Words by Dick Dace, Photos by Kim Coffman
If your definition of a deserted island includes seven natural pristine beaches, azure waters, and five-star cuisine, then Caneel Bay Resort is the place for you. Nestled inside the 5,000-acre United States Virgin Island National Park, the 170 acres of the Caneel Bay Resort provide blissful, beautiful access to Danish Colonial ruins, sugar estates, Arawak Indian petroglyphs, romantic picture postcard beaches, and pampering accommodations.
I was booked into room 7B, the largest room at Caneel (“cinnamon” in Dutch), complete with dressing room, dining table, lounge area and terrace, just sixty-two steps away from the sands of Paradise Beach, and a stone’s throw from the fabulous cuisine the resort offers. After enjoying the best egg-white omelet I have ever had, served with fresh tropical fruit and skillet potatoes, I was off to enjoy my first resort activity – cave diving.
One cave my companions and I dove through was just near the surface, a bare 20 feet down, where the waves pushed and pulled you inside the crevasse, like breaths of a giant beast. Once through the cave, we looked up to see a sheer wall of rock, smooth and monolithic. To our left, a giant tarpon was chasing a massive school of silver minnows, which blinded us like billions of pieces of mirror as they twisted and turned to escape. But soon physical exercise would give way to a more decidedly spiritual and relaxing take on resort life at the appropriately named Self Centre.
A mind-body-spirit retreat high in the treetops above the beach at Caneel Bay, the Centre offers a menu of mind-body approaches for stress relief, relaxation and rejuvenation. There, I enjoyed a brief Chakra Meditation, Taoist Inner-Chi Yoga and Qi Gong. Invigorated by my session, I set off to snorkel the cove of Paradise Beach.
Snorkeling through crystalline waters, I encountered aqua and purple parrot fish, and hundreds upon hundreds of conch – so evenly spaced apart, they looked like they were on a chessboard. Now, I have eaten my fair share of conch fritters and conch chowder, but I had never seen one alive. They have coal-black bodies, with spade-shaped heads and two long, thin arms they use to eat the algae growing on sea grass.
As I swam east through Turtle Bay, I spied its namesake resident, a giant green turtle with two long, bright lime-green sucker fish attached. On my return swim, I witnessed a stingray playing hide-and-seek by trying to bury itself in the sand, hopping, skipping and jumping its way before me. Now it was time to enjoy the equally impressive wonders shoreside.
That evening at dinner in the ruins of the Sugar Mill, local history expert Chuck Pishko regaled our table with tales of the rum trade, while we dined on a five-star meal of mahi-mahi served with grilled breadfruit paired with a delightful California Wine. As the torches burned down and the stars sparkled bright above our roof-less room, casual acquaintances became new friends, and promises to return to the spectacular cinnamon isle were made.
Mr. Dace and Mr. Coffman were guests of Caneel Bay Resort.
Dick Dace does Lunch for a living.
Kim Coffman is a photojournalist based in Houston.
Caneel Bay Resort, A Rosewood Hotel, www.rosewoodhotels.com
Chuck Pishko, St. John Historian, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Sawyer Diving, www.sawyerdive.vi
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