A feast of Caribbean butter poached lobster, jerk lamb chop tikka masala, and piri-piri-style Key West pink shrimp welcomed us to the Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort & Spa. Prepared by executive chef Ron Duprat, a finalist on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” and served beneath the stars just steps away from the resort’s ample beachfront, our quintessential island dining experience was complemented by an after-dinner display of fire-eating and pyrotechnics on the sands.
The Renaissance St. Croix Carambola is set in the foothills of a lush tropical rainforest and offers 150 villa-style accommodations with screened-in porches and kitchenettes, as well as a full-service spa, fitness center and onsite dive center. An extensive renovation of the property has just begun, which will include a refresh of its guestrooms and all public areas.
“Truly, the Renaissance St. Croix Carambola is its own magical destination,” says Zulma Diaz, director of sales & marketing. “Originally constructed in 1986 by Laurance Rockefeller and now being reimagined for the modern traveler, this idyllic resort is a sportsman or sportswoman’s paradise, with all the wonders of the Caribbean surrounding this island. Boating, sailing, kayaking, hiking, nature walking, exploring, just to name a few.”
Our first full day on St. Croix began with a guided walking tour of historic downtown Christiansted. Originally built by the Danish West India Company, the picturesque architecture of the town retains much of its Danish influence. The highlight of the tour was the imposing Fort Christiansvaern, a well-preserved, colonial-era fort dating from 1738 with pastel yellow walls, forbidding dungeons and its original cannons.
That same evening we dined on traditional St. Croix fare such as stew goat, seasoned rice and Johnnycakes in the grounds of Estate Whim, the only sugar plantation museum in the Virgin Islands. The restored 18th century buildings include a Great House, slave quarters and a sugar mill, and are set on 12 acres, while the museum itself tells the story of the island and its people. After dinner we were serenaded with a performance of Quelbe, the traditional folk music of the islands, as well as a demonstration of Quadrille folk dancing—and we even learned a few steps ourselves.
Our final day on St. Croix concluded with a tour of the Cruzan Rum Distillery. Family run for eight generations—since 1760—the tour took us on a journey through the rum-making process followed by a chance to sample the many rum flavors at the “Don’t Hurry” bar. Afterwards we island-hopped via seaplane to St. Thomas for the second part of our visit in the USVI.
After checking into The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, we enjoyed cocktails and gourmet hors d’oeuvres on the deck of the Lady Lynsey, the resort’s own 53-ft. luxury catamaran, which offers daily sailing excursions. The beachfront resort is set on a 30-acre tropical estate and offers 180 guestrooms, several pools, a full-service spa and four distinctive oceanfront dining experiences.
“The resort is on the very eastern tip of St. Thomas, just a 15-minute ferry ride to the hiking of St. John and Virgin Islands National Park, and day trip distance to the British Virgin Islands,” says Cliff Brutus, director of sales & marketing. “We offer daily excursions so guests can experience the unique beauty of the islands and cays surrounding us. Our Virgin Gorda trip includes hiking through boulders to secluded beaches and snorkeling in caves. We do a snorkel sail on Lady Lynsey to swim with sea turtles. We also do dinner and sunset cruises. There is truly something for everyone.”
While in St. Thomas we took a culinary tour of Charlotte Amalie, the USVI’s capital and its largest city. Our guide took us to some of the best regarded locally owned restaurants and specialty food shops, where we enjoyed tastings of island delicacies such as conch fritters, kallaloo and rum cake. The tour concluded with a Painkiller, the signature cocktail of the Virgin Islands. Appetites sated, our group then embarked on an afternoon of adventure on Hassel Island. After kayaking out from Frenchtown, we hiked around the 135-acre island as our guide pointed out colonial ruins and the well-preserved Fort Willoughby. The last part of our tour took us to a secluded beach for swimming and the opportunity to snorkel
out and see the remains of a sunken shipwreck, before kayaking back to St. Thomas to reward ourselves with another well-earned Painkiller.