As a friend said, “Caneel Bay is not fancy, it’s just perfect.” Though it’s one of the top luxury resorts of the Caribbean, Caneel Bay shuns showy glitz and high-tech toys. If that means no phones or TVs in the rooms, so be it. The happy guests (many of them families) who keep this place booked solid aren’t complaining.
Mega-millionaire Laurance S. Rockefeller opened this, the Caribbean’s first eco-resort, in 1956. It was once the Pieter Duerloo plantation, where white settlers defended themselves against a slave revolt. It’s a sprawling, lushly landscaped property, some 170 acres, with seven stunning beaches and low-rise buildings fronting the bays or set back near the tennis complex. Wild donkeys with a laidback, languid demeanor stroll the grounds, as do white-tailed deer. The bays are a snorkeler’s dream; on Hawksnest you are almost guaranteed to see turtles, and the clear, placid waters of Honeymoon and Scott Beach feature fish in a rainbow of hues.
The room decor is thoroughly updated but feels timeless, with dreamy bedding, Indonesian wood furnishings, and vintage-style tropical fabrics. Bathrooms are fashioned with native stone. Touches like beds turned down with beautiful helmet shells left on the pillows make this a constant delight. Caneel Bay’s public lobby areas have a more modern feel; here, the big breakfast buffet in the open-air Caneel Bay Beach Terrace is one of the island’s best. Up in ruins of a sugar mill, ZoZo’s is serving exemplary Northern Italian in a splendid space, and on the resort’s northern end, the magnificent Turtle Bay Estate House—the site of Rockefeller’s private estate—has a lovely 4pm tea on the terrace and offers a new steakhouse menu on limited evenings.