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No-frills condo-hotel on an excellent beach
The Sapphire Beach Resort and Marina
The Sapphire Beach Condominium Resort and Marina is made of up 171 aging condo units, each with a full kitchen. It's more of a condo complex than a full-scale traditional resort -- there's no gym or spa, and its main restaurant is boarded up indefinitely. But it still has the essentials -- a well-landscaped pool overlooking the bay and an exceptional beach (one of the best in the U.S. Virgin Islands).
Limited service, but a helpful front desk staff
On arrival, there's just a single desk clerk who, doubling as a bellmen, can drive you to your room in the resort minivan, call up a taxi, or offer a few suggestions about where to eat in the nearby town of Red Hook. But since there are no restaurants staff engagement is minimal -- for the most part, you're on your own.
- No room service
- No dedicated concierge
- No poolside or beachside drink service
On the "East End" of St. Thomas, about a five-minute drive from the quaint town of Red Hook
Like most hotels in St. Thomas, there's nothing to do or see within walking distance -- plan to rent a car or pay a small fortune in cab fare.
- $5 taxi (per person) from the few bars and shops in Red Hook
- Charlotte Amalie, a duty-free shopping hub for discount jewelry and perfume, is about a 30-minute, $10 to $20 per person cab ride.
- About a 35-minute, $20-per-person drive from the airport, depending on traffic
One of the best in the Virgin Islands, but it draws cruise ship crowds
Sapphire Beach, like the even more popular Magens beach, is one of the best in Virgin Islands. To some, Sapphire is the better beach since it draws a somewhat smaller crowd of cruise ship passengers.
- Soft sand -- no rocks
- Clear water and nearby reefs for snorkeling; snorkel gear provided (no extra fee)
- Beach chairs provided (no extra fee)
- Free windsurfing and snorkeling lessons
Large condos with full kitchens, but the rooms are very worn and dated
The bedroom of a standard room
In general, the guest rooms are showing significant wear and don't appear to be well maintained. In my room, for example, the sliding glass door out to the deck required some serious elbow grease to open, the deck itself looked pretty weathered (and there were two burned-out light bulbs), and there was a thick layer of grime on the floor. Other guests have complained of similar issues in their rooms as well.
- Standard guest rooms are large condo units with a pullout sofa bed, a full kitchen, and a bedroom area divided by sliding wood doors.
- Even larger bi-level villas have a pullout sofa and kitchen on the first floor and a large bedroom on the 2nd floor.
- Large balcony with great views of the bay; even from the least desirable building (Building F, which contains the Harbor View Rooms)
- Kitchen includes an electric, four-burner stovetop, utensils, and a full set of appliances, including a very convenient blender and a coffeemaker.
- Old, but reasonably comfortable bedding and pillows
- Unreliable in-room Wi-Fi, and it costs extra
- Free, pint-bottle of Cruzan U.S.V.I. rum on arrival (and a can of Coke)
Minimal features, but that's the norm at these prices
- Clean pool overlooking the bay
- Private, 67 Slip Marina on-site
- On-site laundry facilities
Just a snack bar for lunch -- the main restaurant is boarded up.
- Free continental breakfast: just some bagels and English muffins in the lobby
- Red Hook, which has some solid restaurants like Poets or Duffy's, is only a five-minute drive away.
- Some nearby restaurants will also deliver food to the rooms.
Made up 171 old, worn condo units and villas, all of which have a full kitchen, the Sapphire Beach Resort has clearly seen better days -- note that its restaurant has been boarded up since December 2008. But its location -- on a superb beach, a five-minute drive from fun bars and quality restaurants in Red Hook -- makes it worth the price.
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