Why We Love Caneel Bay in the U.S. Virgin Islands

15 Reasons to start packing your bags for a Caneel Bay vacation

Caneel Bay is one-part luxury, one-part nature, one-part culinary heaven and all parts immersive. Here, life is simple, accented by to-die-for meals and the occasional roaming donkey. (Yes, donkeys.) Here are 15 more reasons to start packing your bags.

Nature Rules

As the yacht approached Caneel Bay Resort, I wasn't sure we'd arrived at the right place. I squinted: No flashy entrance sign? Where are the rooms? Oh, there they are. Here, the natural beauty of the island takes precedence over pomp.Caneel Bay Resort

My Backyard

It's no wonder nature takes top billing here ... this is my "backyard" for the next few days.Caneel Bay Resort

Underwater Havens

Snorkeling gear is complimentary — and you're going to need it. All seven (!!!) beaches of Caneel Bay boast their own underwater world, from sea-turtle meccas to fish-filled reefs. I even hovered over a spotted eagle ray. My advice? Book for a week to spend a day at each one.Caneel Bay Resort

Surprising Dinners

Here, sugar-mill ruins are as prolific as palm trees, so I wasn't surprised to find one on site at Caneel Bay. What surprised me was what lurked inside: ZoZo's at the Sugar Mill, the flagship fine-dining go-to on St. John. And I can fully attest to its reputation — ruins or not, there was nothing ruined about the pistachio-crusted mahimahi with grilled polenta and sweet bell-pepper chutney that had me almost licking my plate.Caneel Bay Resort

The Freshest Ingredients

I had to ask: Why does everything taste so fresh? Turns out the secret to Caneel's distinctive dinners at all the restaurants — ZoZo's, Caneel Beach Bar & Grill and Turtle Bay Estate House (chef Anthony has perfected the art of simple yet creative pairings) — gets delivered every morning. Locally owned Josphine's Greens has been the prime source for farm-fresh, organic greens for nearly 20 years.Betsy Andrews

Days Spent Like This

Those hearty meals every night meant I had to paddle board every day (rough life, I know).Caneel Bay Resort

Discovering History

A hike on the Reef Bay Trail burns calories too — once I made it to the Reef Bay Sugar Mill Ruins, my mind had already drifted back to lunch at the Caneel Bay resort. (The food really is that good, OK?)Caneel Bay Resort

Fuel for Foodies

Finally! Lunch time. Chef Kim's killer sushi at the Beach Bar & Grill made me pause and question whether I was at a swanky sushi restaurant in Manhattan. The beach view in front of me quickly squashed that theory.Betsy Andrews

Empty Beaches

Stuffed with sushi, I was glad to have this private bay (my backyard) all to myself. Which I did — until I spotted a baby deer gingerly maneuvering across the shifting sand. I suppose I can share this piece of paradise today.Betsy Andrews

The Cutest Neighbors Ever

I mean, how could I say no to this Disney-worthy face?Betsy Andrews

Darling Donkeys

Or this face, for that matter. After some time in the sun, I thought I was hallucinating when I saw a long-eared shadow pass by my beach chair. But turns out, the famous donkeys of Caneel Bay are a common sight, along with the deer. They roam freely througout the resort and often pose alongside wedding ceremonies — or for selfies. (Might be guilty of that one.)Betsy Andrews

Impeccable Service ... And Rum

Deer, donkeys and now pina coladas? Caneel Bay Resort specializes in beach days that I'll never forget — albeit they may be hard to remember after a few of these.Betsy Andrews

Killer Views

Most of the time, rain has me reaching for an umbrella. Here, I was just reaching for my camera.Betsy Andrews

Unique Touches

One of my favorite details was the hand-delivered breakfast ... in a picnic basket. Being here is "glamping" at its finest.Betsy Andrews


Not wanting to miss any time underwater, I forgo an extra hour of sleep in my Caneel Bay beach bungalow for a before-breakfast swim with the sea turtles (a sighting is pretty much guaranteed). Even better? They're not shy at all — I even scored an accidental high-five. Breakfast — picnic basket or not — can wait.Betsy Andrews