Groups visiting the US Virgin Islands can explore the many flavors of St. Croix & St. Thomas.
We visited recently and explored how local flavor is distinguished across the islands. Whether it’s a hyperlocal food tour in downtown Charlotte Amalie or sumptuous fine dining in the grounds of a former plantation estate, here are four not-to-be-missed dining experiences in the US Virgin Islands.
Beachfront Banquets Under the Stars
A feast of Caribbean butter poached lobster, jerk lamb chop tikka masala, and piri-piri-style Key West pink shrimp welcomed our group to the Renaissance St. Croix Carambola. Our banquet was prepared by Executive Chef Ron Duprat, a finalist on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” and served beneath the stars just steps away from the beach. Set in the foothills of a lush tropical rainforest, the property offers 150 villa-style rooms and 12,000 sf of meeting space. An extensive renovation of the property has just begun, which will include a refresh of its guest rooms and all public areas.
“The U.S. Virgin Islands is a meeting planner’s dream,” says Canika John, director of marketing for the USVI Department of Tourism. “The three distinct islands—St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas—offer a range of experiences to meet any group’s needs. With many group incentives also available, it’s easy to plan a meeting in the USVI and it’s ‘real nice’ on your budget.”
Local Flavors and Folk Dancing at Estate Whim
Our first full day on St. Croix began with a walking tour of historic downtown Christiansted. Originally built by the Danish West India Company, a highlight for groups includes the imposing Fort Christiansvaern, a well-preserved 18th-century colonial fort. Traditional St. Croix fare such as stew goat, seasoned rice and johnny cakes were on the menu at Estate Whim, the only sugar plantation museum in the Virgin Islands. The restored 18th-century Great House and sugar mill can be booked for events. We were serenaded here with a performance of quelbe, the traditional folk music of the islands, as well as a demonstration of quadrille folk dancing—and learned a few steps ourselves.
Our time in St. Croix ended with a site inspection and tasting at the Cruzan Rum Distillery. Family run for eight generations since 1760, the tour took us on a journey through the rum-making process followed by a chance to sample the many rum flavors at the “Don’t Hurry” bar. Afterwards we island-hopped via seaplane to St Thomas for the second part of our visit.
Lobster Fresh Off the Boat
After checking into The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, we boarded the Lady Lynsey, the resort’s own 53-ft luxury catamaran for sunset cocktails and gourmet hors d’oeuvres. The beachfront, 180-room resort is set on a 30-acre tropical estate with 10,000 sf of indoor and outdoor meeting space.
“One of my favorite group experiences at the resort is our ‘Around the Caribbean’ buffet directly on the beach, with bright Caribbean decor and flavors,” says Andy Cisick, senior sales manager at the resort. “A group can even have the fisherman arrive via boat with freshly caught fish and lobster, to be cooked onshore in front of attendees.”
Hyper-Local Food Tour in Charlotte Amalie
Our final day on St. Thomas began with a culinary tour of Charlotte Amalie. Our guide took us to some of the best regarded locally owned restaurants and specialty food shops, and we enjoyed ten tastings of island delicacies such as conch fritters, kallaloo and rum cake. The tour concluded with a Painkiller, the signature cocktail of the Virgin Islands.
Appetites sated, our group then embarked on an afternoon of adventure on Hassel Island. After kayaking out from Frenchtown, we hiked around the 135-acre island as our guide pointed out colonial ruins and the well-preserved Fort Willoughby. The last part of our tour took us to a secluded beach for swimming and the opportunity to snorkel out and see the remains of a sunken shipwreck, before kayaking back to St. Thomas.