We rented Rara Avis for 2/18-2/25
Our group: My wife and I who are 60ish grandparents, two adult daughters, one husband, one boyfriend one 20 month old grandson.
Group history: We started taking our daughters to St. John in 1983 and continued until the late 90's.We returned alone in 2001 and haven't been back until this year. We camped at Cinammon and Maho for several years, rented condos in Cruz Bay and did houses twice before. I tell you this because it might affect our point of view.
Location of Rara Avis- at Hart Bay- go one hill past the Westin then take a right on paved roads for about 3 minutes. This meant that people could drive into Cruz Bay easily at night which was important because grandparents could babysit while young people went out.
There is a path down to Hart Bay beach. Although the water was rough and rocky- as was the beach) we did go down for shell and sea glass searches and my son-in-law fished from there. When I spoke to the woman at Caribbean Villas she had warned me the water might be rough. Although we didn't snorkel there we did see snorkelers in the water but it is probably not for beginners.
The view from every room in the house is fabulous. When you sit in the living room you
almost feel as though you are outside as the entire front wall is all sliders.
The house is very private- although you can see other houses you are not very close and we never heard any other people while we we there.
Why the house worked for our group. There are two separate master suite pods on either side of the main house. We took one and daughter and boyfriend took the other. Both are roomy with private baths and decks or patios.
There are two bedrooms in the main house below the living quarters. These are smaller than the masters and share a connecting bath. My daughter, son-in-law took these- one for them and one for the 20 month old. This was perfect- they wanted their son in a separate room but nearby and when he awoke early in the morning the rest of us didn't even know- even when they went upstairs with him for breakfast the people in the master suites could sleep blissfully. The agent from Caribbean Villas had warned me that these two lower bedrooms were accessible only from the outside of the house so the parents would want a baby monitor so they could hear him while they sat upstairs- we had one and it worked fine. By the way there is an agency on St John that rents kid stuff- my daughter rented a pac in play and a beach tent from them- you could even rent a monitor from them and they deliver to the house.
The house is designed as a Tuscan Villa- large living room, dining room and a nice size kitchen- open floor plan. The front of the house has large wooden doors that open to the front patio making the house very comfortable.
The kitchen was fully stocked with enough dishes and glasses for many more people than could ever stay here- every gadget you might need is here. We cooked a few big lunches and a few dinners here using the grill. The 30 something guys did the grilling and proclaimed the grill awesome- it was a big Weber with its own gas feed.
The pool is not a lap pool but was large enough for us with a fabulous view of Hart Bay.
We returned every afternoon for our grandson's nap and spent a lot of time at the pool.
Laundry room off the kitchen- great with kids and adults don't have to pack as much.
Everyone in the group wants to rent this house again if we go back next year.
However: I am an avid reader of this board and I know that some people have very discerning taste when renting these villas so I will mention a few things that others might want to know:
The one surprise for me was the driveway. It is pretty steep although by St John standards not bad at all. It is concrete and there is parking for two cars in a carport. My wife and daughters said they would be nervous driving down it and if you had three cars you might (not sure) have to back one car up the driveway- to our amazement the water truck made a delivery and then backed up this driveway. None of the male drivers thought it was a problem.
The house appeared to be freshly panted inside but it does need a few repairs. Shower handle in one bathroom falling off, wet bar on one patio was not workable and didn't look good. Rust covered table umbrella stand and some rust appearing on the main balcony. My son-in-law thought this was because the builder hadn't used rust proof nails.
One weird event- The ceiling fan in the living room was wobbling so I turned it off- before it stopped a blade came flying off the fan- fortunately it didn't hit anyone. We looked and saw that it had already been missing a blade which is why it was wobbling. I called Caribbean Villas and a few days later they sent men out who replaced the blades. Then I got a little paranoid and went around and checked the strength of the balcony railings but they were fine.
For those of you who need a state of the art kitchen with granite etc. you don't have that here. It is probably a nineties kitchen- nice counter space, fully stocked and appliances all work.
The downstairs bedrooms were warmer than the master suites. My daughter ran the fan for my grandson. The house has no air conditioning so this might be an issue for some people in the warmer months.We slept under sheets upstairs and used no fans-the house got a lot of breezes.
For those of you who rent with three or four couples the fact that there are only two master suites might be an issue. It would also be a great rental for two families with two kids each if the kids were a little older.
As I indicated above I was happy with Caribbean Villas- especially the woman I talked to at the beginning. She warned me about the issues involving my grandson up front.