Every view from my second-floor guest room at The Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort & Spa grants the sensation of being tucked away in a treehouse. An interesting blend of deep Spanish Colonial mahogany woodwork, angular vaulted ceilings, marble bathrooms and stainless steel appliances carry this vibe indoors with a modern twist.
The 151-room hotel is enveloped by lush landscaping and architectural symmetry reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright. After a morning of heavenly banana rum pancakes and coffee in a cozy, well-cushioned screened-in porch, it’s easy to see why the resort holds such allure for incentive groups.
“You can credit Laurance Rockefeller and his passion for conservation for the way the Carambola blends seamlessly with its surroundings,” says Shelli Brin, our jovial guide, and the resort’s catering sales manager. Brin, who also helps run Ridge2Reef, the only certified organic farm on the island, says the present Carambola began to take shape in the ‘60s after Rockefeller purchased what was then a Rock Resort in need of a little TLC. Multiple renovations have been completed since that time, including furniture, bathroom and kitchenette revamps in 2013.
During our tour, Brin points to a rum shack that has been transformed into a raw food bar and mentions as a sidenote that on-site cooking classes can be arranged. The resort’s Sweet Bottom Dive Shop allows planners to charge any number of activities to one bill. With a 3,000-foot wall dive nearby, it’s a bonus for diving enthusiasts in the group to just grab scuba gear and go.
“We arrange rainforest tours, dine-arounds at some of St. Croix’s farm-to-table restaurants and dives right off our shore,” says Nancy Williams, director of sales/marketing. Off-site, planners can arrange tastings and tours of the Captain Morgan Rum Distillery, where the rum “tells” its keepers when it is ready.
Our group soon settles in after the jaunt at Saman restaurant for a meal that contains one of the most complex desserts I’ve ever eaten—rum cake, chocolate sticks, strawberry cream, lime wedge, berry glaze, pineapple, coconut, jalapeño and cream, all in a tortilla shell.
Rina Walton, CMP/account executive of Carlson Wagonlit, sums up my enthusaism in a nutshell. “The Carambola does a good job of creating upscale cuisines from local fare, which is great for groups.” The Saman is one of four on-site restaurants at the resort, offering up to 310 guests palate-seducing dishes inside and on its sea-facing terrace.