Luxury villa economizes with solar

The island's new luxury Eco Serendib Villa and Spa is fighting the territory's high electricity cost by going solar.

Florida-based ESA Renewables has installed a "photovoltaic energy generating solar array" on the roof of the resort which, according to ESA, is "frequented by discerning visitors from around the world."

“At Eco Serendib, we are not only dedicated to offering our guests a luxury environment that exceeds expectations, but also one that minimizes the carbon footprint,” said Harith Wickrema, the villa’s visionary. 

The villa expects to use the solar array to meet electric needs such as guest room power, pool pump equipment, the gourmet kitchen, and for external lighting. 

The 16kW rooftop solar energy generating system is expected to produce more than 23,360 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year by converting sunlight into pollution-free electricity. It is expected to offset over 35,512 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year. That’s the equivalent of taking over 1,100 cars off the road for a day.

Living large at Lovango

Capn Dan and Ruby spent their two weeks on St.John two different ways.  The first week, they stayed at a condo at Cruz Views, up Centerline and overlooking town.  The second week, they decamped to the luxurious, remote Lovango Beach House.

While the Inquiring Iguana counts among his friends the couple who originally built Lovango, and the new owner has remained an advertiser on NewsofStJohn.com (and an acquaintance), the reason to highlight the villa has nothing to do with those relationships.

It's just that Capn Dan and Ruby, took the time to write a detailed series of posts about their time at Lovango.  The house and its setting are unique, and reading about this couple's stay at the property is fascinating.  It's not your usual St. John Trip report.

Ruby wrote,"Lovango taught me that you don’t always have to be going and doing. Don’t go to Lovango if you need to go and do on a daily basis. Going over (to St. John ) at will is no longer an option. At first we were a bit put off by this inconvenience, but later we found it to be a blessing. My thoughts on creating a true stress relieving vacation are: find yourself a pleasant place and just relax, allow the sound of the waves, and the breeze to wash over you as you truly understand limin!"

You can find their Trip Reports on Virgin-Islands-On-Line.  The Lovango portion begins here.  To find the additional posts, search VIOL for "Lovango".

A deal at Caneel

In case you need reminding, time is fleeting.

Caneel video

Which is kind of the focus of a marketing video posted by Caneel Bay Resort on its Facebook page. There is no narrative; no plot, and no action.  

Caneel is running a summer special.  Now through August 26th, stay 5 consecutive nights in one of a Beach Front or higher room category and get the 5th night free.

$t. John Villa$ for the rich or famou$

The arrival of Eco Serendib got the Inquiring Iguana wondering how expensive can villa rentals be on the island?  The answer is very!

Eco Serendib is  near the high money mark – today.  For $20,000 a week in low season (high season may be 70% more, we hear) you get eight bedrooms, three cisterns, an organic vegetable garden, and all the other stuff: TV sets, infinity pool, air conditioning, master dining room, yada yada yada.

What about other villas?

An informal survey of villa management companies and rental agents has turned up a number of other high priced offerings for your summer getaway.

Alamer Until now, A La Mer has been considered the highest-priced spread on the island. our $28,500 on off season gives you the keys to seven bedrooms in the main house and cottage, enough space to sleep 22 people.  Features include the usual luxuries plus Sirius/XM radio and three washing machines. The villa's Web site is here.



Read more$t. John Villa$ for the rich or famou$

Westin to dump tons of sand on the beach

It's been six months, but the Westin Resort has still not recovered entirely from the wind and rain and water and erosion wrought by Hurricane Otto last October.

While the grounds and buildings have been repaired and improved, the beach is still a problem.  

The resort's management has now gotten approval from St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee to "renourish" the beach, the St. John Source reported.

Beach(Westin Resort photo)

Read moreWestin to dump tons of sand on the beach

Live the villa life at $20,000 a week

The owners of a new property at Point Rendezvous seem to be betting that the good old days are coming back.

Eco Serendib Villa and Spa opens for business next month offering "a new level of eco-friendly ultra-luxury" with eight suites, a spa,, gym and "epicurean Theater kitchen featuring sub-zero appliances.  Price tag: an introductory cost of $20,000 for a week. (One source says winter season, the place will go for $35,000.)

"Everyone dreams of having a private villa of their own in the Caribbean, whether to just get away with family and friends, experience a wellness journey or hold an event of a lifetime such as a wedding," explained Harith Wickrema, the villa's manager. 

"Our credo is to provide experiences that entertain, excite, educate, provide escapism and aesthetics," said Wickrema, who is a nationally recognized event planner. "It is also our mission to offer our influential guests an opportunity to experience the benefits of spending time at a destination designed with the Earth in mind."  He explained that the Villa's goal is not necessarily to be "a 100% ecologically pure resort" but, rather, to show the discerning traveler how luxury and ecologically sensitive products and designs can co-exist in total harmony.  

"We seek to redefine luxury," he said, "so that it becomes less about self-indulgence and more about self awareness in the world we all share."

Read moreLive the villa life at $20,000 a week

Park’s Red Hook dock closing for weeks

The Red Hook ferry to St. John could be pretty crowded for the next few months.  

That's because the dock used by the Westin Resort, Caneel Bay, and the National Park to bring its guests and workers to St. John will be out of service.

The Park Service's Red Hook dock, across the bay from the Port Authority's dock, is going to be repaired. According to the St. John Source, it will be three weeks until a temporary platform is available as a temporary replacement.

It's not known whether the Caneel and Westin and Park Service boats will shift their operations to the public dock – but that would make sense.  So, the odds of it happening are …?

The cost of replacing the dock and covering its supports in concrete … about $600,000 … will be covered from Trunk Bay admission fees and charges to boaters using the Park's overnight moorings, the Source reported. Completion of the work is hoped for by June.

  • Read the full St. John Source story here

How to save $96 at the Westin

When it comes time to leave the Westin St. John, you have two choices. 

  • The public ferry to Red Hook ($6, plus $2/bag) or Charlotte Amalie ($12 plus $2 a bag),
  • The Westin's ferry, which will set you back $30 a person.

For a family of four, taking the public ferry to Red Hook, with carry-ons, that works out to $24. For a family of four from the Westin, it's $120.

That's how you can save $96. Enough for dinner somewhere.

Rafting Caneel Bay Resort

A long time ago, in a land far away, Mrs. Inquiring Iguana and II stayed at Caneel Bay Resort.

The main beach was heaven.  The sand ws white, the sun caressed the beach late into the afternoon, and my favorite place on earth soon became the raft out in the water. Nothin' like swimming out there, after a lunch of Bloody Marys, and falling asleep on its gritty surface.  The fact an occasional turtle would pop its head above the water as you paddle out was just a bonus.

In the middle of last week, Mrs. II and II went to Caneel, had lunch (now the home of the $47 hamburger), and set up shop on the beach.

"What's different," I inquired of her.  "Dunno," she said. 

"I do.  There's No raft."

Here's proof.

Then, with some friends visiting from Maine, we went to Caneel for lunch and then some beach time. 

Guess what, sports fans?  The raft is back!!! Looks like it got some fresh paint, and it's on the job.  Hoo-ray!


Calm down! Hotel tax rate hike is only from 8% to 10%

The Governor is proposing to increase the hotel tax 25 percent, the first increase since 1993.

The current rate is 8 percent. It is levied on all villa, condo, and hotel accomodations and generally passed along directly to visitors. The new rate would be 10 percent and extended to also include timeshare rentals.

All funds will be applied to the territory’s Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund which is used by the Department of Tourism to implement marketing and advertising campaigns to attract visitors.

“It is essential that we take the necessary steps to level the playing field for attracting visitors to our islands,” said Commissioner Nicholson-Doty.  “By leaving our room tax rate unchanged over the last 17 years, we have placed ourselves at a competitive disadvantage for marketing the destination while other destinations have adjusted to meet market conditions and have outspent the U.S. Virgin Islands."

By comparison, some nightly room tax rates in other destinations are markedly higher. Puerto Rico's is 24%, the Dominican Republic is 15%, and the Bahamas is 10%.