorkeling was better than that at Trunk Bay. The sea life was not afraid of people and came within inches, and the coral was incredible. We also saw two eels while snorkeling!
Awesome black and blue fish at Norman Island
Coral at Norman Island
Final stop of the day was to Jost Van Dyke to see the beautiful beaches of White Bay and to finally taste the original Painkiller, which is a coconut rum cocktail with fresh shaved nutmeg, at the Soggy Dollar Bar (they also have now created the Nilla Killer–a vanilla rum based version of the Painkiller). This place is definitely one that every tourist goes to, but is so much fun, and one where you totally need to embrace your inner tourist. The bartenders are hilarious, the drinks are delicious, and the beach and water is gorgeous. Can’t go wrong with that combination!
Bad Kitty anchored in Jost Van Dyke
Soggy Dollar Bar waiting for my Nilla Killer (notice the police badges from many different places across the roof)
Soggy Dollar Bar
I would classify the Virgin Islands as a very beautiful, relaxing vacation spot, where you know you’ll get a comfortable and more customary standard of accommodations/food/drinks, English is universal, the U.S. Dollar is the standard (duh), and the craziest things you’ll face are the ocean life and open air taxis. We saw many people visiting with their families, and see how it would make a great vacation spot for an easy long weekend getaway. I hope you enjoyed a little escape to the Virgin Islands with me! Our trip certainly revitalized me and has me dreaming of my next vacation!
xoxo
*K
(all pictures by me)

 

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