There’s nothing like the toes-in-the-sand, rum in one hand feeling of a quintessential Caribbean bar. Beach bar hopping by boat is especially fun. In fact, it’s an excellent way to visit each of the three largest US Virgin Islands. Here’s a sample route of how to do just that.
Start at Abi Beach Bar, located on the south shore of St. Thomas. Though located near to Charlotte Amalie Harbor, the white sand beach here is surrounded by such lush green foliage with virtually no buildings in sight that it’s almost possible to imagine you’re Robinson Crusoe. The only structure visible is the open-air bar that also serves as a restaurant. Here, the signature drink is the Pommenade, pomegranate infused vodka, fresh mint and club soda with simple syrup to taste. The list of beers is long and the blender is at the ready for a variety of frozen drinks. Fish tacos, steaks, ribs, hamburgers and even a black bean burger for vegetarians are eats on the menu. The big draw is all you can eat crab and lobster night every Thursday from six to ten – cost $36. There’s also live music on the weekends. Owner Dan Nicolosi says eight moorings will be installed this summer to make visiting by boat easier.
Now, instead of heading to the boater-friendly east end, turn west and take a ride on the wild side to cruise around the west end of St. Thomas. The lush green sparsely populated mountains on this end of the island make for ruggedly beautiful viewing. A good weather window is essential as a northerly Atlantic swell can make for an extra bumpy ride. The beach bar oasis on St. Thomas’ northside is Hull Bay and its Hull Bay Hideaway. There’s a safe harbor for anchoring and a boat ramp, but no dock or public moorings.
“This is a great neighborhood bar that also happens to be on a beautiful beach,” says manager Todd Hebl. “In the early evening, fishermen are gathering together and often selling their catch. Our number one selling drink is probably rum and coke or a Heineken. It’s such a locals’ bar that way. We do make a fresh squeezed Orange Crush, which is our signature drink. The menu targets beach food: tacos, burgers, chicken sandwiches and smoked wings during the day progressing to baked chicken and ribeye at dinner time.”
New owners that took over prior to September’s hurricanes are back onboard building a new bar in the pavilion area, a new volleyball court and expanding the kitchen. Back is sushi on Sundays, live music on weekends and kids movie night on Fridays.
It’s time to turn east, past Magens Bay and St. Thomas’ east end and across Pillsbury Sound to Cruz Bay, St. John. Here sits the iconic and simply named: The Beach Bar. Drop anchor, jump into the calm bay waters and walk ashore, or stroll about 100 feet down the beach from the ferry dock. New owners Reed and Sherry Compton have their waterfront bar, located in the Wharfside Village Complex, up and running in the wake of September’s storms. Bushwhackers and the Tuna Down Now (sushi grade yellow fin tuna wrapped in nori and fried in a light tempura batter) are what bring cruisers back for more. Eat on one of the custom-made picnic tables in front of the bar and wriggle your toes in the sand while you eat.
“New, there are designated swim areas in the works in Cruz Bay right in front of the bar,” invites Compton.
It’s time for the final stop and one that offers a front row beachside seat for a fantastic sunset. Forty miles southwest is St. Croix, and more specifically, Rhythms at Rainbow Beach Bar & Restaurant in Frederiksted. Cruise in to drink, it’s the home of the Lime in the Coconut. For eats, there’s tacos, burgers, crab cake sandwiches and Rhythms wings (plain, buffalo, Thai chili, Carolina tangy BBQ or Passionfruit habanero). There’s live music on weekends, bingo every Saturday afternoon and team trivia on Thursday nights.
“We are the perfect nautical Caribbean beach bar because of our laid-back atmosphere, strong drinks, fresh menu and beautiful view,” says marketing manager Ashley Houdbert. “Many power- and sail-boaters visit us. They drop anchor in the sand just off the beach and swim right in,” says Ashley.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.