Referring to a poster on the wall in the boutique at Bolongo Bay Resort, “It is my most favorite place in all the Virgin Islands. It is stunning.” sang Laura Porter McMurry the Boutique Manager at Bolongo Bay Resort.
“Ohhhhh Yeah?” Matt
“Ohhh Yes!” Laura said her eyes were wide and her smile so big and trustworthy we felt almost guilty saying no.
She went on to explain the trip itinerary included visiting 3 British Islands and snorkeling in a BVI Reef. We hadn’t planned on spending over $150 for a boat tour, so I was feeling skeptical. Of course, Matt was already all in. It didn’t take much to convince me to say yes, and now looking back I would have still been kicking myself had I said no.
The day trip starts early at 7 am. Meet on the East side of the island at Sapphire Beach Resort Marina. Your hotel or New Horizons may assist you with transportation to/from the marina. Or see our next post for contact information for a wonderful St. Thomas taxi driver. You may quickly stop at a dock on St John’s to pick up some other travelers. Then it is off to Virgin Gordo, BVI to tour the famous Batholiths, huge boulders created from eroded volcanic granite on the white sand shoreline. The ride is about 40 minutes and is smooth and relaxing. The views are breathtaking as the sun rises over all the islands.
The Baths were my most favorite part of our entire VI trip. The colors, the views, the crystal clear water and white sands – picture postcard perfect. There is a hike to the boulders and the beach. I recommend wearing either water shoes or tennis shoes. If you wear flip flops, you will need to take them off to get by some of the trails. The hike isn’t difficult, but it isn’t a breeze either. Some spots require major bending/squatting to fit through/around the rocks.
If you do not want to do the hike, there is a restaurant, some shops, and bathrooms at the entrance of the trail, and the views are beautiful. The 30 minutes or so we spent at the beach among the boulders and the pristine beach area wasn’t nearly enough. The day we went it wasn’t crowded. There was only one other tour group, but I was told during the high season it can get pretty crowded.
After all that hiking and swimming it is time for lunch on Marina Cay at Pusser’s Restaurant. The boat ride was about a 30-minute ride.The chowder was especially good, but the rest of the food was ok. Make sure to stop at the English red phone booth next to the fuel station to take an island web photo.
Snorkeling in Diamond Reef is a short boat ride away with views of Scrub Island, Great Camanoe and Marina Cay all around you. The water is calm and clear. We saw a turtle within the first 5 minutes, but my underwater camera skills failed me during the 3-minute turtle dance. Lots of squirrelfishes, stoplight parrotfish, four eye butterfly fish, queen triggerfish, yellow goatfish, sponges, purple sea fans and much more were abundant and kept us entertained. Keep your eye out for a diamond ring that was said to be tossed into the bay by an angry wife years ago.
The boat bar opens up after snorkeling. Soda, beer and mixed drinks to your hearts content. By this time it is early afternoon and everyone is ready to head to White Bay Beach on Jost Van Dyke to sit on the beach and soak in the sun with libations. The beach is lined with several bars including the well known, Soggy Dollar Bar. Bring a mini flag from your favorite university to hang from the ceiling. White Bay Beach is a place to party. The shoreline is strewn with party boats and island hoppers ready to hang out and have fun. If you are traveling with kids, bring a ball, Frisbee or something to keep them occupied.
The last stop is back at St. John to pass through immigration. If you have not visited St. John I recommend staying on the island at this point and taking a ferry back to St. Thomas later. Make sure to check the last ferry time from Cruz Bay, St. John for your particular day. The ferry to/from Red Hook runs later than the Charlotte Amalie route.
Our crew was Captain John aka Big John, Virginia John aka Lil John and Louisiana Chris. They just go by their names without the descriptives, but I enjoy giving nicknames to people I like. These guys were great. They instantly made everyone feel at ease and comfortable for the entire day. The morning snacks of muffins and fruit were fresh and delicious. There were plenty of choices of food and beverages on the boat. In the afternoon after snorkeling, they fed us shrimp cocktail, fruit, and drinks until we were stuffed. Fun note… all your non-canned drinks are served in kid sippy cups. You are not guaranteed to have the same crew or boat we did, but I was assured that all their staff and boats operate at the same high standard.
You certainly don’t need a boat to enjoy the Virgin Islands, but it makes it a whole heap of fun! On our recent visit to the U.S. Virgin Islands, we decided to test out one of Breakaway’s excursions to the British side of things, and it was a momentous decision. We meet on the slip at dawn and were introduced to our crew Captain John, Little John (who stood at about 6’2’’) and Chris; a splendid bunch of capable and happy folks.
Not all the participants were staying on Saint Thomas, but with a quick jaunt across some open water, we were at Saint Johns and gathering up the remainders. Just in that short bit of time you start to understand that you are in a swarm of islands, and instantly the possibilities start flooding in, in about 20 min. or so in any one direction you could find yourself on the shore of a different island with its adventures awaiting you.
Now that all of our characters were onboard Capt. John dropped the hammer, and we were roaring towards Virgin Gorda Island and The Baths, or The Batholiths* as they are scientifically known, which are natural granite formations. Large boulders collide with the ocean in a dramatic display thousands of years in the making, and it creates an intricate trail that winds through grottos and pools of warm ever-churning water.
While on the trail you must be agile as it demands you bend and duck and maneuver around to negotiate the obstacles that are before you. The water holds its magical green coloring even when out of the direct light, and as you wind your way to the end of the path and through a secret passage you see it as it was always meant to be, with a mesmerizing blue as sunshine melds into the ocean. The little stretch of beach waiting for you at the end of the baths, is not a consolation prize by any means, soothes all of your senses and activates all the random images one collects of what a beach in the Caribbean is supposed to be.
Upon returning to the boat, we find out lunch is the next order of business, which is on its own island or cay to be more precise. What else could you want from an island that takes up about 5 acres and contains a small hotel and restaurant, what’s that you say a pier with a classic British red phone booth at the end, well then look no further; and I even liked the sandwich.
After lunch we all load up for a daunting four hundred yard trip towards the next closest island and before you know it the anchors have been dropped and its time to grab the snorkel gear. I am beyond excited to look for a turtle, but I am also newly intrigued by the tale that somewhere below us is a massive diamond ring lying in wait, which is how diamond reef got its name. I scratched on my search for the ring, but more importantly you will all be happy to hear I did see my first turtle, and he looked quite happy.
Next we all saddle up for the trek to our final destination and a sweet chance meeting. The last stop on our adventure is Jost Van Dyke, an island with no dock and a seemingly 24-hour party, a handful of bars line the beachfront with a myriad of boats anchored off shore. Soggy Dollar Bar is our objective, and I order us two beers with a handful of soggy dollars bills, as the name aptly suggest.
Heather sees a small hill midway down the beach and wants to venture to the top for an overview for our surroundings; however the terrain is not very barefoot friendly, and we find our journey is cut short about halfway. That’s when I meet a very nice chap from Scotland, and we got to talking, and it turns it his grandfather painted the inside of one of my favorite castles in Scotland Eilean Donan; further proof that the world is pretty small after all.
When all is said and done this trip was a blast and by far the highlight of my holiday. The crew was implacable at their duties and the handled all the responsibilities with ease, including distributing snacks and beverages at all the right times. I would recommend this trip 100%.
Current passports are required: You will be required to go through US immigration on St. John. Swimsuit cover-ups and shoes are mandatory to enter the government building.
Fee: $150 per person, children 12 and under are $95. Plus an International fee of $40 per person. Food and drink on the boat are included. Lunch on Marina Cay is not included.
Don’t forget to tip! The crew deserves it!
Recommendable: Yes, if you are looking for a fun relaxing day island hopping and snorkeling this is a great trip. Family, couple and/or single traveler friendly.
*Side Note: Yes, the word Batholiths makes me think of Harry Potter.