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Trip Report - Part 2 - St John, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, St Thomas

Trip Report - Part 2 - St John, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, St Thomas

Old Dec 2nd, 2003, 07:59 AM
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Trip Report - Part 2 - St John, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, St Thomas

On to Virgin Gorda for what turned out to be our favorite part of the trip.

We took the ferry over and were immediately struck by how much more dry and flat the island was than the others we had visited.
Also, it was VERY quiet and laid back.

VG is NOT an island for someone looking for lots of things to do and see. What it is good for is total relaxation and freedom from stress. Very few amenities, only one or two gas stations, one or two groceries, and not many restaurants, but a nice, quiet, restful place where time seemed to stand still.

We stayed at Mango Bay, which is undergoing a complete change as they sell the villas to private owners and rent the remaining units. Basic, clean, non-luxury units on a truly lovely beach with excellent snorkeling.

Island positives - stress free getaway, friendly locals, beautiful views, easy to get around, small and intimate

Island negatives - difficult access, construction/development,

We spent a day on Jost Van Dyke and were quite dismayed to find that the beach bars there have grown quite a bit and have gotten very commercial to take advantage of the increase in traffic. While Foxy did spend quite a bit of time singing and visiting, the whole experience was kind of contrived and commercial. We liked it much better when things were a bit more casual and less "stagey."

We left Virgin Gorda and traveled to Tortola, and then to St Thomas. The ferry trip was very long and took most of the day. We stayed at the Inn at Blackbeard's Castle and were very pleased with the view and the accommodations. We decided to stay up on the top of one of the hills in town so we could explore.

St Thomas has its problems and most places have locked gates and security. We had no problems there, but you should be aware of your surroundings and not go walking around at night.

That said, there are lots of things to do and see.

Island positives - many dining, shopping and activity choices, easy access, great people watching opportunities, inexpensive flights and accommodations,

Island negatives - overwhelming numbers of cruise ship passengers, crime level, frenetic driving and downtown ambience, aggressive vendors (but a "No Thank You" works great, difficult to find places to stay with any character

Please let me know if I can answer any questions.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2003, 08:23 AM
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Thanks for the great travel report! Can you tell me more about Tortola - Cane Bay in particular? Was there any good snorkeling from shore? Can watersports equipment be rented on the beach? I know Cane Bay is very popular, but can you find quiet, peaceful places along the beach? Thanks again!
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Old Dec 2nd, 2003, 08:31 AM
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Hi!

It depends on what time of year you go, but yes, there are peaceful spots along the nice beach.

It was off season, and we had no problem finding chairs (they're in front of the bars and restaurants) or spots to get away.

The beach is very long and curved, and it's only very crowded when the cruise shippers are in town, and even then you can go to either end and get away.

The snorkeling there is good at either end of the beach by the rocks, but not in the middle.

There's Cane Garden Bay watersports right there, and I know you can rent dinghys, kayaks, Skidoos, Hobie Cats, etc., from them or others in the area.

Tortola was very nice - we went once before 10 years ago. Don't miss Smuggler's Cove. Very good snorkeling there and a beautiful beach. The lady who sets up there and rents chairs and sells fruit and sandwiches makes a great rum punch from fresh fruit while you watch!
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Old Dec 2nd, 2003, 09:18 AM
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Enjoyed your reports. May I suggest that it would be easier for all to follow if the succeeding parts were posted as replies to the original post.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2003, 07:36 PM
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When you say skidos for rent ,did you mean jetskis.I was under the impression they were not legal in Tortola.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2003, 04:53 AM
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Castaway,
When we were there, we saw some on the beach but not in the water.
Personally, I hope they are not legal since I don't care for them at all, but I did see three on the beach in the rental area.
We scrammed whenever there were cruise ships in town and went elsewhere, so I never did see them in use.
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Old Dec 4th, 2003, 02:58 PM
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Tortola is great for beginner surfers (forget what time of year). You can rent (and get instruction) from some places on the beach)
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Old Dec 5th, 2003, 05:08 AM
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A question for you about Jost: I've always wanted to go there and stay at Sandcastle. The Soggy Dollar bar is there, I think. Your report was discouraging. Is everything overrun with tourist boats and daytrippers? It sounds as though my dream is punctured! Any comments, anyone?
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Old Dec 5th, 2003, 06:32 AM
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Hi jgmc. White Bay at JVD (home of the Sandcastle and the Soggy Dollar) remains one of my favorite spots anywhere in the islands, let alone the BVI. But it is true that it is no longer the secluded spot is used to be. We happened to be there last on a Saturday in July -- and it was a non-cruise ship day -- and midday there were about 20 charter boats in the anchorage and a good number of daytrippers. I wouldn't characterize it as "mobbed," but it was definitely lively, but we were able to get away from it all by walking to the other end of the beach and hanging out at Ivan's Stress Free Bar instead. I imagine it's a different story on a cruise ship day.

But, by late afternoon, the place cleared out. Ours was one of only maybe a half dozen charter boats that stayed the night.

The key to hitting White Bay just right is to avoid cruise ship days (you can get the schedule on www.traveltalkonline.com) and possibly avoid weekend days, when the daytrippers from the USVI (many of whom I suspect are not clearing customs and immigration...) seem to reach critical mass. It can still be a magical spot.
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Old Dec 5th, 2003, 06:57 AM
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Callaloo,

That's really good to hear. We are booked into Sandcastle in April 2004 and I've been getting a tad nervous about recent reports of the crowd scene there. Not at all what I envisioned when I started planning this trip. I expect (hope?) that by the end of April too, the high season is pretty much at an end and there should be fewer cruise ships and daytrippers. In any case, it still beats looking out at the minus freezing landscape here in Ontario right now.

Linda
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Old Dec 5th, 2003, 08:30 AM
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Another place to consider if Jost is becoming too discovered for your taste is Anegada (part of BVI).
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Old Dec 5th, 2003, 10:08 AM
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Thanks for such helpful information. I appreciate the Jost tips, and will look at Anegada. I hope "saharabee" will post a brief report after their April trip.
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Old Dec 5th, 2003, 03:39 PM
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Hi jgmc,

You bet I will! I would consider it an obligation after all the great advice I've received on this and other boards. I'll also be able to give you a mini report on Anegada as we are preceding our stay at Sandcastle with a 1 week sailing charter (2 days of which I hope to spend at Anegada). That report may not be so "mini" though. We have 5 days left in the BVI after Sandcastle and I'm still not sure where they will be spent - Anegada is very definitely an option.

This trip is very special to us for a number of reasons. We will be celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary and this is a surprise present for my husband. We haven't had a vacation trip in 5 years as all our travelling and vacation time has been taken up caring for elderly parents. And, this is a "splurge" trip, prior to retirement. After that, it's budget travel all the way! So, while I fell in love with Anegada at the first sight of pictures taken by others who had been, I decided on JVD and Sandcastle (which I had also fallen in love with) after talking on the web to folk who felt that JVD had more to offer in the way of a typical "tropical" feel and better dining and night life options (more for hubby than me - I'd be content with a sandwich and a bottle of rum under the stars). After digging into the "crowd" question, I got the impression that White Bay can be a party from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, but before and after are pretty much quiet and laid back for those who are staying there. We shall see....

If you haven't already checked, there's a wealth of information on JVD and the BVI at www.traveltalkonline.com and the folks there are very kind and helpful with their advice. Many of them are visitors of many, many years to the BVI and some are residents.

Linda
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Old Feb 12th, 2004, 11:08 AM
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Topping for Susan...
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Old Feb 12th, 2004, 01:25 PM
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Thanks Diana! I read over your trip reports (both part 1 and 2). I actually now remember reading them earlier when you posted them. See basically I stayed on St. John last year with my husband (Caneel Bay) loved it but my husband (after 5 days) found it to be a little "too" quiet. So now I am thinking about staying on St. Thomas for 3 nights perhaps the Ritz, and then either a.) go back to St. John and stay in a villa or gallows point b.) go to Tortolla and stay at LB or LHV c.) go to Peter Island (but worried about again being too quiet) or d.) stay on Virgin Gorda. But I know that there is ferry service from Virgin Gorda to STT and vice versa but we'd only be staying the other half of our vacation for 4 nights so that may take up too much time. SO again its either St. John, Tortola or Peter Island. Suggestions? We are the type of people that like to relax and quiet but like having nearby restaurants, etc. But I do not like cruise ship crowds... so that's why only 3 days in STT. Thanks, Susan
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Old Feb 13th, 2004, 06:23 AM
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Susan,

Peter Island is pretty quiet.
St John probably has the most easy to get to nightlife of the three, but Tortola has some neat places to go at night also but they are more of the beach bar variety as opposed to glitzy nightlife.

St Thomas has so much shopping and nightlife and great dining.

For what you are looking for, and since it's so easy to get back and forth between St Thomas and St John, I'd spend maybe half of the trip on each. (You might want to go to St John first and make sure your last days are on St Thomas so you can fly back out easily.)
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Old Feb 13th, 2004, 06:27 AM
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Diana,
I appreciate all of your helpful info. I guess now I am going to narrow it down between St. John and Tortola. The only reason I would prefer to start out in St. Thomas is that then I would save the best for last! The only thing about doing the villa thing is that a lot of them require a week stay and we are only looking for 4 nights. So I think for now I am looking at perhaps Gallows Point? I loved Caneel, but would like to try something different. And then for Tortola, for some reason I am stuck on Long Bay. Thanks again! Susan
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Old Feb 13th, 2004, 06:57 AM
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You're welcome!

We really enjoyed Gallows Point, and I have recommended it to friends. I'm sure you would be happy at Long Bay, but be sure you check into the room type before you book as they vary widely.

We both preferred Tortola to St John, but we like the slightly funky, off the beaten path places with more inherent island flavor, so that's no surprise.

I'm sure wherever you choose, you'll have a wonderful time!
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Old Apr 21st, 2004, 09:01 AM
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ttt for belle
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Old Apr 21st, 2004, 10:56 AM
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We really like Long Bay. Stayed in a Hillside Deluxe on our honeymoon. It was great. Went back with three couples: two stayed in Hillside Deluxe, one stayed in Villa and one in beachfront (not cabana). We rotated the parties every evening before dinner to experience each type of lodging. They were all enjoyable. Just love that island.
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