I booked this trip very last minute (three days out from leaving) and made my decision on where to stay in St. Thomas based on a mix of two criteria: Cost & Tripadvisor user comments. They were very helpful, but I think I can help clear up some of the confusion/reservation I felt when I decided to "take a chance" on Sapphire Beach Village Resorts.
First, it's important to note, this is NOT full service resort. It' is two separate condo complexes, both with amazing views and location to the beach, however, that's where the similarities end. This review is for the Village, which is located UPHILL from the beach (OK walk if you take your time). There are some reviews for the Village that I think belong to the Beach resort, which, according to locals and those that work there, is in the midst of a major homeowner association brawl. That equates to poor management, run down or closed facilities and units that are in need of some serious TLC. You can't beat the location (the water "kisses" your veranda during high tide), and I had the opportunity to move to one of these units the day after my check-in and I didn't.
So, here are some VERY useful tips (I hope) in making your experience at Sapphire a great one!
The village is uphill, but our unit (St. Maarten #204 was about 25 downhill steps to the tiki bar & pool, which has live music ever night (there is not tiki bar on the beach). If you want to go a beautiful and completely uncrowded beach (I counted twenty five on the beach at noon one day), with AMAZING onsite snorkeling (lots of reefs, turtles etc), you just need to walk five minutes downhill and you're there. Just prepare for an exhausting hike back to your unit uphill. They don't have a gym, so this was a free alternative to working out on a machine…
GETTING THERE ONCE YOU LAND
I traveled with my Mom and frankly, we got ripped off taking a private cab over to Sapphire from the airport. We wanted to stop get necessities: rum, food, rum :) etc. We paid $90, but that was high. You can take a van pool for much less (between $10-$12 pp). Sapphire is on the east end of the island, which is the furthest point from Charlotte Amalie (which they call the city)
This was a bit of a fiasco, but I expected it because I read others reviews. For those of you who are going to book this, your cab driver WILL PROBABLY NOT know how to get you to check in. So…here is it (there are NO signs what-so-ever). You check in down the hill at the Beach resort (NOT the villas, even tho there is an office there too). It is a unit converted into an office. It is located on the end left unit by the "taxi wait area". Go up the stairs and enter the very last door to the left to check in. WARNING: if you have a late flight and didn't book a unit directly through the owner of the condo, I would get someone on the phone in that office before hand to be sure you know how to get your keys. They could be hairy if you arrive after typical working hours. The number they gave me was 340-775-2600. ( I didn't find that number ANYWHERE else during my booking or receipt of paperwork).
There are charters and jet ski rentals signs on property and the marina is right there. You might struggle with how to book these however. The office staff may be helpful, some signs have numbers to call, but don't expect a hut or booth whereas someone is "waiting" to take your reservation.
I found, after speaking with some people, that snorkel equipment may or may not be in your unit. You can't rent it anywhere. I brought my own (who wants to stick someone else's snorkel on your mouth?). I recommend you do the same for sure. Buying one and fins is expensive on island
There is a small awning set up between the beach buildings that serves breakfast and lunch (grill food) and they have a small bar. They close around 2p I believe, so if you want cocktails on the beach after 2p, check your unit for a cooler (ours had one) to bring with you. Good luck getting ice however. I had to ask the bar tender at the uphill tiki bar for a bag and she was very gracious (Thanks Amber!). Lunch and Dinner is served at the tiki bar until 9p.
Beach chairs are in rough shape and you will have to unstack your own (if they are actually stacked from the day before). They were free. The sand is nice, so laying on a beach towel is comfortable as well.
Which brings me to beach towels. I experienced the same issue as many others. No beach towels upon check in and I never got one my whole trip. I didn't even see a housekeeper that I could ask (and our unit was not cleaned during the 4 nights we were there). Bring one with you.
If you don't rent a car (I heard from a couple of travelers they spent in excess of $800 with taxes and insurance for a week), you will need to take a taxi to get around. You have a few choices:
There is a "safari" taxi that will stop and pick you up pretty much anywhere you stand on the road when you hail them. this does a complete island loop (LONG RIDE) for $2, or you can pay $1 each time you hop on and off. Sapphire is a short distance from Redhook and the St. John Ferry, however, I wouldn't walk it. There are no sidewalks or shoulders and it would be fairly unsafe in my opinion. Getting back from Redhook is a little more difficult. The safari runs in one direction ,so you either hop on for a buck or two and wait until they loop back around, or you take a private taxi, which will run about $5-$7 each. It adds up quickly.
Airport from Sapphire was $30 for the two of us…..haggle the large fairs with the drivers if you're comfortable.
There are many restaurant options on the island, but not the resort. I am a foodie, so I always ask the locals where to go that aren't "tourist traps":
Fish Tails in Redhook by the Ferry terminal was OK. Great service at the bar, very friendly!
Gladys' down by the cruise ship docks (it's tucked away down an alley, so ask a local), it was GREAT!
Sapphire Bar & Grill is the tiki bar at the Village Resort up the hill. Food is a little pricey but the staff are uber friendly and the food is edible. They did a decent burger.
"Off the Grid" food/BBQ truck at the entrance of Sapphire Resorts. They have a great all you can eat and bottomless caribbean mimosa's on Sunday for Brunch! they are there every day until they run out of food (which happens!)
Buy food. We made sandwiches in our unit to save $$. There is a grocery on Smith Bay Road before and after you pass Sapphire. Ask your cab driver to bring you to do some quick shopping.
WHAT TO DO
Tip: Sunday is a sacred day on island and you won't find much open in the "city" for shopping/food etc. Plan on Sunday as your day of rest as well!
There are a number of excursions you can book. Keep in mind the cruise ships also book these, so do it early to ensure your spot (especially scuba/snuba diving on St. John). I've been to Trunk Bay on St. John a number of times as it is rated the most beautiful beach in the world by National Geographic. Bring your laptop to research or pick up brochures when you see them, you won't find ANY tourist information on site at Sapphire (unless you ask a bartender). I did zip lining, which was worth it (see Tree Limin' Extreme). I was told by multiple locals that Lindquist beach (right near Sapphire) is BEAUTIFUL and not as touristy. Coki beach is a MAD HOUSE, i'd stay away.
Happy hour is pretty much 24/7. Look for great little bars with great views and just explore!
Ask the bartender for the WIFI password if you weren't told at check in. that's how we got it. The WIFI is VERY SPOTTY however. Oh, who cares….you're on vacation, get off the computer already!!!! That's why I have a data plan on my phone.
Not all carriers work in St. Thomas or they don't consider it "domestic calling". CHECK if you aren't sure ,it could end up costing you a fortune!
Our room didn't have a phone, so be prepared for that.
I have pointed out things that are not intended to sway you away from this resort…just the opposite. I had to work through these things and hope that it helps the next traveller in getting settled in without any stress much easier.
All in all, I'd go again. I would not consider the beach resort until they do some MAJOR overhauls there. The price couldn't be beat, so I didn't expect the Ritz Carlton. The staff at the Tiki bar were great (Again, Amber & Fallon, you do a great job!). The rooms all have a balcony and great view! It was clean upon checkin also. We met a lot of nice long term renters and travelers, so be sure you put on your island friendly face and make new friends!
The surroundings are so beautiful, that as long as your "mind" is in the right place, you'd be hard pressed not to just relax and enjoy the island life for a while! The rating I gave is for the overall experience, but if I had to rate the facilities, the beach resort would get barely a 2 and the Village up the hill would get a 3.
Good luck and happy booking!
One last note: I have been to many caribbean islands, and the one thing I have to say about St. Thomas, is that the locals are NOT that friendly. They act much more annoyed in their interactions with you then I was used to. (Again, excluding Amber & Fallon).
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- Also Known As:
- Sapphire Village Resort At Sapphire Beach St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands