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St. John Featured in Boston Globe

The “eco tents” at Concordia Eco-Resort, on St. John in the US Virgin Islands, look out on Drunk Bay and Salt Pond Bay.
Image courtesy of the The Boston Globe

Anyone who picked up The Boston Globe last weekend may have seen a familiar spot grace its pages. Check it out below:

On St. John, an eco-resort that’s all about sustainability

By Jack Sullivan, Globe Correspondent

Kermit the Frog famously lamented, “It’s not easy being green.” Though his complaint on “Sesame Street” focused on the trials of life as an amphibian, it can also apply to those who adopt environmentally sensitive standards in their daily lives.

It can be especially hard to take those principles along on vacation. Eco-living comes with sacrifice, which is, after all, the antithesis of vacation.

But vacationing on St. John in the US Virgin Islands demands that we take note of the impact of our carbon footprint. Nearly two-thirds of the verdant island, the smallest of the inhabited US-owned Caribbean archipelago, as well as the surrounding coral reefs and marine ecosystems are protected by the National Park Service. Water and power are at a premium. It’s difficult not to think about the human impact on such a delicate environment.

There is a selection of upscale resorts and villas on St. John catering to a variety of visitors, ensuring their stay has maximum comfort and amenities, but there are precious few that adapt to the nature of St. John and ask their guests to do the same. At the southeastern tip of the island, straddling Drunk Bay to the east and Salt Pond Bay to the south, Concordia Eco-Resort stands out by blending in.

Concordia is a family-friendly cluster of 25 “eco tents” and 17 resort-style studios set in the south-facing hillside among fruit trees, bushes, cacti, and native creatures. Prices run from $126 to $232 a night in the offseason to $175 to $289 in season, Nov. 15 through April 30. The accommodations range from rugged to comfortable, but one doesn’t stay at Concordia for the amenities.

This resort is not for everyone. A stay comes with challenges, ranging from composting toilets and garden hoses as showers in the tents to a series of more than 900 stairs throughout the resort, some of which require a climb to and from your unit that would rival the workout you’d get at the local gym.

Concordia, now in its 20th year of operation, is an ever-evolving eco-resort, owned by New York developer Stanley Selengut, dubbed the “father of sustainable resort development” by The International Ecotourism Society. All of the units here offer some level of sustainability, mostly through use of the campus-wide water collection and filtrations system. A photovoltaic power system is the primary source of electricity and there are no air conditioners or televisions. The studios have the most normal power resources, but “normal” is relative.

“Think of us as an eco-testing ground,” says Wayne Lloyd, Concordia manager and an ex-pat. (Full disclosure: Wayne and I knew each other in Westborough, though we lost touch for nearly 40 years until reconnecting a couple of years ago.) “We are always researching and applying the best new thinking in sustainable infrastructure. . . . None of the units are normal in the sense that you asked the question. The oldest and the newest are the most normal for folks expecting to be able to blow-dry their hair.”

The tents are the most rustic accommodation. They have wooden frames covered with canvas stretched across them, somewhat like a cabin, with mesh screens for windows and doors. There are 14 premium units and 11 regular eco-tents, the difference being location and the view. But the difference is a matter of spectacular versus extraordinary.

The tents are located along the hillside overlooking the bays and are cooled by the trade winds. Each has its own deck overlooking the ocean or the gardens; a cistern for water collection; a solar-heated water tank for the shower, which is stocked with biodegradable body wash and shampoo; a small solar array with a battery to power the fans and small lights; and a hybrid composting toilet that uses a flush system. Each unit has a two-burner propane stove and a small refrigerator, powered by the campus grid.

The eco-studios have several wall sockets for power but the tents have only one socket, for the refrigerator. If you need to use your smartphone or tablet, you can power them up at the office. The resort has spotty cellphone reception and Wi-Fi is available only near the office or by the pool.

Concordia is “dark sky compliant,” a movement designed to reduce light pollution and its effect on stargazing and nocturnal animals. Recently renovated units have LED lighting.

The resort is not exclusionary to guests with physical challenges, as long as those with accessibility needs are willing to face some hurdles. While Concordia does not market itself as ADA-compliant, five premium tents and three eco-studios offer accessible features. There is a boardwalk running through the spine of the campus to assist those who are in wheelchairs or unable to use the steep system of stairs, and there is sufficient room in the units and the bathrooms to navigate with a wheelchair.

Concordia’s location can make for a challenge in getting around the island without negating whatever carbon reduction you’ve made. Salt Pond Bay with its white sand beach is a short walk through a trail outside the office. But if you want to explore other beaches and trails, you either have to rent a car, call a taxi, or take the island’s bus system, which costs $1 and runs right by Concordia’s entrance.

The on-site Cafe Concordia offers breakfast and dinner, though it is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The office has a few provisions available, but mostly snacks and beverages. If you did not shop upon arrival, then you’ll have to either go out for dinner or find your way to either Coral Bay or Cruz Bay to buy groceries.

Concordia has an off-season program from June through October that offers free accommodations and reduced-priced meals in exchange for a minimal amount of work in renovating and cleaning up. Hundreds apply for the few dozen slots, which usually run about a month at a time. Many applicants have skills and trades that put them at the front of the list.

(Click here to read this article on The Boston Globe’s website.)

Want to learn more about Concordia? Click here to visit its website.

Beach, Boats, Sun, Rum & Reggae: Love City Live is Coming

Love City Live logo

Hey everyone, Love City Live is less than a week away. Have you bought your tickets yet?

For those of you unfamiliar with the event, Love City Live is a series of events that embody the festive spirit of the Virgin Islands’ culture and the Caribbean lifestyle. It’s super cool and shouldn’t be missed. The event has plenty of reggae music, happy hours, boat parties and more. Check out their schedule of events:

■  Wed Jan 22nd – Reggae Roadblock Happy Hour @ Motu Bar 4:30pm – 8:30pm
We kick things off with cocktails at the hottest new outdoor bar on St. John. *No cover*

■  Thu Jan 23rd – Hush…The exclusive All-Inclusive Villa Soiree 7pm -12am We convert a private villa into a swanky caribbean themed lounge.

■  Fri Jan 24th – Rockers All-White Beach Party @ Cruz Bay Beachfront 7pm – 1am. This ultra-sexy DJ beach event sets the tone for Love City Live!’s high energy weekend. Attendees will be treated to complimentary Caribbean Hors d’oeuvres, premium cash bars & an abundance of hot reggae tunes.

There will be a return ferry to Red Hook St. Thomas after the event. 

■  Sat Jan 25th – Beres Hammond “Live” in Concert – @ Winston Wells Ball Park (Cruz Bay – St John) …also performing D Harmani, Unity Band, Fyah Train Band, Final Faze & The Echo People. Gates open @ 4:30pm. Live performances begin
@ 5:30pm. Enjoy the full line-up of performing artists and our festival-like atmosphere of arts & crafts vendors; Ital/vegan food; Caribbean food; fresh coconut and premium bars. Get there early and “Indulge” in the full island roots experience.

Speedy’s will provide roundtrip ferry service from BVI. Depart Virgin Gorda 5:15pm. Depart Road Harbor 5:45pm. Return ferry service to Red Hook St. Thomas after the concert.

■  Sun Jan 26th – The Ultimate PowerBoat Party – It’s the ever-sexy wind down beach party of the Love City Live! weekend. All boats Sail to Sandy Spit then White Bay – Jost Van Dyke, BVI. Reserve your space on one of our PowerBoats now!

What it includes: your reserved space on the PowerBoat, drinks onboard, BVI customs fees, BVI departure tax, fuel charge, captains fee and one of the best days of your life!!!!

Click here to learn more about Love City Live and for ticket information.

Want to learn more about Love City Live? Watch this quick video below:

Full Moon Party in the Park Friday Night!

Who doesn’t love a full moon party?

The folks over at Cruz Bay Landing are holding a grand opening party to coincide with Friday night’s full moon. It’s going to be held in the park right across from the ferry dark. The party starts at 8 p.m. and continues to 11 p.m. Coco and the Sunshine Band will be on hand to provide some good entertainment.

So if you’re in the area, be sure to stop by!

Full Moon Party Jan 2014

Ceremonies of St. John: Wedding Locations

Trunk Bay is one of the island's most popular wedding spots. Photo by Crown Images.
Trunk Bay is one of the island’s most popular wedding spots. Photo by Crown Images.

St. John is a stunning backdrop for any wedding whether it be held on a beach at sunset or in a private villa overlooking the famed North Shore. We’d like to thank our friends at Ceremonies of St. John for putting together the following list of possible wedding locales.

The beach: Our first location is by far the most popular option for a St. John wedding. What a better backdrop than the white sandy beaches and turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Trunk Bay is the top wedding spot followed by Hawksnest beach. Sunset weddings are quite popular, although the time varies depending on the time of the year. Sunset weddings typically begin around 5 p.m. in the winter and 6 p.m. during the summer months. For those who prefer a morning wedding, the ceremony would occur before 10 a.m. when the beaches are still empty.

Some people think they can simply go to the beach and get married, but that’s not the case in St. John. The National Park requires every ceremony that takes place within the boundaries of the Park to have a wedding planner with a Commercial Use Authorization permit and only six planners are allowed to work within the National Park. (Just an FYI, nearly all North Shore beaches are within the National Park.)

There are few nuisances involved with beach weddings of which you should be aware. For example, only 50 people are allowed on the beach at one time. In addition, only 25 chairs are allowed on the beach at a time for a wedding ceremony. For those who choose to marry on Trunk Bay, the $4 per person entrance fee still applies until 4:30 p.m.

Glass is not allowed on the beach, nor is anything that can be shoved into the sand such as a sand ceremony table, cake table display, canopy or arch. A canopy or arch can be erected on the beach, but the posts cannot be buried into the sand. Nothing can be tied to the vegetation. If rose petals are used to create an aisle, the petals must be real and removed from the beach following the ceremony. Open flames, tiki torches, wish lanterns and amplified music are not allowed.

Photo by Crown Images
Photo by Crown Images
Photo by Crown Images
Photo by Crown Images

Annaberg Ruins:  Many people choose the Annaberg Ruins for the backdrop of their wedding. This option offers a good deal of privacy as only one wedding can be performed at a time at the ruins. Because of its location, most ceremonies at Annaberg begin roughly one hour prior to sunset. (Just an FYI, you cannot see the actual sunset from the ruins.)

Annaberg is more of a bare bones locations as there is not electricity and the only facility is a public bathroom located near the public parking lot. This bathroom does not have running water. And just like the beach weddings, open flames, tiki torches and wish lanterns are not permitted.

Image courtesy of Ceremonies of St. John
Image courtesy of Ceremonies of St. John

Sailboat: For those who opt to marry on the water, the ceremony must take place in US waters in order to be considered legal. The smaller charter boats can carry up to six passengers, or for a much larger ceremony, a catamaran can carry up to 60 guests.

Not all boat captains are approved to perform ceremonies, so you should check with your wedding planner first to see if the captain has been approved by the Virgin Islands courthouse. If the captain is not approved, a minister can go on the boat and marry the couple.

Image courtesy of Ceremonies of St. John
Image courtesy of Ceremonies of St. John

Private villas: In order to get married in a private villa, you must rent the villa for the week. Typically an additional fee will be charged in order to hold the ceremony and/or reception at the villa. Most villas only allow up to 35 guests and the villa owner must approve the event.

Image courtesy of Ceremonies of St. John
Image courtesy of Ceremonies of St. John
Image courtesy of Ceremonies of St. John
Image courtesy of Ceremonies of St. John

Church locations: Lastly for those wanting a more traditional wedding, there are several church options available. Specific rules must be followed. For example, the Catholic Church only allows a couple to marry if both people are Catholic. Also, priests can only marry couples inside of the Catholic church. Priests are not allowed to perform ceremonies outside of the church. You can bring a clergy member from your hometown, however that person must be approved to perform the ceremony by the Virgin Islands courthouse. A church rental fee will apply for all church weddings.

church wedding
Photo by Crown Images.

Ceremonies of St. John has been planning island weddings since 1996. If you would like more information about having your wedding on St. John, you can contact them the following ways:

Website: www.usviwedding.com
Toll Free: 1-888-282-3933
Local: (340) 693-7362
Email:  [email protected]

Another Cool Megayacht Visit

Yacht-Solemates

Where are all of my megayacht spotters/dreamers/lovers? Another beauty just cruised into St. John and this one’s rather impressive. And for the techies out there, you’re really going to like this one. Here are the details:

The yacht is called Solemates and to give you an idea of just how fancy it is, Forbes named it one of the world’s most outrageous yachts. Here’s what they had to say:

This 197-foot pleasure cruiser—which Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and his family recently chartered for $850,000 a week through the Luxury Yacht Group firm—is chock full of regal amenities. But its coolest draw is technological: It’s got a custom-made (and customizable) iPad app that allows passengers to control everything from the entertainment and climate systems to blinds and lights in their cabins through a mere tap on their touch-screens (14 iPads are available onboard).

Other perks include a slew of Jacuzzis and flat-screen LCD panels, an aromatherapy shower, and an outdoor gym that converts to a disco with an $80,000 light-and-sound system; among the toys are an inflatable floating trampoline, three remote-control racing sloops, waterskis in various sizes and Sea Bobs that let you zoom through the surf like a motor-powered dolphin.

Not too shabby. Solemates is currently stopped over near Soloman Bay. We’re sure how long it will be around and we’re also not sure who’s chartering it. If any of you catch a glimpse, feel free to send over your experience and/or images to [email protected]

Here’s a bit more about Solemates courtesy of CNN. They ran a story on the megayacht when P. Diddy chartered it a few years back.

What do you get when you combine the latest superyacht with an Apple iPad? Answer: The world’s most exclusive app.

Custom-made software from German luxury yacht firm Lurssen gives passengers control of everything but the captain’s steering wheel — all with the most leisurely brush of their iPad.

Solemates,” the first pleasure yacht to carry the technology, is currently playing host to flamboyant rap tycoon Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, girlfriend Kim Porter and their daughters D’Lila and Jessie, confirmed the yacht’s charter firm.

Using complimentary iPads, the millionaire mogul and his family will have control of all the shipboard entertainment and climate systems, the blinds and lights in their cabins, and could even have their Pina Coladas topped-up at the tap of an icon.

“You won’t find this app for download in the Apple store any time soon,” said Rupert Connor, central agent from chartering firm the Luxury Yacht Group. “The captain hands each guest their own iPad when they board, which they get to keep for the entirety of their trip.”

Connor, whose company is responsible for leasing “Solemates” on behalf of its owner, says that guests are given the option to customize the app’s homepage to suit their preferences.

“For instance, if we have a client who we know is a music industry bigwig, then we’ll program the app’s homepage to have a prominent shortcut to our high-speed media server’s music library, and we’ll do our research to make sure we have all the music they’d want to listen to.”

At $690,000 a week, plus expenses (which Connor conservatively puts at a further $150,000), the super-rich certainly get more than a glorified remote control when they step on board.

Aside from ultra-lux furnishings, a bounty of Jacuzzis and enough flat-screen LCD panels to tile a roof, Connor says “Solemates” also lets guests keep fit in style.

“We’ve a top-of-the-range al-fresco gym on board, but if you prefer keeping in shape on the dance floor then it converts into a disco, with an $80,000 integrated light and sound system,” he said.

And that’s not all. After a round on the inflatable floating trampoline, jet-powered surfboards or James Bond-style underwater “sea bobs,” whoever’s lucky enough to commandeer the master cabin can wash off in what Connor believes is the world’s first yacht-board aromatherapy shower.

“This is aromatherapy direct from the shower-head,” said Connor. “It comes in four different flavors: eucalyptus, pine needle, citrus, and peppermint.”

Now that’s fancy. Want to know more? Click here to check out Solemates’ charter site and click here to read the CNN article in its entirety.

Fun and Contentment: House Hunters-Featured Home Available for Rent

Advertorial
Fun Content Main

How many of you caught the new House Hunters International episode last night? For those of you who did, you saw Joe and Heather Kelley decide between three Coral Bay homes with Fun and Contentment making the final cut.

Well we have great news for you all today – Fun and Contentment is now available for rent and after receiving a slew of upgrades, it looks even better than it did on the show. Here are the details:

Fun and Contentment is a two bedroom, two bath home perched high above Coral Bay. Its views are simply amazing. See for yourself:

fun contentment view

fun content hot tub

Fun Content PoolNot only does Fun and Contentment have stunning panoramic views, it also has a private pool and hot tub as seen in the pictures above. The villa has a large, wraparound deck that provides ample outdoor space for dining, relaxing or to simply take in the views.

Fun and Contentment has a large, open style living space which is decorated with modern and stylish furnishings. Large sliding doors coupled with cathedral ceilings create an open, airy environment.

fun content living space

The two king suites offer quiet air-conditioned comfort, pillow-top beds with high thread count luxury linens and bedspreads to ensure your best nights sleep. One suite has its bathroom en-suite; the other shares its bath with the main room. To further meet every expectation, each bedroom has a 43′ plasma TV with cable and DVD, as well as iHome clock devices for access to your favorite music.

fun content master bedAnd for those villa gravity days or for those looking for modern conveniences, Fun and Contentment has a 50′ plasma TV with cable and DVD, a stereo with connection for your devices and interior and exterior sound, as an excellent selection of books, games and DVDs, as well as reliable, high speed internet.

All living spaces, plus decks, pool and hot tub are on one level as you enter in directly from the lushly landscaped and paved parking area. The parking area has room for several vehicles and has plenty of room to turn around.

Fun content parking

(The road leading to the villa is not paved. A four-wheel drive vehicle is necessary when renting this villa.)

And as incredible as Fun and Contentment looks in pictures, we can personally assure you that it’s even better in person. Joe and Heather invited News of St. John over to the villa last week and we were taken aback by its beauty. It is such a nice property for a couple, small families or friends, and the views just seemed to go on forever. We enjoyed a Corona out on the deck and watched a pretty good storm roll in. Fun and Contentment definitely gets News of St. John’s seal of approval.

Fun and Contentment rents for $350 a night and up depending on the season. To learn more or to book Fun and Contentment, please visit its website here.

It’s Really Happening!

After several months, work has finally begun on Centerline Road … woohoo!

See for yourself:

centerline work

centerline work 2

As we reported last year, work was supposed to begin back in September. It was also supposed to be completed by next month. Clearly that’s not happening, but hey, at least the repairs are underway. We’re pretty darn happy about that.

So we have to ask – how long do you all think this will take before it’s 100 percent completed? Leave your guesses in the comments section or over on our Facebook page.

New Coral Bay House Hunters Episode Premiers Tonight

house hunters sign coral bay

St. John will once again take center stage on television screens across the world as House Hunters International debuts a new island episode tonight.

The crew from HGTV’s House Hunters International spent three days in Coral Bay last June filming an episode with Re/Max Island Paradise Realty’s Diana Beam. The show followed Florida couple Joe and Heather Kelley as they searched for the perfect vacation home for their family.

The show will feature three Coral Bay villas – Fun and Contentment, Spyglass and Starlite Escape. Many of you guessed back in June which home the Kelleys chose, but you’ll have to tune in tonight to know for sure.

Here are the three villas the Kelleys had to choose from:

Fun and Contentment:

House Hunter 2

Spyglass:

House Hunters 1

Starlite Escape:

House Hunters 3

So why did the Kelleys choose St. John?

“For us it was all about the pure island nature of St. John,” Joe said. “The focus on the natural aspects of the islands, hiking, the beaches, etc. and the focus on conservation were really key.”

This latest House Hunters episode was filmed during a pretty rainy week, according to the Kelleys, so it will be interesting to see how it’s edited.

“The weather was a serious factor and required us to improvise some of the scenes,” Joe said. “And filming the unloading of the truck with our furniture took a creative approach when the truck could not make it up the hill to the villa.”

Another interesting thing about the shoot, in our opinion, is that the episode was filmed several months after the Kelleys had already purchased their home. Ah, the magic of television. You gotta love it.

Here’s what HGTV wrote about the episode titled “There’s No Place Like a Vacation Home” on its website:

After asking their daughter Caila to move 5 times by age 11 for their corporate careers, Joe and Heather Kelley seek some semblance of stability for her in an island vacation home on St John, US Virgin Islands. And while Heather only wants a small family villa with a view, Joe has higher demands for return on their investment with a larger and more profitable rental property. Real estate agent Diana Beam gives them every island option in and outside their budget, but ultimately it comes down to Caila’s comfort.

The episode premiers tonight, January 14, at 10:30 p.m. eastern standard time on HGTV. For folks on the island, you can catch it at 11:30 p.m.

Click here to read our original story about the filming.

6.5 Earthquake Hits North of Puerto Rico

Image courtesy of USGS National Earthquake Information Center
Image courtesy of USGS National Earthquake Information Center

Did anyone feel it? An earthquake of magnitude 6.5 hit north of Puerto Rico during the overnight hours. As of now, there are no reports of damage.

As a complete non-expert in the field of earthquakes, I have to say that 6.5 is a decent one. A 4.4 hit near St. John last year and the shaking was felt on many parts of the island.

Here’s the official info :

The January 13, 2014 M 6.4 earthquake north of Puerto Rico occurred as a result of oblique-thrust faulting. Preliminary faulting mechanisms for the event indicate it ruptured either a structure dipping shallowly to the south and striking approximately east-west, or a near-vertical structure striking northwest-southeast. At the location of this earthquake, the North America plate moves west-southwest with respect to the Caribbean plate at a velocity of approximately 20 mm/yr, and subducts beneath the Caribbean plate at the Puerto Rico Trench.  The location, depth and mechanism of the earthquake are consistent with the event occurring on this subduction zone interface.

While the Puerto Rico Trench is known to be a significant seismic hazard, and is capable of hosting M8+ earthquakes, moderate-to-large events on the subduction zone are rare. Over the past century, three such events have occurred nearby to the January 13, 2014 earthquake – a M 6.6 event in 1915, just to the east of the 2014 event; a M 7.0 earthquake 70 km to the west in 1917; and a M 7.6 earthquake in 1943 just northwest of the 2014 earthquake. Two earthquakes occurred in the Mona Passage approximately 100 km to the southwest of the 2014 earthquake in 1916 (M 7.0) and 1918 (M 7.3), while the 1946 M 7.9-8.0 Hispaniola earthquake struck 230 km to the west, also on the North America slab interface. The July 1943 North Mona Passage earthquake did not cause significant damage in Puerto Rico, though it did spawn a small tsunami, and was the first in a series of large events in the broader northern Caribbean region between central Hispaniola and Puerto Rico over the following decade, including the larger 1946 earthquake. The 1946 event is known to have caused significant damage in both Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, including destruction from a subsequent tsunami.

The earthquake info center has more info on earthquakes in the region. Click here if you’d like to read more.

Virgin Islands Named Top Place to Escape Winter

Image courtesy of Samantha-Brown.com
Image courtesy of Samantha-Brown.com

Like we had any doubts…

That crazy polar vortex seems to have subsided, but it’s still chilly in a good majority of the United States. Many of you, I’m sure, are dreaming of escaping the cold for warmer weather, white sandy beaches and beautiful turquoise waters. Hmmm, I wonder where that could be…

St. John of course!

Samantha Brown, of Travel Channel fame, just released a list of her favorite Caribbean spots to escape winter and the Virgin Islands made the cut. Here’s what she had to say:

The three islands that make up America’s Caribbean paradise have a lot to offer.  You could spend all your time on one island, but for a little more fun, plan a day or two on all three.  You’ll get a healthy dose of beaches, pampering, wildlife and colonial history.   If you are into hiking, you can explore 22 different trails within the Virgin Islands National Park (St. John) which contains Annaberg Plantation, Caneel Bay, Cinnamon Bay and Trunk Bay.  Take your camera and beach gear and spend the day at Magens Bay (St. Thomas), well-known for its photogenic coast and amazing swimming conditions.

Also on Samantha Brown’s list were:

  • Cayman Islands
  • St. Kitts & Nevis
  • Barbados
  • Turks & Caicos

Click here to read more about Samantha Brown’s top picks.

What do you think – think she got it right?