Miles from Charlotte: 1,523
Flying time: 3 hours, 3 minutes
Nonstop service: American Airlines
Lovango Cay, a 118-acre private island, lies one mile northwest of St. John and three miles southeast of St. Thomas, a 30-minute ride—20 by taxi, another 10 by ferry—from Cyril E. King Airport. The ferry arrives on the south side, where Lovango Resort & Beach Club is nestled between the rocky shore and dense tropical interior.
It’s hard to believe this place is closer to Charlotte than Denver or Albuquerque. The landscape looks untouched except for seven homes that peer from the brush. A handful of visiting charter boats are anchored in the absurdly clear blue water. On the island’s quiet north side, accessible via the resort’s off-road vehicles or a steep hike, treehouses and tents blend into the mountain. A secluded beach is less than 300 yards across a bay from another small island, Congo Cay, a wildlife refuge and nesting habitat for pelicans.
Pearly-eyed thrashers, common Caribbean birds, wake me with soft whistles each morning. (I’m not even mad about it.) At dusk, the sun sinks behind the Hans Lollik Islands, a pair of private islands that, because one’s far bigger, look like mother and child. I wouldn’t mind being trapped here, but frequent ferries to St. John and St. Thomas make it easy to explore more than just Lovango Cay.
In 2019, the Snider family—Massachusetts-based owners and operators of The Nantucket Hotel and the Winnetu Oceanside Resort in Martha’s Vineyard—purchased 42 acres on the eastern end of the island. They opened Lovango Resort & Beach Club, the only accommodations on Lovango Cay and the first new resort in the USVI in more than three decades. Choose from 16 rental options: Luxury Treehouses, Glamping Tents, or Villa Lovango, a three-bedroom home with a private pool. All have private decks with ocean views, and many have fun features like outdoor showers. You can also book adjoining Treehouses or Glamping Tents, or add rollaway beds, for larger groups. (The resort, which is open from mid-December until late July, is still adding accommodations and amenities.)
At the resort, book a table at the Waterfront Restaurant for lunch or dinner and enjoy Chef Stephen Belie’s Charred Octopus, Ahi Tuna Crudo, Sea Urchin Gnocchi, or Caribbean Lobster Schnitzel. For casual bites, head to The Sandpit, all of 10 yards away, for wood-fired flatbreads, small bites, and bowls. On St. John, stop at St. John Provisions for coffee, smoothies, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches until 1 p.m. on weekdays. The Longboard, open for lunch and dinner, has poke bowls, ceviche, bar snacks, and tacos. Pair your meal with a Frozen Painkiller (add a floater of chai rum for an extra punch) or Passion Fruit Frosé. 18°64° The Restaurant, in Mongoose Junction, has sushi and small plates for lunch, a raw bar from 3 to 5 p.m., and a dinner menu with dishes like Fresh Oysters, Steak Frites, and Pan Seared Yellowfin Tuna. The Windmill Bar’s drinks and pub grub are mediocre, but the mountaintop views are the best I found. Order a Rum Punch and watch the sun set over the islands.
Reserve a beachfront chaise lounge, daybed, or poolside cabana at Lovango’s Beach Club. Plunge into the 70-foot infinity pool, order a rum cocktail, snorkel in the bay, and peruse the five Shops on Lovango. Join in a hula competition, water balloon toss, or yoga session. When you tire of waiters delivering drinks as you lounge on a chaise, explore miles of hiking trails, snooze on the north side’s isolated Crescent Beach, or book a boat excursion to St. John’s Honeymoon Beach—and pack a snorkel, which you can rent from the Beach Club.
Spend at least one full day exploring St. John’s national park land, which makes up two-thirds of the island. Take an open-air safari taxi from Cruz Bay to one of Virgin Islands National Park’s beaches, like Trunk Bay, Hawksnest Beach, or half-mile Cinnamon Bay. Each has crystal-clear waters and powder-fine white sand. At Cinnamon Bay, rent a beach chair or a snorkel, kayak, or paddleboard to explore a small cay 100 yards from shore. It’s also the site of a prehistoric Taíno settlement and the remains of the oldest structure on the island: an estate house, built in the 1680s, that was still in use until Hurricane Irma wrecked it in 2017.
Ed.: Many popular tourist destinations in the Virgin Islands have ties to colonialism and slavery. Please be a mindful and respectful visitor.
Recipe: The Painkiller
No prescription needed
You won’t find a restaurant or bar in the Virgin Islands that doesn’t have the Painkiller on its menu. Invented in the 1970s at the Soggy Dollar Bar in the British Virgin Islands, this twist on a piña colada has become the official unofficial drink of the VI.
1 ounce orange juice
4 ounces pineapple juice
1 ounce cream of coconut
2 ounces rum* (or more—we don’t judge)
Freshly grated nutmeg
Optional garnish: pineapple wedge
1. Add the juices, cream of coconut, and rum to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously but briefly to combine. (Combine ingredients in a blender for a frozen version.)
2. Strain into a hurricane glass or snifter over ice.
3. Grate fresh nutmeg on top—be generous!—and garnish with a pineapple wedge.
*The British Virgin Islands-based brand Pusser’s Rum acquired the trademark for “Pusser’s Painkiller” in 2011. But use your rum of choice.
TESS ALLEN is the associate editor.