Virgin Islands: US

The bright orange pumpkin in front of an unlit house would read, “Please only take one,” and I did, always. When the speed limit said 55mph, I drove 53mph. The stakes, big or small, were rules, and rules were meant to be followed. There were times I wondered what was off the beaten path, but I could get in trouble! By whom you ask? I’m not exactly sure but the mysterious they would surely find out and somewhere a gold star would be peeled away from my chart.

Packing for vacation, I made sure my bag weighed a little under the 50lb limit, to be safe. My boyfriend Josh and I were off to Saint Thomas, the Virgin Islands. It was not an exotic destination, but it was perfect for what I needed – a break from the exhausting 50 hour work weeks. Or, perhaps, a break from the everyday rules to which I so desperately clung.

We arrived to the hotel and grabbed the daily itinerary. On the top there was a quote, “Welcome to Paradise, let loose.” I smiled and folded the paper into my purse. It was 3:00PM and we were exhausted from the flight (a 5 hour layover will do that to you) so we napped and had a nice evening of dinner and drinks. The next day, I eagerly awoke and grabbed the day’s activities. 7:00AM Yoga with the Sun. That was out of the question. It was already 9AM and my idea of vacation was not exercise. 10:00AM Scuba Dive Lesson. 10:00AM Iguana Feeding. I absolutely adore animals and so it was a no brainer. We hightailed it to the buffet to eat before the real feeding.

It was exactly 9:50AM by the time we finished the last sip of coffee. We headed down to the trail where we would meet the local animal guide. 10:00AM no sign of the tour guide. 10:03AM other travelers arrive. 10:07AM crowd grows restless. 10:11AM crowd ditches the feeding and heads into the lunch dining area.  By 10:15AM I could see the scuba instructor going into the deep end of the pool with 3 beginners and felt a tinge of regret; clearly our guide was out today. I bent down to snap some pictures of the green scaly monsters and was ready to be on my way, when one of the other travelers ran back with a bin full of day old lettuce leaves. He put the bin on a big rock, grabbed a handful and walked over to his own corner to feed the fiends.

I took a few greens and tossed them into the air. An army of iguanas came running – their legs spastically waddling as they raced to the food. In no time, I was surrounded. Just as I was about to pet one, a sign caught my eye. Do not get too close to the iguanas. I hesitated. My life was one big rulebook.

I looked around and saw nothing but paradise. I thought back to the first day’s itinerary and I kneeled down. The iguanas swarmed me and crawled onto my knees, and I felt myself let loose the months of work and deadlines. More importantly, I felt my grip to the rulebook loosening.

It seems miniscule. How could only five iguanas break years of a habit? But it was not just them. They led the revolt but they had backup.

A few nights later Josh and I passed an empty hall. The door was cropped open and we peeked inside. All the chairs were on top of the tables for the workers to vacuum but the dance floor was vacant. Even though there was no music, and it was not kosher to my rulebook, we went inside and danced in a room of emptiness. It was a romantic moment that I will always look back on and smile. That very same night we entered a newlywed’s game. We’re not married but my state of mind allowed me to stretch the boundaries. We took home 2nd prize and a belly full of laughter. On the very last day Josh got his bracelet cut off but I hid my arm under my purse. We ate one more all-inclusive sandwich from the buffet.

When I write about this, I hope that readers understand how big a step this has been for me. Yes these are victimless crimes, but to me, each one opens a new door. This one travel experience allowed me to forever see, beyond the yellow tape.

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Joan Weinthal Clayton offered to share her perspective on one of our favorite island spots! We cannot wait to go see J2O!

Some might call me a skeptic but I never thought I believed in love at first sight until I stepped off the St. John ferry in 1984 and arrived on island for the very first time.   Greeted by splashes of bright colors, tranquil turquoise water and friendly St John locals, I was immediately transformed.  As I stepped into the eclectic community of Cruz Bay, I was welcomed by swaying coconut palms, sea grapes and the aromas of fresh island BBQ.  Happily there are still only 4,800 friendly year round residents to greet you, no commercial franchises, no airports and not a single traffic signal.

St. John nicknamed “Love City” by its residents is located about 3 miles east of St. Thomas and 4 miles south of Tortola accessible only by convenient ferry service.  This tiny island is only 19.61 square miles. More than 75% of St John is protected as a National Park.  Snorkeling and hiking trails, native plants and trees, historic ruins and archeological dig areas retain their natural beauty and are protected for the future enjoyment of all.  In fact, St. John is home to more than 140 species of birds, 22 mammals, 740 plants, 50 types of coral and 7 amphibians.

In my view, St. John is the perfect destination to merge adventure and relaxation.  I always enjoy the slow pace, no worry atmosphere that brings me to St. John back year after year.  With little or no advance planning you can paddleboard, snorkel, windsurf, play tennis, hike, kayak, parasail, or plan a sunset horseback ride.  Don’t miss whale watching (Dec-March), a spa day, fishing, champagne sunset sails or a leisurely day of island exploration.  Better still spend a few days or weeks trying to decide your favorite of the more than 50 beaches that have been declared amongst the most beautiful beaches in the world by Conde Nast, National Geographic, Caribbean Travel and Life and Islands Magazine.  This view is shared by beach connoisseurs and travel professionals throughout the world.  I heartily concur!  In fact, I have spent the last 25 years trying to find a more perfect island.  In my world, it simply can’t be done.

In 2008, I made the best decision of my life; I bought a piece of the island.  J2O, The Penthouse at Grande Bay Resort, is a beautiful new resort condominium located directly on Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI.  From J2O I never tire of the sunsets and panoramic views spanning the turquoise waters of Pillsbury Sound, the distant cays of the BVI, the evening lights of St. Thomas and the breathtaking flowers and greenery of the hills above town. Imagine a penthouse hideaway, just a few short steps from the fine dining, shopping, water sports, and beach activities that makes St. John the premier destination in the US Virgin Islands.  Less than a 5 minute walk from the ferry dock, J2O at Grande Bay Resort is the perfect location, combining convenience and privacy.

Just a short walk from J2O at Grande Bay Resort, visitors will find a shopping paradise.  Mongoose Junction showcases the beauty of Caribbean island architecture. You will find fabulous shopping, galleries, and great food.  Shop in shaded comfort for locally made jewelry, gifts and resort wear.  Wharfside Village, just steps from your front door, is a unique shopping, dining and entertainment area.  Brightly colored, Caribbean style buildings nested in the heart of Cruz bay are filled with gifts and local artwork that are sure to remind you of your stay on St. John.

St. John also offers endless possibilities for dining.  From local BBQ to beachfront fine dining, St. John will not disappoint a single member of the family.  Starfish Market, the island’s full service market, is conveniently located for all of your at-home dining and entertainment needs.  At your request and for your convenience, we can make arrangements to provision J2O at Grande Bay Resort for your arrival and stay.
Check out the website for details and contact information.  We are happy to share our special offers, last minute deals, and multi-week discounts throughout the year.

So yes, after 25 years and countless returns to St. John I can say, without a doubt or moment of hesitation, I really do believe in love at first sight!


Have you been to the Virgin Islands yet? What is your favorite island spot? Tell us in the comments below!