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Review from a St. John Newbie/Reef Madness Review

Tomball, Texas
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Review from a St. John Newbie/Reef Madness Review

(Probably a little on the long side, but I love the use of paragraphs!)

Dates Stayed: November 30th - December 5th

Weather while on island: Unpredictable; intermittent showers, with one brilliant day.

Villa Provisioning: Starfish Market

My base for comparison: We're former all-inclusive die-hards, and love the Riviera Maya coast of Mexico, and prefer to stay at upscale, adults-only resorts. We typically never leave the resort, so St. John was whole new world for us, in more ways than one.


Since we normally have direct flights to Cancun from Houston, we decided to take the long, two-flight trip to STT, and break it up with a stay overnight in Miami, and it's a good thing we did. We normally fly United, and American decided to break themselves in, anything but gently. We had five delays, and got to Miami over four hours late. We would have missed our connecting flight to STT.

We flew in to STT and took a taxi over to Red Hook. Catching the taxi was easy. We liked our driver so much, we called him for our return trip back. Once at Red Hook, we arrived in time to see the ferry pull out. So what does any respectable vacationer do? We head to the bar and order up our first Painkillers, that's what!

Once we got on the ferry, someone saw me coming, and ordered a nice downpour. I have a knack for bringing rain with me, wherever I go. Of course, as luck would have it, we're standing on the top deck. When we arrived, it took forever for the people down in the covered area, to let us get down from the top, and out of the rain. They just started piling out, and left everyone on top waiting. Nice. Thanks guys, on the 30th!

Reef Madness is managed by Viva Vacations. We decided to go against their recommendations, and rented from Courtesy. Both Nakira with Viva, and a Courtesy employee were waiting for us as we disembarked.

I was very unsure as to how this all worked, but Nakira took me in her car, while Courtesy took my husband, and our traveling companions, along with our luggage, with him. Nakira and I met them there, and then we followed her to Reef Madness.

At this point, it's getting dark, and it is POURING outside.

One HUGE word of advice: learn from my newbie mistake. Do NOT rent a large SUV (a Pathfinder in our case), and plan to stay in a location, like the one that Reef Madness is perched on. We had a total of seven switchbacks to get up to Seagrape Hill. All but one required us to put the SUV in reverse at each switchback. The SUV's turning radius was too wide for the turns. Lesson learned. I just wish this was something that either Viva or Courtesy had thought to mention.

Reef Madness:

Once the torrential electrical storm blew through (around an hour - poor Nakira was stuck at the house with us - it rained that hard), we got our first look at the view. Granted it was at night, but wow - what a view! You have a gorgeous view of Coral Bay below, and a nice sideways view of Hurricane Hole.

The house is comprised of a main house, with a separate quarter of bedrooms. One downstairs, and one upstairs. For some reason, I thought the downstairs bedroom was attached to the main house. Didn't matter - we ended up with the upstairs bedroom. Really, the bedrooms are identical. The main difference being, the upstairs bedroom has beautiful vaulted ceilings - and you get wet walking up the stairs if it's raining.

The house itself is very well-equipped and has the most comfortable beds ever . We had to strip one to see what kind of mattress it is!

The house has its own ice machine. Plenty enough made each day to keep a medium-sized cooler filled with drinks and ice. The finishes are upscale, and there is plenty of outdoor seating. Outdoor speakers add a nice touch. The house has satellite and wifi. The wifi does not reach into the bedrooms though.

For the sake of brevity, if there were three things I would change, they would be: the addition of glass to enclose the turret "windows", to make it more waterproof, more hot water/better water pressure - both were non-existent (I took two cold showers), and a heater on the pool. We're from Houston. We can't handle cold water. The pool sat unused by us.

Any questions - feel free to ask. Would we rent it again? No - but it has absolutely nothing at all to do with the villa. It has more to do with the location. If Coral Bay is where you want to be, I doubt you'll find a villa with better views. The place itself is equally as gorgeous. We just found ourselves spending every day out, on the west and north ends. It made no sense to make that drive back and forth each day. I'm glad we experienced it though.


Wonderful. No complaints at all. We were always able to park there when we needed. They stored our luggage and brought us back to the ferry dock when it was time to catch our return ferry. Very nice employees. We'll rent from them again.

Starfish Provisioning:

Wonderful. We ordered waaaaaay too much food though. We left behind a case of water, a six pack of beer, and others odds and ends. Next time I'll shop when I get there. I didn't realize how good the parking was at the store. The store itself is pretty well-stocked.

Love City Market:

A good alternative for basic goods. Very close to the villa.

What we did/Where we ate:

Our first day was spent getting acquainted with the island. We had an early lunch at High Tide (bland to me), rented our equipment from Low Key (I got a prescription mask that was perfect) then went to check out Trunk Bay, since there were only two cruise ships in port. The beach is spectacular from the overlook, but once you're on it, I didn't think it was anything special, and the snorkeling was mediocre at best. There may not be prettier beaches to look down upon, but there are prettier beaches to be on the sand of, IMO.

We moved on to Maho. Due to the heavy rains, there was a lot of run-off, which made for some uncomfortable cold spots and murky water in areas, but the snorkeling was much better. We saw rays, and a 4' Tarpon. Did a drive-by on Hawksnest and it was very choppy, so we moved on.

The next day we used our Honeymoon Beach day pass. I've already responded on that thread, so I won't repeat it here, with the exception of reiterating, that this was the best snorkeling all week. This beach is incredibly beautiful. The snorkeling going towards Salomon was fantastic. We snorkeled with turtles, rays, and huge schools of fish. The coral seemed very healthy between the two beaches.

We went to Skinny Legs for dinner, and I had a splitting migraine, so really didn't enjoy the food, but everyone else said their hamburgers were great. The baby donkey in the area is so cute!

We took a trip to eat at Vie's and her daughter cooked us a wonderful lunch. We had the conch fritters and garlic chicken. What a cool little place. While it was cooking, we snorkeled Hansen Bay. It was alright. Nothing special, but we still had fun exploring.

We took a sunset cruise on Kekoa. I must say, as a woman, it was pretty cool seeing that big boat pull in, manned by a crew of women! The crew was wonderful. We will take this boat out again. Thanks to whomever recommended it on here. We never had a good sunset, thanks to heavy cloud cover, but we still had fun.

After this, we hit the Beach Bar for the first time. The first thing that happened as we walked in, was a woman asking my husband how much he thought her you-know-whats were worth. They were below her chin and above her belly-button, to give you an idea of what she was asking him about. Well, alright then.

The food was pretty good here! I wasn't expecting that at all. No live music, but the music they played was wonderful.

We had breakfast at Chateau Bordeaux (ate here twice). What a gorgeous view she has! We had the typical eggs, bacon, breakfast burrito items, and my husband fell in love with the homemade hot sauce. The second time, I had her cream cheese stuffed french toast with mango and pineapple. OMG...

We then went to see the Annaberg ruins. Beautiful, is all I can say, and sobering at the same time. Well worth the time. We ate dumb bread from Miss Olivia, and ate fresh coconut from the guy in the back, near the garden.

We kept going, and made it to Francis Bay. Simply gorgeous! We never found good snorkeling here, but we may have been looking in the wrong places. The bay itself was one of my favorites though. Even under overcast skies.

The day we left, was another washout (the 5th). As we were sitting at Red Hook, the sun came out. Oh well, I figure if we fell in love with it in bad weather, our next trip can only be better.

And there will be a next trip. We absolutely fell in love with this beautiful little island and its people. Beauty at every turn, from the lush, green mountains, to the clear blue water, to the sweet local residents, to even the quirky hippyish sticker-covered signs.

We loved it. I honestly cannot imagine going back to Mexico now, which makes me sort of sad, but I loved the fact that we could just take off and explore, something that's a little more daunting over there. St. John has won us over, for sure.

Waitsfield, Vermont
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1. Re: Review from a St. John Newbie/Reef Madness Review

Great (honest) report. And... I'm a fan of paragraphs ;-)

Tomball, Texas
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2. Re: Review from a St. John Newbie/Reef Madness Review

Me too! Anything over seven lines thick, and my eyes glaze over.

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3. Re: Review from a St. John Newbie/Reef Madness Review

Your review is wonderful ~ it brought tears to my heart. And, yet another soul is woven into the island's magic. We are going on 21 years of solid return visits with new experiences each time. May you have many fabulous returns! Thanks so much for sharing.

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4. Re: Review from a St. John Newbie/Reef Madness Review


Great review! I appreciates your specifics and paragraphs. Gives this newbie a preview of the delight! :) Sorry that your weather wasn't better.

"And yet another soul is woven into the island's magic"....luv this Littlebenn!!!! :)

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5. Re: Review from a St. John Newbie/Reef Madness Review

Great info. I love first timer reports.

Tomball, Texas
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6. Re: Review from a St. John Newbie/Reef Madness Review

Thanks guys! I hope my long-winded review helps someone else planning a trip. :-)

Miami Beach, Florida
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7. Re: Review from a St. John Newbie/Reef Madness Review

Our first time we stayed on Bordeaux Mtn and I really didn't like the location (didn't like the cold pool either), but loved the island. We found that we prefer the South Shore (Choc Hole, Contant) and love a sunset view. You'll find your spot for sure.

Love the trip report and welcome to the obsession!

St. John
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8. Re: Review from a St. John Newbie/Reef Madness Review

Thank you for the great trip report! So glad to hear that you enjoyed your trip and that it was worth venturing out of your all inclusive routine!

"The first thing that happened as we walked in, was a woman asking my husband how much he thought her you-know-whats were worth"

Please tell me that this person was not an employee :) And I would love to know what your husbands response was :) I've heard a lot in my 14+ years here, but I must say, this is at the top of the Most Awkward Introductions list.

New Jersey
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9. Re: Review from a St. John Newbie/Reef Madness Review

Thank you for the report, many happy returns.

Smithfield, Rhode...
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10. Re: Review from a St. John Newbie/Reef Madness Review

A very good report, thanks for sharing your first time experience. If you had this much fun in not so great weather, just imagine what a full week of sunshine will bring!