Caneel Bay Canoodling

Ceremony at Caneel BayIt’s not often that I recommend the site of a family vacation gone wrong as the spot for your gay nuptials (see my Poptimistic post for the full story). But after revisiting St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands for the first time since I was six years old, I have to report: it’s pretty spectacular. So now it’s moving back onto my Caribbean consideration list. Hopefully, it’ll make yours, too.

The island of St. John came to prominence as a vacation spot in the late-1950s when Laurance Rockefeller fell in love with the getaway. He not only opened the low-key resort Caneel Bay on the island, but he also purchased 70% of the island and gifted it to the U.S. government to establish a National Park. That means today the island is not blighted by the kind of unchecked development on many other Caribbean hot spots. Plus, there are miles of hiking trails across the island for outdoor enthusiasts looking for action away from the white sand beaches.

Caneel Bay CottageCaneel Bay is now run by Rosewood, the luxury hotel company with a sister property on Virgin Gorda called Little Dix Bay, which I’ve written about here before. Although the property has modern touches like exquisite dining options and Wi-Fi availability, the true luxury here is the laid back, no nonsense attitude. Most guests stay in cabins that are just steps from beaches and crystal clear water. Every morning I went swimming with the turtles, hardly even needing my snorkeling gear because the sea was so pure.

Caneel Bay Overlook

The resort is spread out among several bays and rolling hills—you feel like you have the place to yourself. That sense of privacy, perfect for gay honeymooning couples, must be why it draws famous faces like Mario Batali who was on property when I visited. Now don’t bust me for revealing that—he checked in on FourSquare so he clearly wanted the world know.

Several gay and lesbian commitment ceremonies have also taken place on the property—the views are breathtaking and memorable. Caneel Bay will help arrange a local minister to bless the ceremony if that’s what you need, and can handle all of the details to arrange a wedding on their famous Turtle Point at sunset.

To get ready for the big day (or night), brides and grooms should try out the hotel’s new Bee-utiful Facial using fresh honey harvested from hives on property. Don’t worry, they’re kept a safe distance from the guests. What’s great about the honey program, besides the fact that the gooey goodness is a natural moisturizer and anti-oxidant, is that it’s part of the resort’s continued eco-efforts. Last September, many beehives were discovered as the property began upgrading some of the roofs on the cabins. Instead of calling in an exterminator, they called in a local beekeeping expert who relocated the hives—a win-win for everyone.

All that luxury doesn’t come cheap. Depending upon the room type and season, rates can vary from around $400 per night to $1,500 per night, plus taxes. As I posted earlier, always consider summer in the Caribbean for lower rates.

Cinnamon Bay

But you don’t have to spend a fortune if I’ve sold you on St. John. One great legacy of Mr. Rockefeller was that National Park with campground cabins for rent just over the hill from Caneel, called Cinnamon Bay. The screened in cabins share bathrooms, but at rates around $150 per night, you get the same clear blue sea and spectacular views as Caneel. Consider using my hi/low Caribbean tip—spend a few nights at Cinnamon, then upgrade to Caneel for your last few nights. Either way, you’ll be close to paradise.

Editor’s note: Jon Paul was the guest of Caneel Bay for 3 days.

Photo Credits: Caneel Bay.


Jon Paul Buchmeyer is the author of the award-winning humorous memoir Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life and writes frequently for Condé Nast Traveler and Bon Appétit magazines. In addition, he is the author of his own popular blogs: ABCityblog.com and Poptimistic.com.