4 Family Resorts in the Virgin Islands
For a lot of families, the ideal winter getaway includes a long stretch of beach and a short flight from the continental US. For me, that means the Virgin Islands. I recently headed to the islands on a kid-free getaway. But it’s such an ideal family destination that I found myself scouting out hotels to so I can return next winter with my twins.
I looked at both the US and *British Virgin Islands and found something for every budget, from exotic private islands to charming budget-friendly small hotels. Here’s my scouting report, in case your family needs to take the chill off this winter:
Best low-key resort: *Peter Island
Our first stop was *Peter Island Resort on the British side. If you’re looking to get away from it all with your kids, this 1800-acre private island resort might just have a hammock with your name on it. It’s low-key environment where nature and the beach are the main highlights. Indeed, the island has five private beaches to choose from, secluded by hillsides and tropical gardens.
The resort has tennis and water sports as well as opportunities to hike, bike and snorkel. The gift shop has toys, children’s books and beach gear. There is babysitting for a fee, but no kids’ program. This is probably the best option for families with kids under 3 or with teens who don’t need organized activities to keep busy.
Rooms near the beach are bigger and offer more space to families that need it. Rooms near the harbor are a 5-minute walk to the beach but are closer to the pool and the restaurant where breakfast and tea are served. All 32 rooms have a balcony or terrace. handy for hanging out and talking after your little one goes to sleep.
Best resort with en suite kitchens: Long Bay Beach Club
Our next stop was Tortola, also one of the British Virgin Islands, where we checked out Long Bay Beach Club. Set on a mile of white-sand powder beach, it’s easily one of the Caribbean’s most stunning hotels. Our room, a lovely ocean-view studio, had a sitting area and a beachside balcony (perfect for morning coffee or a glass of wine after the kids have gone to bed). It also had kitchen, making it a little more budget-friendly than other similarly appointed resorts.
The resort also has two and three-bedroom villas that offer large decks with gas grills, as well as a kitchen. These could be a great choice for larger families or multi-generational families traveling together.
No kids club here either, but there is tennis and babysitting. The beach is good for snorkeling and boogie boarding—you can borrow gear. Unfortunately a new, simpler beachside pool replaces a pool with a wading area and slide.
One of the resort’s restaurants, 1748, was built inside the ruins of an old sugar mill–sweet! There’s also a poolside grill with snacks and burgers—every kid’s idea of dining al fresco.
This is probably the best fit for families with multiple kids who can entertain each other, and extended families or groups.
Best luxury resort: Ritz Carlton St. Thomas
We took the ferry across to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands to check out Ritz Carlton, tucked away on 30 acres of its own on the island’s east end. The beachfront hotel is the only one of the four to offer a kids’ club, its well-known Ritz-Kids program for 5-to-12-year-olds, which will operate for even one child (handy for off-season travelers) and can include breakfast or lunch if you like.
There is also the resort’s Ambassadors of the Environment program that families with kids ages 5 to 12 or 9 and up can do together.
While your kids romp in the you can enjoy some tasty food, splurge on a spa treatment or venture 20 minutes away to Charlotte Amalie for some power shopping.
Kids receive a VIK (Very-Important-Kid) welcome while parents are greeted with cool washcloths, cold bottles of water and rum drinks.
If it’s in your budget, it’s worth it.
Best value resort: Emerald Beach Resort
Our last stop was the Emerald Beach Resort on the sandy shores of St. Thomas’ Lindbergh Bay. This affordable resort is on a beautiful beach with gentle waves, making it perfect for families with younger children. It has a fun pool with a waterfall, plenty of water sports and a West Indian brunch buffet on Sunday, a kid-friendly way to get some local flavors.
The resort also happens to be directly across from the St. Thomas Airport, making it perhaps the most convenient property on the islands (and making the car-seat or no car-seat question almost irrelevant if you are traveling with very little ones). I’m pretty sure my kids will love watching the planes come and go.
The best way to get to any of the U.S. or British Virgin Islands is to fly into St. Thomas. It has the biggest airport with the most non-stop flights from major US cities. The main airport for the British Virgin Islands is on Beef Island, but count on having to connect through Miami or Puerto Rico. There are frequent ferries between the U.S. and British Islands and travel time is about an hour. Schedules are unpredictable and change, though, so call ahead. Don’t forget, while you don’t need a passport for the U.S. islands, you do for the British ones (though it’s always the best form of I.D. when flying).
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Monika Bialokur lives NYC and loves spontaneous trips with her 10-year-old twins. She specializes in PR and Social Media Strategy for lifestyle, travel and children’s brands. Follow her @MarketingMonika or @CoolMomBUZZ