Exploring the Virgin Islands

Lifestyle Travel

To your left is a lush mountain view of an evergreen coastline. To your right are the aqua-blue waters of a peaceful, Caribbean inlet. Classic sailboats float in and out of the harbor; paddle boarders and kayakers grow smaller in the distance as they make their way out to more distant waters. Across the harbor is another verdant, mountain view. As the sun sets, this mountain becomes adorned with warm, golden lights that illuminate the coastline and reflect off the water. Where are you? You’re standing on the balcony of your beachfront villa at the Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort on St. Thomas Island.

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eferred to as “The Reef,” this popular resort sits atop a cliff, overlooking the Charlotte Amalie Harbor. This prime location allows the resort to offer both hillside and beachfront rooms to its visitors, as well as one of the most incredible views in the Caribbean.

The Reef is a convenient, 15-minute drive from the Cyril E. King Airport and is in close proximity to St. Thomas’ bustling downtown area, an ideal jump off point for exploring nearby islands. The resort itself contains six on-site bars and restaurants, four pools, including a freeform infinity pool, and a fully-equipped exercise and fitness center.

Perhaps the main attraction of The Reef, is its luxurious Lazule Sea Spa that features an outdoor spa pool, perfect for those moments when you want to get away for some quiet reflection and relaxation.

A set of stairs leads directly from the resort to a private beach where visitors can engage in a wide array of watersports including snorkeling, windsurfing, paddle boarding and night kayaking.

The Reef supplies special kayaks with glass bottoms so that kayakers can get a fish’s eye view of the Charlotte Amalie waters. There is also an on-property Adventure Center where guests can book activities and plan their island-hopping excursions.

There is no shortage of things to explore in Charlotte Amalie. The hillside city is known for its charming, Danish colonial architecture and is home to Blackbeard’s Castle, one of just five National Historic Landmarks in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Originally built in 1679, legend has it that the infamous pirate Blackbeard used the castle as a lookout point for him and his gang of pirates. Blackbeard’s Castle is more like a watchtower, tall and climbable, allowing visitors to get a panoramic view of the island.

virgin islandsSt. Thomas is well known for being the best shopping destination in the Caribbean. There is no sales tax in the U.S. Virgin Islands; so frequent visitors make a habit of dedicating an afternoon to visiting the local shops. Popular shops can be found in downtown Charlotte Amalie, Havensight Mall, Red Hook, Crown Bay Center and Yacht Haven Grande.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of making The Reef your base of operations during your Caribbean travels is its close proximity to other islands. The resort is a ferry or seaplane ride away from St. John, St. Croix, and the British Virgin Islands, making day trips to other islands shockingly easy.

Travelers can hop over to the British Virgin Island of Tortola and participate in their Dolphin Discovery, where they can swim with dolphins in protected, shallow waters. Tortola offers multiple swimming with dolphin programs that include different activities like hugging, kissing, belly rides, dorsal towing and foot pushing. Visitors will learn about dolphins’ nutritional health, as well as how best they can work to protect dolphin habitats.

While in the area, adventure-seekers can set sail for the coast of Salt Island and go diving to see the “Wreck of Rhone.” The RMS Rhone was a British mail ship that crashed and sank during a hurricane in 1867. Today, it is a popular wreck dive site, where divers can swim down and see the ship up close.

Golf lovers will surely want to take a seaplane over to St. Croix and play a round on the famous Carambola Golf Course. In addition to golf, the largest U.S. Virgin Island is rich in culture and history thanks to its storied past, making it an ideal day trip for everything from scuba diving to sightseeing.

Amateur geologists will die to visit the strange rock formations called The Baths in Virgin Gorda. The island’s coast features a labyrinth of stone which form a series of pools and caverns.

With The Reef serving as your home base, day trips on and away from the island of St. Thomas are only moments away. Its centralized location defines it as the ideal jump off point to explore everything the Virgin Islands have to offer.

By Brenna Holland

Zen writer, obsessive content-creator, and Disney Princess impostor.