Voyages to take now best vacation ever?
St. Croix Farm Escape
top 30 villas
Find your perfect retreat on a hilltop, a beach, a private island and moreâ€“from $60 a night
Inside the new film
a pirateâ€™s life for me
Invading the BVI
the truth about conch
Top secrets and recipes
“It’s undeniably thrilling to be standing in the exact spot where James Bond was brought to life.”
the front from the editor
Is group travel too much 07 of a hassle? Not when you stay in the right villa. our carribean
mojitos, Chi 08 Mudslides, Chis-top island elixirs served straight up.
features our top villas
Editors and experts select 30 homes away from home so you don’t have to. Your best vacation beckons.
spirits of jamaica
labor of love
On a St. Croix farm, a 32 working vacation means real work and paying guests love every second of it.
the modern guide to marauding & hooliganism
Pirates: Why do we love 48 them? A BVI regatta offers answers, and more questions.
Ian Fleming, Noel Coward, and Errol Flynnc alled this island hme, an their legacy lives on.
the lead A beach for two
is one sweet fantasy. These quaint coves make it true.
What more could be said about Bob Marley? A famed new film says lots.
Conch sparks love, lovemaking and even marriage. A chef uncovers why.
Want to explore new islands? These newports are making it possible.
14 18 hotel watch
Forget hotel reviews. The ultimate test of a resort lis in its beach chaise.
Our FavoriteVillas Hilltop views, secluded beaches, private islands, your very own chef... your ultimate vacation starts with a villa. Editors and experts share their top 30 reasons why â€“ starting at $60 a night.
Bordeaux Breeze, St. John, USVI
Secluded atop Bordeaux Mountaain, the villa boast spectacular views and refreshing evening breezes. From$2,520 per week. mclaughlinanderson.com Destiny, Jamaica A sky-high
jewel located aboe Montego Bay, this 10,000-square-foot villa with a full staff and two private pools delivers. From $7,497 per week. jamaica-villas.com
Hilltop: La Belle Helene, St. Lucia The majesty of the Pitons can’t be appreciated from a photo. Sure, they look otherwordly, but the full understanding comes not from two dimensions. You’ve got to be on the ground, straining up to see these these sharp, pointed rocks thrust through the earth’s crust like a nail through a two-by-four. That same grandeur could steal some thunder from 11-bedroom, 10,000-square-foot villa La Belle Helene, but it only enhances the property. The Pitons feel like huge garden gnomes bookending Helene’s lush, rolling estate. And it will be several days(and cocktails) before I can decide whether the best view is from one of the villa’s sprawling verrandas overlooking the flower-dotted lawn, with Petit Piton stretching below, or if it’s from the pool staring back at the French colonial estate set against the larger Piton. Luckily, this is the toughest decision I have to make. From $23,800 per week. villasofdistinction.com Zach Stovall
Villa Nahma, St. Barts Wood
paneling throughout this 3-bedroom hillsidevilla gives a nod to Thailand; a lava-stone pool offers unforgettable panoramic vistas. From $8,701 per week. stbarth.com Baraka Point, Virgin Gorda, BVI
Lush gardens, cliffside hammocks and a private beach flank this 12,000-foot villa. Teak furnishings add exotic charm. From $12,000 per week. villasofdistinction.com
Exotic: Nandana, Grand Bahama I enter Nandana through 18-foot-high, 12-foot-wide 250-year-old handcarved teak doors. They were salvaged from a Javanese temple. Inside, the teak floors are from Myanmar and feel soft underfoot, and strangely soothing. I’m told a lion statue in the main garden hails from India. I’m beginning to lose sight of where I hail from. Am I really standing just 65 miles from South Florida? My eyes are telling my brain it should feel jetlagged. There are six Thai-inspired beach pavillions. Asian temple reliefs dot the landscape of 300 varieties of imported palms. Everywhere I step, Nandana’s architecture, art and decor from Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and beyond transcend my notions of Carribean escape. Four standalone master-suite bungalows are their own otherwordly retreat. The fifth, a luxury safari tent, is a replica of a resort in India. That figures. What doesn’t? Finding an immerse, faraway experience like this, minus the jet lag. From $38, 500 per week. nandanavilla.com Debbie Snow
Parrot Cay, Turks and Caicos
This isle ringed by beaches is a short boat ride from Provo. Do yoga in a beach villa and unwind at the Balinese spa. From $33,880 per week. parrotcay.como.bz Peter Island, BVI “Bird’s nest”
villas offer unrivaled perches for panoramic views over this private island. Choose from the three-, four-, or six-bedroom variety. From $16,600 per week. peterisland.com
Private Island: Scrub Island, BVI As each day passes, I find it tougher to leave my refuge â€“ a terrace chaise where the view that scrolls past is a medley of blues, the soundtrack a faint wash over the shallow reef below my two-bedroom tri-level villa. Our mixologist blends sundowners in our slick kitchen outfitted for a chef. By 4 p.m. the scene from the plunge pool includes a sailboat motoring along the narrow channel between Scrub and Great Camanoe islands. Only the chirps of a few birds break the silence. Being marooned on a private island in a private villa is the ultimate in freedom, with endless possibilities: some romantic, others contemplative. Morning walks lead to nature trails and eventually to North Beach, where sand paths lead to more seclusion and more pretty views. Privacy is everything on Scrub Island, but when itâ€™s time to mingle, Marina Village offers music, dancing and dinning options. All of it enhanced by the knowledge that my terrace refuge is never far away. From $10,325 per week. scrubisland.com Debbie Snow
Labor of love
A working vacation? Resorts in the Caribbean typically seduce with luxurious spas, private butlers, plush suites and promises of never having to lift a finger. For most of us, such niceties are the very definition of a tropical getaway. So why are some people going to the other extreme and choosing to pay for the privilege of doing manual labor (yes, real work!) on grass-roots community projects? At St. Croixâ€™s Ridge to Reef Farm in the USVI, paying guests plant and tend crops, gather eggs, cook communal dinners, even herd sheepâ€“and claim that after a few days of working the land, they feel as renewed and energized as they would after a more leisurely break. Could tilling soil and turning sod be the makings of the Carribean vacation of a lifetime?
34 “Just listen,” says Nate Olive, the red-bearded visionary behind Ridge to Reef Farm. I’m about to start carving a calabash gourd, but first, Nate tells me, I need to identify which one is “calling” me. I listen but hear nothing. I arrived just this afternoon, but this isn’t the first time I’ve questi-oned whether I’ll be able to embrace life in this stretch of rainforest that seven freethinkers call home. They’re convinced that these 50 acres, and their ability to support an off the grid, sustainable lifes-tyle, hold the keys to happiness. Yet I wonder if they secretly struggle at times, yearning for what lies beond their self-made utopia. But just in case they’re right, I study the gourds more closely. Finally, a calabash “chooses” me, and Nate hands me a Japanese pull saw. Calabashes can be reborn as bowls, instruments, even bongs, but I’ve decided that this one will become a hanging lamp. But first I must free a section from the bottom.
another day in paradise
1 Suit Up Wear a large hat and boots,
“The calabash becomes an extension of you,” Nate says. “It absorbs your intent and your emotion. So be really aware. Try to set an intention while you carve. “
and bring a handkerchief to wipe sweat. (Yes, you’ll sweat).
An intention? He suggests love. Sure, every hippie believes that “all you need is love”, but can it really be that easy? Love doesn’t pay the bills, so I focus instead on concepts that do. But then I wonder if I’m missing the point and think a bit about love for good measure. The blade gnaws through the woodlike shell, exposing rosy pink flesh and releasing wafts of sweet perfume.
ing beets? Beans? Grab a knife and a bin and get going.
I arrived just this afternoon, but this isn’t the first time I’ve questioned whether I’ll be vable to embrace life in this stretch of rainforest that seven freethinkers call home. They’re convinced that these 50 acres, and their ability to support an off-the-grid, sustainable lifestyle, hold the keys to happiness. Yet I wonder if they secretly struggle at times, yearning for what lies beyond their self-made utopia. But just in case they’re right, I study the gourds more closely. Finally, a calabash “chooses” me, and Nate hands me a Japanese pull saw. Calabashes can be reborn as bowls, instruments, even bongs, but I’ve decided that this one will become a hanging lamp. But first I must free a section from the bottom.
2 Kick Off Find out what needs harvest-
3 Tally Up Bundle and weigh the day’s
yield in preparation for its sale in local farmers markets. 4 Cool Off After lunch, your work day
can be done. Beach it for a swim, or join Kite St. Croix (340-643-5824) for a paddle-boarding session. 5 Eat Up When the conch calls, it’s time
to break bread. If inspired, show up early and cook a dish. 6 Chill out Join an after-dinner drum
circle, or ask for a lesson in gourd carving or basket making. Otherwise, just sit back and enjoy the stars.
36 “The blade gnaws through the woodlike shell, exposing rosy pink flesh and releasing wafts of sweet perfume. “It’s really nice air freshner. And then it’s a really bad one”, Nate jokes of the gourd’s short shelf life.
everything i learned
1 Less is more The simpler you can
manage to make your life, the more contented you’ll probably be.
Eagerly I stick my fingers into the pulp and get ready to sample it. But before fingers reach lips, Nate stops me.
2 Know Thyvself One of the best ways
“You’re pregnant, are you?”
3 Feel the love When you eat food
When I assure him I’m not, he tells me that the bottle gourd is believed to be a “bush” cure for unwanted pregnancies. Crisis averted, I savor the yielding flesh, which is as soft as pudding and tastes just as irresistibly sweet. When darkness settles in, Nate leaps to his feet. Like many farmers, he doesn’t wear a watch, and the disappearing light reminds him of errands that need to be run. Time– and Home Depot – wait for no man. The smell of garlic lures me toward the open-air kitchen. There, Patrick Boulger, the farm’s production manager, tens a castiron skillet with breadfruit, kale and onions. A few of the other farmhands wander in just before dinner, announced each evening with the sounding of a conch shell. Along with the breadfruit hash, we tuck into more of nature’s colorful bounty: a hearty fish stew, crisp arugula salad with a passion-fruit dressing, and a pasta dish topped with just-picked basil leaves. After dinner we reconvene on the porch to sip cold Heinekens under the glow of the moon. Here, stories are shared. Disillusionment from serving time at war, in school and in the corporate world have driven these men to seek sanctuary here. And now they can’t fathom why people would want to commit to a fluorescent-lit life when there’s so much living to be done with the sun on your face. Still they’re surprised that visitors pay to work beside them in the fields. Granted, duties are optional, and you can choose to do nothing more than swing in a hammock. But most guests relish this opportunity to slow down, tune into their surroundings and chill out. Working the land yields a balance with nature – a harmony that’s absent from my life. I resolve to get my hands dirty.
to understand yourself is to understand your environment. made with care and love, you can’t help but feel loved and cared for.
lessons from the farm
1 Don’t expect activities to be sched-
uled; the day’s plan is merely a suggestion. If the sheep are loose, you may help herd them before moving on to other duties. 2 Do play with your food. Find out
which fruit and veggies are for communal consumption, then feel free to experiment. A curry-and-kale egg scramble? Delicious. 3 Do carry a journal for jotting down
notes and recipes; conversation on the farm constantly turns to food. To try:poached eggs over a bed of arugula with a side of sour cream 4 Don’t eat anything you haven’t seen
someone from the farm eat first. Some local flowers carry health risks. 5 Do wash your own dishes and tidy up
after yourself, or fear the wrath of karma.