Written by lovethecaribbean on 18 Oct, 2008
Snorkeling and Beaches—All I can say is WOW! The Virgin Islands had the most beautiful beaches and snorkeling I have ever seen—I’ve been to lots of Caribbean islands, and there were the best in my opinion. I always judge snorkeling by seeing things I had…Read More
Snorkeling and Beaches—All I can say is WOW! The Virgin Islands had the most beautiful beaches and snorkeling I have ever seen—I’ve been to lots of Caribbean islands, and there were the best in my opinion. I always judge snorkeling by seeing things I had never seen before—now I don’t think there is much that I haven’t seen. Here’s my beach/snorkeling pick list for St. John: Most beautiful beach—Hawksnest (our favorite in general!) Best beaches for seclusion—Jumbie, Gibney Best snorkeling-Waterlemon Cay, Henley Cay, Jumbie, Salt Pond Best all around beach (nice beach, good snorkeling, good food)-Caneel Bay Other beaches we visited-Frances, Maho, Cinnamon, Trunk Devers-our villa’s beach—very rocky but supposed to have good snorkeling on the right side. I saw a jellyfish shortly after getting in the water so I got out pretty quickly. Reef Bay-pretty beach, but the water was way too rough for snorkeling that day. Hawksnest- This was our favorite beach-just gorgeous! We went to this beach twice. The first time the water was very calm and clear. Saw lots of fish near the rocks in between Hawksnest and Gibney. Also snorkeled the reef in the middle of the bay. We saw a stingray with a fish following it, a baby squid, lots of fish and coral with some fish I hadn’t seen before. The second time we went the water was too rough and not clear enough for snorkeling. Gibney-Swam here from Hawksnest—there were only a few people on Hawksnest, but noone on Gibney. This is a picture perfect beach second to Hawksnest. Saw much of the same fish as Hawksnest. Cinnamon Bay-Also a pretty beach, but there were more people here. Snorkeled by the island –didn’t see anything spectacular, but did see a few trunk fish. Jumbie-Loved this beach for solitude and snorkeling. There was just one other couple when we got there who had dinghied in, and they left before we did so we then had it to ourselves. I saw a fish that was shaped like a trumpet fish, but it had a blueish/purple face. Also there was a large piece of brain coral that had these red flower looking animals on it. When they "sensed" me hovering over them, one by one they disappeared into the coral, except for one that stayed around. Trunk-Went there early in the morning hoping to beat the cruise ship rush. It was a beautiful beach, but the waves were quite large that day. We still managed to do some snorkeling on the trail and around the island. Saw more fish and coral than I had expected. Saw a large variety of fish, including a couple of the brown and white trumpet fish which I had never seen before that day. We left after about 2 hours when the cruise shippers started rolling in. Francis Bay-This was also a beautiful beach, but it was a little rough that day and there was no visibility. We made the mistake of putting our stuff on a picnic table near the rocks. The waves kicked up and took my husbands flippers and snorkel with them. I was out in the water at this time, but he was sitting right there and didn’t notice for quite a while! We luckily spotted the flippers floating out in the water far, far away, so I swam out and got them. He owed me big time for that! Maho Bay-We stopped by here, but the conditions were much like Francis and there was hardly any beach to sit on, so we skipped it. Caneel Bay- The beach here was also gorgeous, very uncrowded and had great snorkeling to the right of the beach near the rocks and point. This was right after going to Frances and Maho, and the water was just so much clearer and calmer. We had a tough time deciding between the villa and Caneel Bay and being here almost made me wish we had stayed here, but I just don’t think I could give up our private pool, Jacuzzi, and garden showers at the villa. Back to the snorkeling! The snorkeling was almost as nice as Salt Pond-This was also a pretty beach, but seemed to have more rocks than the others. The hike getting there wasn’t bad at all, but coming back, that was a killer! I’m so glad we went because we got to see more of the island and stop by Coral Bay. Again, I digress. Snorkeled mostly to the left of the beach near the rocks and point. I saw quite a few fish I hadn’t seen yet—but I don’t know what most of them are called! Saw quite a few trunk fish, and a hound fish pretty close up, so that was great. Also hung out for a while in the middle of the bay hoping to see a turtle, but had no such luck. Close
Boat Trip- We rented a 25 ft cuddy w/ captain from Ocean Runners. This was an expensive day, but also the most fun day of the entire honeymoon! Our captain’s name was Joel and I highly recommend him. He was very knowledgeable about the island…Read More
Boat Trip- We rented a 25 ft cuddy w/ captain from Ocean Runners. This was an expensive day, but also the most fun day of the entire honeymoon! Our captain’s name was Joel and I highly recommend him. He was very knowledgeable about the island and it’s history, gave us great snorkeling tips and handled the boat perfectly (he also was easy on the eyes!). We started off with a snorkel at Waterlemon Cay—this I think was the best snorkeling of the entire trip. It was gorgeous, vibrant colors everywhere. I saw turtles, huge starfish, barracuda, and a flounder looking fish (beige and brown). I had seen one of these before in Cozumel, burrowed in the sand, but this one was swimming and it was cool watching it swimming in the water, it looked so graceful. (though I have a feeling he isn’t a flounder). We then went to clear customs in Tortola and headed out to Norman Island to snorkel at the Caves. Unfortunately a large boat beat us to it. We tried snorkeling into one of the caves, but people kept swimming into me, so I decided to get out of there. There was lots of coral and fish around there though and it was beautiful. We then headed over to the Indians. There were only two other people snorkeling there, so we liked that. I thought there were much more fish and coral here than in Norman. Saw a huge houndfish and some moon jellies (which still scared me, even though I hear they don’t usually sting, I still tried to avoid them). It was lunchtime, so we headed over to the Jost and had lunch at Foxy’s. He was there singing, so that was a lot of fun. Then went to the Soggy Dollar—that beach is gorgeous! We were about to head over to Sandy Cay and Sandy Spit when a squall came up. So we took cover at Sydney’s Peace and Love. We must have had good timing—right as we entered the bar it started pouring. This place is known to have great lobster and my husband would have enjoyed that, but they make everything to order and it takes a LONG time, so we just had some drinks. Joel said that guests make their own drinks here and hopped behind the bar to make ours. I have never been to a bar like that! After enjoying the drinks the rain finally stopped and we were off. First we stopped by Sandy Cay, its so pretty. But then you get to Sandy Spit and I thought it was gorgeous. I wouldn’t mind being stranded there, well maybe only for a few hours. We then headed over to Lavongo and Congo Cay for more snorkeling. But the visibility wasn’t very good probably because of what the squall earlier that day had kicked up. We then headed back to St. John for one last snorkel stop at Henley Cay. It used to be Caneel’s honeymoon suite until the park took it back—I think that would be a great place to honeymoon! He said he doesn’t always bring people here, because it depends on the current. The snorkeling here was great because there were so many different types of coral to see and tons of fish. I just can’t say enough good things about Joel and Ocean Runners. It was so nice to have the boat to ourselves and go to all the places we wanted, plus some great suggestions from the captain when we had some extra time. Close
Written by ripplefan2 on 24 Jun, 2007
While on we were on St. Thomas, my brother and sister-in-law decided to take us all around and explore. They picked us up at the ferry from St. Thomas with a Jeep they had rented, gave us all breakfast and then we headed off. The…Read More
While on we were on St. Thomas, my brother and sister-in-law decided to take us all around and explore. They picked us up at the ferry from St. Thomas with a Jeep they had rented, gave us all breakfast and then we headed off. The first stop on their agenda was a place called Lameshur Bay on the other side of the island. This is a secluded beach over the mountains with amazing nature trails. We pulled right into this three car parking lot, suntan lotioned and bug sprayed ourselves and headed off on the hike up the mountain. Our hosts had done this hike a couple years earlier while on their honeymoon and wanted us to experience it. With the beach to our right calling us with its cool, crystal clear waters, it was hard not to jump right in but with the promise that after our hike it would feel that much better, we headed off. The hike started on a rather level plateau then slowly escalated to a higher degree. Please, bring comfortable walking or hiking shoes and not sandals like I did. The trail is filled with large, sharp cornered rocks that have been slightly weathered from the constant summer rains that run down this trail like a skier. Also, every now and then, a hermit crab on its pilgrimage from the bottom to the top of this mountain will jump out at you and try to take a snap. Keep an ever watchful eye out. A little more than half way up this trail, there is a sort of rest area that consists of a giant black rock and a breathtaking view of the island and the water. Do not forget your water bottles and ration yourself well because after you get to the top, you still have to come back down. After the rest area, our hike continued in full swing up a narrow pathway in the overgrowth that only exists in mountains. When we finally reached the top, we were greeted with cooler temperatures and a large pool of water that seemed to have a dried up waterfall above it. However, that wasn’t the coolest part about being there; there were actual old hieroglyphics embedded in the rocks from the old natives that once inhabited the island. No one seems to know what the hieroglyphics mean but they are everywhere. What is also everywhere are those vagabond hermit crabs. Hundreds of them had made their way to the top of this mountain and were basking in the cool temperatures and plentiful water. After a well deserved rest and downing a goblet of water, we decided it was time to submerse ourselves in the cool waters that Lameshur had to offer. The hike down is actually more treacherous then the way up because gravity kind of takes control of your feet and your speed is faster and less controlled. You almost feel like a drunken bobsledder hitting the turns at all of the wrong moments and still pushing through. Coming out of the woods and seeing the endless miles of cool water, none of us could control ourselves, so we grabbed our snorkel gear and jumped right in. The cool waters felt great over our extremely overheated bodies. The one down side to the water front there is that the shoreline is lined with rocks that are anything but welcoming on the feet. Try to put your flippers on before you head in to avoid that unpleasantness. But overall, the waters are so clear, you can see forever and the things living there are extremely curious about you and follow you around all day. If you are looking for a day of none touristy things to do with a minimal amount of damage to be done to the wallet, Lameshur Bay is the ideal place for you. When you get there, you can ask your hotel which is the best way to get there, since there are plenty of options. But be savvy and don’t ripped off. Remember, these places survive by tourism and will try to squeeze every dime out of you. Anyway, try out Lameshur Bay, it's great. Close
Written by AgedToPerfection on 13 Sep, 2006
The largest underwater national park in the United States is in St. John. Almost half of the Virgin Islands National Park is submerged and boasts spectacular snorkeling and diving. Pack up your snorkel gear, towels, some fresh rinsing water, and head out. If you see…Read More
The largest underwater national park in the United States is in St. John. Almost half of the Virgin Islands National Park is submerged and boasts spectacular snorkeling and diving. Pack up your snorkel gear, towels, some fresh rinsing water, and head out. If you see a spot, pull over and jump in. Here is our tour of the beaches starting from the west side of the island.Great Cruz Bay: The Westin is located here on the west side of the island. Because boats moor here outside the national park, the water is murky. However, kids love the water trampoline and climbing hill.Cruz Bay: Downtown St. John where most of the boats and cruise ships moor is not a good place to snorkel but a terrific place to stroll and catch a sunset.Hawksnest Bay: Some say Hawksnest Bay has the best snorkeling because of the reef. But the coral and the waves made for tough swimming. The coral grows in shallow water so be careful not to harm it or yourself. If you snorkel here, go during high tide so that you snorkel safely above the reef.Maho Bay: This long stretch of powdery sand felt as if I was walking on velvet. The long beach contributed to the calm water. We saw fascinating animal life despite the monotonous sandy bottom. Fish congregate along the rocky left side of Maho. Rays and a sea turtle meandered by as we hovered over them. As an added surprise, a wild donkey stopped by to say hello as we were leaving. Waterlemon Bay: If you snorkel here, be prepared. My husband called the only restroom here one of the scariest experiences of his life. He likened it to the Flukeman episode of The X-Files. The 15 minute walk is enough to deter someone. The hike is easy on flat ground but becomes unstable over the rocks. Note that brush and dense forest lies behind the beach, making a humid home to mosquitoes. Here I received most of the mosquito welts from our trip. The snorkeling was fair due to the boats moored in the bay. But we saw several turtles due to the abundance of sea grass, and spent two hours there.Salt Pond Bay: We drove to Salt Pond Bay on the south side. This was the last stop on the paved road. We parked in the small lot at the top of the hill and walked 10 minutes down to the beach. The hike is easy but sloped so don’t carry too much equipment. Note there is little shade so have sun protection. The snorkeling here was eventful as there was a black tip shark sighting when we were in the water. We saw our first ray and followed it along the length of the bay. We found most of the fish at the rocky area on the left. Unfortunately, on the day that we went, the visibility was approximately 8 feet. Close
Written by PabloDiablo on 28 Jun, 2000
St. John is the smallest and most beautiful of the three main American Virgins, but as such it presents a trade-off to travelers looking for social excitement. On this island there isn't really much, especially at night. There are a few bars around…Read More
St. John is the smallest and most beautiful of the three main American Virgins, but as such it presents a trade-off to travelers looking for social excitement. On this island there isn't really much, especially at night. There are a few bars around Cruz Bay, and they can be fun for a little while. In fact, one of them (I can't remember the name) was holding hermit crab races one night. So we picked one, named it, and for $3 Reginald was entered into the circle. Problem was, Reginald didn't leave the circle. Oh, he moved a little during the first race. After that, though, it was all downhill for the little guy. He was so bad he even came up short in the loser contest--he was the SECOND to last crab to finally move. Idiot. He looked so speedy in the bucket...
Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, the lack of nightlife. This is a nature-oriented island, which is great when the sun is out, but after a while some of you may want to do more than stargaze at night. There are clubs, livelier bars, movie theaters and such just across the water in St. Thomas, and the ferry that runs between the two takes about half an hour to get between Cruz Bay and the Charlotte Amalie, the main city on St. Thomas. If you're looking for nightlife, I'd suggest going there. I was quite happy just enjoying nature, though, for the most part. Close
Written by lilbear on 06 Jan, 2005
Travel from a large airport such as Denver to the island of St. John is an adventure in itself. Flights from anywhere must terminate at Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, as St. John has no air facilities at all. Caneel Bay Resort has thought of…Read More
Travel from a large airport such as Denver to the island of St. John is an adventure in itself. Flights from anywhere must terminate at Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, as St. John has no air facilities at all. Caneel Bay Resort has thought of that and supplies the necessary transportation across Pillsbury Sound to the hotel. Once off the plane on St. Thomas, it is only necessary to check in at the Caneel Bay kiosk inside the airport, then retrieve one’s luggage. That done, the porters transfer the baggage to vans while you relax with a cold drink in their lounge. Once all resort guests are accounted for, you load into the van for a short drive to the ferry across to St. John. The Caneel Bay ferry is privately run by the resort, so there is no need to determine which boat to board, etc. It’s all taken care of, and it’s a large enough boat to make the crossing of the sometimes choppy three-mile sound fairly comfortable.
Once at the dock, which is literally steps from the check-in desk, we were greeted by resort staff who promptly escorted us to our rooms. The luggage was delivered a few minutes later. Caneel Bay is arranged on a peninsula on the north side of St. John and is totally surrounded by ocean and beaches on three sides. At night, it is a little difficult to get one’s bearings, as the paved cart paths curve around among the native shrubbery, blocking any direct views of the ocean until you are at your room. Every block of rooms either faces the ocean directly across the beach or is a very short walk to the beach.
Our favorite location on the resort is at Hawksnest Bay, a beautiful crescent-shaped white beach facing the morning sun. The rooms are on either the ground or the second floor, and we have enjoyed both, preferring the upper level because the sound of the surf and the cooler breezes reach the upper rooms a bit more unrestrictedly. Each room has air-conditioning, which is welcome during the hottest months, but rooms also have louvred panels that can be opened to allow the sea breeze to flow through. Though Caneel Bay is a luxury resort, I can not honestly tell you that you will appreciate it as much as a luxury resort in a large city. The atmosphere is part of the resort’s ambience and could be described as more "luxury-rustic." The entire experience is one of living on the beach, yet with clean, comfortable accommodations and great food.
At Caneel Bay, you can participate in as many activities as you want, or you can choose to relax on the beach and do absolutely nothing--and everything in between. We chose to swim and sit on the beach for the most part, but the small port of Cruz Bay, just over the hill, has some neat shops. A sightseeing tour of the six-by-nine-mile island is also a worthwhile endeavor. The resort has seven beaches, each slightly different but all with excellent snorkeling. Hawksnest Beach has wonderful reefs at each end of the beach, and it is possible to swim across to the public beach at Hawksnest Bay, but why do that when you can have the beach pretty much to yourself? Beaches on the west side of the resort face St. Thomas and have complimentary kayaks, as well as sunfish sailboats, for resort guests. The one beach on the north end of the resort, Turtle Beach, faces out across the sound towards other islands, including Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands--just a six mile sail--and offers views of sea turtles, usually in the early mornings. Just offshore, the water deepens and the cold current off the ocean sweeps through, allowing the cooler water closer to shore. It is a common sight to see the island ferries making their way around that point of land on their way to and from Tortola, as well as the other islands in the BVI.
Restaurants and food service at Caneel Bay are expensive. Of course they are. There isn’t a food supplier on the island to send out a semi-truck every couple of days to restock large freezers. Everything on the island must be brought in by boat, and you can bet the freight prices are as high as the market will bear. These local people have to make a living, too, and the cost of living out there on the islands is not cheap. Enjoy the fact that the food is fresh, the service is great, and the people are friendly. I offer that to say that this island is surviving primarily on tourism, and there is no other primary industry on the island, other than building luxury homes on vertical cliff faces. It’s still worth the expense, as far as I am concerned. Bear in mind that, though the Virgin Islands are a U.S. territory and have representation back Stateside, the population does not get to vote in U.S. elections, so they still run their "nation" the best they can.
Our favorite restaurant on the resort is Turtle Bay. That restaurant has the only public air-conditioned room on the peninsula and is recommended, as nighttime temperatures in late April and May can stay as high as 95 degrees, and until June, men are required to wear a jacket for dinner there. The food is excellent. My favorite is the caper-encrusted sea bass, but other items on the menu are equally good. The other two main restaurants on the resort are the Caneel Bay Terrace, which is where the breakfast buffet is served each morning, and The Equator, which is built atop the sugar mill ruins just across from the main office. The Equator is not air-conditioned but sits atop a hill and is open to the sea breezes, making it very comfortable in the evenings. The other food service, and one of our favorites, is the Caneel Beach Bar, where a great hamburger can be had. The beach bar has covered seating on a first-come, first-served basis and is literally steps from the Big Caneel Beach, right next to the dock where the ferry arrives. There is a veranda between the beach bar and the beach, and it has a nicely ventilated second-floor level that overlooks the beach. It's a great place to relax and regroup after a trip to town or when returning from shopping over on St. Thomas.
Our experiences at Caneel Bay run the gamut from sublime indulgence to rustic survival, as it is possible for nearly anything to happen due to the remote location of the island. On one occasion, following a day-long sail to Jost Van Dyke and back, we returned to the resort only to find the water system shut down due to a failed valve at the water reservoir. The problem was repaired, and the water system was back in working order within an hour of our return, and that was about the worst of it. I do recommend, if you have a sensitive digestive system, that you ensure you have a supply of bottled water in the fridge that each room has. The local water is supposed to be purified through a filter system, but it has a definite taste to it.
As a word of warning for those who just can’t pry themselves away from work, Caneel Bay has no phones, clocks, or televisions in the rooms! There is one TV in the Caneel Beach Bar, and phone service is available through the resort office. Cell phones, however, seem to work fairly well on both St. John and St. Thomas, as long as your carrier is AT&T. Obviously, that also means there is no Internet service on the resort. One shop in Cruz Bay offers Internet service priced by the minute, should you just not be able to resist.
Should you be considering a trip to Caneel Bay, I recommend reading up on the history of St. John. Learn about the Indians and the sugar plantations before arriving, and you will have a good idea of how the population became what it is. Over 70% of the island is also national park, and there are hiking trails to explore. It is not, however, like the national parks you may be used to, so plan accordingly. The national park has a web page that tells about everything you’ll need to know. Maps of the island are also available on that web page.
I hope this has given you some insight to the Caneel Bay resort and a little taste of the island life on St. John. I can’t live out there full-time, so I am content to go to the resort and take lots of pictures so I can relive the experiences.
Written by pepperpot on 23 Nov, 2004
For the Dude and me, a trip to the beach at the ultra-deluxe Caneel Bay resort was a mere pretext. You see, a few days before, we’d been on a taxi-shuttle to Cruz Bay when it had happened to stop at the resort to let…Read More
For the Dude and me, a trip to the beach at the ultra-deluxe Caneel Bay resort was a mere pretext. You see, a few days before, we’d been on a taxi-shuttle to Cruz Bay when it had happened to stop at the resort to let off a couple of passengers. To our surprise, we’d spotted some colonial ruins—very interesting-looking ones, too—nearby on the resort’s meticulously landscaped grounds.
This struck us as awfully unfair. Undemocratic. Hell, almost un-American. Where did this… this… exclusive resort, this playground of the rich and famous, get off keeping all the best ruins to itself? The Dude’s populist sensibilities revolted; and from that moment on, he was a man obsessed. We knew that the resort’s grounds—along with its main beach, one of no less than seven, if you’ll believe it—were open to the public. So we’d come back one day to hit the beach, do a little snorkeling—and get a closer look at the ruins.
And now here we were, approaching the first of the ruins—and to our astonishment, we saw that instead of the KEEP OFF and DO NOT TOUCH signs that had been posted all around Annaberg Plantation, we were being practically invited to walk all over it by a wooden banister that had been added to its crumbling stairway. This time, it was my own preservationist instincts that revolted—but with such an invitation, I couldn’t resist slowly climbing the stairs to the main level to look and admire.
This was the first of many embellishments we saw, as, for the next hour, we scrambled all over and through the ruins like kids on a playground. Another even more fetching complex of ruins had flowers planted all around it, and we also spotted lights, tables, and chairs (which made sense when we later found out that resort guests could arrange to have romantic private dinners in the ruins, the lucky bastards). One large, circular building even had a restaurant built into it. In any case, shameless disrespect for the island’s heritage notwithstanding, it was all very lovely; and the Dude, an avid photographer, was in heaven snapping photo after photo.
Finally, spent from our orgy, we staggered over to the beach—and that didn’t turn out to be too shabby, either. Backed by the resort’s dining terrace, furnished with a large boat dock, and facing built-up St. Thomas, it wasn’t exactly an ideal of picturesque seclusion. But it was still rather pretty, with a few shady spots and plenty of beach chairs scattered about (with big signs everywhere warning that they were for resort guests only, but how were they going to enforce that?). And we were practically the only ones there, with all the actual resort guests presumably enjoying the privacy of the other six beaches, safely tucked away from the unwashed rabble.
Bagging ourselves a pair of "for resort guests only" beach chairs, we put down our stuff and headed into the water to swim and snorkel. It wasn’t a very good place for swimming, we found—there were rocks and beds of turtle grass on the seafloor, and also patches of coral scattered all over, so you could never be sure if you were safe putting your feet down.
Well, no matter. We swam to our right, heading for the eastern side of the bay, where we’d heard there was a nice reef. And the reef did turn out to be nice, with plenty of fish and coral—all the kinds we’d seen already on our trip, plus a few we hadn’t, which was exciting. Unfortunately, most of the reef was in somewhat shallow water, and as it was also fairly bristling with sea urchins, we found it more prudent to swim alongside it instead of over and through it. And the water was awfully murky as well. So our view of the sea life was rather limited—but still, we were tempted enough by what we saw to keep swimming along the reef, further and further out, towards the open ocean…
That was when I saw it. Just a fleeting glimpse—an outline—a flash of movement—but I froze. Slowly, I turned my head and looked around, and it was like suddenly seeing the picture in one of those Magic Eye things.
We were surrounded by jellyfish.
Just then, the Dude caught my eye and motioned for me to bring my head up out of the water so he could tell me something. He started to say that he thought we were too far out and we should start back, but I cut him off. "Yeah. Let’s go back. Right now. Because…"
"OK, dude, don’t get freaked out, but… we’re surrounded by jellyfish."
"Are you serious?"
Another pause. And then we both simultaneously dove underwater and swam for our dear lives back towards shore.
We surfaced, panting, in shallow water a few yards out from the beach. After making sure we were both OK, we decided to confine our snorkeling henceforth to the shallow part of the bay, nice and close in to the beach.
And, to our surprise, we found that the snorkeling was quite good here as well, thanks to those treacherous patches of coral scattered around—each one was like its own miniature reef, with a few fish swimming around it. We also caught sight of a live conch and some sea snails. But the most exciting moment was when we glimpsed a sea turtle feeding on one of the turtle-grass beds. The visibility out here in the middle of the bay was very good—much better than around the reef. We finally trooped out of the water feeling satisfied—until the Dude let out a yelp of pain as he realized that he had pulled a muscle during our mad swim towards shore.
That’s when we found out what the other advantage of Caneel Bay was—its convenience. We were able to spend a little time resting on the beach chairs, then, leaving the sand, we could wash our feet clean at the little spigot the resort had thoughtfully provided. And after we discussed the rest of our afternoon and it became clear that the Dude was in no shape to press on and hit another beach as we’d planned to do, we were able to go to the nice resort bathrooms to get out of our wet swimsuits and get dressed. And finally, there were comfortable chairs and couches on the resort’s terrace where the Dude could sit and rest before we went to catch a ride back to our accommodations. If we’d been so inclined, we could even have had a bite to eat at any one of two or three overpriced resort restaurants that lay within a 50-foot radius—because, naturally, those are open to the unwashed masses as well!
If you’re considering staying at Maho Bay Camps, here are some more details and handy hints on life at Maho. (If you don’t know anything about Maho yet, start by reading my accommodation entry, which should give you a basic idea of what it’s like…Read More
If you’re considering staying at Maho Bay Camps, here are some more details and handy hints on life at Maho. (If you don’t know anything about Maho yet, start by reading my accommodation entry, which should give you a basic idea of what it’s like and whether it’s for you.)
Maho can easily be the focus of your entire vacation. Visit the activities desk and you’ll find endless possibilities. There are $10 yoga sessions every weekday morning; massages can be arranged by appointment; several tour boats operate out of Maho Bay, offering plenty of snorkeling, diving, and sailing excursions; Hamilton’s Taxi offers equally excellent on-land excursions to beaches, hiking trails, restaurants, and nightlife; Maho’s art center does a variety of classes for children and adults; there are Movie Nights in the dining pavilion every other evening; the registration desk has a lending library of games; and—my favorite of all—there are glassblowing demonstrations most nights (see "Eco-Stuff" section below for more details).
Maho also has its own private beach, Little Maho; and the adjacent beaches of Big Maho to the west and Francis Bay to the east can both be easily reached either by short hiking trails or by simply swimming around the rocks at either end of Little Maho. (For more info, see my separate entries on the Maho Bay beaches and Francis Bay.) There’s a beach café at Little Maho, as well as a beach shop and equipment-rental stand where you can get just about anything you’d want—one day we rented a kayak there to take a trip out to nearby Whistling Cay.
Remember, you’re out in nature here—and if that sounds like a drawback to you rather than an attraction, stop reading right now! Most of Maho’s elevated walkways are named after the animals you’ll spot: Lost Donkey Walkway, Pea Hen Parkway, Lizard Lane, Crab Ramble Road, Banana Quit Cut-Off (the official bird of the Virgin Islands), Goat Trail, Tree Frog Trail, Mongoose Highway, Iguana Alley. And yes, we did see most of these during our stay—even an iguana, which was pretty exciting. What you’ll see the most of are the lizards, small anoles that I, for one, found adorable. Less adorably, there are also bugs and mosquitoes everywhere. Leaf bugs (I don’t know what they’re actually called, but they’re large green bugs that look like leaves) are ubiquitous, especially around (and in) the bathrooms at night. Another nighttime annoyance is the frogs, which make a tremendous din—if you’re a light sleeper, you might want to consider bringing earplugs. And a daytime annoyance is the small army of cats that have taken up residence at Maho and make daily rounds of the cabins and dining pavilion begging for scraps.
Maho’s open-air dining pavilion, with its sweeping view out over Francis Bay, has to be seen to be believed—and the food is really good, too. The only problem is that it’s fairly pricey: expect to pay $5-$10 for a full breakfast and $14-$22 for dinner. But we ended up eating practically all our meals there anyway, because we found that trying to cook on the propane stove and use the icebox (which in this tropical heat was able to keep the ice from melting for all of about, oh, 30 seconds) was a little more trouble than it was worth, especially considering that the food and supplies available at the camp store, though perfectly adequate, were less than thrilling. If you choose to go this route, be sure to check the expiration dates on everything—most of the food in the store is pretty fresh, but occasionally you’ll find something that’s been sitting there for quite a while.
The dining pavilion also has a bar, which has happy hour from 4:30-7:30pm in the high season and 5-6pm in the off-season. During happy hour, all drinks are a dollar off, which means $2 for a bottle of beer, $3 for draft, and $5 for a glass of wine. But the best news for all you cheapos out there is the free popcorn that they have during happy hour, which, if you abuse the privilege enough, could conceivably be your dinner. (A less radical way to save money on dinner is to split it between two people—the dinners are pretty huge, so as long as your appetites are moderate, it should be enough. You can fill up any lingering emptiness in your stomach with trips to the salad bar—you’re only supposed to fill up your salad bowl once, but come on, how are they going to keep track of that?)
Remember, Maho bills itself as an "eco-resort," and they definitely put their money where their mouth is. There are signs everywhere reminding you not to waste water or energy. They use solar power as much as possible. The raised boardwalks, in addition to being walkways, also have the water and sewage pipes and power lines attached to their undersides so they don’t have to run along the ground and disturb animals’ habitats.
And just how will all this eco-ness affect your stay? Well, water is a big deal here, for one thing—it’s a precious resource in these parts. It’s desalinized seawater, and at Maho, it’s divided into two varieties: potable (drinkable) and non-potable (you guessed it, non-drinkable). There are only a couple of potable-water spigots in the entire camp; the main one is by the dining pavilion. Everything else—the bathroom faucets, the showers, the other water spigots—is non-potable. Every cottage is equipped with a huge jug, which you can fill up at a potable-water spigot so as to have your own supply of potable water. The good news is that there are many more non-potable water spigots scattered around the campground, and they’re fine for things like doing dishes and cooking—you can drink that water, too, of course, if you boil it first.
Maho also recycles all of its glass—and they’ve come up with a brilliant way to do it: glassblowing. The camp’s two resident glassblowers give fascinating demonstrations a few nights a week, making everything from simple mugs, bowls, vases, and plates to fancy doodads like glass fish, accompanied by the oohs and ahhs of the crowd looking on. Stopping by to watch the glassblowing was one of my favorite things to do in the evenings, even though the glassblowing hut was always swelteringly hot. And all the things that they make in the demonstrations are then sold in Maho’s art gallery—I picked up a great vase there to take back to the folks.
Other Miscellaneous Tips
1. The Maho Bay complex, with its network of raised boardwalks zigzagging all over the hillside, is easy to get lost in. They’ll give you a map when you check in—use it right then to learn the way from your cabin to key places like the dining pavilion, nearest bathroom, and registration desk.
2. Be sure to bring a flashlight. It gets very dark here, and the walkways aren’t lit, so you’ll need it to get around in the evening and at night.
3. Every cabin location has its advantages and drawbacks: view; amount of privacy; number of stairways you have to climb to reach it; proximity to the bathrooms, the dining pavilion, the beach, and the road. If any of these is particularly important to you, be sure to mention it when you make your reservations or at check-in and see if they can accommodate you.
4. There’s a free "help-yourself" center across from the registration desk. This is where departing guests can leave anything they don’t want to take back with them, and incoming guests can help themselves. There’s always plenty of pulp fiction, usually some sunscreen, and a varying selection of food items—if you’re lucky, things like peanut butter; if you’re not, stale crackers. The pickings are best at the end of the weekend, when people have just left to go back home.
5. If you don’t have a rental car, memorize the schedule for Frett’s shuttle, which runs several times a day between Maho and Cruz Bay and will drop you off or pick you up anywhere along the route. You’ll find the schedule printed on the back of the camp map they give you at check-in. There are also several places you can realistically walk to from Maho, including Cinnamon Bay, Annaberg Plantation, and Leinster Bay. However, the side road that runs up to Maho from the main road is a killer—so steep you practically need ropes and grappling hooks to climb it. If you’re on your way back to Maho on foot and you’re not in training for the Olympics, I’d suggest waiting as long it takes for someone to drive by and agree to give you a lift.
6. Have a fabulous time! There’s no other place in the world like Maho!
Written by Jose Kevo on 08 Jul, 2002
Using the long flight to familiarize myself with Stanley Selengut, the founder and President of Maho Bay Camps, I wasn't sure what to expect from spending my next 36-hours with this man. His press-release biography included such accomplishments, dating back to the 1950's, as:
Using the long flight to familiarize myself with Stanley Selengut, the founder and President of Maho Bay Camps, I wasn't sure what to expect from spending my next 36-hours with this man. His press-release biography included such accomplishments, dating back to the 1950's, as:
Stanley Selengut is not what you'd expect from someone who's achieved so much. The unassuming character - never without his signature white cap, is as real as the natural environments and people he's dedicated his life to protecting and sustaining.
Based on a consulting assignment for the Rockefeller Brothers involving low-income housing, Selengut came to the Virgin Islands National Park in the mid-70's with the task of developing an economically viable resort which also complied with National Park regulations. And as they say, the rest is history. Interesting enough, it wasn't his passed accomplishments which filled conversations, but speaking of all the ideas and visions which have yet to transpire.
Through development and programming of Maho Bay Campground and Harmony, as well as the Estate Concordia Studio and Eco-tents which he outright owns on property he's purchased, his self-sustaining specialties on St. John have the potential to affect the entire Caribbean and poorer countries of the world where outside non-renewable resources are limited.
WHERE THERE'S A WILL, HE'LL FIND A WAY
Aside from future expansions at Maho Bay and Concordia, Selengut has set his sites on a bigger picture issue which involves employment opportunities and income for islanders, conservation through recycling, and image improvement for the cruise ship industry...and how they "supposedly" have been disposing of all that garbage and waste.
With connections to the top brass of international tourism and cruise lines, initial concepts and proposals are being discussed for having ships "officially" throw away all their recyclable garbage and waste every time they dock at a port of call. Once the glass, plastics and metals are melted back into their natural forms, native islanders would use these resources for hand-crafting Caribbean-fashioned metal key-chains, hand-blown glass, plastic-woven rugs, and any number of other momentos that have already been tested. Our table was more than impressed with the sample products displayed and those which were used in decorating the Harmony and Concordia studios.
Perhaps the most ingenious of the concepts would be to make and sell these items in small stores amid the tourists' traps that await where cruise ships dock. Not only would the continual stream of business help the locals who are making/selling the goods and running the stores, but passengers would be educated on ecological issues while potentially taking home decorative souvenirs made from things they, and their comrades, had thrown away.
Selengut has a way of making things happen; turning long-range goals into short-term accomplishments. He'll likely need all of this and more when undertaking what could be his biggest endeavor. The lease on the National Park property Maho Bay is located upon will be up in 10-years. And with all that's been successfully accomplished, there's an urgent underlying fear that the property could be signed over to another management company where profit gains take precedent over ecological focus.
A lot could happen between now and the year 2012, but the seriousness of potentials eluded to would lead one to believe the lease was expiring this year. Selengut might have pulled-off some unbelievable feats throughout his career, but Maho Bay is obviously his heart and soul. And at 73-years old, he's no more ready to sit-back and coast than an idealistic graduate fresh out of college.
CHARACTER OF A CHARACTER
With all the prestige of Long Island, NY's Hampton neighborhoods, it's hard to imagine Selengut calling this area home now and not St. John. Splitting time between the City and Kennedy Airport, he's made the ultimate sacrifice asked of most visionists and developers - to leave the daily hands-on stages of their projects behind for handling all the top-level muck.
Serving on a number of Boards and Advisory Committees, including as a Founding Board Member of The International Ecotourism Society, Selengut also devotes much of his time educatively speaking at worldwide conferences, and to school children. These passions for sharing what's closest to one's heart also revealed why he wasn't content just to give us his spiel and property tour during the 48-hours he'd flown to be with us.
Selengut wouldn't hear of letting the trip organizers hire a local-driver to show us around the island for a day. Piling into the back of a pick-up truck, we set out for more adventure than just his aggressive NYC-accustomed driving challenging the back-roads of the island.
Whether walking the trails, stopping at roadside overlooks, or table side chat, Selengut's vast wealth of knowledge was comparable listening to a Marlin Perkins, Jacques Cousteu, and Euell Gibbons rolled up into one as an ideal spokesperson for either the Discovery or History channels. Yet it was his simplistic depths of passions and enjoyments of the good life which were captivating only leaving one wanting more.
Reputation far proceeded this developer of "Stanley Cloth" - what the staff calls the fabric used on Concordia's Ecotents which Selengut developed while working on a project with NASA. As we trailed him around the facilities of both compounds, it was an honor to be seen with this man which guests immediately recognized in singing their praises for marveling at his creations while adding a chorus of how many times they'd made the trip to St. John because of them.
In town, this island icon caught the attention of anyone who'd been around for more than a couple of weeks; many which had been one-time Maho Bay employees. But the biggest indicator of our host's prestige and status came when stopping roadside to pick-up a pair of 20-something hitchhikers.
As they began to reveal their stories of coming to the islands...and basically never leaving, it was then our time to share about visiting on behalf of the U.S. Virgin Islands tourism bureau and staying at Maho Bay. The young man immediately proudly quipped about his passed employment there indicating he remembered Stanley Selengut. He was quite surprised to learn this legend was the unsuspecting shuttle driver who'd graciously stopped to pick them up. I'm not sure about the others, but I felt my chest swell a little with pride that I was in the company of this ecotourism pioneer as his guest...and passenger.
Those of us making the trip all received invitations for returning to Maho Bay any time as his special guests. Offers like these are too good for me to pass up; especially when it involves "anywhere" Caribbean and with these soothing natural environments. But something tells me I'd have to...unless, I could lure Stanley back to join me.
Written by Travelin Fools on 12 Nov, 2000
One of the things that excites me the most about being on St. John is the ease with which a person can get around without the convenience of a rental car.
There are licensed taxis stationed at the major beaches, the campgrounds and if…Read More
One of the things that excites me the most about being on St. John is the ease with which a person can get around without the convenience of a rental car.
There are licensed taxis stationed at the major beaches, the campgrounds and if you are afoot, you can flag one down as you make your way around. Most taxis are full-sized pickup trucks with benches attached to a platform and covered with a brightly colored canopy. A ride on a taxi can be exhilarating and sometimes hair raising as they twist and turn, race downhill and chug up inclines on the narrow roads. Most fares are posted and if not, it's always a good idea to ascertain what it will be before boarding. Tipping is always appreciated. Drivers are congenial, cordial and very accommodating.
Of course a rental car for a few days is always a lot of fun to explore the outer ends of the island. Reservations can be made through the major companies before you arrive, and if you're a spur of the moment traveler, just walk into any of the agencies located in Cruz Bay and check for availability. Cruising the island in a Jeep Wrangler with the top off is a great experience. There are numerous places to stop atop a hill and take in the spectacular views of the Caribbean. Remember, drive on the left!
A few years ago bus service was initiated. For about $1.00 you can catch a bus at Cruz Bay at the west end of the island and go over to Coral Bay and Salt Pond Bay at the southeast end of the island. Schedules are posted at the bus stop in Cruz Bay.
One of our favorite ways to get around is to put on our hiking boots and head out from the campground. Maho Bay is about a two-mile walk to the east and Trunk Bay about the same distance the other way. The Centerline Trail is a great workout. It is across the road from the campground and is about 1 1/2 miles--up. This trail winds through the trees and foliage up to the Centerline Road which traverses the top of the island. There are some spectacular views of the north side of the island from this trail. Once you reach the road you can catch a bus or a taxi and go either way to Cruz Bay or to the east and southeast side of the island.
Being a product of the itinerant 70's my favorite way of getting around this island is to both hike and hitchhike. It does this 50-something soul good to know that I'm using alternate methods of transportation and not contributing to the vehicle population of a very small island. We use this method mostly in conjunction with hiking and walking along the roads. Where possible we use the trails and when it becomes necessary to walk along the roads, we merely walk forward with our arms stretched forward with index fingers pointed in the direction we wish to go. Most rides come from locals who understand this mode of transportation and sometimes from unsuspecting visitors who stop to see if there's a problem only to find themselves with a few extra people in their Jeep. There has seldom been a time when we have hiked/hitchhiked and not gotten a ride--sometimes from the same folks on different days.
Whatever your fancy, this is a great island to explore. Close