Aug 122011

Ahhh, St. John.  My happy place!  It’s a place where green mountains and white beaches coexist in perfect harmony.  The land of painkillers (the infamous island drink from neighboring Jost Van Dyke) and petroglyphs.  A sparkling gem in the turquoise Caribbean.  An island known for gorgeous beaches AND great snorkeling (no trade-offs necessary).

St. John is home to my favorite resort in the Caribbean – Caneel Bay.  Caneel Bay was founded by the conservationist Laurance Rockefeller.  It was designed to blend seamlessly into the environment (it was the original eco-resort).

Caneel Bay Grounds

Scott Beach Accommodations

The 170 acre grounds are what distinguish Caneel Bay from your average Caribbean resort.  Each of its seven (yes, seven!) beaches has its own unique attributes, but they all share the same powdery, white sand and glistening turquoise water.  My personal favorite is Scott Beach, with its amazing snorkeling, seclusion, gentle waves…

Scott Beach, Caneel Bay

…and gorgeous sunsets.

Sunset Over Scott Beach

Sunset, Caneel Bay

That’s Me – Enjoying the View

Caneel Bay is situated in a national park (St. John is 3/5 national park).  Many creatures and critters call it home.  Don’t be surprised if you see deer, donkeys, mongooses and iguanas on the property (some even stroll on the beach).

Deer on Scott Beach

Resident Donkeys

If your idea of a great vacation does NOT include making new animal friends, you may want to look elsewhere. And similarly, those with a critter phobia may want to move on (this is the tropics after all).

Mr. Reeftraveler & the Resident Deer

Donkeys at the Sugar Mill Ruins, Caneel Bay

Caneel Bay’s beaches offer incredible shore snorkeling with excellent visibility (it’s my favorite shore snorkeling in the Caribbean). Scott Beach is a haven for green sea turtles that come close to shore to feast on the abundant sea grass lining the sandy bottom.  You don’t have to look very hard to find them.  They’re plentiful and unafraid, allowing you ample time to observe or photograph them.  You’ll also find many large southern stingrays nestled in the sandy bottom (remember the Stingray Shuffle here).  The rocky point between Scott Beach and Turtle Beach is home to dreamy coral gardens with brilliant purple seafans and glowing orange bommies.  You may also spot peacock flounder, reef squid, trunkfish, trumpetfish, moray eels, triggerfish and parrotfish.  For divers or those who want to learn, Caneel Bay has an on-site dive shop.

Caneel Bay’s main beach, Caneel Beach, is where you’ll find most of the action (which I usually try to avoid). Here you can find watersports, the beach bar, casual breakfast and lunch food and even servers that deliver drinks to guests in the water (here’s proof).

I like to think of Caneel Bay as an understated, eco-conscious, laid back luxury resort. You won’t find sunken bathtubs, ornate tiles or grand ballrooms here, but you will find a sense of peace and tranquility unmatched by any yoga class.  And personally, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Enjoying a Sunset Swim

So, where is your happy place?

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