Live Right On the Beach at the All-Inclusive Bolongo Bay Beach Resort in the USVI (4.5 stars)
Reopened after the hurricanes of 2017, Bolongo Bay Beach Resort is an all-inclusive Caribbean beach resort with its own 1,000-foot long beach, where as a resort guest you get complimentary and unlimited rentals of paddle boards, kayaks, windsurfers, snorkel gear, and more. They have a beachside swimming pool open 24 hours a day, a gym, and its friendly staff even offer you a free fruit punch or rum drink when you check in. Make sure to reserve a table at their beach restaurant, whose tables fill quickly, and where they host live entertainment several nights a week. We did not have time to try it, but apparently there is great snorkeling, where you can see interesting sea creatures, wading out just 50 meters from the beach. Every week they hide a bottle of rum in the bay for snorkelers to find.
Bolongo Bay offers top tier beachfront rooms, midlevel oceanview rooms, and less expensive “value rooms”. I believe we were assigned one of the oceanview rooms. With a fantastic view of the beach and the ocean beyond it, the room was comfortable but rather hotel-like instead of having a unique design twist. It was large, with a tile floor, two queen-sized beds, and generic, but satisfactory artwork. The room had a cute wicker set of drawers, a fridge and sink, and a coffee maker. Its medium-sized bathroom was slightly worn-looking and had only a tiny shower. At the time we checked in, the shower water got warm, but not hot.
The bed was midlevel quality, and more power outlets would have been nice, especially at the kitchen table, so that it could be used as a work table. Watch out for hitting your head on the ceiling fan, if you are tall. The rooms are all smoke free, thank goodness. Strangely, there was no waste basket in the main space, just one wastebasket in the bathroom. Staff responded to an 11pm noise complaint quickly, we were glad to find, when neighbors were partying. We were surprised when maids knocked and tried to come in at 9:15am, when we were still sleeping, and hadn’t checked out yet.
From their medium-sized gift shop, you can book tours from Bolongo Bay including snorkeling and scuba diving from the Heavenly Days boat. They also advertise excursions including ziplining, hair braiding, Coral World, deep sea fishing, parasailing, or a scuba diving lesson. You can also of course buy t-shirts, goggles, stuffed animals, waterproof shirts, coconut mugs, jewelry, sunblock, sun hats, magnets, toiletries, ice cream, drinks, and snacks. They’ve also given space to a couple of merchants of local, handcrafted art items.
Bolongo Bay was smaller than other resorts. (For example, if you want to go to bed early, this becomes a conflict with the necessarily nearby restaurant’s live music.) It’s a resort and restaurant along a beach, with a pool. But even though they don’t have extensive grounds, they go the extra mile to connect their guests to water sports and to the island as a whole. Unfortunately, we arrived exhausted, left early, and hardly had time to experience Bolongo Bay. But we’ll take it on faith that their beach and snorkeling must be excellent! So although the room we got was more of a 4-star hotel room, we’ll give 4.5 stars for Bolongo Bay Beach Resort.
See bolongobay.com, and see our review of their restaurant, Iggie’s Oasis (4 stars).