We’ve kinda made it a tradition around here not to get each other anniversary gifts. Instead we take off for vacation the same time every year to explore a new place and celebrate another year of wedded bliss. We just got back from celebrating year #3 in the US Virgin Islands. WOW! It did not disappoint and absolutely surpassed all our expectations.
So we did something a little different this time and rented a place from VRBO.com. Have you done that yet? Lots of our friends do and swear by it so we decided to take the plunge. I feel in love with a little studio apartment on a gorgeous property in St. Thomas and booked it the next day. To say I was apprehensive is an understatement, but all fears went away when we stepped on the patio of our place and saw this:
The owners Chris and Max live upstairs, but our area was totally private. We had the best of both worlds! Tons of space (including an incredible wrap around porch, kitchen, and great bathroom), and incredibly view, peace and quite, but also someone reliable to ask for recommendations. The house is located on top of a hill (!) behind the main drag in Red Hook, so we were able to walk down each night for dinner and drinks then burn off all those calories as we walked back up the hill.
Plus we got the creature comfort of their pup Eva who would run down and pay us visits.
It was about 2PM when we dropped our bags after a long morning of travel. We were ready for the beach and Max gave us the perfect suggestion of trying Secret Harbor. A small, quiet hotel beach located about 5 minutes from Red Hook. It. Was. Perfect. We headed straight to the beach bar and had our first of many Painkillers. Relaxation mode was now in full gear.
We headed into the “gin-clear” water and stayed their until the evening.
Our first night we again took Max’s recommendation and headed down the hill for dinner at Island Time Pub. It’s the perfect laid-back “island” atmosphere on a balcony overlooking the harbor. Great local scene and people-watching of all the folks coming off their sail boats/fishing boats/chartered boats. We sat at the bar, shared a small pizza (delicious), had some drinks, and met all sorts of people. We did this 3 nights in a row.
The next few days we continued to check out the beaches on the East End of St. Thomas. Most of the beaches are nestled in calm bays so you have 1.) a constant stream of fresh water and 2.) low to non-existant waves. Just smooth, clean water.
Besides Secret Harbor, there were 2 other favorites:
Lindquist Beach- a wonderful public beach, $2 to get in. Clean, quite. No chairs, no umbrellas, no bar. No nothing. Just beach and scenery. Like a Carona commercial. Lots of trees for shade. I loved how most of the beaches we went to were like this: Total quiet. Nobody trying to sell you anything. No cheesy music playing. If we had brought a cooler and some snacks, I could have stayed all day. We laid our towels under a shade tree and read all morning looking at this:
Coki Beach- A nice gal at the pub in Red Hook where we had Irish coffees and mimosas told us about Coki. She warned us upfront that it was a little sketchy (barbed wire, weird little cemetery, etc), but worth it. And it was. We took a $10 cab ride from Red Hook and ended up at a beautiful beach with food huts/shacks, reggae playing in the background, and lots of Rastafarians who seem scary. They are OK dudes and will get you whatever you want. Pay them $20 to set up chairs and an umbrella for and stay all day. For lunch we had the best conch fritters, plantains, and beans & rice from one lady’s hut.
[Crazy cat lady alert! My new friend, Black Diamond-- one of the Rasta's cat.]
On the last day of the trip we switched it up a bit. Max not only has a great home, but also a very charming sailboat! We joined her and 3 others for a day-long sail. We had no idea (I’m sure Max did) where we were going as it’s all determined by the winds. Kinda cool. We ended up around the coast of St. John where Max anchored at two different locations, decked us out in snorkel gear, and said have fun. We saw amazing coral, 1 sea turtle, and 3 sting rays– incredible! In between spots Max and her first mate Jimmy whipped up a chicken and orzo lunch with fruit and cheese. Fuel for the next snorkel.
The day went by too fast! Jimmy served up drinks (just keep those rum punches comin’) to our hearts content as we leisurely sailed back to St. Thomas later that afternoon. We sat alone on the bow of the boat the whole ride home– it was pretty romantic.
For our last supper we decided to do it up big and have one nice meal out. Earlier that day on the boat Jimmy had recommend the Caribbean Fish Market, saying it was a new restaurant with the freshest fish, the best flavors, and was actually moderately priced. It was a $10 cab ride from Red Hook to the Elysian Beach Resort, down the hill and to the beach to one of the top meals I’ve had in my life.
We lived large that night- unfortunately I have nothing to show for it except for the plates we literally licked clean. You can not go wrong ordering from the Fresh Catch option: your choice of fish with a starch, a veggie, and a sauce. I got the biggest hunk of Wahoo with the most delicious mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, and the sauce our down-to-earth waitress recommended.
Speaking of down-to-earth, the whole place was that way. We sat on the patio in nice but pretty casual clothes, and ate real foodies’ food. The flavors and the freshness were amazing. I didn’t want to eat breakfast the next morning for fear of ruining my palate. That good.
We topped it all off with the Bushwacker Tiramisu. Bushwacker is a typical island drink: rum, Bailey’s, amaretto, Kahlua. They soak the ladyfingers in that concoction and make a strong and tasty dessert. I loved all the subtle island spins they put on traditional menu items. Again, we dove right in and devoured it. All we had left was this:
We left the island the next morning with fully bellies, white sand in random places, and calm spirits. St. Thomas, we really enjoyed you. It was a romantic, relaxing, and adventurous trip all at once.