Relax At This Newly Renovated Hotel In St. Croix That’s Both Secluded And Scenic

When I travel in the Caribbean, I’m often looking for out-of-the-way venues that feel close to nature, and are beyond the usual tourist traffic. I found that on the East End of St. Croix with its sweeping views of land, sea, and sky. The East End — particularly the eastern tip — is a delight that feels more isolated and tranquil than most other places on the island. Yes, you’ll need a car — driving from Christiansted, the island’s largest town, or the airport takes between 25 and 35 minutes — but it’s worth it. The winding East End Road has scenic stretches where you leave behind the lush tropical environs for an arid landscape that exerted a magnetic attraction for me. And that’s where I discovered what became my favorite St. Croix accommodation: The Grapetree Bay Hotel and Villas that radiated a sunny, contemporary and effervescent vibe.

What was most surprising was finding out that the original (much adored) historic boutique hotel from the 1960s had been left abandoned for some 30 years after it took a direct hit from Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The 18-room beachfront Grapetree Bay Hotel and Villas was lovingly restored and renovated, recently reopening a year ago this month.

You can’t escape the fab views at this low-key property, whether at the fresh water pool, the sandy swath, or the guest rooms. Each of the spacious, sun-drenched quarters has a balcony looking out to the Caribbean Sea on the island’s south coast, offering stellar views of both sunrise and sunset.

You may not want to move far from the pool area where you can sun, swim or sip a flavorful cocktail. Then again, steps away is Grapetree Bay Beach, a lovely stretch of soft sand with placid waters, thanks to a barrier reef.

The hotel’s contemporary vibe is enhanced by the boldly-hued murals and paintings created by Barbara Gelardi, a renowned St. Croix-based artist noted for her energetic images of the island’s landscapes, seascapes and sea creatures. These can be found on the hotel’s facade as well as in the public spaces and the guest rooms that are decorated with a pastel palette — the original color scheme of the hotel was maintained — as well as art objects that are hung on the walls, representing the island’s wildlife, whether fish or sea turtles. (In keeping with the hotel’s environmentally-friendly ethic, no plastic or synthetic material was used in these decorative items.)

On the culinary front, both the recently opened East End Bar and Restaurant serving dinner, and the Sea Terrace Restaurant and Bar (open for lunch and Sunday brunch) overlook the beach. This pair of al fresco restaurants offer tasty fare — including daily specials — featuring fish and seafood, though the menus will not disappoint meat eaters either.

Sunday Brunch may have the following options:

  • Breakfast Benedict Burger with a crab cake, sunny side up egg, crispy shallots and Hollandaise sauce
  • Avocado toast that packs some heat thanks to the pickled Fresno chilies
  • Shrimp and grits

Lunch and Dinner often have choices that appeal to those favoring dishes with an Asian influence, such as:

  • Vietnamese pork chop with rice noodles
  • Tempura local lobster tail with miso soup
  • Singapore rice noodles in curry sauce with shrimp and chicken

And who can pass up flavorful items like these:

  • Louisiana BBQ shrimp
  • Jerk chicken pizza
  • Truffle pizza with fire roasted and banana peppers

Whether you’re relaxing at the bar or lounging by poolside, there’s a cocktail that’s sure to satisfy your discerning palate, including:

  • “The Floor is Guava” that blends strawberry-infused gin with guava, grenadine and ginger ale
  • “Painkiller” made with Pusser’s rum, coconut, orange juice, pineapple and grated nutmeg

In keeping with the property’s sustainability priorities, currently a kitchen garden grows tomatoes, lettuce and a variety of herbs, but more vegetables will soon be planted.

Other Recommended Venues On The East End:

Point Udall

How apt that a mega sundial is positioned on Point Udall, the easternmost part of the U.S. After all, this is the first locale in the U.S. where you can see the sunrise. Constructed from native blue stone, the Millennium Monument was designed to celebrate the new millennium in the U.S. Its shape is derived from an abstraction of the Roman numerals MM for 2,000.

Point Udall is a dramatic place with 360-degree views of the reef-blanketed sea, where the only sounds are the crashing of the surf far below, and the whispering of the wind. You’ll be surrounded by an expansive landscape of dry hills peppered with cacti of all sorts, including prickly pear, as well as other plants that thrive in a desert-like environment, such as agave and acacia. It’s worth staying a while, especially if you have the place all to yourself.

Jack and Isaac Bay Preserve

From the parking lot at Point Udall, it’s just about a 20-minute (about half a mile) hike down to the pristine sands of Isaac Bay Beach where hawksbill and green turtles are known to nest. Bring water and snorkel gear. but expect that the surf could be rough.

Other Recommended Venues Elsewhere on St. Croix:

Barbara Art Studio

If you love art, stop by Barbara Gelardi’s studio and gallery in Christiansted. You’ll likely find a vibrant painting as a gift, or to complement or enliven the decor in your home. And if you’re interested in learning more about painting, Barbara regularly holds classes.

St. George Village Botanical Garden

After a 40-minute drive from the hotel, this 16-acre Eden — a former 19th century plantation — will wrap you up in a sense of tranquility. You can easily spend hours here, ambling the winding trails, and exploring the myriad gardens that are grouped by theme. (Pick up a map at the entrance.)

Overall, a visit here provides insights into the island’s myriad ecosystems, from the tropical to the desert like, as well as the ruins and artifacts from this property’s former days. An old blacksmith’s shop is intact — it’s the only such functioning historic shop in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Across the way are the remains of the old rum and sugar buildings. Now, it’s an area where an array of delicate and many hued orchids are maintained. (Lovely stone walkways and wood armchairs beckon.) In an alcove of sorts, sphagnum moss is draped on a massive crimson bottlebrush tree, and a tiny circular pool is rimmed in brick with Egyptian lotus floating on the water’s surface. Wandering around, you’ll notice a crimson-hued Japanese bridge as well as a cast iron copper that was once used to boil sugar and now serving as a planter for papyrus sedge.

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