If you have been following along, you know I love a good highlight reel! One of my favorite things to write up is a list of must stops on St. John. But, I’m only one person and can become biased by my own personal regular haunts and favorite places on island. As objective as I try to be, its easiest to write what you know! So, in an effort to expand that net, I reached out to “queen of the beach read,” Elin Hilderbrand, and asked her for her own highlight reel as derived from her books, “The Paradise Trilogy.”
I was fortunate enough to connect with Elin when she was on her annual St. John sabbatical in March. She joined Teddy and I on Asante for a lovely afternoon of conversation, interview and photo ops for an upcoming profile piece I was working on that was published later that month.
Many of you who love Elin’s books, specifically the Paradise Trilogy, enjoy them even more because they whisk you away to your favorite little island in the Caribbean. Mentions of local personalities and favorite haunts and beaches line the pages and Elin is never wary of giving local businesses and their owners a nod in her best selling books. She encapsulates multiple dimensions of residing on St. John from the perspective of both transplants and locals with her characters ranging from the part-time resident to the millionaire to the taxi driver to the service industry employee to the local business owner. In a nut shell, her books take you back to Love City over and over again.
It felt so great to be back in the Virgin Islands and with Elin Hilderbrand’s fantastic characters. As a reader, I just cannot help but feel that I am revisiting old friends or family.- Reader Comment, goodreads.com
I was thinking about content for upcoming posts a few weeks ago and thought that a self guided tour through the Paradise Series might be a fun little vacation activity for all of you Elin Hilderbrand fans out there! So, I reached out to Elin and said…
I’m thinking about doing a post that highlights some of your favorite spots as mentioned in your books! Would you possibly share maybe your top seven faves from the books with me?
She is always so lovely and immediately responded to my text message request with the following Love City stops for you to add to your next little St. John stumble around!
La Tapa- Elin’s favorite restaurant on island and the place of employment for the main character, Ayers, gets a multitude of mentions throughout the series. The exquisite tapa style restaurant with heavy Spanish and Caribbean influence throughout the menu has been a staple on St. John for decades. Previously, and as depicted in the books, the small restaurant lived in a quaint and charming space located underneath the infamous Quiet Mon Pub. They closed for the season in July and will re-open their doors in November at a brand new location in the Wharfside Complex overlooking the Cruz Bay waterfront (previously Waterfront Bistro).
You may remember a scene from book one in which Ayers works a slightly uncomfortable New Years Eve shift in the renowned St. John establishment prior to a pivotal moment in the book….
Salt Pond Beach- This lovely stretch of sand on the southeastern tip of St. John is home to the Drunk Bay and Ram Head trails and incredible underwater opportunities. It’s not super easy to get to between the lengthy drive from Cruz Bay and the moderate hike from the limited parking area.
In her books, Elin mentions this beautiful beach a multitude of times in correlation with “guaranteed turtle sightings” specifically in Baker and Ayer’s snorkeling adventure….
The water is clear; the bottom is white sand covered by a carpet of sea grass. They swim a little farther and Baker expects the scenery to change. Cash described “cities” of colorful coral and thousands of multicolored fish. Baker sees only sand and sea grass and Ayers’s body, which is sweeter than anything Jacques Cousteau could dream up.
And then he hears Ayers make a sound. She’s gesticulating wildly, pointing—and Baker will be damned: A few yards ahead of them, nibbling on the sea grass, is a turtle! A real turtle, one that looks exactly like Crush from Finding Nemo. That’s backward: Crush is a cartoon and this is nature—this is real! Floyd would… well, his little mind would be blown.
Ayers swims on and Baker follows, waving to Crush, studying the pattern on the back of his shell, watching the way his neck stretches as he feasts on the grass. Ayers finds a second turtle and this one has a baby turtle with him—Crush and Squirt! Floyd would love this! Ayers swims alongside the father-and-son turtles and soon Baker is, too. He is so close he could reach out and touch the back of the father’s shell, but he’s guessing that’s against the rules, like feeding the donkeys- Winter in Paradise
Provisions- This nook of a breakfast spot that is always host to a line of both residents and visitors awaiting great coffee and fresh baked everything is a regular stop for Huck and Irene in the Paradise Trilogy. Located just across from the Animal Care Center in Cruz Bay (the old Baked in the Sun location), this is new hot spot for take away breakfast is a must try the next time you’re visiting!
Irene gets two coffees and two sausage biscuits from Provisions. Meredith, the owner, has seen her enough times that she now waves. Irene stops there as a show of kindness toward Huck—he makes breakfast for Maia every day but many times forgets to eat himself—and besides, the sausage biscuit is delicious. Irene is starting to gain back some of the weight she lost. – What Happens in Paradise
Lime Out- The infamous lime green taco boat that rapidly became an icon in the waters of Coral Bay Harbor is mentioned lovingly several times throughout Hilderbrand’s third book in the trilogy. The tacos are incredible…and accessible only by boat!
He thinks about living in the East End, which is within shouting distance of Lime Out, and denying himself the pleasure of a rum rib taco. – Troubles in Paradise
Cruz Bay Landing- Along with being the site of #heartsickmick’s broken heart recovery, this Cruz Bay staple for breakfast, lunch, happy hour and dinner is the backdrop for many other scenes in these books. It’s not a far cry from “real life” as the popular coffee stop tends to lend itself as a “catch up” spot for locals in the mornings. A place to connect with one another before we go about our days.
What about Cruz Bay Landing? Someone at the Westin pool this past week was raving about the shrimp appetizer, which sounds good to Baker, and he can get Floyd a burger. They go over, and there are a couple of seats at the bar and a guitar player singing “Waiting on a Friend.”- Troubles in Paradise
Pizza Pi- Another “only in the Virgin Islands” on the water dining experience is the Pizza Boat! Located in Christmas Cove, and also accessible only by boat, this modified sailboat cranks out some of the best pizza in the Virgin Islands to happy guests floating around on nearby vessels. The boat receives several well-deserved mentions throughout the trilogy…
Donna wraps her arm around the youngest, Dougie, who is sitting next to her, and kisses the top of his head. “Believe me, this is a rare moment of peace. We told them if they behaved today, we’d rent a dinghy tomorrow and go to the pizza boat in Christmas Cove.”
“Good bribe!” Ayers says. “I love Pizza Pi.” Mick had said something the night before about borrowing his boss’s boat so they could raft up in Christmas Cove on Monday—eat pizza, listen to live music. – What Happens in Paradise
Salomon Beach- This beach is the ill-fated Rosie’s favorite one…And well worth the sweaty hike from Cruz Bay! About 20 minutes on the Lower Lind Point trail will get you to this foot traffic only stretch of white sand with some almost guaranteed peace and quiet attached. The snorkeling is incredible but there are no trash cans or other services here. So be prepared for a hefty walk (bring water!) after your beach day and to pack your trash out with you to the nearest public dumpster when you get back to town. Trust me, it’s worth the extra effort!
Maia is facing into the wind, wearing an inexpensive pair of plastic sunglasses that she decorated with seashells she and her mother collected on Salomon Beach. “Impossible-to-reach-Salomon-Beach” had been Rosie’s favorite. – Winter in Paradise
I hope that you enjoyed this little highlight reel, courtesy of our favorite beach read novelist-a! (Thanks Elin!) Oh, and if you’re wondering what’s happening with that ABC series we talked about last winter, STAY TUNED. We should have some news one way or the other soon!