US Virgin Islands Hotels: Luxury to Laidback, and Everything In-Between

There's a surprisingly wide choice of accommodation in the Virgin Islands, from glittery resorts, to boutique inns, to eco-camping lodges. Which style of lodging you choose ultimately depends on your individual tastes, but all accommodation styles combine excellent service, value, and atmosphere.

The USVI is fortunate to have several properties that preserve the genteel, old-money atmosphere of days gone by, when Kennedys and Rockefellers vacationed in the islands. Caneel Bay Resort on St. John and The Buccaneer on St. Croix both offer this sort of elegant, unflashy experience. The Ritz Carlton on St. Thomas also does to a certain extent, though it's arguably more "new money" than old. But it's a splendid place to stay, nevertheless (if you can afford it).

More moderately-priced yet equally fabulous options include relaxed beachfront resorts like Sugar Bay on St. Thomas, the Palms at Pelican Cove and Divi Carina on St. Croix, or the Westin St. John. Each offers a laid-back atmosphere with pools, beaches and/or tennis courts, plus family-friendly and all-inclusive options.

Specialty lodging also has its place in the galaxy of accommodation in the USVI: there are lots of stylish boutique hotels and swank villas dotting the hillsides around the main towns of all three islands, as well as a couple of eco-camps in St. John. Mafolie Hotel in St. Thomas is a favorite boutique property because it combines great value with spectacular views and fine dining.  And St. John's Concordia Eco Tents are a truly unique low-cost, no-frills eco experience that puts guests as close to nature as possible without actually camping.


Mafolie Hotel
Photo courtesy of Karen Elowitt

This hotel is one of the best of the many historic boutique properties in the hills surrounding Charlotte Amalie. Perched 800 feet above the harbor, each room is different from the next, all decorated by the owner with a personal touch. The service is warm and friendly, and the feel of the hotel is intimate, in contrast to some of the big-name hotels on the island. Both the pool and the award-winning Mafolie restaurant offer unparalleled views over the harbor, all the way to St. Croix. The hotel also offers a free shuttle to the beach.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: A room with a view, good value for money and a superb on-site restaurant are what Mafolie has to recommend it.

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Surrounded by the Virgin Islands National Park, Concordia is a unique low-cost, no-frills eco experience that puts guests as close to nature as possible without actually camping. The 25 soft-sided wood-frame tents are spread out across a scenic hillside that affords drop-dead views over the ocean and the southern tip of the island. Each one offers a private solar-powered toilet/shower area, a kitchen with non-potable running water, an outdoor deck, and large screened windows that let in the breeze. Twin beds and a queen-size daybed sleep about 4-5 people on multiple levels. All water is recycled and guests are encouraged to compost their food waste. The property is blissfully remote (about 15 minutes to the restaurants, bars and shops in Coral Bay and 40 minutes to Cruz Bay), but just five minutes from the beaches at Salt Pond Bay and Lameshur Bay, as well as the hiking trail to Ram Head. Guests who don't feel like venturing out can buy groceries and basic necessities at the onsite store, or eat at the gourmet open-air Concordia cafe. There's also a freshwater swimming pool. Those who want a less rustic experience can opt to stay in a more traditional hard-sided studio unit.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: Roughing it has never been as much fun – or as scenic – as it is at the hillside Concordia Eco Tents.

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Located just a 10-minute drive from Christiansted, the Palms is the place for guests wanting a more intimate resort experience. This friendly, family-run establishment features just 40 rooms sitting astride a pearly-white beach. Personal touches include a bottle of Cruzan rum on arrival, and freshly-cut flowers in the rooms, whose private patios are surrounded by native coconut palms and bougainvillea. Guests can pass their days swimming, snorkeling, lounging by the pool, taking scuba lessons, playing tennis, or doing yoga. In the evening the award-winning restaurant and bar offers not only fine food, but top-notch live entertainment. If you come during the summer months, you may be able to participate in a nighttime turtle-watch.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: The Palms is the perfect Caribbean hideaway for those who want personal attention and a friendly atmosphere.

Read more about Palms At Pelican Cove Hotel Saint Croix →

Sugar Bay Resort and Spa
Photo courtesy of Sugar Bay Resort

Formerly operated by Wyndham, this giant resort and spa is now independent of the mega-chain but still as good as ever. It's not the most stylish hotel you'll ever see, but rooms are functional and modern, with Asian-themed furnishings, electronics, wall treatments, and state-of-the-art plumbing. Sugar Bay is hugely popular with families with kids (who often go for the all-inclusive option) because of the hotel's three pools, private beach, kids club, bumper boats, and mini-golf course. Adults love the casino (slot machines only), tennis courts, and Journeys Spa, the largest full-service spa in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: Guests love this all-inclusive resort's convenience, kids' activities, and full-service spa.

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One of only two large hotels on the island (the other being Caneel Bay Resort), The Westin is pretty much the opposite of Caneel in terms of style and ambiance, though it's no less desirable as an accommodation option. It's spread over 47 acres on the edge of Great Cruz Bay, flanked by lush green hills. The 320 guest rooms are immaculately appointed and feature Westin's Heavenly Beds® and Heavenly BathsSM. There's so much to occupy you at the resort that you never have to leave the property if you don't want to. There's a private 1200-foot-long beach, water sports, a gigantic pool, a health spa and fitness center, tennis courts, a kid's club and an excellent on-site restaurant, Cruz Bay Prime. The hotel also provides an optional all-inclusive package. For those who do want to explore the island, rental cars are available onsite.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: The Westin's got the whole package: a great location, a great spa, a great beach, and it's kid-friendly.

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Situated on a 1000-foot silky white sand beach on the island's east end, Divi Carina has the distinction of being the only all-inclusive resort on St. Croix, and the only one with a casino. The range of amenities is impressive – and necessary – because the resort is somewhat of a distance from populated parts of the island. So unless you have a car, you'll be spending all your time in the pools, jacuzzis, tennis courts, fitness center, mini-golf course, and restaurants onsite. There's a PADI dive center as well, but as with other all-inclusives, scuba's NOT included. And of course you'll have to bring your own money to the craps table.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: Divi's got everything a Caribbean resort should: a blissful beach, fine dining, watersports, and lots of recreational activities.

Read more about Divi Carina Bay Beach Resort & Casino Saint Croix →

Frenchmans Reef and Morning Star Beach Resort Saint Thomas
Photo courtesy of Marriott Frenchman's Reef

The Marriott Frenchman's Reef is one of the finest and busiest hotels in the Virgin Islands. Located on a picturesque bluff overlooking both Charlotte Amalie harbor and the Caribbean, it not only boasts a commanding view, but offers spacious rooms with private balconies and sea views. There's excellent variety in dining, including the award-winning Havana Blue restaurant. A large private beach, tennis courts, comprehensive spa and multiple pools round out the extensive list of amenities. Additional services include wedding planning, an excursions desk, and conference facilities. The Adventure Center, the onsite watersports concession, can hook you up with kayaking, snorkeling, or even jet-pack riding right at the resort. Conveniently located just a couple of miles from downtown Charlotte Amalie, yet secluded in a quiet corner of the island.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: This modern, full-service hotel offers every amenity under the sun, and a breathtaking view to boot.

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Caneel Bay is a curious paradox: it's one of the premier resorts of the Caribbean (and one of the oldest), but it's definitely not one of the most luxurious. It's more like an elegant, old money summer camp. Which makes sense, considering it was founded by old-money mega-millionaire Laurance Rockefeller in 1956. The rooms, which fan out along the coastline, have understated decor including Indonesian wicker furniture, hand-woven fabrics, sisal mats, plantation fans and no phones or TVs. The rest of the resort, which lies on a 170-acre portion of the National Park, features seven beaches surrounded by lush greenery and plantation ruins. The four on-site restaurants offer high-caliber international cuisine, and evening dining is actually quite formal compared to most of the Caribbean. Watersports, tennis, yoga and massage are also available.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: Laurence Rockefeller's legacy and love for St. John can be felt in this genteel, understated resort.

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Known as a gracious, elegant, yet low-key resort, the Buccaneer has catered to well-heeled families for generations. Perhaps the most picturesque resort on St Croix, the Buccaneer occupies a 300-acre estate that was formerly a sugar plantation. A splendid palm-tree-lined drive winds through manicured grounds to the elegant pale pink main building, which sits atop a hill. Tropical-themed standard guest rooms have wicker and mahogany furnishings, while the beachside Doubloon rooms also have jacuzzi tubs. The outstanding amenities include three beaches, two swimming pools, a golf course, tennis courts, watersports, a spa, a kids camp and five restaurants. Conveniently located just two miles from the town of Christiansted.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: The Buccaneer is simply St. Croix's most elegant and picturesque resort.

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The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Saint Thomas
Photo courtesy of Ritz Carlton St. Thomas

The Ritz-Carlton on St. Thomas's east end is without a doubt the plushest resort on the island, with palazzo-style marble-floored lobby, bubbling fountains, hidden courtyards, and elegantly-appointed rooms. Guests can take advantage of the resort's private white-sand beach, extensive spa, and Ritz Kids program, which features snorkeling and scuba diving. The 30-acre property also has its own scuba diving school and private yacht. The restaurants are outstanding, and include Bleuwater, an award-winning favorite. Like many resorts in the Caribbean, the Ritz actually houses two types of accommodation: conventional hotel rooms and self-catering time-share units. Each has its own restaurants, beach and facilities, but both are Ritz quality.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: As you'd expect from the name, the Ritz offers not only glamour, but top-notch dining, recreation and amenities.

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Meet Karen Elowitt

Karen worked for several years as a newspaper reporter and copy editor before becoming a travel writer. She worked for renowned  travel expert Peter Greenberg before going freelance, and now...  More About Karen