My husband and I just returned from a week's stay in the Crow's Nest at Cottages. I had prepared a mental image of the property from reviews and from the promotional video on the website...sometimes it lived up to that image, sometimes it didn't.
We arrived late Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend. Paul greeted us and walked us up to our room, lugging our heaviest bag up the stairs for us. He made sure we were all set, pointed out the complimentary bottle of rum (which was definitely enjoyed during the week), and even walked us next door to Sandcastles to personally ask the bartender to sell us a drink. One of my favorite parts of the cottages - electronic locks! NO KEY to worry about, take with you, or lose while snorkelling! Crow's Nest is amazing...right on the beach, with a nice breeze through the room, great views and the most privacy of any of the cottages (at least from what we saw). The room is basic and clean - only bugs are the really teeny tiny ants that don't bother anything. Carmen, the housekeeper, is very sweet and does a great job without intruding. The kitchen has just about everything you would need (although we had to be inventive on a couple of things). We normally don't cook on vacation, but found it to be much more relaxing to make our own meals than to get in the car and drive across the island. One word of advice...check to make sure the grills are working before you plan on using them for dinner! (On our first "cook at home" night, one of the grills didn't have any gas, and the other grill's gas wouldn't open...my husband spent way too much time (with tools from the office) trying to get it to work. Eventually, they gave him a new tank to put on... No problems after that.) By the way, there isn't a restaurant on the island with a better view than Crow's Nest!
We completely overpacked...normally, I plan on having at least one tee shirt for each day (to go to restaurants, to go back and forth from the beach, etc). Well, when your room is right on the beach, no cover ups necessary....and if you cook most of your meals, you don't need dressier casual clothes either! If you're going to cook, just plan on bathing suits and comfy clothes to hang out on the deck and the beach.
Other than the views and being able to hear waves from your room, the other best part of Cottages is the beach and the snorkelling. It really is one of the best beaches on the island (when it's crowded by locals on the weekends, you know you're in a good spot). We tried to start and end our days with snorkelling right in front of our room. There is an amazing variety of juvenile fish and quite a few types of coral right off the shore! We even saw some hawksbill turtles and my husband saw a ray.
Now the "not-what-I-expected" parts... Granted, we arrived during a holiday weekend... I was expecting (from past reviews) for the beach to be busy on Sunday and Monday...which it was. It was packed. What I didn't expect was the noise at night. I am a light sleeper, and I was kept up until the wee hours on Sat, Sun, and Monday of our first weekend by music from some club somewhere (keep in mind that the trade winds come from the East) and from loud guests. On our 4th night, I had to break down and ask my husband to run the AC so I could get some sleep. On Sunday of our first weekend, and Saturday of our last weekend there were parties at the property. We were warned about the one on Sunday (and we had expected the beach to be busy anyways) so we did sightseeing on Sunday. The Saturday party was a bunch of college kids that were staying at the property (something about a beach cleanup day where they were paired with students from the UVI...an hour of cleaning the beach then 4 hours of partying) - they weren't overly noisy, but hearing "chug, chug, chug" when you're trying to enjoy your last day on the beach is kind of distracting. Our last night, we were awakenend at 5 am by some locals staying at the property, and the college kids - good thing we had a morning flight to catch, or I would have been really upset. During the week, the beach was mostly just guests from Cottages...but, keep in mind that there can be loud guests. We had several that talked constantly as loud as they could, not to mention bursts of noise every now and then from the college kids or locals staying at the property. The beach was only "quiet" a few days out of our trip, which was very disappointing for us...so close to perfect. When my husband mentioned this to Paul, he implied that other guests have been concerned with the same thing, including some that have been going to Cottages for years.
Definitely recommend going out to Buck Island - beautiful! We took the Terroro II with Capt. Heinz. Would definitely recommend this tour group for folks that want a more laid back trip, without the BBQ and rum punch crowd of the other operations. Capt. Heinz and his daughter were extremely nice and helpful. Make sure to take your own lunch, drinks, and towels. This tour sails both ways (out and back) and goes to the underwater trail first, followed by time on the beach on Buck Island...and you have enough time on the beach to do the hike if you want to, or just relax or snorkel some more. Definitely the most relaxing day on the island for us.
Restaurants...We did brunch and the "buy one get one free" Thursday night special at the Cultured Pelican. Service was great - friendly and fast, food was good, and the view was great. They are closed for the summer, but would recommend to anyone going at other times of the year. We ate lunch at Rumrunners (food was better than I expected, but it was a little warm - although they are right on the marina, there is NO breeze in the restaurant other than fans they have running), Turtles in Frederikstad (good sandwiches, not our favorite place though), and the Sunset Grille (great service and food was pretty good - nice view and good breeze and shade). Dinners out were Sandcastles (great view but food was just OK) and Blue Moon in Fredrickstad (Paul recommended this to us - food was AMAZING, but the restaurant is very hot and is indoors but open to the outside....we both kept half of our meals to enjoy later in the week...another advantage of Cottages - you can keep leftovers in the frig for a later meal!). We were going to go to Zebo's for dinner, but decided to eat at home instead - they had a great wine list and nice atmosphere with lots of tables out on a patio on Strand St.
Would definitely recommend stopping into the Divi Casino, at least once. I was thrilled to find my old fave slot machine that has disappeared in Vegas - Free 'N Easy - right inside the front doors!! We stopped twice on our way to other things, and I made enough money to fund a few drinks here and there on the island. We also played Miniature Golf across from the Divi. I know, sounds pathetic for two adults with no kids to waste time on vacation playing mini golf...BUT, the view is amazing and the course is a lot of fun. A lot of the holes are set up so your ball is likely to go into a water hazard (they have nets to retrieve your ball if you end up in the water) - just a fun little distraction in the sun with gorgeous views...
Overall, the island was disappointing to us. We've been to quite a few other islands (including St. Thomas and St. John in the USVI) and this one was definitely the dirtiest. After the holiday weekend, I was actually picking up trash from the beach for 2 days, and it's sad to see the trash underwater as well. We drove to a "photo" site listed on one of the tourist maps, and there were abandoned cars, old doors, trash, etc. everywhere...on the way to this "tourist scenic" spot! It was sad for me to see the people of the island not taking better care of the island that is so much a part of their livlihood. If you like nature, beauty, and snorkeling, I'd recommend St. John instead....but, you can't find ANYWHERE on St. John with the view and amenities of Cottages for the price they charge.
So...if you would ask me about my middle few days at Cottages, I would rate it a 5 (great location, great price, quiet and relaxing). If you ask me about the other days of my trip, I would rate it a 3 - way too noisy of a crowd for what is advertised. As my husband said, the place would be great either way they market it (either quiet and relaxing, or a party spot), but they can't be both. If you go and you're looking for quiet, just be prepared for some noise and you'll hopefully be able to enjoy the views and location for the price - my mistake was that I expected quiet and wasn't prepared for anything else (on days during the week).
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Established in 1949, Cottages by the Sea is a family owned and operated, beachfront, boutique hotel, located just south of the town of Frederiksted on the island of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. Our goal is to provide our guests with a quiet, friendly, relaxed, truly authentic Caribbean beach vacation. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Expedia and Hotels.com so you can book your Cottages By The Sea reservations with confidence. We help millions of travellers each month to find the perfect hotel for both holiday and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
- Also Known As:
- Cottages By The Sea Hotel Frederiksted
- Cottages By The Sea St. Croix/Frederiksted