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Oyster Hotel Review
Small, family-run resort with all-inclusive options and guests who return year after year, despite the hotel's subpar guest rooms
The Doumeng family has been running Bolongo since 1974, offering warm, friendly service and an excellent beach that draws many of the same families and couples back year after year. The relatively small hotel has just 65 guest rooms and is a far cry from larger, corporate resorts. For many guests, the resort's small size and basic accommodations are an asset, giving the hotel a bit more relaxed character than a the more polished "resort" experience you might find at the Frenchman's Reef and Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort, the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas, or the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa.
But despite the resort's continued popularity, its guest rooms are generally outdated and though the beachfront and oceanfront rooms have new bedding and a fresh coat of paint, the "Value Rooms" still have sagging mattresses. (On the plus side, if you do take a gamble on the Value Room, the hotel promises that it'll give every guest a free upgrade to an Oceanview Room if there are any available.)
All the staff members at Bolongo are genuinely nice people, happy to help or answer questions -- a true rarity at St. Thomas resorts. The owners, who most guests meet during their visit to Bolongo, attribute their success to the fact that they encourage their staff to hang out at the hotel.
- No room service
- Concierge on staff to help with restaurant recommendations or calling taxis
Nothing to eat, see, or do within walking distance
Bolongo is on the southeast end of St. Thomas, midway between the island's two major towns -- Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook.
- Cyril E. King Airport is a 20-minute, $11-per-person cab ride.
- 10- to 15-minute, $8 cab ride from shopping and dining in Charlotte Amalie or Red Hook
Excellent beach -- soft sand, good for swimming
The beach is Bolongo's best feature. Rooms overlook the south-facing cove, which is well-protected from large waves.
- Water-sports activities staff keeps a close eye on guests when wind and currents occasionally combine to create a rip tide.
- Plenty of trees; finding shade is never a problem.
- Unlike many beaches in St. Thomas that are a bit rocky, like at the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, the beach at Bolongo has a sandy bottom so walking into the water barefoot is easy.
- Free water sports, like small sailboats, kayaks, and water bikes with giant plastic tires
- For an extra fee, guests can go for a sail on the resort's catamaran, Heavenly Days.
- Scuba-diving outfitter on site; all guests are offered an introductory scuba course in the pool for free.
Old, worn rooms -- just a bed, an air conditioner, and an old tube TV
A "New Room"
Most rooms have been updated -- newer beds, furnishings, and a fresh coat of paint -- but this amounts to little more than just keeping up with the normal wear and tear, and, as evidenced but the old tube TVs, these rooms are looking pretty old. What's worse, the so-called "Value Rooms" still retain the older furnishings, including a sagging bed and low-quality linens.
- All rooms have a kitchenette -- complete with mini-fridge, microwave, sink, and dishes (but no stovetop).
- All rooms have a balcony or patio.
- Oceanview rooms are up either one or two flights of stairs; beachfront rooms are on the ground floor.
- Value rooms have old, sagging beds and are located behind the Lobster Grille, farther from the beach.
- No Wi-Fi in the rooms, but there's a free signal available in the pool area (rooms close to the pool can pick it up).
- Large bathroom with a stand-up shower (no tub)
Most guests prefer the beach to the small pool.
- Small, half-moon of a pool used mostly for the free introductory scuba course
- Free Wi-Fi near the pool and in the indoor lounge area, which also has two computer kiosks for guests
Two on-site restaurants -- bar food, plus slightly fancier fare
Crab legs at Iggies
- Iggies Beach Bar shares the beach with the resort and is an open-air place that's perfect for getting greasy and cracking some crab legs. On select nights, Iggies runs specials like all-you-can-eat crab legs -- a big draw, even for locals.
- Quality seafood at the Lobster Grille, a slightly fancier sit-down restaurant overlooking the pool
- No room service
- Dining options abound in Red Hook and Charlotte Amalie; both towns are about an $8-per-person cab ride away.
Small, low-key property with great food, a wide range of options, and an attentive wedding coordinator
The Lobster Grille, the main reception location
- Wedding Size: 70 guest rooms at the resort, even larger groups welcome
- Extra Fees: fee for a wedding certificate and an officiant; outside vendor fee
- Wedding Packages: The most basic package, Barefoot on the Beach, includes the help of a wedding coordinator, a standard beachside ceremony, a bottle of champagne, and some T-shirts for the bride and groom. For a bit more, however, you get the Heavenly Days Fantasy Wedding package, which also includes a bouquet and a boutonniere, a photographer, and a two-hour sunset cruise with an open bar and cold hors d'oeuvres; the Fantasy package covers 20 people and each additional person costs an extra fee per person (max 49 people).
- Ceremony Location: The most popular location is under the arch at the beach.
- Photographers: Ranges from one hour and an album with 35 shots; cost for each additional hour
- Videography: Ranges in price, which includes an edited DVD with music and chapters
- Music: From a DJ to the local "Ah We Band"; the most popular option is a steel pan band.
- Food: Hors d'oeuvres fee per person (24 minimum); dinner options range beach BBQ to plated dinners per person; kids', kosher, vegetarian, and gluten-free menus available upon request
- Drinks: Open bar ranges for the first hour and costs for each additional hour, based on liquor selection.
- Cake: Ranges, depending on flavor, size, and decoration
- Spa Treatments: The hotel doesn't have any spa facilities for hair, nails, and makeup, but an off-site massage therapist can be booked for an in-room treatment.
- Airport Transportation: Provided by the hotel for all guests, free of charge
Family-owned and run since 1974, Bolongo is a laid-back resort with an excellent beach, great food, and a warm, helpful staff that keeps guests coming back year after year, despite the small pool and scarce features. But beware the "Value Rooms," which have old, sagging mattresses.
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Things You Should Know About Bolongo Bay Beach Resort
- 7150 Bolongo, 00802, Caribbean
Hotel is Also (or Was Formerly) Known As
- Bolongo Bay
- Bolongo Bay Beach Hotel
- Bolongo Bay St Thomas
- Hotel Bolongo Bay Beach
- 2 Bedroom Condominium
- Beachfront Room
- Oceanview Room
- Studio Suite
- Value Room