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Nearly every beach on St. Thomas has its own hotel, and the island also has more quaint inns than any other place in the Caribbean. The choice of hotels on St. Thomas divides almost evenly between places to stay in Charlotte Amalie, and grand resorts along the East End that front the fabulous beaches. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and your choice becomes a matter of personal taste.

Say you're in St. Thomas for shopping and you want to be near the best stores, the widest choice of restaurants and bars, and nearly all the historic attractions. Chances are you'll elect to stay in Charlotte Amalie. And if you're looking for budget accommodations, or a choice of moderately priced inns, you'll need to be in or near Charlotte Amalie. The downside to staying here is that you'll have to take a shuttle over to a good beach, a ride of no more than 10 to 15 minutes from most Charlotte Amalie properties. If you want the isolation of a resort along with proximity to Charlotte Amalie, with all the attractions and shops, you can book into the Marriott property directly to the east of Charlotte Amalie at Flamboyant Point.

If your dream is to arrive in St. Thomas and anchor yourself directly on a beach, then the East End is your best bet. All the properties here are grand, luxurious resorts with many attractions, including watersports and nightlife. The downside is that if you don't want to take expensive transportation, or drive along narrow, dark, and unfamiliar roads at night, you'll be resort-bound for the evening, as commutes to some of the island's best restaurants are difficult after sunset. You'll also have to spend time and money if you want to get into Charlotte Amalie for shopping. Almost without exception, the East End beachfront resorts are very expensive. In spite of the high costs, these hotels attract customers who want the decadent resort life that is impossible to find at the smaller inns of Charlotte Amalie.

Hotels in the Virgin Islands slash their prices in summer by 20% to 60%. Unless otherwise noted, the rates listed below do not include the 8% government tax.

Renting a Condo, Apartment, or Villa

For those who don't care for the resort or hotel life, renting a condo, apartment, or villa is an excellent option. Sometimes you can get a great deal. We've found that Calypso Realty (tel. 800/747-4858 or 340/774-1620; www.calypsorealty.com) has the best offers, especially on rentals from April to mid-December. A condo goes for $1,200 to $4,000 per week, with a 7-day minimum stay.

Another source to check is McLaughlin Anderson Luxury Caribbean Villas (tel. 800/537-6246 or 340/776-0635; www.mclaughlinanderson.com), which has rentals not only on St. Thomas but also on St. John, St. Croix, and various other Caribbean isles. A two-bedroom villa begins at $2,000 per week in winter, with off-season rates beginning at $1,449.

You can also contact Paradise Properties (tel. 800/524-2038 or 340/775-0111; www.paradisepropertiesvi.com), which currently represents five condo complexes. Rental units range from studio apartments to two-bedroom villas suitable for up to eight people; each has a fully equipped kitchen. A minimum stay of 3 days is required in any season, and 7 nights are required around Christmas. The prices range from $225 to $400 per day in winter and from $135 to $260 per day in the off season.

Antilles Resorts (tel. 800/874-7897 or 340/775-6100; www.antillesresorts.com) is a hit among habitual islandgoers, enjoying a repeat business of some 60%. Among other offerings, it rents condo suites that are a short walk from the beach and feature private balconies with ocean views. These suites start at $250 a night in winter, reduced to $185 a night in summer.

Family-Friendly Hotels

Best Western Emerald Beach Resort -- In spite of its major drawback (it's located across from the airport), this is a safe, family-friendly place for those with kids. Children age 11 and under stay free in their parent's room, and the resort opens onto one of the best beaches on the island. The price is right, too.

Bolongo Bay Beach Resort -- On a half-moon-shaped, white-sand beach, this resort attracts families with its hospitality and children's programs. Many of its rooms have extra beds for children. Plenty of activities -- such as sand-castle building, water volleyball, and bag hopping -- keep the kids busy.

Island Beachcomber Hotel -- For the family on a budget, this hotel near the airport is appealing. It's not grand in any way, but it's clean and decent. Many of its rooms have two double beds. A beach-party atmosphere prevails, and kids and their families find the place festive, if a little worn.

Secret Harbour Beach Resort -- Children age 11 and under stay free in their parent's room at this Nazareth Bay hotel. Many units have kitchenettes where families can prepare light meals. Beach facilities are right at your doorstep.

The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas -- With 30 acres of oceanfront property and a white sand beach, this palazzolike resort puts on the Ritz for kids as well as adults. The children's program is one of the island's best, with snorkeling and scuba-diving activities, a scuba school, and a private yacht for guests.

Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa -- Most guests opt for full board at this traditional all-inclusive that caters to travelers with kids. The secluded beach is small, but the location affords panoramic views of the sea. Rooms are attractive enough, but parents won't need to fret about the utilitarian furnishings.

Camping Out on Water Island

If you dream of sleeping in a rustic cabin on an isolated tropical island, head for the Virgin Islands Campground on Water Island (tel. 340/776-5488; www.virginislandscampground.com), on Water Island, just off of St. Thomas. This is the most eco-sensitive accommodation in the vicinity of St. Thomas. Nestled among lush foliage, the cabins have electricity, comfortable beds, and clean linens, and open onto private terraces. There is no restaurant, but you can grill your own meals in the Pavilion; you can also store your food in a refrigerator or freezer.

Water Island is very small; to get around, simply hike along the island's pristine trails. From the campgrounds, it is only a 5-minute walk to the idyllic Honeymoon Beach, where you can swim, snorkel, or just bask in the sun. Regular ferry service takes visitors between Water Island and St. Thomas (trip time: 7 minutes).

A 3-night minimum stay is required; cabins cost $170 per night in winter and $129 per night in the off season. Cabins accommodate up to 3 adults and 2 children. MasterCard and Visa are accepted.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.