|When we stepped
from the boat onto the dock at Guana Island, I felt as though we had walked
through Alice's Looking Glass into a tropical wonderland. Seven white sand
beaches rim three towering hills full of flora and fauna. Bright pink flamingos
lazily drift in the large salt water pond and colorful flowers dot trails
and hillsides. Clouds of white butterflies flutter by as a hermit crab
... Guana is an 850 acre private island on the north side of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Under the direction of owners Henry and Gloria Jarecki, it has become an important nature preserve and wildlife sanctuary with one of the richest collections of plant and animal species in the Caribbean. This magical island has three peaks rising 325', 442', and 806' above sea level and is named for an iguana shaped rock formation on the western coast.
A long stunning shoreline, called White Bay Beach, borders the valley with a tranquil salt pond. Twenty hiking trails criss-cross the island and allow access to several other beaches, a bat cave, the three peaks, an organic garden, and ruins of former sugar and cotton plantations.
A "Beach House" near the dock on White Bay has a self-serve bar, water sports equipment, changing rooms, bathroom, and shower. A paved road winds up a steep hill to cottages set on a saddleback ridge almost 200' above the beach. Transportation between the cottages and the beach is provided by staff members driving motorized carts.
White-washed stone cottages for thirty guests overlook the nearby islands of the British and U.S. Virgins with the deep blue Caribbean beyond.
|The main club house, called Dominica, was built on ruins of an 18th century Quaker estate and has a boutique, large communal living room, cozy library with lots of books and games, a self serve bar, and dining areas for guests.|
|A nearby stone
terrace links meandering garden paths to rooms and island trails. Cottages
are named after Caribbean islands and some contain only one guest room,
while others have clusters of two and three private accommodations.
Guana's fifteen rooms have different configurations, locations, and panoramic vistas, but each is spacious and has a porch, patio, or balcony. Some rooms overlook the valley and White Bay, while others face Crab Cove and Muskmelon Bay.
|Decor is comfortably
"basic" with white walls, dark beamed ceilings, painted concrete floors
with area rugs, and small accents of color in cushions here and there.
Each room has
flashlights, two umbrellas, and plenty of bars of soap, shampoo and rinse.
Other personal necessities are available in the boutique. My biggest surprise
was super water pressure in the shower and instant hot water, something
not often found in Caribbean resorts!
Anegada House Villa, located a short walk from the main house, holds three large bedrooms, each with its own entryway and terrace; it also has a living room which can be opened to provide additional space for a group of six or three couples vacationing together. Nearby, a tropical garden leads to a lovely patio featuring a horizon pool that overlooks White Bay Beach in the distance. This villa can be rented all in one or as separate units.
the main road, has one room with a large shaded porch and is very private,
but can be a little noisy when motor carts go to and from the beach and
dock. Lower and Upper Camanoe, both with shaded decks, are quiet
and isolated. Dominica, the main club house, has several rooms attached
- the couple staying in #4 said that the bedroom has a separate sitting
area with a day bed plus a sunny private terrace with a wonderful view
of White Bay. Dominica #3 also has a very secluded patio.
|Other cottages are scattered along a hill rising near the main terrace. Eleuthera contains one suite with an extensive front porch plus a living area with a day bed and a bedroom - perfect for a family of three or a couple wanting extra space. Fallen Jerusalem is another complex holding three bedrooms, each with its own patio, and has a large adjoining shared terrace. Almost at the highest point of the steep hill is Grenada cottage which has two guest rooms with front porches and outstanding vistas of Muskmelon Bay.|
Villa sits above the other cottages at the crown of the ridge with outstanding
east and westly views. It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, porches,
kitchen, dining area, bar, and an immense terrance featuring an infinity
pool and jacuzzi. It can be rented as a one or two bedroom villa.
For those who want the ulitimate in luxury and privacy, the Jost House Villa spreads across the side of a high hillside facing both North Beach and White Bay. It has three suites, gorgeous bathrooms, and an immense patio rimmed by a meandering infinity pool. A house staff provides excellent service to guests.
Guana's only beachside accommodation is a remote and isolated North Beach Cottage. It can be found at an end of a narrow road which winds around the salt pond and through dense tropical forests. The spacious cottage has a large living room, bedroom with a king or twin beds, bathroom, kitchen, and two patios. A pretty boardwalk leads to a wooden deck overlooking the vast North Beach shoreline and has steps down to a swimming area which has been cleared of underwater rocks and coral. A fresh water plunge pool surrounded with a deck and lounge chairs overlooks the beach. This is truly the ultimate, romantic "hideaway" nestled within natural splendor of flora and fauna.
in the beach cottage have access to a motorized cart which can be driven
to White Bay Beach and along other main pathways to explore various parts
of the "valley". If they prefer not to have breakfast in the main dining
area, a staff member will deliver a fruit plate or light breakfast each
morning. Lunch and dinner can be brought at an extra service charge.
I highly recommend North Beach Cottage to those who desire complete privacy,
lovely accommodations, and gorgeous tropical surroundings.
Take the link at the bottom of the page to read more.
While the west end of North Beach is reserved for those staying in the cottage, other guests can explore the east side of this long strip of sand and also see many seabirds along the shoreline.
has been expanding their orchard into a botanical wonder full of herbs,
vegetables, and fruit bountiful enough to supply the kitchen and cuisine.
Tucked into the east side of the valley, an addition of a patio and fire
pit creates a special setting for guests and events. Tours can be
easily arranged with one of the highlights being offered fresh fruit such
as mangos or coconut. Guests will also savor the island-grown
organic produce with each meal they have at Guana.
Dining at Guana is a delectable experience! All meals are served under covered verandahs on either side of the main house and on Sunset Terrace. The menu changes daily under the direction of very talented chefs.
Breakfast is from
8:00 - 10:00 a.m. and begins with a fruit, cereal, and pastry buffet. Guests
also have a choice of juices and eggs cooked any style or "the special
of the day" which can include pancakes, waffles, eggs florentine omelets,
or french toast.
A buffet lunch at 1:00 p.m. has delightful choices which always include two entrees. One of our meals offered Wahoo, Jerk Chicken, Bok Choy salad, Broccoli salad, Black Bean salad, Fruit Platter, followed by Passion Fruit Sorbet. Another lunch had choices of Snapper, Lamb Chops, Stuffed Zucchini, Grilled Breadfruit, Fresh Fruits, and a special dessert. A fresh garden salad and dressings were always available. In late afternoon, guests will find a nice selection of teas and cookies or cake on the buffet table.
Each evening, guests gather for cocktails at the fully stocked self-serve bar and conversation in the living room or on the terrace. A seating chart is posted by the manager and guests can dine at several tables set for six or eight which have a view of the gardens, Sunset Terrace, and Muskmelon Bay.
Couples or families who prefer their own table are seated on a small cozy porch overlooking White Bay and Tortola, or on romantic Camino and Sunset Terraces which have views of Jost Van Dyke and St. Thomas night lights glowing in the distance. Once in a while, a glorious sunset accompanies dinner.
A small hillside museum displays artifacts and information about Guana's wildlife. Guests also are provided with a twenty page natural history guide to the island. It describes many different species which may be observed - birds, reptiles (non-poisonous!), insects, amphibians, bats, trees, plants, palms, tropical fish and reef creatures. Most of the incredible array of flora and fauna are indigenous to the West Indies, except for a majestic "Australian Pine" on the beach.
Some species, such as Iguana pinguis, the great 6' long 70 pound iguana once found throughout the Virgin Islands, have become rare and endangered; a few years ago, only a small number remained on remote Anegada until eight pairs were transferred and reintroduced to Guana. Other "lost" species are slowly being brought to the island in hopes that they will thrive and multiply in a protected, natural environment.
My husband explored
many of the trails, but the great iguanas were elusive. No problem - most
mornings, we observed one of these shy giants on the Iguana Trail at "feeding
time" when they are offered fresh fruits from the kitchen. I happily
discovered a baby iguana posing on a nearby rock while moma enjoyed her
breakfast. Kenny found one of the large "critters" on the
way to the Guana Museum near Sunset Terrace.
What is there to do on Guana besides relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings? One couple, serious "birders", spent their week seeking and photographing Guana's feathered friends, while another couple played tennis each day.
Some guests enjoyed kayaking to the bays and coves - one guest (who was in her 70s!) kayaked completely around the island each morning. Hikers will be rewarded with many types of trails, vistas, and places to explore. A detailed trail map is available in the office along with a 2-way radio, water bottles, and knapsacks.
While snorkeling White Bay reefs, we found an enormous brain coral and saw lots of tropical fish of all colors, shapes, and sizes. A large barracuda followed us around while we swam through several schools of friendly fish and we saw a small sting-ray near the dock. Crab Cove, on the other side of the island, is the best place to observe all kinds of marine life. Monkey Point, another exceptional snorkeling spot, can be reached by a very strenuous hike or a short boat ride to the small beach there.
After a day of all these activities, many of us enjoyed a professional massage in our cottage room or at the seaside "massage tent" conveniently located near White Bay Beach. A full array of treatments are available.
Guana island has the delightful ambiance of a large bed and breakfast or small inn where guests are generally on their own to enjoy nature at its finest. The Dominica and Beach House bars are self serve - guests record their drinks in small books and are charged accordingly. The boutique also has a booklet for listing purchases. However, if guests need anything from extra towels to a special menu, the staff will graciously try to accommodate.
The resort managers can arrange off-island activities such as scuba diving, deep sea fishing, trips to Tortola, day sails, and castaway picnics to remote beaches. One of our special adventures was having a helicopter tour of Guana and the BVI.
A staff member is usually near the Beach House and will help set up small sailboats, windsurfers, provide tennis rackets and snorkeling equipment or fishing rods. He or she will also arrange a ride from White Bay Beach up the steep hill to the cottages for those who would rather not walk.
The island has 110 volt, 60 cycle power and a water treatment system, however guests are encouraged to help conserve water. Each room has hand soap, shampoo, and rinse - more is available in the office. Internet Wi-Fi is available for those who bring their electronics.. A telephone and computer with an internet connection is near the office and fax is available. Wash and fold laundry service is provided at no charge. Currency in the islands is the U.S. Dollar.
Visitors to Guana
are mainly from North America and Europe. Most guests are couples searching
for a quiet, magical retreat - far away from businesses and "civilization".
The island is also a special haven for honeymooners of all ages, family
reunions, and small conferences for up to 30 people. Island rentals
which include Harbour House Villa and Jost House Villa can accommodate
up to 42 guests.
The resort is generally closed to guests during September when scientists pursue research and studies in marine biology, entomology, ornithology, herpetology, archeology, and botany.
Guana Island accepts personal, travelers, or business checks and cash in U.S. currency, Visa and MasterCard.
Fly to the Beef Island Airport (EIS) on Tortola. A resort representative
will meet you at customs and arrange a taxi for a short ride to the dock.
A Guana boat will then provide a 10 minute cruise to the island. If possible,
plan to arrive and depart between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. If your schedule allows
only late evening arrival, Guana Island will be happy to accommodate you.
Other options are available, check with the resort reservations.
When guests are ready to depart the island and return home, they are given a bright tropical flower which is tossed from the boat as it leaves the dock. The legend says that if the flower floats to Guana's beach, the visitors will come back. My flower has always returned to the island, as have we ... to enjoy a few more days in total relaxation surrounded by the joys of nature.