Cruising Over Caneel Bay

Happy Saturday everyone!

We have another amazing video for all of you this weekend. It’s another cool one from IrixGuy – this time’s he’s flying high above Caneel Bay and Honeymoon Beach. Check it out:

Islands Magazine Highlights Caneel Bay

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

So I have to admit, I’ve always wanted to spend a few nights over at Caneel Bay but the accompanying price tag has always scared me off a bit. So instead, I’ve opted for day visits here and there where I’ve schlepped my cooler down to Honeymoon and Soloman before heading back up to the beach bar for a bite to eat and a delicious Bushwacker before making my way back home.

Well after reading the following article by Islands Magazine, I just may have to start saving a bit more. Here are their top 15 reasons to visit Caneel Bay.

15 Reasons to Vacation at Caneel Bay in the USVI

Caneel Bay is one-part luxury, one-part nature, one-part culinary heaven and all parts immersive. Here, life is simple, accented by to-die-for meals and the occasional roaming donkey. (Yes, donkeys.) Here are 15 more reasons to start packing your bags.

15. Nature Rules
As the yacht approached Caneel Bay Resort, I wasn’t sure we’d arrived at the right place. I squinted: No flashy entrance sign? Where are the rooms? Oh, there they are. Here, the natural beauty of the island takes precedence over pomp.

14. My Backyard
It’s no wonder nature takes top billing here … this is my “backyard” for the next few days.

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

13. Underwater Havens
Snorkeling gear is complimentary — and you’re going to need it. All seven (!!!) beaches of Caneel Bay boast their own underwater world, from sea-turtle meccas to fish-filled reefs. I even hovered over a spotted eagle ray. My advice? Book for a week to spend a day at each one.

12. Surprising Dinners
Here, sugar-mill ruins are as prolific as palm trees, so I wasn’t surprised to find one on site at Caneel Bay. What surprised me was what lurked inside: ZoZo’s at the Sugar Mill, the flagship fine-dining go-to on St. John. And I can fully attest to its reputation — ruins or not, there was nothing ruined about the pistachio-crusted mahimahi with grilled polenta and sweet bell-pepper chutney that had me almost licking my plate.

11. The Freshest Ingredients
I had to ask: Why does everything taste so fresh? Turns out the secret to Caneel’s distinctive dinners at all the restaurants — ZoZo’s, Caneel Beach Bar & Grill and Turtle Bay Estate House (chef Anthony has perfected the art of simple yet creative pairings) — gets delivered every morning. Locally owned Josphine’s Greens has been the prime source for farm-fresh, organic greens for nearly 20 years.

10. Days Spent Like This
Those hearty meals every night meant I had to paddle board every day (rough life, I know).

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

9. Discovering History
A hike on the Reef Bay Trail burns calories too — once I made it to the Reef Bay Sugar Mill Ruins, my mind had already drifted back to lunch at the resort. (The food really is that good, OK?)

8. Fuel for Foodies
Finally! Lunch time. Chef Kim’s killer sushi at the Beach Bar & Grill made me pause and question whether I was at a swanky sushi restaurant in Manhattan. The beach view in front of me quickly squashed that theory.

7. Empty Beaches
Stuffed with sushi, I was glad to have this private bay (my backyard) all to myself. Which I did — until I spotted a baby deer gingerly manuevering across the shifting sand. I suppose I can share this piece of paradise today.

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

6. The Cutest Neighbors Ever
I mean, how could I say no to this Disney-worthy face?

deer caneel
Image credit: Islands Magazine

5. Darling Donkeys
Or this face, for that matter. After some time in the sun, I thought I was hallucinating when I saw a long-eared shadow pass by my beach chair. But turns out, the famous donkeys of Caneel Bay are a common sight, along with the deer. They roam freely througout the resort and often pose alongside wedding ceremonies — or for selfies. (Might be guilty of that one.)

caneelbay_donkey 1_high-res
Image credit: Islands Magazine

4. Impeccable Service … And Rum
Deer, donkeys and now pina coladas? Caneel Bay Resort specializes in beach days that I’ll never forget — albeit they may be hard to remember after a few of these.

3. Killer Views
Most of the time, rain has me reaching for an umbrella. Here, I was just reaching for my camera.

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

2. Unique Touches
One of my favorite details was the hand-delivered breakfast … in a picnic basket. Being here is “glamping” at its finest.

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

1. Snorkeling
Not wanting to miss any time underwater, I forgo an extra hour of sleep in my beach bungalow for a before-breakfast swim with the sea turtles (a sighting is pretty much guaranteed). Even better? They’re not shy at all — I even scored an accidental high-five. Breakfast — picnic basket or not — can wait.

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

On the Road: Maho Bay to Mongoose Junction

Today we’re taking a little cruise on St. John from the Maho Bay beach parking lot up North Shore Road and over to Mongoose Junction. Oh and we brought our friend Kenny Chesney along the way.

We promise this one will make you smile. Turn up your sound. 🙂

Survey says St. John 5th most expensive

Cheap Hotels Cheaphotels.org says St. John  is the fifth most costly Caribbean destination.  Odds are, the island should rank a lot higher.

If you search the CheapHotels Web site for a place to lay your weary head (and assuming that was the sample for the report), it offers only four options on the island: St. John Inn, Hillcrest Guest House, Concordia Eco Tents, and the Westin Resort.

That’s hardly the St. John market. It ignores dozens of condominiums, timeshares, and hotels, many of which are much more expensive than CheapHotel.org’s St. John average of $224/night for a three star hotel.

Few people would consider St. John cheap by any measure.

Virgin Gorda took the top spot for the lowest-priced available Caribbean three-star hotel double room in high season at $321.

Asked for a reaction to the St. John ranking, the general manager at Caneel Bay Resort told the St. John Source, “It’s expensive all over the Caribbean. “ Nikolay Hotze gave no sign he’s ready to lower rates. “I don’t see it as a negative,” he added.

Maho Bay’s future: nobody knows nothin’

Even Stanley Selengut, who founded the eco-tourism business nearly 40 years ago, is in the dark.

Four months after the $13.95 million deal was announced to sell Maho Bay Campground the identity of the buyer is still unknown.  So are his/her plans for the 13.8 acre waterfront property.

Selengut has just three weeks left to keep the tents and campsites open. His lease expires at the end of June. He spoke with Lynda Lohr of the St. John Source last week, telling her the new owner is “an environmentally-oriented billionaire who’s supposedly going to use it as a family estate.” 

The buyer has not contacted Selengut, either.  Which some people might consider rude, given that there’s a heck of a lot of work to be done between now and June 30 to clean up the campground.

A few weeks ago,  Selengut said he could stage the world’s largest garage sale to sweep the site of millions of dollars of beds, silverware, glasses, blankets and so on – anything that’s not attached to the ground.  That means the tents and the buildings will stay.

VI National Park – there’s a fragrance for that


The makers of Air Wick have gone into business with the National Park Foundation.

 St. John may benefit. 

"Our national parks provide us with the purest scents of nature," said Jerome Lemaire, marketing director for Reckitt Benckiser, the parent company of the air freshener product.  "We are thrilled to be partnering with the National Park Foundation to help our customers bring the outdoors in."

Air Wick has released  a line of sprays, aerosols, oils and scented candles inspired by four parks including the Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Yellowstone and Glacier Bay.  

The VI aroma is described as … "Paradise flowers evoke delightful notes of native Mimosa, Jasmine and White Rose, transporting you to the idyllic tranquility of the Park."

A portion of sales from the products will be donated to the foundation to "directly aid, support and enrich America's nearly 400 national parks and their programs."

The latest on Maho Bay’s future

Closing day may be drawing nigh but first-timers are still discovering Maho Bay Campgrounds.

The Blog of Maho says that despite plans to shut down and pack up after May 15th, “It’s been a very typical kind of season here at Maho, with plenty of happy guests,” both ‘veterans’ and ‘newbies’.

“The general mood and attitude around camp has been very upbeat and positive as all our guests seem to be visiting, enjoying, and making the most of their last vacation to Maho.”

The new owner of the the Maho site has still not been identified, nor have his/her/its plans for the land been made public.

Maho Bay Camps is not accepting reservations after the middle of May.

How to avoid the tourists

Beach 8578The dreaded daytrippers.  Folks who arrive on St. Thomas by cruise ship at 9 in the morning and pursue a whirlwind itinerary to St. John, a beach, lunch, and another beach. 

How to avoid them?  That’s what folks on TripAdvisor's St. John forum want to know.

“From what I’ve read, said MartinSpartan, “the best way to avoid the cruise ship crowds (at the north shore beaches) is to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon.”  What, he wanted to know, is ‘early' and ‘late’?

STJ4ME said forget about timing the sunbathers’ movements.  Forget the popular beaches and head to Maho, Francis, Dennis Bay, and Gibney. “Since you're (staying) in Coral Bay,” they added, “go to Vie’s and Lil Lameshur.”

Mindehankins said it is a matter of timing: avoid the beaches the days the cruisers are in. And she pointed to VINow.com’s schedule for ships.

NCsyracuse said one visit to Trunk and Cinnamon was all it took for them to swear off those spots. “Our favorite beaches are Maho, Francis, Salt Pond, and Lameshur

“By 2 p.m., when we consider the beach ‘crowded, we head back to the villa.”

St. John’s ‘secret beach’

OK, folks.  The Inquiring Iguana is about to give away the location of the island’s Best Secret Beach, according to Travel + Lesiure magazine. 

That’s the bad news.  The good news is that it is so far off the beaten path that even if everybody does know where it is, they’re not likely to be there.

Lameshur Bay Beach, “on the secluded southeast coast … a short, but bumpy drive from the luxuries of Caneel Bay.”

Snorkelers love the beach also, says the magazine, because it leads you to Beehive Cove which features caves and tunnels filled with marine life like sponges and corals.

Actually, Lameshur is not much of a secret.  Gerald Singer’s excellent St. John Beach Guide has a section about Lameshur.

The beach is on the south shore of St. John, and you get there by going through ‘downtown Coral Bay’, past Salt Pond, and just keep driving west.