Honeymoon: St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands
At Caneel Bay, there are no TVs or telephones, and the 'spa' is a little cabana on the beach. Sounds like the recipe for romance to us.
Island paradise: Caneel Bay, A Rosewood Resort, occupies the entire northern peninsula of St. John, which is accessible only by boat or ferry.photography courtesy of Caneel Bay
It’s your honeymoon, which means that splurging is in order. But sometimes luxury comes at a price—and we’re not talking about money. We’re talking about attitude. Or that feeling that everything is a little bit too nice. Sure, you want to be catered to. You don’t want any request unfulfilled. But the best resorts in the world accomplish this level of service while making you feel right at home. Which brings us to Caneel Bay, A Rosewood Resort, on St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s low-key luxury at its best.
Caneel Bay isn’t new to the luxury game. Laurance Rockefeller happened upon this place in the 1950s when he was sailing the Caribbean, and he saw in it an unspoiled paradise. So he purchased the land, oversaw the development of the infrastructure, and built an island home, which is now known as Cottage 7. (And, yes, you can rent it.) What you see at Caneel Bay today is largely the result of Rockefeller’s vision. The 170-acre resort sits inside the Virgin Islands National Park—also Rockefeller’s doing—which means that the simple, midcentury structures blend seamlessly into their largely undisturbed surroundings. The guest rooms, too, remain mostly the same as they were in the 1950s. They did get a bit of a refresher recently, but care was taken not to fancify them too much. Also, there are no TVs or telephones in the rooms, but outside distractions are a hindrance to romance, no?
Peace and Love: The tranquil guest rooms at Caneel Bay have no TVs or telephones; the Equator restaurant is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner for two; and sugar mill ruins offer insight into the island’s history.photography courtesy of Caneel Bay
Because there are so few buildings on so many acres, Caneel Bay feels like a private island, occupying the entire northern peninsula. The resort was once a sugar plantation, and the ruins of the sugar mills have been converted into the Equator restaurant, which has a Caribbean-Asian flair. You can also arrange a romantic meal for two at the Ruins at the Equator, a charming spot where you and your beloved can enjoy dinner surrounded by tiki torches and candlelight flickering against the centuries-old stone walls. Other remnants of the sugar mills are the dozen or so donkeys roaming the property. Donkeys drove the sugar mills, so they are now native to St. John. But don’t worry. These creatures won’t bother you—unless, of course, you leave your door open, in which case one might wander in. If you want some fresh air, it’s best to maybe just open the shutters instead.
There are seven beaches on the peninsula—Caneel Bay, Little Caneel, Turtle Bay, Paradise, Scott, Honeymoon, and Hawksnest—and each has a distinct personality. We recommend a guest room near the tiny Paradise Beach, which is known for beautiful sunsets and seclusion. If you need some more action—outside your room, that is—then head over to Caneel or Little Caneel for water sports. Perhaps you’d like to channel your inner artist? Then take a class with artist-in-residence Livy Hitchcock, who can show you how to create beautiful beachscapes with pastels. If you’d like to leave the property for a spell, the resort can arrange a sailing and snorkeling excursion on a catamaran, complete with cocktails and snacks.
Couple’s Retreat: Enjoy a massage in an open-air cabana; relax on Paradise Beach, which is known for its lovely sunsets; and arrange for a private meal by the sea.photography courtesy of Caneel Bay
But our idea of the ideal honeymoon activity is an afternoon massage in a beach-side, open-air cabana. Nothing beats the ocean breeze kissing your skin and the sounds of waves crashing on the shore while an experienced massage therapist rubs away any remaining stress from your wedding. After a quick clean-up, and perhaps some sunset cocktails on the Turtle Bay Estate House verandah, book a table at the Turtle Bay Estate House for a steakhouse-inspired dinner that feels a little like home—only much, much better.
Where to stay
Caneel Bay, A Rosewood Resort
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
Rates from $495
How to get there
St. John is accessible only by boat or ferry. American Airlines (aa.com) flies daily to nearby St. Thomas, where Caneel Bay staff greet you and take you to the ferry operated by the resort. St. John is a 35-minute ferry ride from St. Thomas. Cost for luggage handling, airport transfer, and unlimited use of the ferry between St. John and St. Thomas is $100 per adult.