Hillcrest Guest House, on the crest of a hill overlooking Cruz Bay, is a tiny treasure in St. John’s sea of smaller accommodations. Owner, and on the premises gatekeeper, Phyllis Hall, offers her guests genuine hospitality, you can’t teach in hotel schools.
Hall is the daughter of two Virgin Islanders who met and married in New York City. She attended primary school in Manhattan, until her parents decided to return to the Virgin Islands.
Years later Hall’s mother, a fifth generation St. Johnian, began welcoming guests into an ever expanding house built in 1966 overlooking Cruz Bay. Old timers on the island have fond memories of what they still call “Miss Hall’s Guesthouse.” Nearly every newcomer to the island benefited from Ethlyn Hall’s kind advice, and comfortable accommodations.
Phyllis graduated from High School and college in the St. Thomas, and returned to the states to complete her master’s degree in environmental engineering. She worked for the Virgin Islands government for over thirty years, before ‘retiring’ in 2000 and taking over Hillcrest from her mother, now 93 years old.
Today Hill Crest Guest House embodies the charm of an earlier St. John, the one, Hall, raised in the city until she was 11 year s old, discovered when she first move to the island fifty years ago this year.
Hall recalls there were no paved roads then, only part of the island had electricity and horses and donkeys were used for transportation, along with a few scattered jeeps.
Hall communicates the authentic St. John to her guests from around the world; lucky enough to have landed at Hillcrest. But she also recognizes the need for modern day amenities, and has appointed Hillcrest with every imaginable convenience, including free WIFI and Ipod recharging.
Four suites, with lovely views, are beautifully decorated in tropical tones and peaceful hues, and appointed with televisions and CD players, refrigerators, microwaves, stoves or hotplates, blenders, dishware, cook books from celebrity chefs and nice extras like personalized soaps, shampoos, lotions, and bug spray. There’s a supply of games, movies, snorkel gear, ice chests and more.
Hall also rents an apartment she calls “ a peaceful retreat.”
Hall anticipates her guests' needs and desires, and supplies them before they arrive. Her attention to detail is evident from the well stocked refrigerators to the Sponge Bob and Sesame Street sheets for younger travelers.
“ I think like a parent," observes, Hall, the mother of two daughters and three grandsons, says the snacks, games, and familiar items make it easier for families to settle in after traveling.
Hillcrest may be the only spot on the island that greets its guests with a personalized note and a cornucopia of complimentary snacks and liquors. Every refrigerator is stocked with breakfast items - eggs, bacon, juice, and also fruits, nuts, candies, filtered water, soda, rum, wine or beer. Halls says her guests are often surprised that all this is furnished for free.
It’s a generous gesture, and an unexpected pleasure in these days of hotel minibars- with $4 cans of soda.
It's simply authentic.
More information about Hillcrest Guest House here.
Photos: Phyllis Hall, proprietor of Hillcrest Guest House in St. John, with Dora.
View of Cruz Bay Harbor from Hillcrest.
virginvoices.com photo by D. B. Bostdorf
Take a quick tour of Virgin Voices' favorite guest room, Tropical Garden Suite.
Maura Curley is publisher of virginvoices.com