The U.S. News and World Report named the U.S. Virgin Islands No. 1 on their 2014-2015 list of “Best Places to Visit in the Caribbean.” The destination jumped from last year’s fifth-place spot due to its Carnival festivities, unspoiled beauty in St. John, and the history of St. Croix. All three islands that make up the territory continue to enhance their offerings for groups, too—most notably with the renovation of The Westin St. John Resort and Villas, the opening of Bluebeard’s Castle Museum and a slew of cultural and recreational activities now available.
The Westin St. John Resort and Villas underwent a $50 million renovation that was just completed in early 2015. This included an enhancement of the property’s 96 guest rooms, dining facilities, meeting space and pool area. The second part of the renovation involved converting 79 guest rooms into 54 luxury villas known as Coral Vista Villas. The new project overlooking Great Cruz Bay introduced 30 two-bedroom villas, six two-bedroom lofts and 18 studio villas. The resort now offers 200 villas amidst its 47 lush acres of palm trees and tropical flowering plants.
Groups staying at the resort can now take advantage of St. Thomas’ Adventure Center night kayak and paddle board tours, which expanded service to St. John in 2014. The clear-bottom kayaks are retrofitted with LED lights, as well as the paddle boards. The lights allow attendees to witness nocturnal underwater scenes filled with coral, sting rays, turtles and nurse sharks.
On St. Thomas, groups can stay at Bluebeard’s Castle Resort, a historic property that dates back to the 1600’s when pirates were in their heyday. The resort occupies an entire hilltop overlooking Charlotte Amalie that includes a centuries-old fortress named Bluebeard, after the famous pirate. The resort recently opened its Castle Museum, which offers tours of historical artifacts located in the 350-year-old Castle Turret. Attendees will get to see coins and pistols once used by pirates, as well as check out the view from the arch tower that once provided the Danish a lookout to help protect the harbor below.
Environmentally conscious groups will appreciate the recent re-opening of Mount Victory Eco Camp on St. Croix. The eco-lodge now offers a new wilderness educational program, which invites attendees to experience homestead living while learning survival skills. Groups can participate in workshops that teach attendees how to make fire by friction, how to track animals, how to make a bow and arrow, as well as leather-making skills—all of which are ideal for hands-on groups.