If a hotel owner wants to win my heart, definitely give me a room that comes with its own cat.
Tommy the cat doesn’t actually belong to the Sand Castle on the Beach resort in St. Croix: he’s really a resident of the Cottages by the Sea hotel, next door. But since he’s a cat he really doesn’t respect boundaries, so when we checked into our Sea View Suite, Tommy was there to greet us, curled up on a chair on the semi-enclosed patio. Later, he would find his way inside and be sleeping on the bed when we returned to the room. Awww, kitty!
I know cats aren’t everyone’s meow, but to me, Tommy was the perfect ambassador for Sand Castle: warm, familiar, and just a touch sassy, too. Owned and operated by Chris Richardson and Ted Bedwell, Sand Castle has built a reputation as one of the most LBGTQ-friendly resorts in the Caribbean.
The positive vibe starts with the omnipresent owners. Although Sand Castle is big enough to slip into impersonal service, with 25 rooms located both beachfront and across the street, that never seems to happen. In fact, every time I’ve visited this Fredriksted hotel, I’ve been personally greeted by Chris and Ted, who not only take a keen interest in their guests but seem to have a second sense about when someone new has dropped by.
The couple, a former hairdresser and flight attendant, bought the hotel along with partner Dan Metzger on New Year’s Eve four years ago, but their baptism in hospitality has been anything but a party as St. Croix has been battered in recent years by Hurricane Maria and of course the pandemic. “We’ve never had a normal year,” says Chris, “but we’re still living our dream.”
Sand Castle is the furthest thing from a cookie-cutter resort, with its two-dozen guest rooms sorted into five room categories. Whitewashed buildings and LED lighting that glow to life after dark give the hotel a clean, modern feel that carries over into the brightly decorated gust room interiors, where beds with waffled comforters and batik-inspired shams sit on cool tiled floors and are surrounded by colorful, framed island art.
Most rooms are roughly laid out around a courtyard swimming pool and adjacent to the hotel’s popular (and aptly named) restaurant, The Beach Side Cafe, which serves three meals daily and is particularly known for brunch. In addition to standard rooms and suites on the ground and second floor of the main building, the hotel has several beachfront villas, including the top-end two bedroom, two-bath Dolphin Villa, which has twin sets of French doors opening onto a private patio.
Sand Castle is a pretty compact hotel, so the villas are less private than convenient, with direct access to a nice strip of sandy beach as well as being contiguous to the other resort amenities. But that doesn’t mean the place lacks for surprises.
Across the street from the main complex is a second, larger swimming pool surrounded by additional guest quarters, including king and queen rooms and some equipped with kitchens. If the sea side is for social butterflies, the courtyard rooms around the pool are for cool cats and kittens who want to keep more to themselves (it’s also a great choice for groups who want a little separation from the crowd). The pool here also is clothing-optional, with high fences screening out inquisitive eyes.
The hotel’s oceanfront tiki bar is where guests gather for sunset cocktails, and there’s also a fire pit for evening gatherings. Other hotel amenities include a small fitness center, a Buddha fountain that greets arriving guests, and ample lounge chairs and umbrellas on the beach.
A walk of a mile or so along the shoreline in front of the hotel takes guests to Frederiksted’s famous pier, known to divers for its population of rare seahorses, and the bars, restaurants, shops, and historic fort downtown. Ted and Chris are relative newcomers to St. Croix but are major boosters of the largest of the three main U.S. Virgin Islands, touting the island’s natural beauty, excellent dining, and a growing list of attractions, including a new zip-line.
“We see St. Croix as our home and our community,” says Chris, and if guests at Sand Castle don’t quite feel transplanted to St. Croix, you may well end your trip feeling temporarily adopted — just like Tommy.
For more, visit Sand Castle on the Beach.