When Joseph Boschulte spoke about his goals, hopes, and ambition for the U.S. Virgin Islands at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association conference last fall, he was visibly excited about “things to come” in 2023. Obviously, the commissioner of the department of tourism should always be enthusiastic, but he was still gushing about the many ways in which this destination is set grow and thrive in the coming year. And at the center of it all is Frenchman’s Reef.
Closed in 2017 following extensive damage from Hurricanes Irene and Maria, this former Marriott signature property has been the source of speculation and excitement ever since Aimbridge Hospitality took over and announced a $350 million reimagination effort. But even as the project, like most things, slowed to crawl in 2020, the inevitable conclusion meant that St. Thomas would soon return to its pre-hurricane accommodation capacity, and that’s great news for everyone.
Now, even as the restoration and enhancement costs increased to $425 million, Frenchman’s Reef is set to become one of the hottest Caribbean destinations this spring. The doors will soon open on The Westin Beach Resort and Spa, which will boast 392 rooms (including 28 suites), in addition to a sprawling pool area, Heavenly Spa, and enough meeting space to make this a preferred choice for corporate escapes. Not to be outdone, Morningstar Buoy Haus Beach Resort, an Autograph Collection Hotel, will soon roll out the red carpet with its 92 guest rooms and two exceptional suites, in addition to a bevy of amenities.
But if any aspect of this thrilling endeavor will recapture the hearts of guests who have visited this USVI hot spot since the 1970s, it will be the culinary concepts. Under the leadership of Executive Chef Greg Smith and with concepts by Sixteenfifty Creative Intelligence, these new resorts will offer a combined nine signature dining experiences and lounges, all boasting menus packed with creative dishes made with locally sourced ingredients.
For variety and international fusion, Sugarfin and Luna Mar will delight guests with their Asian and Mediterranean offerings, respectively. The former will also provide arguably the best setting in either resort for enjoying sunsets, as Sugarfin’s terrace overlooks beautiful, historic Charlotte Amalie.
Anyone seeking unique takes on classic resort fare that will looks great on Instagram can head to the beachfront Salt Shack—time will tell if it confirms my “salty” theory—but that’s not to say the pool doesn’t have its perks. Tide Pool Cabanas and Bar will have the snacks and cocktails loungers crave, and the swim-up Edge Bar’s signature Edge Margarita will best be enjoyed in one of the Caribbean’s coolest infinity pools.
The crown jewel of the experience will undoubtedly be Isla Blue, a stylish spot for a little bit of everything travelers have come to expect from the Caribbean and Mexico. In addition to delicious cuisine and unique cocktails, this venue also offers the Privado Room, which is ideal for small groups seeking a more intimate setting in this St. Thomas paradise.