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How a New Water Island Hotel Is Set to Boost USVI Tourism

April 7, 2014 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent

Water Island
Water Island is looking to fully open up to tourism by adding its first hotel since 1989.

Get ready for U.S. Virgin Islands’ next hot spot for tourism, Water Island. The island, considered the fourth official island of the destination, is planning on putting up its first hotel since 1989.

Read about this as well as news throughout the destination as Travel Agent makes selling the U.S. Virgin Islands a little easier.

New Developments in the USVI: Water Island

Travel Agent chatted with Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) Department of Tourism and learned that the destination’s little known Water Island is looking to fully open up to tourism by adding its first hotel since 1989.

Doty expects groundbreaking of the hotel to be at least two years away since a developer still needs to be selected. Doty says that since the property is owned by the government, it would have to be a lease agreement by the new developer. Of the applicants, Doty says there are three proposals that are currently of interest.

RELATED: Water Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands Looks to Open Its First Hotel Since 1989

She also says there have been several meetings with the roughly 200 residents of Water Island to make sure the community has a say in the future of their island. Doty says one of the main requests from residents is that the hotel be environmentally friendly, and that is something she says the government is also looking at as a top priority.

The first hotel on Water Island, The Water Island Hotel, opened up in 1953 and later became the Sea Cliff Resort before it was destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Water Island is actually the fourth official and most recently acquired island in the USVI. The other three main islands are St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John.

Travel Agent had the opportunity to spend a day on Water Island in 2009. It is only roughly 500 acres. Although there are no hotels, there is a campground called Virgin Islands Campground, Inc. Now, it’s not a campground as we know it with tents and creeks and “Beware of the Bears” signs. This is more of an eco-friendly spot with seven cabins, all of which can sleep four people.

There isn’t exactly much to do on Water Island, but that’s the point. Clients come here to get away from the sometimes annoying tourist scene on St. Thomas and escape to nothing. Well, not entirely nothing. There’s the beautiful Honeymoon Beach where Brad Pitt visited to film the hurricane scene in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Heidi’s Honeymoon Grill is the hip, little beach hangout where you can grab a cold drink or a bite to eat. Now, if you really want to break a sweat, there is a cool bike tour offered by Water Island Adventures.

Getting there is a piece of cake, too. It’s just a $4 water taxi ride from St. Thomas.

RELATED: The Latest Openings, Events and Deals in the U.S. Virgin Islands During Spring 2014

St. Croix

The Buccaneer starts 2014 with a new menu for the hotel’s Mermaid and The Terrace restaurants. Enjoy Caribbean-infused dishes such as Caribbean nachos (plantains), kallaloo, and conch chowder, and indulge in the new Monday night seafood buffet at the beachfront Mermaid. This restaurant features live music as well as fire dancers on Mondays. The Terrace also introduced in-house, dry-aged meats to the menu.

Mount Victory Camp has reopened workshops allowing nature lovers to learn more about wilderness survival and sustainable living.

St. John

Caneel Bay re-launched on November 1 as an independent resort. New developments for the winter season include the opening of ZoZo’s Ristorante in the former Sugar Mill restaurant and a new coffee shop with Italian gelateria at Cannella. Two new spa treatments have also been introduced, offered at the property’s massage cabanas overlooking the beach.

The Westin St. John Resort and Villas is in the process of a major $50 million refurbishment set to be complete in October. This investment will include the launch of luxury Coral Vista Villas and enhance the property’s guest rooms, dining facilities, meeting space and pool area. The Westin St. John Resort & Villas will also convert 79 guest rooms into 54 luxury vacation ownership villas. The new project overlooking Great Cruz Bay will introduce 30 two-bedroom villas, six two-bedroom lofts, and 18 studio villas. The resort remains open during the renovations.

Visitors to St. John can now take advantage of St. Thomas’ Adventure Center night kayak and night paddleboard tours. The clear-bottom kayaks are rigged with powerful LED lights with the paddle boards also retrofitted with LED lights, creating a window into the USVI waters to view nocturnal underwater scenes filled with coral, sting rays, turtles and nurse sharks. Both excursions are suitable for children and adults.

St. Thomas

Ritz Carlton, St. Thomas has revealed a multi-million dollar renovation and enhancement to its guest rooms and suites. The oceanfront property’s new look embraces the tropical ambiance of the U.S. Virgin Islands through a soft color palette paired with stylish yet minimal decor. Additionally, the hotel expanded its wedding gazebo to accommodate up to 150 guests.

Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort is offering a new dish featuring fresh, local ingredients with the new Joe’s Surf and Turf entree. Chef Dennis Vanterpool launched the dish to feature rosemary-scented grilled rib-eye steak, mushroom demi-glace jumbo shrimp scampi, candy-glazed baby carrots and broccolini, and bacon mashed potatoes garnished with crispy carrot curls.

St. Thomas Historical Trust is now offering the Hassel Island Tour. The three-hour hike showcases glimpses of island history from archaeological artifacts dating from 500 BC to the forts built during the 1400 British occupation. Hassel Island has long been a part of USVI history as one of the locations of the first expedition to the islands.

New Promotions

The Department of Tourism is also offering an additional incentive to visit this year. Two promotions are now available that offer winter and spring savings. The new “Find Your Bliss” promotion allows clients to save $500 on their next Caribbean winter or spring getaway to St. Croix. Stay five or more consecutive nights at one of the participating 13 properties between now and May 15 to receive $250 in resort credit and certificates valid at local restaurants, boutiques and attractions to the value of $250. Choose one of the four available bliss-themed packages to experience the island’s diverse unscripted travel experiences: Culinary, Dive, Get out of the Cold, and Romance. Book the five night minimum stay directly with participating accommodation or with a preferred travel specialist. Then visit and insert the booking confirmation number to redeem the $250 resort credit and $250 certificates upon check in.

The Intimate Treasures deal invites visitors to experience the charm of the territory’s boutique hotels, inns as well as bed and breakfasts. This special offer includes $50 in dining certificates and $50 in attractions and activities certificates, along with a gift bag with island goodies.

Airline News

American Airlines and Seaborne have entered an interline agreement to make it even easier to book travel to the territory’s gateways of St. Croix and St. Thomas, with quick and seamless transfers in San Juan, PR. Flights can be booked online at

Delta Air Lines has announced new seasonal service from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to St. Thomas. The daily service runs through March 31 while the Saturday service begins April 1 and continues until August 30. Additionally, Delta will serve St. Thomas with twice-daily flights from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and add a third Saturday service this winter, representing a total of 15 flights per week from the Atlanta market.

Coco Joe’s at the Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort has a new dish to offer.

Coco Joe’s at the Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort has a new dish to offer.


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About the Author

Joe Pike
Joe Pike is Travel Agent's senior editor covering the Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda; Hawaii; Central & South America. Previously, Pike was a newspaper reporter for The Asbury Park...

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By Joe Pike | April 7, 2014
The island, considered the fourth official island of the destination, is planning on putting up its first hotel since 1989. Read about this as well as news throughout the destination as Travel Agent makes selling the U.S. Virgin Islands a little easier.