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This is the island’s one true luxury resort. Fronted by white-sand beaches and the protected turquoise seas of Great Bay, the Ritz covers a sprawling 30 acres of oceanfront on the southeastern tip of St. Thomas, 4 miles (a 30-min. drive) from Charlotte Amalie. Its centerpiece is a Venetian-style palazzo, surrounded by terraced gardens. Pathways lead down to the curving infinity pool (home to two resident ducks) and a beach with canopied chairs and a bustling food and beverage service.

All day long, the resort’s water-sports toys see plenty of use on Great Bay, from stand-up paddleboards to Hobie Cats to kayaks to snorkel equipment—it’s a veritable kids’ playground, with a full-service dive shop, Patagon Dive Center, right on property. (The bay bottom is somewhat grassy and pebbly, however.) The terrific Ritz Kids activities are part of the resident Jean-Michel Cousteau’s “Ambassadors of the Environment” program, with excursions for all ages, including explorations of the coral reef, island mangroves, and constellations. Adults can try night snorkeling in Great Bay or sign up for ocean kayak adventures in clear-bottom kayaks. If you’ve always wanted to learn to sail, take advantage of the on-site certified sailing school, Island Sol. Finally, the property has its own private 53-foot catamaran, Lady Lynsey, in which guests can take full and half-day sailing excursions.

The resort’s main lobby has a generic feel in spite of its elegant appointments, but the Ritz rooms are the island’s best, supremely comfortable and spacious, with great big bathrooms (tubs and rain showers) and top-of-the-line amenities throughout. The resort features an extensive spa with luxurious treatment rooms and open-air cabanas. Of the restaurants, Bleuwater is chillingly expensive but a real special-occasion spot. Finally, the warm and friendly Ritz staff is unparalleled on an island that still has a few things to learn about personal service. In addition to the 180 hotel rooms, the resort also holds a number of Ritz-Carlton Destination Club timeshare villas.