St. Thomas' Best Stays: They're Hip and Historic, Too

The number one Caribbean hot spot for vacationers from the United States, St. Thomas excels in hospitality on so many different levels. Many visitors – especially first timers – choose the destination resorts where everything is convenient and every whim handled. At the high end of the scale, The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas dominates as a luxury destination resort. In the all-inclusive category, Dreams Sugar Bay Resort recently rebranded and reconfigured longtime favorite Sugar Bay. Coming up next: a new Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Resort.

Those looking to immerse themselves more deeply in a U.S. Virgin Islands experience select inns and smaller hotels away from the popular resort areas. Mafolie Hotel, mountain top overlooking the Charlotte Amalie Harbor, is one such choice, where history and local culture further heighten the experience.

Hotels and resorts spread throughout the island and on little sister island St. John. A couple on the fringes of downtown Charlotte Amalie afford proximity to shopping and the city’s historic sites. Those on the island’s eastern end are more laid back and closer to Red Hook, the island’s salty seaside port and home to vivacious bars, clubs and restaurants.

The rest crop up on sandy bays for the ultimate island toes in the sand experience. On St. John, a short ferry ride away, accommodations range from beachfront platform tents in the national park to luxurious, old-money Caneel Bay.


Bolongo Bay Beach Resort
Photo courtesy of Bolongo Bay Beach Resort

"The Caribbean's most entertaining beach resort," according its tag line, earns its reputation from its watersports and all day party scene. The all-inclusive property includes more than the usual in its list of what is included for couples and families: use of paddle boats, Hobie Cats, windsurfers, kayaks, snorkel gear and other watersports equipment; an introductory scuba lesson in the pool; a weekly snorkel booze hunt; a pool with a swim-up bar; sailing trips on the resort's 53 foot catamaran; and daily live entertainment. For a fee, guests also have access to scuba diving, parasailing and waverunners. The atmosphere is ultra casual and islandy. Its 62 rooms come equipped with refrigerators, coffee makers and other conveniences.

Recommended for St. Thomas Hotels because: Bolongo has long been the name equated with easy, casual, party times on the beach.

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Sapphire Beach Condo Resort & Marina by Antilles Resorts
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton

On Sapphire Beach at Smith Bay, this condominium resort also boasts a marina for the best of all island vacation amenities. The beach is lively, though a bit narrow at high tide. From it, you can see St. John and the British Virgin Islands. It's great for snorkeling and windsurfing. Each fully-furnished condo comes equipped with a small kitchen and a private balcony. Most rooms are just steps from the beach, and a quick walk to swimming pools, volleyball courts, watersports activities and an array of restaurants and beach bars. The shopping and dining of Red Hook is only five minutes away.

Recommended for St. Thomas Hotels because: Smith Bay is a quieter part of the island, and this is among the best lodging in the neighborhood.

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Mafolie Hotel
Photo courtesy of Karen Elowitt

St. Thomas has its share of modern deluxe resorts that satisfy all vacationing needs. It also boasts some lovely historic inns that may not put you square on the beach, but immerse you nonetheless in an authentic West Indian experience. Mafolie Hotel is one such, perched 800 feet above the harbor. Each room has its own personality, all 22 decorated by the owner with a personal touch. Mafolie Restaurant is popular for its twinkly night views and local cuisine prepared with a contemporary twist. Its removal from the beach makes it a good value, but there's a pool with its own bar on property that lets guests cool down. Rates include free continental breakfast.

Recommended for St. Thomas Hotels because: It gives guests a taste of local history and culture at affordable prices.

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The Island Beachcomber Hotel
Photo courtesy of Karen Elowitt

Located on Lindbergh Beach near the airport, the Island Beachcomber Hotel is the epitome of barefoot beach vacationing. The laid-back family run resort keeps it casual with 48 simple, affordable rooms just steps from one of St. Thomas' loveliest beaches, if you do not mind the occasional airplane flying overhead. The up side of that? You can enjoy the beach as long as possible before heading back to the continent. A congenial bar is the hub of activity for devoted guests. The beach, a favorite of locals, gives you opportunity interact with St. Thomians. Lush vegetation turns the understated property into a tropical paradise.

Recommended for St. Thomas Hotels because: For good value, its proximity to airport noise means guests enjoy beachfront lodging affordably.

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Bluebeard's Castle Villas III
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton

Named for, well no one really: A pirate named Bluebeard never existed, but evidently impressed resort owners as a properly swashbuckling name for this hilltop property with stunning views of Charlotte Amalie and her harbor below. Banana Tree Grille affords the best night time panorama, not to mention delicious steaks and tropical cuisine. Even the pool and its casual bar and grill have impressive views. The best view however is from atop the sugar mill ruin. It holds salvaged booty from the area; tours are available on a scheduled basis. The villas and suites are particularly well suited to families – all with kitchens and kitchenettes.

Recommended for St. Thomas Hotels because: One of St. Thomas' best accommodations for families, it has a great restaurant, kids pool and a pirate legend.

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

Part of a complex along with Marriott's Morning Star Resort, Frenchman's Reef overlooks Charlotte Amalie Harbor from a dramatic cliff perch. Guests have access to the secluded beach at Morning Star. The two sister properties clearly reflect all that is meticulously executed by the Marriott brand in both public and accommodations spaces. A number of restaurants at both resorts offer great variety; Havana Blue at Morning Star shines with its Asian Latin fusion cuisine in a design forward setting. The resort offers a well-rounded menu of water sports excursions. The night kayaking in lighted, clear bottom kayaks is a don't miss experience. Other outdoor amenities include an infinity edged pool with swim-up bar and kids splash zone with interactive elements. The luxurious spa brings on serious pampering in seven treatment rooms, massage cabanas and an exclusive spa pool.

Recommended for St. Thomas Hotels because: Frenchman's Reef has stood for top luxe and full service for decades.

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All 48 spacious studios and suites line the wide, plush, white-sand beach at this resort on Nazareth Bay at St. Thomas's quiet east end near Red Hook. Rooms are just steps from the sand, and the cove is known for its superlative snorkeling and stunning sunsets. Full service, the property contains its own dive shop where guests can rent snorkels, paddleboards, boats and all sorts of watersports equipment. Hammocks hang from coconut palms, and a beach bar feeds thirsts and appetites on the waterfront. Tennis courts, a spa and fitness center and a freshwater pool complete the amenities at this "secret" spot.

Recommended for St. Thomas Hotels because: Secret Harbour is quintessential Virgin Islands with beach, dining, diving and other watersports all in one spot.

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Sugar Bay Resort and Spa
Photo courtesy of Sugar Bay Resort

In December 2014, the long popular Sugar Bay Resort morphed into a Dreams all-inclusive resorts product. Its "Unlimited Luxury" package includes all meals and snacks, top shelf liquors and soft drinks, use of the property's three pools and sugar-sand beach, non-motorized water sports, live nightly entertainment, access to the Explorer's Club for kids and Core Zone Teens Club, and all taxes and gratuities. The 297 rooms and suites feature Caribbean style and hilltop views. Complete amenities include seven a la carte restaurants, three bars and lounges, a spa, mini golf, bumper boats, tennis, snorkeling and a fitness center.

Recommended for St. Thomas Hotels because: Newly branded, Dreams Sugar Bay is one of the island's most complete and highly touted resorts.

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A short ferry ride from St. Thomas' Red Hook docks, little brother St. John presents a quieter, more natural U.S. Virgin Islands experience. Founded in 1956 by Laurence Rockefeller, who bequeathed much of the island to the U.S. National Park Service, Caneel Bay combines history, magnificent views, total luxury and away from it all appeal. Set on a 170-acre peninsula within the Virgin Islands National Park, its 160 accommodations blend into the lush environment. The property claims a gorgeous beach for every day of the week. Hot bamboo or stone massages are signature at the resort's spa. Turtle Town provides a deluxe play area for kids. Formerly the Sugar Mill, signature ZoZo's Ristorante occupies mill ruins overlooking the resort and St. Thomas.

Recommended for St. Thomas Hotels because: Caneel Bay is the most divine but nature-bliss experience St. Thomas and St. John offer.

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

St. Thomas' most elegant resort, The Ritz-Carlton dresses up the island's east end with a palazzo-style marble-floored lobby, bubbling fountains, hidden courtyards, 1,800 elegantly appointed rooms with private balconies or terraces, and the kind of beach you fantasize. Guests have easy access to the plush white sands of Great Bay and Coconut Cove, exclusive 11-room spa and seaside cabana, and Ritz Kids program, which features snorkeling and scuba diving. The 30-acre property also has its own aquatic center with non-motorized water activities, plus a scuba diving school and a private 53-foot luxury catamaran. Its outstanding restaurants include oceanfront Bleuwater, an award-winning favorite.

Recommended for St. Thomas Hotels because: The Ritz is unquestionably St. Thomas' most elegant destination resort.

Read more about The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Saint Thomas →


Meet Chelle Koster Walton

Chelle Koster Walton – the Local Expert for Naples, Florida and the Caribbean – has been covering the destination for 30 years. Her top-selling Sarasota, Sanibel Island, and...  More About Chelle