Stay & Play
- June 30th, 2012
- in Yachting
This Summer…Stay & Play
By Dan O’Connor
For year-round residents, the summertime affords the ability to slow down and experience the less traveled and often unattainable gems of the Virgin Islands. Less tourism traffic on the islands means those pristine beaches open up from shore to shore as if they belonged entirely to a fortunate few. It also means that the resorts, villas, charter companies and other marine-based facilities drop their rates to entice summer travelers and residents to help keep their businesses afloat during the trying months ahead.
Each Virgin Island carries its own unique allure, from the flatlands and mystique of Anegada to the marvelous boulders and high-end destinations of Virgin Gorda; and in the USVI, the endless amenities of St Thomas and national parks of St John entice endless adventures. For this issue, we invited businesses from across the Virgin Islands to fill us in on their hot summer deals for residents and visitors alike. And after a couple dozen phone calls and emails poured in, a few of us here chucked our plans for mainland vacations in exchange for summertime staycations on the rock.
Summer rates for most locations drop considerably—from 10 to 30 percent for most and more for a select few. Others close their doors to cut down on costs related to operating a business or for maintenance and renovations. For many businesses still feeling the hit from the economic downturn, these slow months can be detrimental if not met with a strategic plan. Dr Birney Harrigan, executive director of the BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association, shared her thoughts on the looming slow season during a recent chat.
“Occupancy for some is looking better than where it was last year, but for others it’s still very, very bad,” she said. “The villas in particular have suffered most, and the resorts have also experienced low occupancy, so what many have done have offered deep discounts.”
For many, the days of charging top dollar for this high-end paradisiacal location are currently on hold while the market attempts to figure itself out.
“At this point in time, it’s better to have the rooms filled than not to have them occupied at all, and that’s what many resorts have had to do,” she said. “And I’m not just talking about the Virgin Islands—that’s everywhere in the region.”
So, during these summer months, Dr Harrigan suggested that residents take advantage of all that the VI has to offer by giving back to the local businesses that have spared our economy devastation from the global economic crisis.
There is plenty to do on the water, but for those who prefer a waterfront view, a restful retreat is never far. On Virgin Gorda, the high-end seaside resorts of North Sound provide affordable access to the prestigious playground before the area largely closes up next month. At Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, beers and wines have been dropped to $5 a pop, and non-members are always welcome. The clubhouse there closes down on August 25. Next door, at the Bitter End Yacht Club, overnight and weekly rates will remain dropped to summer discount prices ($2,700 for five nights) until they close their doors on August 18, and residents receive an additional discount upon presentation of ID (call for information). The resort is also offering a weekend day package running with North Sound Express from Trellis Bay. Biras Creek Resort remains open to guests until August 27, with a local rate of $295 per night.
Leverick Bay keeps their doors and marina open year-round. Owner Nick Willis explained this is because of the fluctuating traffic they receive from yachters who travel in numbers from Europe, and also because they run a bit of a monopoly during the summer months on the provisioning and fueling capabilities near the North Sound. “I make sure all the charter boat companies know we’re open and extend letters to everyone to say, ‘Come and visit!’” Willis said. For those looking for a room, the hotel is available for $80 a night to boaters and residents, and the bar and restaurant remains open five days a week.
Rosewood Little Dix Bay Resort, the luxury locale that claims a stake as VG’s first high-end resort, drops their rates substantially for those looking for a taste of the good life. Open year-round, the resort offers summertime rates starting at $305 per night, with access to its spa and amenities.
Looking for a romantic couple’s retreat at one of VG’s exclusive villa rental properties? Try Villa Valmarc for just $1,300 a week. The four-bedroom Mahoe Bay villa offers seaside luxury at a remarkably affordable rate. Or try one of the Nail Bay villas for a week with one night free. Over at 100 Pond Bay, enjoy a summertime-only special three-night stay at this five-bedroom, five-star villa (usually a seven-night minimum).
In Spanish Town and to The Baths, things tend to quiet down a bit, but drinks remain cold at Bath & Turtle year round. Stop by Mad Dog Restaurant & Bar or Top of The Baths and grab a bite after a long day of exploring the deserted boulder playground. Both locations will close their doors for the season next month.
For the underwater enthusiast, check out DIVE BVI at VG Yacht Harbour, Leverick Bay or Scrub Island and flash your resident card for a 25 percent discount on an open water diving course during the month of August.
If you’re pipelined into the local scene on Tortola, it’s not difficult to find a happening weekend beach bash or jamming house party—they’re great ways to become better acquainted with the small yet close-knit community. Many bars and restaurants also stay open, but you’ll find that the majority close their doors for maintenance or cost-cutting reasons.
In Cane Garden Bay, Myett’s Garden Restaurant stays open all year; the beachside hotspot dominates the bay as neighbouring businesses close for the season. “We can’t close our doors—we don’t have any,” quipped owner Val Rhymer, who noted a few enticing incentives planned for the summer. Through the summer, Rhymer said they plan to have weekend volleyball tournaments on the beach and Wii Bowling competitions during the week. She’ll also offer up hotel rooms and the Indigo House beachside villa for four nights at the price of three. Also, the bay will open up with dive packages offered by Jost Van Dyke SCUBA with special local rates.
There’s plenty to do on the water, too. Why not learn to sail over at the BVI Watersports Centre? Contact Alison Knights Bramble for more information. Or take advantage of cheap local dive rates. Blue Water Divers also serves up summertime rates, offering residents a two-tank dive for $70 and the discovery SCUBA course for $75 ($40 savings each). If you’re into marine life, stop into Dolphin Discovery near Prospect Reef and try interactive swims starting at $79 for adults and $69 for children; residents receive a special summer discount of an additional 30 percent. A special “dolphin impressions” program is also offered at the low rate of $39 for 15 minutes in the water.
Most bars and restaurants tend to close after the Emancipation Festival, which officially kicks off with J’Ouvert and Carnival Parade on Monday, August 6. Raucous festivities last well into the week—a must for first-timers and those who come out to party down year after year.
The Tamarind Club in Josiahs Bay holds their closing party well into the early morning hours of August 6, and revelers usually take to the J’Ouvert march after a few cups of Irish coffee. Later that month, on August 25, The Last Resort on Bellamy Cay will hold their infamous closing party which, if in tune with year’s past, will bring out the freaks from near and far.
In the USVI, the Department of Tourism has partnered with numerous hotels and resorts, offering travelers an opportunity to save $350 on a visit during the summer months. The offer includes a $200 credit toward any booking for a minimum of five nights, $50 in shopping certificates, $50 in attractions certificates and $50 in dining certificates, as well as a fifth night free stay at participating establishments. The offer is good until September 30.
For a great daytrip, I always prefer the vast vegetation and trails of St John’s national parks. There, it’s business as usual, as the National Parks Service center stays open for guided hikes, snorkels and tours year-round.
It’s always nice to get “off the rock,” and onto a smaller one. Sometimes that can be as easy as a daytrip or weekend to, say, Peter Island. The first week of this month, Peter Island Resort & Spa will celebrate their annual BBQ & Bubbles party, with guest chef Govind Armstrong. Daytime culinary packages and access to the facilities range from $70-225 per person, with transport available from the CYS ferry dock in Road Town. They also offer daytrips to their spa, with a 10 percent discount for residents.
Scrub Island also breaks out the summer incentives for local residents, offering 20 percent off spa services and numerous other savings incentives at their Ixora Spa.
On Jost Van Dyke, head on over to White Bay, where Mic or Shaneek shave off world famous painkillers from Soggy Dollar year-round. On Anegada, the Anegada Reef Hotel also remains open and is able to serve up fresh lobster upon request. Give a call over to Loblolly Bay, where they also may be able to dish out a cold drink along the white sandy beach if a bartender’s available. Rent a car or scooter and explore the island’s flatlands. I hear the flamingos also remain on the job as a scenic attraction at the salt ponds through the summer months.
Across the Virgin Islands, there’s never a lack of things to do—it just takes a bit of searching around and an ambition for adventure.
By Kelly Bos
Despite summer being the off-season, it remains very much on for the kids. With obvious natural resources to entertain, the Virgin Islands provide beautiful mountains for hiking with spectacular views as well as endless sand and surf fun. There are also plenty of playgrounds and even indoor entertainment for the days when families need a little relief from the hot summer sun; think UP’s, bowling, arcade, and indoor climbers.
For a fun-filled day on July 28, kids and parents should head to the Rotary Club of Road Town’s annual Kiddie’s Fiesta at Noel Lloyd Park then watch or partake in the parades and family fun events at Festival, August 6-8. The fiesta will include a grand parade as well as additional entertainment and refreshment booths for the family to enjoy.
Many programs are also offered for kids once school is out. If it’s lessons in a new sport or artistic endeavours active kids are looking for, there are lots of options includingthe BVI Watersports Centre, which remains open during the summer months; Bamboushay for pottery classes for ages three and up; or the BVI Dance School’s summer program available for ages five and up, starting July 9 until the end of August.
There are also numerous camps offered if parents are still working during the school holidays or children are looking for some extra entertainment and learning opportunities. Cedar International School’s kids’ day camp runs for the four weeks of July, 8:45 am to 3 pm. Extended care is offered to help those who need a later pickup. The day camp is divided into three different age groups from 3 to 12 years and incorporates cooking lessons, the great outdoors as well as maths, sciences and the arts for the renaissance child.
Willows Summer Camp is available for ages 3 to 8, running July 2nd to August 3rd with field trips every Friday weather permitting. The weeks are separately themed and the children will experience everything from pirates, transportation, olympic competitions, beach parties and nature exploration.
Harrigan’s Music School offers a concentrated music day camp program for young virtuosos. The camp is for children ages 6 to 16, and runs from July 9 to August 3. There, children are exposed to all of the instruments the music school offers: piano, bass and acoustic guitar, violin and drums.
Motions Studio of the Arts has photography, dance, arts and crafts, and Tae Kwan Do on the day camp menu. There are three different sessions July 2- July 13, July 16-23 and Aug 13-24th with different weekly themes so children can participate in one or more unique sessions. Royal BVI Yacht Club offers summer sailing camps for different levels. Also, many of the churches offer faith-based summer day camps. There is no shortage of options to keep island kids enjoying summer with the added bonus of parental sanity.