Perfect Trip: St. John
Day 1 I'm in the middle of a U.S. National Park 170 acres donated in 1956 by Laurance S. Rockefeller, who used Caneel Bay on St. John's north coast as a spiritual retreat. OK, it's not as if the 1950s were full of distractions, but Caneel still has a no-phone, no-TV policy in the rooms. Silence. "It's sonic depletion," says Jan Kinder, who founded the Self Centre at Caneel Bay in 2002. From my yoga mat I hear gentle waves and bird song. Not quite sonic depletion. After Qigong and yoga, Jan leads me to a chair where we begin a mantra meditation. The Self Centre is to be my Caribbean ashram, but Jan instructs, "Go apply what you've learned," and gestures toward the flamboyant trees, the frangipani, the palms and the sea. I step outside, take a deep Ujjayi breath and begin the walk back to my cottage on Scott Beach, passing two deer and three wild donkeys.
Day 2 After an early-morning energy treatment at the Self Centre, I feel alive happy. So I sign on to kayak with Chip from the water-sports hut. Mostly swept by the current, we round Cottage Point, heading east and coming onto Paradise Beach, a tiny white sliver one of seven at the resort where we haul our kayaks up onto the sand and unload our snorkel gear. When I first dip into the salty bath, I can't decide which place is more peaceful: underwater, where three squid propel me with relaxed undulations; or above water, where I had just been meditating on the shapes of the Virgin Island cays. As I kick further from the shore, I realize the best choice is beneath the sea, where it is completely silent.
Day 3 As I sit on the patio of my cottage looking at the sea, a laughing gull that I name Jack comes by to watch me. We take each other in. After passing what seems like an hour in a staring contest with Jack, I head for Mary's Trail, named after Rockefeller's wife, which begins near my cottage at Turtle Bay Beach and ends 30 minutes later at Hawksnest Beach. Through the forest I try "breath walking" as taught by the Self Centre: four quick inhales followed by four sharp exhales a form of meditation. If Jack were here, I think he'd laugh.
Day 4 On my last night I dig into lobster at the resort's Equator restaurant, set in the ruins of a sugar mill from the 1700s. St. Thomas' lights twinkle in the distance, tiki torches flicker around me and vibrant bougainvilleas hug the stone walls. I will forever be reminded of Caneel Bay and this national park by the sound here: silence. Christine Richard
Clean air, fresh fish, bush teas, low stress levels and daily strolls beneath volcanic spires covered in rainforest greenery help residents of Dominica achieve centenarian status at rates well above global norms. Some believe the drinkable water that plummets down off the peaks fuels the islanders' extraordinary longevity, while others think larger geological forces must be at play. (The island is home to half the eastern Caribbean's 20 active volcanoes.) Either way, Tropical Escapes' yoga retreats to "The Nature Island" tap into its unique energy through sunrise yoga sessions on the beach, moments of quiet meditation in an orchid garden, jungle hikes to secluded hot springs and catnaps to the tune of distant waves and circling parrots. Retreats are based at eco-friendly hotels like Jungle Bay Resort & Spa, which offers tai chi in studios overlooking the Atlantic, and aromatherapy and massage in cliff-side spa suites. Weeklong packages from $1,725 per person. tropicalescapes.biz; dominica.dm Tim Jacob
St. Lucia is so saturated with natural beauty that touching down on the island is like falling into a good dream. The road up the western coast to The Body- Holiday at LeSport (the northernmost resort on the island) darts in and out of rainforest reserves and clings to the fringes of foliageengulfed slopes. Upon arrival, guests meet their "BodyGuards," who jump-start a predetermined rejuvenation plan based on the participant's goals and interests. You may marinate in a lime-and-ginger scrub one minute, then suit up for a dive at the base of St. Lucia's iconic Pitons the next. From detox to Ayurvedic therapy, a daily massage is standard. In addition to the benefits of sun and surf, a week at The BodyHoliday is designed to teach tired souls stress management techniques they can incorporate into their everyday lives. Rates from $606. thebodyholiday.com; stlucia.org tj
On the 16-mile-long, flat and mostly scrubby Anguilla, the last thing you'd expect to come across is a vine growing juicy cherry tomatoes. But there they are, at the CuisinArt Resort & Spa, home to the Caribbean's only hydroponic farm. Within the resort's one-and-a-halfacre greenhouse, produce and herbs grow vertically to optimize space. Cherry tomatoes are hand plucked daily for the two restaurants. You'll find these red gems in the melon-and-cherry-tomato salad or as an unexpected ingredient in the savory tomato bread pudding with goat cheese and hydroponic herbs. Between meals, lounge on one of the island's 33 beaches before returning to CuisinArt's Venus Spa for a soothing cucumber-aloe wrap using you guessed it fresh veggies from the farm. Guided farm tours are offered every Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 11 a.m. (Tomato tasting included.) Rooms from $400. cuisinartresort.com; anguilla-vacation.com Amy Cassell