It seems like everywhere you turn these days when it comes to travel there is an emphasis on ways to travel: eco, sustainably, consciously. But what does that really mean? Most of us will still fly (which most know emits greenhouse gases). We will produce trash that is not recyclable– however hard we try to avoid it. And, most importantly (I think) unknowingly funnel money that doesn’t go to support the very core people and communities in the places we are visiting for a holiday.
My recent trip to St. John shifted a mindset, that you didn’t need to go far away to discover destinations that were fabulous AND sustainable! Given the opportunity to go to John, I was not sure what to expect? It was a US virgin island (USVI)? Would it be similar to Key West? I have traveled to quite a few Caribbean islands (which most have some influence of their Mother Country) so I was intrigued, needless to say. I never turn down a chance to explore somewhere new, and this would allow me to see what was in “our own backyard, so to speak.”
There seemed to be so many benefits of St. John. Covid was still looming, and this trip had been cancelled once before, so it felt good to know, I could scratch my travel itch (which never goes away) and it was a USVI, making the requirements less stringent. Escaping the monotony of quarantine life, was also a plus.
A little logistics tip for you when travelling to St. John: We had to fly into St. Thomas, and take a ferry from there. There isn’t an airport in St. John, and the ferry was incredibly easy, plus multiple location options. As well, as frequent times throughout the day that the ferry’s run.
As we approached St. John it was clear to me, not only was St. John beautiful and incredibly clean, (which typically can be an indicator of its economic health), but it also has all the charm you could want in an island: beautiful beaches, history, friendly people, and uhhhh…. the most beautiful water ever! It seems like an obvious requirement of an island to have gorgeous beaches and beautiful water. But as we got closer and closer to St. John, I realized this had exceeded that expectation, plus there seemed to be an enormous amount of attention being paid to how St. John would stay resilient in the face of the effects of climate change and consequences caused by mass amounts of travel and the pollution it brings.
When looking for a hotel when I travel, I always try to seek out the most sustainable. Due to the fact St. John had suffered TWO devastating hurricanes back to back in 2017 – do you remember Irma and Maria? As well as the consequences of Covid, there was only a handful to choose from.
I chose Gallows Point Resort, which online checked all the major boxes: clean, mm meh.. on the OCEAN (it is the only resort to sit directly facing and inside of Cruz Bay) and reasonably priced! Gallows Point is very close to the ferry dock, which is also downtown St. John. The downtown is filled with quaint shops and lively restaurants.
When we got off the ferry we were greeted by the Gallows Point shuttle and off we went up a beautiful ocean lined road with pastel colored homes.
At a first glance, Gallows Point seemed like a modest hotel, but that is where the beauty lies. It is a sleeper! It has only 50 villas, which is one of the best ways to lighten your footprint when travelling. Choosing hotels that have not developed miles and miles of coast line, resulting in disrupting all the natural biodiversity.
As you first approach Gallows Point you realize it is encased in a cocoon of tropical foliage, buildings, and fencing — it isn’t until you enter the grounds that you see just why this is one of the Caribbean’s BEST KEPT SECRETS! Around every corner there is something new to be discovered.
As you enter the open-air lobby the picturesque stair case leads to all the magic. Grand tropical trees line the pathways and provide a glimpse to the turquoise and mouthwashJ blue ocean. You can hear it, smell it, but barely see it….until you get to your villa!
There are an abundance of exotic flowers and trees- confirming one has arrived somewhere beachy and tropical. Smiling and friendly staff attentively greet you along your way. But there is also the remanence of the settlers here from years ago. Indigenous trees from Africa and …. the most beautiful jewel toned peacocks that truly transcend you, leaving one with that feeling of “exotica” …I so often long for.
One of the beautiful trees along the pathway and marked by its scientific name.
Each villa, is a privately – owned condo. Creating a feeling of comfort and uniqueness due to each owners’ personal touches. Each has a beautiful living room with a patio that leads to the gorgeous Cruz Bay and private beach. Listening to the gentle waves crash and witness the magical sunsets of St. John is a guaranteed activity at Gallows Point. It feels like a scene out of a James Bond film: with craggy rocks, iguanas perched among the trees enjoying the abundance of foods to eat and various hammocks and lounge chairs tucked away. In the distance the waves rock the sailboats from side to side, evoking the mystery of just who is inside? The dock takes you out far enough in the bay for the adventure of a plunge in to swim or a snorkel and maybe catch a glimpse of the ever so majestic and shy green and hawksbill turtles.
Living room leading out to the deck.
As each moment of exploration unfolded I realized just how special this place was. Not only because it is truly a sanctuary of respite and a healthy ecosystem, as well somewhere easily and quickly reached from the US. But, because they are making every effort to preserve this special place for years to come.
Resilience has become something mandatory for many island nations and Gallows Point and St. John are no different. They are feeling the pressures of climate change with increased, more frequent, and devastating storms. The motivation to implement sustainable practices is not something new. Without the ability to mitigate these threats, there has to be ways to adapt. And that is something Gallows Point understands very well. Rebuilding after the hurricanes has been long and arduous. ** if there are any specifics you would like for me to add Jamaica ?
As we made our way to our room I noticed the refillable fresh water station – WHAT? This was such a pleasant and unexpected amenity, and Inside the refrigerator in our villa was a large pitcher in order to fill it up. I have to tell you; out of the hundreds of places I have visited over the years—this was a first. It is such a luxury to have all the fresh water you desire, especially knowing you are not creating waste consuming it. This made me want to investigate further and find out what other environmentally friendly measures Gallows Point was taking on?
It turns out in addition to the fresh water they are supplying: they are generating renewable energy through solar, capturing rainwater for their landscaping needs, they have gone completely paperless, and guests are asked to donate $1 for each night spent which goes to the Island Green Association.
Island Green is a local non-profit organization led by President Harith Wickrema. The non-profit is undertaking incredible projects (without the help of the U.S.) to..well .. GREEN, St. John! From recycling, to composting, banning toxic sunscreens (which are wreaking havoc on coral reefs) and of course educating the other islanders and visitors of the importance of these initiatives on the health and resilience of the island.
The community of St. John is not waiting for anyone else to save them or protect them from the unstable effects of climate change. They are taking matters into their own hands.
As travel starts to inch its way back, it is more important than ever we create memories at places that are preserving what makes destinations special. We go there to leave our worries behind, but we must ensure we are thinking about the way we leave that destination and support it while there. It is equally important we don’t forget the social aspect of sustainability. Choosing destinations that have been economically hurt from natural disasters and whom rely on tourism – must be a priority! This is Sustainable Travel at its core. The new way of travel has to be conscious AND sustainable, in order to leave these beautiful places, the same way that we found them.
For more information on Gallows Point please visit: www.gallowspoint.com and be sure to visit www.islandgreenliving.com to follow along and support the exciting projects happening, in our own backyard. After all, these are our brothers and sisters of the U.S. Of A!
This property has been “Green Luxe Certified”!
Turning the traveler into a conservationist is our mission at Green Luxe.
We hope you find motivation in nature, and inspiration in travel.
Dreaming of my next adventure,