My boyfriend and I set out for a romantic getaway after Thanksgiving. Nothing says sexy beach time after stuffing your face with turkey, sweet potatoes and more carbs I won’t name because I’m trying to go on a diet. After flying into St. Thomas, we were ushered to Caneel Bay’s private waiting room where fruit, cookies and other refreshments awaited us. A van transported us to a ferry where we embarked on the 30 minute commute to St. John, the smallest of the US Virgin Islands. A bit of advice to future visitors: there is nothing calm about this boat ride. Pull your hair back, secure lids on drinks, and unless you want to fantasize about being at Sea World, take shelter or you’re bound to get soaked.
As our water taxi coasted to the dock, I began to look around. No flashy CANEEL BAY sign? No grand lobby? Where were the rooms? Oh, there they were, blending into the background. At this establishment, the natural beauty of the island takes precedent over all. Nature rules, and so did our beach front room. Its minimalistic interiors lead to elaborate outdoor space. Welcome to my backyard, everyone!
Caneel Bay calls seven beaches home – one for every day of the week. Let’s count off, shall we?
1) Little Caneel Beach: This was literally my view for three straight mornings. Tucked away and utilized by only a handful of guests who call this “home” while on property, Little Caneel always made for a great start to the day.
2) Caneel Beach: Equipped with kayaks, paddle boards and sailboats, the most popular beach on the resort beckons adventurers and sun worshipers alike. Oh, and don’t forget the donkeys. 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 as they roam freely throughout the resort!
3) Honeymoon Beach: If you’re into turquoise waters and pretty sailboats, this one is for you. About a ten minute walk west of Little Caneel, Honeymoon Beach has all you need for some fun in the sun – kayaks, hiking, snorkeling tours and a beach hut for those Piña Colada cravings.
4) Scott Beach: Snorkel along the shores where the waters are gentle and ideal for listing along lazily. Make friends with a few turtles or sting rays!
5) Paradise Beach: This miniature haven, nestled at the end of Cottage Point prior to Scott Beach, is the perfect place to escape for serene moments of calm.
6) Turtle Bay Beach: Gaze down from Turtle Bay Estate House to the pristine white crescent of beach below and watch as boats travel between St. Thomas and Tortola.
7) Hawk’s Nest Beach: The first beach to catch the sunrise offers a quiet shady sanctuary in the afternoon.
Snorkeling gear is complimentary, so take full advantage of the underwater world. Sea turtle meccas and fish-filled reefs will keep you busy for a while. I chased a turtle for about 45 minutes, so I can tell you from experience.
The beaches of Caneel Bay are all you need in life, but if you want to stretch your legs, I’d suggest shopping in town, bar-hopping in town, or renting a Jeep to discover other beaches along the coast. Trunk Bay is popular among tourists, but a word of wisdom here: all of the cruise boat people come here, so it’s crowded. It’ll also set you back about $4 to gain access. My favorite is Oppenheimer Beach when the water is clear and the people are scarce. Two words: tire swing.
It’s no secret that the sun can drain a person, mentally and physically. There’s no better way to restore the mind and body than with a message overlooking the sea.
My favorite color is sunset, so I strive to see one nightly. On our catamaran cruise aboard the Island Dream Boat, we saw the most decadent sunset overlooking the water while sailing between British and US territory.
This section will surely blow that diet I was discussing above. Let’s get started. Sugar mill ruins are as prolific as palm trees here, so I wasn’t surprised to find one on site at Caneel Bay. What did surprise me was how innovative and scrumptious every single morsel was that I injected into my mouth. Zo Zos at the Sugar Mill is perched atop 18th century ruins where an open-air environment will charm just about any diner alongside the pistachio-encrusted mahi-mahi. NOM.
Another notable eatery is known as the Turtle Bay Estate House where neighboring island views and Executive Chef Nicholas Arnold’s dishes reign supreme.
Have you ever witnessed anything so beautiful before in your entire life? This Bloody Mary bar was something serious, and I was seriously going to drink one, or five. Using tomatoes and salt, Chef ran both through a cheese cloth to create a much lighter mix than what’s typically used for the drink. He put that same “healthier” spin on his mojitos by mixing in kale, kiwi and cucumber juices.
After the french toast, bloody marys, mimosas, and eggs benedict for brunch, we returned that night to sample every.single.dessert. that was on the menu after our delicious dinner. The Boston cream doughnuts had me at hello. It was a day of gluttony that I’ll never forget! And now that I’ve recapped it all, this is where I leave you. It’s time to go eat again. But not before…
Caneel Bay puts on 50-60 weddings a year, agreeing to celebrate only one bride per day. Whether a party of 200 is coming in for the nuptials or it’s solely the groom and his bride, the same amount of work goes into the set up at Caneel. With 170 acres to play with, wedding space is endless. Since St John is a US Virgin Island, no passport is necessary, making it even more desirable, as if the palm trees and donkeys weren’t enough.