spot_img

Westin Beach Resort & Spa at Frenchman’s Reef review


While the Caribbean is no stranger to stormy seas, 2017 was a particularly difficult year, bringing not one but two devastating Category 5 hurricanes to St. Thomas — and both storms did serious damage to the beloved cliffside resort area long known as Frenchman’s Reef.

After years of renovation, though, Marriott has finally restored the resort to — and arguably far beyond — its former glory, debuting two sister properties: a Westin, which sits perched high up on the cliff overlooking St. Thomas Harbor to one side and the Caribbean Sea to the other; and Morningstar Buoy Haus, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, a smaller property consisting of ocean-facing villas nestled right along the shoreline. The impressive pair even made our annual list of the best new hotel openings of 2023.

Guests at both of these Marriott outposts can float between the properties as they please since they share most amenities, which really makes it feel like your dollars (or points) are going a bit further. With comfortable, mostly water-facing rooms and plenty of both on- and off-site activities to choose from, the Westin at Frenchman’s Reef feels like a paradise for families, couples and friends seeking a fun-filled, relaxing getaway in this picturesque corner of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

However, keep in mind that it’s a bustling resort, especially during the high season when weddings and events are in full swing across the property. While it never felt crowded during my recent winter stay — there is plenty of room to spread out — the restaurants and common spaces did feel very busy at times

I checked into The Westin Beach Resort & Spa at Frenchman’s Reef for four days this winter to experience this long-anticipated resort makeover. Read on for details about what this Marriott property offers travelers and Bonvoy loyalists searching for an idyllic Caribbean getaway.

What is The Westin Beach Resort & Spa at Frenchman’s Reef?

ELLIE NAN STORCK/THE POINTS GUY

Formerly the Frenchman’s Reef Marriott Resort, the property was originally built in 1973 and has, for decades, remained a beloved U.S. Virgin Islands destination, drawing new and veteran vacationers to its cliffside locale for decades. When hurricanes Irma and Maria hit St. Thomas in 2017, the property was forced to close its doors due to the damage, as was the case at nearby Morningstar Beach Resort, now named Morningstar Buoy Haus Beach Resort at Frenchman’s Reef, Autograph Collection (also now owned by Marriott).

So began the slow process of a five-year, $425-million-dollar renovation, resulting in these refurbished side-by-side hotels on some of St. Thomas’s most prime real estate. Both resorts offer an elevated hospitality experience and fall under Marriott’s premium tier of hotels, but the Westin has a particular focus on well-being, while Buoy Haus is a little quieter and targeted more toward adults and honeymooners.

ELLIE NAN STORCK/THE POINTS GUY

Officially opened in September of 2023, the Westin Beach Resort & Spa at Frenchman’s Reef consists of 392 rooms spread among a multibuilding resort. With five restaurants, a spa, three pools and many common areas, there is plenty of room to spread out across the property — made even sweeter by the fact that guests can wander down to Morningstar Buoy Haus at their leisure to enjoy most of the amenities (except the infinity pool) there, too.

Daily Newsletter

Reward your inbox with the TPG Daily newsletter

Join over 700,000 readers for breaking news, in-depth guides and exclusive deals from TPG’s experts

How to book The Westin Beach Resort & Spa at Frenchman’s Reef

As Frenchman’s Reef is located within the U.S. Virgin Islands, drawing crowds of American travelers, peak dates will fill up quickly, and the prices will reflect the destination’s popularity. Depending on the date, you can book a garden view king guest room at this Westin for as few as 62,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (worth around $521 based on TPG valuations). The daily mandatory destination charge of $75 includes Wi-Fi, two welcome drinks per room (though I never received mine), sunrise beach yoga sessions, unlimited use of snorkel equipment and nonmotorized sports rentals. Unfortunately, Marriott does not waive resort fees on award stays.

Marriott.com

Cash rates will vary based on the season, too. In September 2024, considered the offseason in the Caribbean, you can book a garden-view king guest room for as little as $493 a night. However, during the popular winter months, room rates typically start around the $700 mark.

Since this property is part of Marriott Bonvoy, the best way to book at Frenchman’s Reef is to use one of the credit cards that earn the most points for Marriott stays, as well as one that offers automatic Marriott Bonvoy elite status that can yield valuable perks during your stay. Consider one of these:

  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card: Earn 6 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, automatic Platinum Elite status and 25 elite night credits per year toward a higher tier.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card: Earn 6 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, automatic Gold Elite status and 15 elite night credits per year toward a higher tier.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful Card: Earn 6 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, automatic Gold Elite status and 15 elite night credits per year toward a higher tier.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card: Earn 6 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, automatic Gold Elite status and 15 elite night credits per year toward a higher tier.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 6 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, automatic Silver Elite status and 15 elite night credits per year toward a higher tier.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card: Earn 3 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, automatic Silver Elite status and 15 elite night credits per year toward a higher tier.

The information for the Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful and the Marriott Bonvoy Bold cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

An unbeatable location not too far from town

ELLIE NAN STORCK/THE POINTS GUY

You may be hard-pressed to find a view better than the one from the Westin’s infinity pool. Well, the view from the beach at Morningstar Buoy Haus is pretty good, too — but considering guests have access to both hotels for the duration of their stay, you won’t feel like you want to leave the dual property (unless it’s to venture into the ocean via boat, which can be arranged by the hotel’s activity partners, Red Hospitality and Leisure, located at a desk in the main lobby).

The resort is a quick 20-minute drive (just 5 miles) from St. Thomas’s main airport, Cyril E. King International Airport (STT). Guests can grab a cab (around $40) or arrange pickup from the resort’s airport shuttle ($42 per person).

While there is plenty to do between the two Marriott properties, from taking out Hobie cats and snorkeling right off the beach to indulging in spa treatments and splashing in one of the many pools, those who want to go into town may want to consider renting a car (note that daily valet parking is $35 per day at the Westin). Otherwise, the best way to get to other parts of the island will be via taxi (due to the winding roads here and the many steep inclines, biking is not common or recommended).

Guests have direct access to both the beach and the dock

When you drive up the winding road to the Frenchman’s Reef compound, which totals 20 acres, you’ll see the Westin to the right, which is made up of three buildings (including an ocean-facing tower), and then you can drive down the other side of the cliff to the collection of beachfront villas that make up Morningstar Buoy Haus. A little shuttle operates every 10-15 minutes, taking guests between the two hotels, but those who want to walk can easily do so as everything is connected by ocean-facing staircases. You can also reach the beach by walking and using an elevator — though I didn’t see an elevator leading to the dock (just the beach).

ELLIE NAN STORCK/THE POINTS GUY

From the Westin lobby, guests can walk down a set of stairs that lead directly to a dock, where several boats operated by the resort are moored. Excursions on these boats, like sunset catamaran sails and private snorkel trip charters, can be booked at the Red Hospitality desk.

To reach the beach, Westin guests can either take the free shuttle or take the aforementioned stairs — what I’d call the scenic route — that descend the cliff to the Morningstar Buoy Haus beach. (Pro tip: Take the stairs on the way down and the shuttle on the way up unless you want a good uphill workout after some beach time!) Once on the shore, you’ll find two areas with cabanas, umbrellas, chaise lounges and activity huts where towels, snorkel gear, kayaks and Hobie cats can be checked out.

Despite one of the resort’s biggest draws being its proximity to the ocean, the beach was relatively uncrowded compared with the property’s pools, especially in the late morning and late afternoon. On my first day, I bee-lined it to the beach around 4 p.m. and there were only three or four other people there.

Swim in not 1, not 2, but 3 ocean-facing pools

That’s right — glimmering pools abound at this sprawling seaside resort. Westin guests will have access to the three Westin pools, and there really is an option for everyone. The adults-only infinity pool, which is the smallest of the three, overlooks the ocean and features a full-service swim-up bar.

ELLIE NAN STORCK/THE POINTS GUY

The main pool is the largest one, and is surrounded by the hotel’s signature white-and-orange umbrellas and reservable cabanas — and there are even private, air-conditioned indoor rooms you can rent just a few steps from the pool deck for an escape from the sun when you don’t want to go all the way back to your guest room. This pool is the best choice for families, as it features a splash zone for the kiddos.

The third pool is the adults-only Serenity Pool, located outside the spa and overlooking the harbor. This is the quietest pool (I hardly saw anyone using it during my stay) and features a cold plunge, a hot tub, umbrella-covered chaise lounges and a smaller cabana area.

Note that there is an infinity pool right on the beach at Morningstar Buoy Haus, but this pool is reserved only for Morningstar guests.

Spa-seekers will be in good hands (literally)

The Westin brand is known for its signature Heavenly Spas, and my time at the one at Frenchman’s Reef was far and away one of the best parts of my stay. I appreciated that the spa uses products from a local, woman-owned brand, Good T’ings.

ELLIE NAN STORCK/THE POINTS GUY

The roughly 10,000-square-foot space, tucked into a ground-level corner of the harbor-facing side of the property, has a light and airy relaxation room overlooking the Serenity Pool.

Guests can unwind in a floating chair or stretch out on a plush chaise lounge while enjoying a selection of herbal teas or infused waters before heading into one of the 14 soothing treatment rooms (one of which is a couples treatment room).

Treatments include classic relaxation massages and facials, as well as more cutting-edge and locally inspired treatments like an organic enzyme peel facial or a seaweed body treatment. Salon services like haircuts, makeup and waxing will soon be available, but the property’s salon is still under construction.

After a morning spent bobbing in the Caribbean Sea, I opted for the hourlong hot stone massage, which put me into a euphoric post-swim state of relaxation thanks to the warm basalt stones, expert pressure and soothing essential oils.

Following my treatment, I wasted no time slipping into the side-by-side sauna and steam room (both the men’s and women’s locker rooms have a set).

ELLIE NAN STORCK/THE POINTS GUY

There’s plenty of space to roam

Common spaces proliferate at the Westin Beach Resort & Spa at Frenchman’s Reef. The expansive lobby, which features undulating couches, unique hanging light fixtures, textured walls and lots of greenery (including a living plant wall), is a popular place for guests to hang out. There’s also a convenient hydration station where you can fill up water bottles and a library with books, handmade pottery and local knickknacks.

Every direction seems to lead to a water-facing vista, so when you’re walking between spaces, there are almost always views in multiple directions. While many guests come to the property for vacation, there were also several conference and event spaces, smaller work rooms and places to make a phone call near the lobby.

Rooms and suites feature pared-back decor, beautiful views and (sometimes) balconies

There are a handful of room and suite types at the Westin: garden-view rooms, partial ocean-view rooms, ocean-view rooms, terrace ocean-view rooms, ocean-view suites, bi-level ocean-view suites and one Governors Suite.

Before my trip, I envisioned waking up to a sweeping panorama from a private balcony, and that is exactly what I got with the ocean-view suite, which features a bedroom with a king bed; a separate living area with a pullout sofa, television and desk; a full bathroom; and — the cherry on top — a sea-facing balcony with two separate seating areas and striking views of the yacht-dotted harbor and lush mountains of St. Thomas.

The suite felt, like much of the rest of the property, full of natural light, earth tones and marine motifs. Immediately upon entering, the bathroom was to the left, and then a short hall led into the spacious living room, which consisted of a double-door closet, a desk area, a pullout couch with a coffee table and two chairs and a television set over a console which held a coffee machine and minifridge.

The double-door closet in the living room was the main storage area of the suite. There were shelves and plenty of space to hang clothing, but I found it odd that there was no folding luggage holder. This closet is also where towels, extra toilet paper, a hair dryer, the safe and a steamer were kept, as well as extra robes.

Through a door to the right was the bedroom with glass sliding doors to the balcony from both the living room and the bedroom, allowing for ample light to pour into the suite throughout the day. Suite sizes range from a generous 625 square feet to 820 square feet, and because of all the natural light and the walls of glass doors, I’d say they feel even bigger. The balcony had a comfortable couch with a cushioned chair on one side and a little table with smaller chairs on the other, tailor-made for enjoying a morning coffee or nightcap overlooking the harbor.

The decor throughout was tasteful and minimal, really drawing the eye to the floor-to-ceiling views of the water and mountains beyond. Wall art and cute accents inspired by the natural surroundings included a serene beach painting hung above the couch, bronze floral wall sconces in the living room and a seashell mirror in the bedroom. The color palette throughout the space was neutral, featuring many earth tones and varying patterns reminiscent of ocean waves and sand just beyond the suite.

The bed was extremely comfortable thanks to the signature Westin Heavenly Bed and featured four fluffy pillows and a comforter, though I didn’t need it, given the 80-degree temperatures outside.

Each bedside table had a small lamp, and one side had an alarm clock console with USB-A and USB-C outlets. There were standard power outlets on the wall behind each bedside table. A large 65-inch flat-screen TV (the same as the one in the living room) hung on the wall just in front of the bed.

Bathrooms are simple but sufficient

Given the size of my suite — the living space felt cavernous, even — I’d anticipated a large bathroom, but it was actually quite small. Despite this, it was fine for my needs, considering I spent most of my time in the suite ensconced in one of the balcony’s two cozy seating areas.

ELLIE NAN STORCK/THE POINTS GUY

The bathroom had a glossy granite countertop that ran the length of a long mirror, which was bordered with LED strips. There were two sinks; a basket holding vanity sets, washcloths and Westin brand lotion; and two water glasses. Under the counter was a set of six wooden drawers, though when I tried to open one, the handle came off. This seemed to be the only drawer-style storage space in the suite, though I didn’t use it because it felt finicky. There were standard U.S. power outlets on either side of the countertop.

Opposite the counter was the white-tiled walk-in shower with a rainfall-style showerhead and a removable wand showerhead. Shampoo, conditioner and body wash, affixed to the wall, were Westin-branded and came in a pleasant white tea fragrance. Next to the shower was a small wash closet with a separate door, featuring the toilet and a small trash can.

Diverse dining options

Between the Westin and the Morningstar Buoy Haus, there are eight restaurants: five at the Westin and three at Buoy Haus. Keep in mind that some are beach or poolside bars, not necessarily sit-down restaurants, and one is a grab-and-go style cafe and convenience store (Frenchman’s Roast). One of the best parts of dining at either the Westin and Morningstar Buoy Haus is the fact that a good portion of the eateries are either entirely outside or offer outdoor seating, putting you as close to the beach, or at least views of it, as possible.

ELLIE NAN STORCK/THE POINTS GUY

For breakfast, I tried Shorebird (located at the Westin) several times. This buffet-style restaurant sits in a brightly lit space overlooking the ocean and offers breakfast and brunch until 11 a.m. ($34 for the breakfast buffet, a la carte items priced individually). Keep in mind that it’s one of two sit-down breakfast options (the other, Salt Shack, being down at Morningstar Buoy Haus), so it is popular with Westin guests, and the line for a table can be very long — one day, I had to wait about 20 minutes to sit down.

The breakfasts here didn’t blow me away, but they were just fine for getting the day started, and the coffee was very good. There were plenty of pastries, fresh fruit and choices of hot food like eggs Benedict, bacon, sausage and waffles. However, I noticed that my selections from the hot food section weren’t exactly hot, more lukewarm, but the food still tasted good.

My favorite meal was at Sugarfin, the sushi and rum bar. Here, you can sit indoors near the bustling bar or out on the patio overlooking the harbor, which was an especially lovely place to be during sunset and well into the evening when the water below sparkled under the moon, and the mountains beyond twinkled with lights from private homes. From the menu, I sampled yellowfin tuna poke nachos ($22), a Caribbean roll consisting of tuna, unagi and jalapeno ($22) and a delicious mai tai ($14). The seafood was incredibly fresh, and all the flavors came together beautifully.

I highly recommend visiting the bar at Sugarfin, which is simply stunning — and the place to be at nighttime if you’re looking to socialize.

ELLIE NAN STORCK/THE POINTS GUY

The other can’t-miss restaurant, in my book, is Luna Mar, which offers coastal Mediterranean cuisine and puts guests outdoors, right above the two main pools and with a prime view of the ocean and the sunset. On the hunt for more seafood, I opted for the fresh mussels ($26) as an appetizer — the broth was delicious and savory and came with a garlicky toast point — followed by a flavorful roasted local young hen served with sauteed kale, fingerling potatoes and creme fraiche ($30). All of the ingredients tasted fresh.

The hotel gym is worth a visit

It might seem silly to consider spending time inside while visiting this slice of Caribbean paradise but trust me when I say that the gym is worth a visit for those who want to break a sweat away from the sun. The spacious room overlooks the harbor and mountains, and each time I went, it was entirely (or nearly) empty, meaning that I had plenty of room to spread out and my pick of machines and weights. Plus, there’s something special about working out in a gym with brand-new equipment.

Just outside the gym, you’ll see tennis and pickleball courts, which can be reserved in the lobby.

ELLIE NAN STORCK/THE POINTS GUY

Reasons why The Westin Beach Resort & Spa at Frenchman’s Reef might not be for you

While this St. Thomas gem is just that, a gem, it still might not be for every type of traveler.

I encountered many families and large groups during my stay since there were two weddings and a business conference during the four-day span that I was there — plus, it was just before Christmas, so peak season. This meant lots of activity in the common spaces with folks milling about everywhere you looked. Travelers looking for a luxurious adults-only getaway or a quiet vacation where they don’t encounter other guests often will want to look elsewhere.

In the lobby, wait times for the front desk were typically around 10-15 minutes because of the long line unless I went around dinner time or first thing in the morning. The two primary pools (the infinity pool and the main pool, which includes a children’s area) were very crowded most times of the day. Still, an adults-only pool is located outside the spa for those looking for respite from the activity.

While service was generally good, and the staff were all friendly, things moved very slowly in the restaurants. On my first day, I figured it was just because of how busy the resort was, but I realized throughout my stay that relatively slow dining service was the norm at both Morningstar Buoy Haus and the Westin, no matter what time of day I dined.

I often had to flag down a waiter to check on the status of something I ordered or remind them that I’d asked for a drink or a glass of water. The timing with meal services was a bit off — sometimes it would be 20 or 30 minutes between an appetizer and entree, and then on one occasion my entree came well before I’d finished my appetizer. I would attribute this to growing pains, seeing as the resort was only in its third month of operation and it was peak season.

Lastly, if you prefer small, easy-to-navigate resorts, this Westin property may not be for you. Understanding which restaurants and spaces were on which floor took some getting used to, and due to the general vastness of the property (which can certainly be seen as an asset), guests should anticipate a good bit of walking. For example, if you’re staying in a suite located in the Ocean Tower but want to get to Shorebird for breakfast, you’ll have to cross the lobby and take an elevator to the opposite side of the resort. Or, if you’re staying in a harbor-facing suite, getting all the way to the beach at Morningstar Buoy Haus takes a good 15 minutes, depending on whether you walk or wait for the shuttle. I didn’t mind getting my steps in and drinking in the views along the way, though.

Accessibility 

ELLIE NAN STORCK/THE POINTS GUY

The Westin Beach Resort & Spa has quite a few features for travelers with accessibility needs and the grounds are generally navigable via wheelchair, with the exception of reaching the dock area. Spacious, wheelchair-friendly elevators are located throughout the property on every floor, and the hotel swimming pools have self-operating lifts and sloped entrances. Service animals are welcome at this resort, too. Common areas such as the gym, business center, spa, meeting center and restaurants are accessible and can accommodate wheelchairs.

Accessible guest rooms feature bathrooms with bathtub grab rails and bathtub seats, roll-in showers, transfer showers, adjustable hand-held shower wands and toilet seats at wheelchair height. Other accessibility features include alarm clock telephone ringers, closed-caption TVs, flashing door knockers, hearing-accessible kits, lowered deadbolts on doors and lowered electrical outlets. To ensure you get accommodations that meet your needs, contact the hotel directly to make your booking.

Checking out of The Westin Beach Resort & Spa at Frenchman’s Reef

ELLIE NAN STORCK/THE POINTS GUY

A trip to St. Thomas will only be sweetened by booking a room or suite at this beautiful new Westin, a property worth planning a trip around if you want direct beach and ocean access, a resort brimming with amenities and ample on- and off-site activities. Whether you’re looking to book a toes-in-the-sand vacation with the kids or a grown-up getaway with friends, the various types of room and suite options and the access to the nearby sister property make this an appealing property for many different types of travelers and trips.

You can spend the entire duration of your stay, as I did, on the property and feel like there’s plenty to do (and eat!), or you can book taxis or a car to wander farther afield. Those with a larger budget should absolutely plan a boat trip via the hotel’s activity desk, as getting out on the water is the best way to explore the surrounding coves, islands and beauty that St. Thomas offers. Vacationers who have missed Frenchman’s Reef will delight at this fresh take on a classic destination, and newcomers will likely leave wanting to plan their next trip back to this heavenly corner of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Related reading:



Source link

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest Articles