Grande Bay Takes Top Honors

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Grande Bay Best Hotel

Once again, Grande Bay has taken top honors as the island’s best resort. The latest honored was bestowed by readers who voted in the Best of VI poll. This is the first year that Grande Bay has taken this specific award.

Grande Bay’s been receiving a lot of good accolades lately. Check out what some recent guests had to say about their stays at the resort:

“We rented directly from an owner on our return visit to St John to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. 10 years ago, we stayed at The Westin for our honeymoon. We LOVED St. John but did not love The Westin. Grande Bay is was perfect for us. We loved St John even more this time than we did on the first visit and it’s because of the awesome location of Grande Bay. We rented a jeep and explored a new beach everyday. It was so nice when we returned in the late afternoon to park the jeep and not worry about transportation for the rest of the day or night We would just walk Cruz Bay every night and stop in the bars for happy hour and then have dinner.

“We stayed in a studio and it was very clean and stocked with everything we needed. We used the pool once briefly and it was great. The workout area is small but will do. I liked that they had coffee and pastries in the morning. We did notice that Grande Bay had cocktail receptions at MOTU next door (don’t miss this for great cocktails ) for their guests. Though we never went, I thought it was a really nice touch.

“We cannot wait to return to St John and will definitely be staying at Grande Bay on our next visit.”
-NYBeachLover, TripAdvisor review

“We stayed in a 1-bedroom condo for a week over spring break. The location is absolutely perfect and I cannot imagine staying anywhere else on the island. You are right in Cruz Bay which is the ideal size beach town. Many choices for restaurants as well as souvenir shops. The condo itself at Grande Bay was just the right size for our family of 4. Perfectly stocked and having a garage downstairs for our Jeep was extremely convenient. I would recommend Grande Bay Resort to anyone coming to the beautiful island of St John! It doesn’t get any better than this!
-cutemomoftwocutekids, TripAdvisor review

Want to know who else was named to the Best of VI list? We’ll have a full list winners later today.


Grande Bay: In the Center of It All

Grande Bay Middle of it all

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One of the most frequent questions we receive here at News of St. John is “where should I stay?” Our response is pretty standard: If you want to be where most of the action is, Cruz Bay is your best bet. If you want to be where it’s a bit quieter but you still want quick access to a few good restaurants and shops, Coral Bay may be the way to go. And if you want to be completely away from it all, East End is for you.

And for those who truly want to be in the center of it all, I typically suggest Grande Bay.

(Full disclosure: Yes, I am aware that there is a small group of people who will never like Grande Bay for one reason or another. As someone who has spent some time on the property, I have to admit that I found it to be quite nice. It’s convenient and has great views, on-site parking and super quick wifi. Grande Bay is also a big community supporter. That to me is huge. )

Grande Bay is truly at the center of it all. You really can’t get any closer to the action than when you’re staying at Grande Bay. For starters, it’s only 300 steps from the ferry dock when walking along the beach. Want to grab one of Motu’s delicious Bushwackers before heading to Frank Bay for the sunset? Well it’s a mere 10 steps to Motu and then only 311 steps down the road to Frank Bay. How’s that for convenient?

Looking to watch some live music? Then mosey on over to The Beach Bar, which happens to be only 38 steps away from Grande Bay.

How about some drinks and grub? If you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere, you can walk a few blocks – 495 steps – to Woody’s. Looking for something a bit fancier? Walk another 20 steps up to La Tapa – which is only 515 steps from Grande Bay.

Waterfront Bistro is a great spot for a nice meal with a nice view. Again take the beach (such a nicer route) and after 311 steps you’ll be there.

You’ll probably want to do a little shopping after all of this eating and drinking. Mongoose Junction, home to an abundance of great restaurants, shops and bars is only 684 steps away.

Lastly, you’re probably going to want to explore the island a bit. After all, you’re in one of the most beautiful spots in the world. Take the beach over to the taxi stand, which is 310 steps away.

How about a nice boat ride, say over to the British Virgin Islands for the day? Simply walk across the street and hop aboard Residensea – Grande Bay’s exclusive 35 ft. Scout.

Grande Bay's 35 ft. Scout - ResidenSea
Grande Bay’s 35 ft. Scout – ResidenSea

Want to learn more about Grande Bay? Click here to visit their website.

How to bring home a great shot from St. John

PHOTO St. John has lots of opportunities for snapshots.  But if you want more than a snap, you're going to have to do a little work.  Thankfully, an earlier issue of the St. John Sun Times has done some of that work for you, assisted by Bob Schlesinger of Tropical Focus.

In the article you'll learn when to shoot. Generally, the best time to take great photos is just before around sunset, between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.  That's when the light has a soft and buttery feel.

Read moreHow to bring home a great shot from St. John

Virgin Islands business opportunities

There are some interesting businesses for sale on the island right now, but what if you're an entrepreneur and want to start your own? Forumites at the Virgin-Islands-On-Line.com site have been mulling this question.

Lsugolfer in Baton Rouge said "So, here's what I do when I sit in my cube and think about how crappy this is compared to STJ. Start a gas station or a 'Louisiana'-themed restaurant."

JMhouse said, "Ha ha. I'm in a cubicle, too, listening to someone else have a loud conversation on a speaker phone.  I'd much rather be the Park Ranger that leads the Reef Bay hikes."

Other suggestions people have for new island businesses.

  1. "A storage business where you could leave your snorkel gear/beach chairs, shoes and whatever you don't want to cart back and forth." (Diana2)
  2. "A wind turbine, maybe somewhere on Ajax peak." (Laurie)
  3. "An electric car rental company.  And a self-serve car wash and vacuum area." (Msgcolleen)
  4. "Chicken Removal Service." (StJohnRuth) Details 
  5. "Underwater camera rental. Would have to be a side business. (Not big enough to sustain itself.)" (Jmaq)

Why people bring food to St. John

Twenty years ago, our packing for St. John always included a cooler of food and salty snacks.  

Not because we wanted to save money but, back then, there weren't fully-stocked food stores.  You couldn't be sure you'd be able to buy bread and milk never mind good cuts of beef.  That's changed now, but many people still bring coolers.

In a thread on Trip Advisor, most people said they bring food for convenience, not to avoid restaurants.  

"We dine out, but we visit STJ for relaxing," said Toes_in_the_Sand.  "We find it more relaxing at the end of a day at the beach to sit at the villa, enjoy a couple of drinks while we fix dinner.  No hurry, no parking, no worries."

Poolmom_9 added, "We saved a lot of money (bringing food).  We still ate out plenty.  It was nice to grill (at home)." Cleobeach1 said, "We generally eat out every lunch and dinner, but we have taken a cooler more often than not. We are particular about our meals, especially meats and specialty snacks like cheeses."

What about you?

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The developers are calling it the Grande Bay Renaissance.  

Conceding "years of challenges and construction delays," the Grande Bay Resort and Residence Club is open for business.  An experienced, high-end resort manager is now on board to help oversee the project which is offering fractional ownerships with prices starting at $14,900. Read more about it here.

Historical Society’s book on sale

Book_cover_MEDYears in the making, years in the telling. That's the story behind the St. John Historical Society's new book, St John – Life in Five Quarters. (The Five Quarters refers to the original five administrative districts of the island: Cruz Bay, Maho Bay, Reef bay, Coral Bay, and East End).

The island history is available in the Society's online store for $29.95. The book is described as more than 200 pages of "local stories, pictures, and history … accounts of prominent people and notable places, firsthand descriptions of earlier ways of life on St John, fact-based histories of estate ‘ruins’ we have rambled, and an impressive collection of interesting and beautiful images and photos."

The Society does more than sell books.

Read moreHistorical Society’s book on sale

Plan for new gas station, quick-stop store

Plans are afoot to build a gas station on Centerline Road.  

Developer Guilderoy Sprauve is asking for a zoning change to allow him to build the station and a convenience store on land which used to be the home of a concrete plant and is now home to Love City Home and Garden Center. 

Sprauve was quoted by the St. John Source saying everything is in place to move ahead with the project. "We have the funding," he said.

There will be an attendant on duty at the station, even  though it will be self service.  You'll also be on your own at the C-store.  Sprauve apparently intends to install vending machines.  He said the store will be "robotic."

Of course a new gas station would be helpful on the island.  E&C Service in Cruz Bay is the only place to gas up now; the Dominio station in Coral Bay is still closed with no word when, or if it will reopen.

  • Read the Source story here

Blue Tang: #2 and proud of it!

Bt_tripadvisor
Longtime readers know that News of St. John began as a not-so-subtle effort to encourage rentals of our home on the island.  There's a lot of competition for rentals and I thought the site would help.  It has. It is the oldest and largest Web site with news about St. John.

Ext_day_pool So it was with surprise and gratitude that, while mousing around TripAdvisor.com the other day, I found that Blue Tang was ranked as the #2 most popular rental on the island, with a 4 1/2 out of 5 stars ranking, too.  Shocked … thankful … happy.

Blue Tang ranked so well because of the reviews people who have stayed at the house were kind enough to post.  A few of their comments:

  • "A peaceful, relaxing, romantic honeymoon at Blue Tang."
  • "Blue Tang rocks."
  • "Best vacation we've ever taken."
  • "Awesome views and location."

I have to admit that each time we visit Blue Tang and read through the Guest Books, we are often moved to tears at the kind things people say about the house as they recount the wonderful time they had on the island and at our place.

If you're headed for St. John, I hope you'll consider our home, too.

Frank Barnako, aka The Inquiring Iguana

New Yorker criticizes Maho Bay room service

You can't make this stuff up.

A guest at the Maho Bay Camps blasted the eco-resort on Yelp

Vasyl F. of Rego Park, New York said, "This is the worst hotel I've ever stayed in."

The Queens borough resident said the description of Maho he read on Expedia.com did not meet his expectations.

"No ocean view rooms … and no mountain view … they charge even to lock your door … tents are 30 years old and leaking, and cracks in the floors are so wide that cockroaches and lizards are flooding the dwelling. Restaurant is extremely dirty and the food is all from cans and is made in China."

As for being an 'eco-resort," Vasyl said, "They just don't repair the hotel and don't clean the territory, besides all their furniture, tables, plates, glasses and many more things are made of cheap toxic plastic which is definitely not eco-friendly."

In rebuttal, anyone who knows anything about Maho Bay also knows that Vasyl's expectations were way off the mark.  But, he may not be alone, given what The Inquiring Iguana found when he slithered to Expedia's Maho entry.

For starters, Maho describes itself as a three star "Coral Bay hotel with a private beach."  Misleading, some could say. The Expedia description of Maho is also, shall we say, 'generous.'

Maho's 'amenities' are listed (see below), suggesting the rustic resort, with accommodations from $80/night, could compete with villas. (It's the Select Comfort mattress that really caught The Iguana's attention.)

AmenitiesThe Iguana understands how Expedia wants Maho to present itself in the best light.  But, he also wonders how a smart guy from Queens could make the assumption that he was staying a a luxury-like hotel when the Expedia site reservation screen offers "tent cottage."  That's a pretty good clue to what he's going to get.

  • Vasyl F.'s review of Maho Bay on Yelp is here.
  • Maho Bay on Expedia is here.