Click Photo For 4 Destinations In One!
To get to Maho Bay you have to get to St. John, U.S.V.I. To get to St. John you have to take the ferry from Charlotte Amalie or Red Hook on St. Thomas. Getting to St. Thomas is easy, linked to the world with an international airport.
Once past the ferry dock at Cruz Bay you enter a realm of serene nature and relaxationa time gone by, slow, quiet, the way the Carib used to be.
Surrounded by the United States Virgin Islands Natiional Park, Maho Bay Camps is reached by unique canvas-topped, ten passenger iguana-green and open air Land Rover jitneys that grind over the paved and graveled roads to get to Maho Bay Camps.
Maho Bay Camps is wrapped tightly above Maho Bay, sprawling ladder-like up the steep hillside, and it is one of the world's first eco-lodges devised to bring the natural elemnts right into your sleeping environ. Built in1976 with only 18 tent cottages built on 16 foot wooden platforms, using hand construction techinques to protect the environment.
The tent city rests beneath a tangled Caribbean forest that provides privacy. Translucent fabric on wood frames, screened windows and open air terraces take advantage of the cooling Virgin Islands trade winds. Many units have beautiful hillside views of the turquoise Caribbean waters, nearby islands and spectacular sunsets.
Each tent has a separate sleeping area with comfortable twin beds. An extra mattress is behind the sleeping-couch in the living area. Bed linens, blankets, towels, cooking and eating utensils are all provided, including propane stive and ice cooler. Every tent-cottage has its own private deck, electric outlets, lights and fans. Barbecue areas and fresh water are available along the walkways.
Conveniently located bathhouses are equipped with modern, low-flush toilets and pull-chain showers connected to a recycling system which irrigates the surrounding vegetation. If you rent the Harmony Estates at the top end of Maho Bay Camps, you have the luxury of toilet and solar shower with tub built into your ecolodge for even more privacy.
Maho Bay is built for an outdoor experience, with a year-around tropical climate. Hike down the rambling staircase to the secluded white sand beach , or stop off at the popular water sports center (with expert instruction) to arrange kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling and scuba diving.
The watersports center opens a little too late for me, a person that likes to sea kayak as the sun arises and paints the scenery my favorite Caribbean colors. Be sure to ask about sailing adventures with private tour operators, one of whom was once a temporary employee of the Camps, then a full time resident, and then finally a yachting entrepreneur who could never go back to the old life.
Massage, yoga, National Park presentations, weddings, live music and other activities are also available. Glassblowing demonstrations turn the Camp's beer and soda bottles and other recylables into their Trash to Treasure Art Center.
The immediate area around Maho Bay Camps has beautiful hiking trails, including walks to historic plantation ruins. The town of Cruz Bay offers active night life within half an hour via local taxi service.
Every paradise has drawbacks of course. Maho Bay Camps would be a tough struggle for those in wheelchairs. Swim before the sand flies come out at dusk, and everything else will fall in place.
The outdoor restaurant on one of the two large pavilions, serves breakfast and dinner every day with a variety of healthy meals, including at least one vegetarian entrée. The dining area has one of the Virgin Islands' most unforgettable views, especially at sunset. Most of the food fare is continental Americain with a little bit of the Carib thrown in. Menus are primarily a la carte. The Maho Bay store is stocked with frozen foods, some produce, canned goods, breads, dairy, juices, soft drinks, beer, wine, and various sundries and boutique items , sunscreen, insect repellent, and recycled products. The gift shop features high quality crafts made by local artists as well as works in glass and aluminum made from recycled material created at their workshops. The free "help-yourself" center where departing guests leave books, sunscreen, staples, and other items is a convenient recycling center for newcomers.
Many of the Maho employee/expatriates are flight-from-the-modern-mold who make a modest living assisting as volunteers for a month or two at the eco-lodge to straighten out whatever problem that needs to be hammered back into shape. And many of them stay, such as the long-haired short order cook, the marketing director who came here over 16 years ago and never left, and the glass blowing instructor, who turns that beer bottle in you mitt into an ashtray or other work of art.
Maho Bay offers the one month summer program, usually in June, to those looking for a cheap vacation. There is no wages attached, in turn you give the resort four hours a day of your time in return for a bunk at the tent hotel. The restaurant meals are also discounted for the volunteers. But what a great way to spend some time in paradise.
The National Park offers Cinnamon Bay Campground for those that want to camp, but hey, why camp when you can bask in luxury at the Maho Bay Camps, just around the corner, and on one of the most beautiful bays in the Caribbean.
At the top of Maho Bay Camps and a five minute walk on the boardwalk from Maho Bay Camp is Harmony Studios, a row of two-story duplex cottages that offer more convenience and comfort for campers. These are not tents; the architecture employs passive solar design, photovoltaics, rain collection and roof scoops that draw cooling breezes through the well-furnished rooms that have recycled building materials such as "plastic lumber", recycled glass tiles, steel nails, and rubber tire rugs. Interactive computers in some units monitor daily energy use. Harmony blends great Caribbean vacations with the international ecotourism movement.
The 2-story wooden Harmony Estate structures come with a key to turn on and off the solar power for hot water and to supply electricity to the small fridge. Harmony is mostly king bedded rooms with a separate bath area ensuite. Sit on the small patio and listen to the hummingbirds.
Bedroom Studios (upper/lower) have two twin beds (roll aways are also available), kitchenettes with microwave, all kitchen appliances and cooking utensils, dining table and chairs, tiled private bathrooms, all linens, and a spacious 6' x 18' deck with furniture.
Living Room Studios (upper/lower) have queen-size sofa-beds, two twin beds, kitchenettes with microwave, all kitchen appliances and cooking utensils, spacious dining areas, all linens, tiled private bath, and a large 6' x 20' deck with furniture.
Concordia Eco Tents and Concordia Estates are also owned by Maho Bay Camps, but located on a different side of the island, high above Trunk Bay, and encompassed by the National Park. You will need to hire a taxi or rent a car to get to these deluxe eco lodges, which are about 25 minutes from Maho Bay Camp and Harmony Studios.
If Maho Bay Camps, Harmony Studios, or the Concordia Eco-Tents are not chichi enough for you, then you are in luck, because Maho also owns and operates Concordia Estates, an even more upscale condo-like accommodation born on the brow of a bluff overlooking the National Park and surrounded only by bird song and a few wild asses (donkeys). This is the ultimate escape, with each Estate far from prying eyes. The 2-story townhouses have superb views, privacy and comfort, with maid service.
Concordia Estates and Concordia Eco-Tents share a pool that is embedded around the boardwalk, but raised above the landscape, as are the cabins. You feel you are living in the sky, amongst the birds and treetops.
Hike down to Trunk Bay for private snorkeling along the National Park underwter trail. There is no restaurant at Concordia, but the small, poolside store will outfit you with picnic supplies and beverages.
Thanks to many new technologies, it is now possible for "green" travelers to enjoy intimacy with nature while staying in dwellings constructed almost entirely of recycled materials, powered by the sun and wind, and built with site-sensitive techniques that preserve and protect the fragile eco-system of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
CONCORDIA ECO TENTS
The Concordia Eco-Tents are the newest addition to the camp. Located on the dramatic southeastern side of St. John, these high-tech structures provide guests with comforts for the body and soul. These are some of the most spectacular surroundings for which the USVIs and St. John are well known. The "eco-tents" are similar to the tent cottages of Maho Bay Camps. They provide more creature comforts and conveniences with private toilets, hot water showers, solar energy, and more elaborate kitchen facilities in each unit. Breathtaking vistas of the incomparable Caribbean are commonplace from these comfortable dwellings
Five or six adults can sleep on twin beds and a queen-size futon. The dining area and large screened windows allow nature lovers to be as close to St. John's flora and fauna as possible without actually sleeping outside.
This side of St. John has some of the most beautiful scuba diving and snorkeling in the Caribbean which can be arranged through the Maho Bay's Water Sports Center.
Restaurants, groceries, casual shopping, local entertainment, water sports and island tours are a pleasant 25 minute drive to Coral Bay.
Maho Bay Camp Map!
Eco-owner, Stanley Selengut, coceived Maho Bay Camps at the tail end of the Age of Aquarius generation as a respite from a modern, intense and disturbing world. It is ironic that the scion of one of the world's inveterate industrialists, Lawrence Rockeller, had the vision in the 1950s and 60s to buy up as much of St. John as possible, and then creating and giving it back as a National Park. Selengut is also a member of the National Park System Advisory Board, and on the Board of Directors of The International Ecotourism Society.
The Camp often hosts ecological seminars with environmental heavy weights such as Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society, offer a series of exciting weeklong adventure vacations in ocean exploration and environmental awareness. The "Ambassadors of the Environment" program teachs youth (ages 11 to 18) and their families about the local ecology, sustainability and on becoming better stewards of the environment on St. John.
The "Ambassadors of the Environment" program consists of two major types of activities: challenge activities, which focus on individuals and the group, and educational activities, which include daily field activities to study the land, sea, campgrounds and ecosystems. Most of the activities will take place in the Virgin Islands National Park, which comprises two-thirds of the island of St. John. More than one-third of the 11,560 acres that make up the V.I. National Park is underwater.
Participants learn about environmental protection for terrestrial and aquatic environments. Multiple snorkeling excursions, hiking, kayaking and stargazing will be an integral part of the educational activities, in addition to informative discussions about marine and terrestrial ecosystems
Wearing snorkels and masks, participants observe the fragile coral reefs, sea grass beds and endangered mangroves to better understand their value and ecological connections. Land-based activities include exploring the forests and ancient indigenous cultures, and workshops about solar technology, recycling, composting and organic gardening. Participants will also be able to work with glass artisans to make beautiful functional pieces such as mugs and vases from recycled glass materials, as part of Maho's ongoing glass recycling project
Three consecutive seven-day programs are held during the summer at St. John's Maho Bay Camps. Programs are developed for families consisting of people of all ages. Rates for families are as follows: $3,400 for three people/one cabin; $4,300 for four people/one cabin; $5,000 for four people/two cabins; $5,900 for five people/two cabins; and $6,800 for six people/two cabins.
A maximum of 90 campers can participate in the family program. More time will be allotted for families to spend time together with minimal programming.
The second program is held in July and August for youth ages 11 to 14 years. The final summer program is held in August for youth ages 15 to 18 years. The cost for each youth program is $1,250 per camper. The maximum number of campers for each youth program is 40. These costs do not include airfare to the United States Virgin Islands. Accommodations is provided at Maho Bay Camps, where participants stay in the famous environmentally sensitive tent cottages. Maho Bay's kitchen staff provides three well-rounded and healthy meals each day, and a small grocery store is also on-site
All instructors for the programs have a college degree in natural or environmental science, are over the age of 21, and are first aid/CPR and lifeguard-certified. All staff instructors are personally trained by Jean-Michel Cousteau team members and are full-time employees of Ocean Futures Society with extensive experience in conducting these programs. For the youth programs, there is one staff counselor for every three campers in addition to the instructors.
For more information about the "Ambassadors of the Environment" program and Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society, call 805/899-8899, or log on at Ocean Features, or call Maho Bay Camps at 800/451-9288 or 340/776-6226. Check out Maho Bay Camp at www.maho.org
By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.