12 MAR 2012: At a quick glance the fifties style bungalows might feel kind of Mad Men like. The overhangs, vast windows, and native stone had a Mr. Sinatra quality about it. Except, it ain’t no 50s - it was now. And these bungalows weren’t lining an urban thoroughfare either. There they were along a palm fringed remote paradise on a practically deserted island in the US Virgin Islands.

I finally made it to the Caneel Bay Resort, considered among the most beautifully designed eco luxury beach resorts in the Caribbean.


Thanks to the vision of Laurance Rockefelle,r who had a love of nature, he built this private resort in 1956 and gave a mega chunk of land toward the establishment of the US Virgin Islands National Park.

His own estate house is now known as Cottage 7 and is exquisitely furnished with spacious accommodations perfect enough for celeb couples like Brangelina (Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt) who sojourned there. Even actor John Travolta has been known to rub shoulders by the resort’s lounge bar.

The piece of heaven surrounded by nature amid plantation ruins is a collection of one or two story dwelling cottages with many facing the white sandy beaches. (The Caneel Bay Resort has seven beaches).

Island Getaway

So a paradise located five hours by plane from YYZ with an easy 15 minute ferry ride from Red Hook, St. Thomas can be all yours via Air Canada’s latest direct route to SST.

Thankfully Canada’s biggest carrier has factored in that those who work Monday through Friday can finish their work week, board a plane on Saturday leaving at a civilized time (I departed at 9:45 am) for a week’s vacation in the sunny US Virgin Islands.

The 166-room Caneel Bay Resort now managed by Rosewood Hotels & Resorts (www.rosewoodhotels.com) is just one of the surprises I came across on a recent trip there.

Some Surprises

Mrs. Rockefeller had a huge penchant for floral stuff so foreign plant species she discovered on her many world travels continuously crept up on my walks. There’s the fluffy Pink Powder Puff, a find apparently from a trip somewhere in northern South America.

Then there are the Autograph Trees, Oriel Smith, the chief grounds keeper, says the flowers from this tree are his absolute favourite in the entire world due to the elusive flower that nearly resembles a miniature magnolia but only daintier and prettier. “I think these are God’s gift to us,” he says sporting an impish smile.

He later took me on a whirlwind tour around some of the 170-acred property and I’m still going ga ga over some of the finds.

For instance, there are the donkeys. Yes, these creatures are hard not to spot as they travel in a group around the grounds and like to catch Mr. Smith around 4pm-ish for the late afternoon feedings.

“Today they are getting mango, pineapples and bananas but they don’t seem to enjoy the banana skins,” he remarks matter-of-factly as these wide eyed, floppy eared beasts of burden really don’t seem like a burden at all.

I think he loves them, and so do the many guests who return to these sun-kissed beaches. It’s hard not to with coquettish beach names like Honeymoon and Paradise beaches.

For clients who remind you they want to try something different, something new, I highly recommend a retreat to this nearly forgotten speck of the world.

More surprises

No phones, no TV and no distractions, you can really enjoy and reconnect with nature. Families and seniors enjoy the property and so do tennis buffs. Ranked as the number one spot for tennis in the Caribbean, you get the chance to play with some of the best at the Peter Burwash International Tennis Center. The tennis director there is Donald Becker, no slacker and the ultimate pro. Complimentary clinics and private lessons are offered.

If mobility is an issue there’s a regularly scheduled shuttle akin to an oversized golf cart that picks up passengers along the paved route. Almost feels like you are in a downtown Hollywood lot sometimes what with all the set dressing, nicely furnished outdoor seats and phones (the only ones you’ll find by the way) you can use to contact the main reception for pick up inquiries.

What I liked about this historic property is that it is giving back to the community. There’s an annual fundraiser to aid a local school on the island; and there’s a thriving bee culture which has led to some honey farmers producing some amazing by-products all of which you can sample in interesting ways at the resort.

Sweet Honey

For spa treatments, try the elixir on your face or your feet. “Because honey is a humectants meaning it attracts and retains water it is a wonderful and effective skin moisturizer. Plus its rich in vitamins, minerals and amino acids,” says Vicki Uzzell, the spa director when I spoke to her during my visit.

Chef Anthony Dawodu is into honey too. Any chance he can get, you’ll find honey as a sweet accompaniment to vinaigrettes and dishes like a knock-your-socks-off butternut squash ravioli lightly infused with locally made honey (I’m still dreaming of them).

Activities run the gamut. Hike around the property, snorkel at Caneel Beach, take moonlit midnight strolls by the beachfront, and finish off with a night cap by the piano lounge at the oh-so-Malibu-like Turtle Bay Estate House overlooking Turtle Bay. It’s the hangout for perfect sunsets.

You’ll be happy you did.

Something To Know:

Air Canada offers once a week direct flights from YYZ now through April 7, 2012.

Air Canada Vacations is offering Caneel Bay Resort bookings.

Caneel Bay is celebrating Earth Day (April 22). Bookings made between April 23-30, 2012 receive 30% off premium Ocean View Suites and Premium Beachfront Rooms. Promo Code: EARTH.

One time only guests in house on April 22 are receiving a $100 credit per booking when guests participate in the reef bed clean-up programme. Clean up details: Spend four hours either scuba diving and for non- divers be a part of the surface support team.

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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