St. John's Caneel Bay Resort Offers Laid-Back Luxury
There are sunsets, and then there are those spectacular sunsets that awaken the senses, allowing a deep appreciation for nature’s beauty. I’m talking sunsets that change the sky from navy, to golden amber, to jet black just like clockwork. The ones that are as aesthetically pleasing to the eye as they are healing to the soul.
At Caneel Bay Resort on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, prepare for a stunning sunset each evening. The best way to view one? Board a catamaran for a sunset cocktail cruise to enjoy light bites and beverages with front-row seating at the best show in town. Ask the bartender for a “Painkiller” cocktail, the island’s signature drink, which incorporates a perfect blend of rum, pineapple and orange juices, and cream of coconut topped with nutmeg. It will put you in island mode while sailing along the Caribbean shores.
Once you have your sunset fix, head to Zozo’s Ristorante for an Italian feast. The restaurant is set atop the ruins of an 18th-century sugar mill, providing panoramic views of the island. If you look out in the distance, St. Thomas’ twinkling lights are visible. But no need to wonder about over there—Caneel Bay Resort is a destination for those looking to escape life’s hustle and bustle. After all, the lighting is low and the mood is just right.
Laurance S. Rockefeller discovered Caneel Bay Resort in the early ’50s during a sailing trip and made it his mission to keep the land as pristine and untouched as possible—so untouched that not much has changed during the past 61 years. Set on a private peninsula among 170 acres of land in the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park, the eco-resort abounds with lush, natural surroundings, making this the ultimate low-key luxury destination guests would expect for a true getaway. Plus, Caneel Bay Resort’s natural setting helps visitors disconnect.
Choose from one of 166 spacious guest rooms on property featuring either a patio or second-story balcony, many of which are newly renovated, but don’t expect to lie in bed catching up on your favorite series. There are no TVs. You’ll receive a note from the resort, (and a bottle of Cruzan aged rum) encouraging guests to “take a few moments upon arrival to embrace the beauty surrounding you.” With guest rooms featuring glass windows looking out on the abundant stretch of ocean—not to mention it takes a mere five steps to get to those same waters—you wouldn’t want to stay inside. Not when seven white-sand beaches, each ideal for a mix of relaxation and fun, are at your disposal.
Instead, spend your days laying out, soaking in the rays, or renting complimentary kayaks, paddleboards and beach floats for the day. Stay fit with tennis courts and morning yoga and Pilates sessions.
What’s not to miss is partaking in an eco-tour, led by a Caneel Bay Resort staff member. The three-hour session begins with kayaking along the resort before landing at Scott Beach. It’s then time for an adventurous hike through the forests, stopping along the way at lookout points among the national park to snap a photo. You’ll receive insider knowledge, learn about the vast landscape and even have the chance to mingle with the island’s wildlife. Small packs of friendly donkeys who were imported during the 18th century to assist in sugarcane production now roam free. Finish off the eco-tour by snorkeling, where you’ll swim up close with sea turtles. Known for having the most pristine white-sand beaches in the Islands, Caneel Bay Resort’s effect on guests not wanting to get out of the crystal-clear waters is typical, but having worked up an appetite, it’s best to explore the food offerings.
Head on over to one of several dining spots for an afternoon pick-me-up. The Sushi Bar at the Beach Bar & Grill offers a selection of out-of-this-world sushi rolls and sashimi. (The St. John Roll and Sandy Beach Roll are musts.) Complimentary tea is served at the elegant Turtle Bay Estate House each afternoon, or stop by Canella for grab-and-go smoothies, panini, pastries and more.
Reach full relaxation by booking a spa treatment during which you can lie in a cabana and unwind with the sweet sounds of rolling ocean waves crashing nearby. Receive the Wireless Relief Massage to work away all the knots and stresses from days spent on the phone and computer.
Before wrapping up your stay, it’s worth it to head into town to explore the local scene. Shop your way among quaint boutiques, and enjoy happy hour at cool dives like The Longboard and The Beach Bar. Live music and toasting the evening with friends and family is the way to go out with a bang.
The sky will once more change colors on the horizon, but this time, be sure to take a mental snapshot of Caneel Bay Resort’s colorful canvas. Embrace the moment of pure serenity and remember it for days to come before your next adventure awaits.
Caneel Bay Resort, North Shore Road, Cruz Bay, SJ, U.S. Virgin Islands; 340.776.6111; caneelbay.com