Americans are not generally known for their restraint when it comes to development, so St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands is a pleasant surprise. Just 20 square miles, the island is devoted primarily to National Parks, and has some of the best beaches and finest snorkeling in the world. It also is home to some nice, small-scale eco-friendly lodgings, most more aptly described as campgrounds or villas than resorts.
AddressMaho Bay, St John 00830, USVI
Actually two resorts under the same umbrella, Maho Bay features 114 tent-cottages ensconced in the lush jungle of the Virgin Island National Park and connected to one another by a series of wooden walkways through the bush. Concordia Eco-Tents, on the Estate Concordia Preserve is a little more upscale, featuring 25 multi-level, full-amenity private accommodations powered just ten minutes away from downtown Coral Bay. Both resorts offer more traditional "studio" accommodations for the tent-wary.
Fans of farming and horticulture might want to consider Trinidad Charlie's, a 24-year-old agricultural project featuring dozens of fruit trees, palms, and peppers (the last of which Charlie uses to make his signature hot sauce). The farm is also home to two tented eco-cottages wih full kitchens, located in the middle of the owners' private garden. High-season rates are $800 per week for two people; $550 in the low-season.
For serious eco-tourism, try the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station (VIERS) in remote Lameshur Bay. Founded in 1966 as a biology field-research camp, VIERS has a complete focus on the environment, providing workshops and seminars, encouraging green best practices, and hosting scientists from around the world. VIERS has a dozen rustic living cabins in addition to a central complex with a dining hall, library, showers, and an office/store. Three meals a day are provided, though guests are expected to pitch in with the dishwashing and housekeeping duties. Rates start at $66 per night.
The Cinnamon Bay Campground, located along the longest stretch of beach in St. John merges rough eco-tourism with a relaxed, beach-bum attitude. With birdwatching, hiking, snorkeling, and tours of local ruins and Taino Indian sites, there's there's still plenty to do, but you just won't feel any pressure other than to bask in the natural beauty of Cinnamon Bay. Accommodations run from $30/night for a bare site to $100/night for a beachfront cottage. The campground is closed Sept. 7 to Oct. 28.
For eco-friendly tours and expeditions off-site from your resort or lodgings, check out Virgin Island Ecotours, with locations in both St. Thomas and St. John.
At Honeymoon Beach at Caneel Bay in St. John, adventurers can enjoy paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling and more, all with an inclusive day pass provided by the Ecotours group. For those who are more inclined to recline and relax, the inclusive pass also includes floats, hammocks, and beach chairs, so you can kick back in Caribbean style.
Honeymoon Beach at Caneel Bay is located in the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John, an eco-friendly location providing tropical fun and a look into island history.