My quest to visit all 59 National Parks has taken many twists and turns. I didn’t know I was going to get a chance to visit the Virgin Islands National Park in St. John this year. I had a last minute opportunity to go so I jumped on the chance and took a flight over to St. Thomas then the ferry to St. John. The Virgin Islands National Park takes up the majority of St. John. This has limited the number of hotels and tourists on the island.
For the longest time, I had no idea where I wanted to stay on St. John. I am not a huge fan of staying in hotels when I am visiting national parks, but due to the last minute nature of this trip, I lacked my camping gear. What’s a person to do without a tent, sleeping bag or sleeping pad? Glamping! Glamping is basically glamorous camping or camping for people who want to be in nature but not have to camp. If you prefer to visit the best hotels, read this Spring Break in Costa Rica guide. But there is a chance you might like glamping.
Concordia Eco-Resort is one of the few hotels on the island of St. John and one of two places to stay in the Virgin Islands National Park. It is located on the west side of the island just past Coral Bay. It is about a 30-45 minute drive from Cruz Bay Ferry Terminal.
I arrive on the morning ferry from St. Thomas, so I couldn’t check in to Concordia until 3 pm. This gave me several hours to explore the island. I picked up my rental Jeep and then headed over to the national park visitor center. Cruz Bay is a small town so I found the office by just driving around at random. The small center has an exhibit on the park as well as a place to get your national park passport stamp as well as a small gift shop. The lady manning the help desk wasn’t the most knowledgeable person about the park but she did help me get my plan of action for my three-day visit.
I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some lunch and a few essentials like a case of water before a headed off to explore the park. Most of the drive is thru the alternating landscape of St. John. Depending on the mountain valley, the fauna is either lush rainforest or desert. The roads are narrow and winding that are fun to drive. I took my time driving from Cruz Bay and made serval stops along the eastern shore. I stopped at various viewpoints, made some short hikes, and explored some sugar cane plantation ruins.
Concordia Eco-Resort offers accommodations that fall into two styles: tents and more traditional hotel rooms. Both styles are designed to be as eco-friendly as possible. I had no idea what to expect between the eco-friendly and the glamping aspect of the resort.
I arrived a Concordia and drove down to the main building. I was greeted by the friendly staff. They quickly got me checked in and explained all the amenities and the hours of operations for the café and small store. Concordia sits the side of a small mountain. The resort is a labyrinth of staircases between the different cabins and tents. It is not a resort for people who want to ride an elevator.
I was given the keys to my tent, P10. The easiest way to reach my tent was to drive to the upper parking lot and walk down the three flights of stairs to my tent. Apparently, I was lucky, I only had to deal with three flights as well as I had a high up tent on the far southeast side of the resort.
I drove back up to the upper parking lot and walked down the three flights of stairs to my tent. I was impressed with my tent view before I had even walked into the tent. I had a wonderful uninterrupted view of Drunk Bay, Ram Head and Salt Pond Bay. There is a short 15-20 minute hiking trail that leads down to Salt Pond Bay. I unlocked my tent and walked into an amazing sight.
My tent is as large as any hotel room I have stayed in in the United States. It is all wood and looks like a treehouse without being in a tree. The tent could sleep up to 5 people. There are two single beds downstairs that can be pushed together to make a king bed. The day lounger can sleep one person and there is a loft with two more single beds.
The tent was a little hot but I quickly fixed that by unzipping several of the canvas windows to allow the trade winds to flow thru my tent. I couldn’t believe the view from my tent. It was a perfect combination of the island with seafront views. The high position on the mountain allowed me to view the entire resort and surrounding landscape.
There is a small kitchenette with a 2-burner propane stove, dorm room sized fridge and a surprisingly good collection of kitchen utensils. There are a couple of pots, a two cutting boards, standard dining utensils, and some other utensils. The only complaint I have is the lack of a solid kitchen knife to cut vegetables and meat with.
The tents have electricity but they do not have 110V outlets. This is because each tent has it’s own set of solar panels. These panels provide enough energy to run the refrigerator, the small personal fans, and lights but not much else. Given the lack of cell service and Wi-Fi there isn’t much use for electronics anyway.
The small deck is on the back of the tent and provides a small outdoor seating area and a clothes line. I couldn’t wait to spend my evening drinking, reading my book and enjoying the view.
Concordia Eco-Resort is impressively eco-friendly and designed to minimize technology use. Cell service is spotty at best, and Wi-Fi is only available in the pool area and lobby. It was refreshing chance to disconnect other than using my kindle to read.
Due to the dry nature of the island, water is a precious resource on the resort. Every building has a cisterns to collect rainwater from the resort’s roofs. The cisterns provide running water. This does come at a cost. The sink in my tent and my shower use this non-portable water. Throughout the property, there are several faucets that provide portable drinking water. The tent comes with a 2 gallon jug to fill so one can have a supply of drinking water.
I was most concerned about the composting toilet. When I hear composting toilet, I think of the almost unbearable smell of the composting toilets in the national parks. I hate using those toilets with a passion. I was pleasantly surprised by the composting toilet at my tent. They use an open air design that actually minimizes the smell due to the exposure to oxygen. I couldn’t smell my toilet at all from my tent or bathroom. The toilet is a manual flush so one has to use their foot to flush the toilet and then to make sure that the water stops running in the toilet but that just takes an extra second.
The hot water is solar heated. Read the direction for how to work the shower. It is a little confusing. The shower head is a garden hose head. This pretty much forces one to minimize water use. I found the water was nice a hot and there was always plenty of it. The tank size does limit how much hot water is available so a group of 5 might not have hot water for everyone.
Eco-friendly soap is provided and the waste water from the sink and shower is used to water the landscaping. Compostable trash is thrown over the deck railings to feed the hermit crabs. There are recycling bins around the compound.
Concordia’s location does hinder it’s eco-friendly nature. A rental car is a necessary evil if you plan on exploring the island. It is possible to take public transport but this really limits exploration options. I feel like the resort should have a trips board where I can post my plan and people who are looking for rides can sign up.
Overall, Concordia Eco-Resort lives up to the Eco-friendly name.
The Café is one of two restaurants within walking distance of the resort. The café is only open during high season and the hours vary every day. Be sure to check the hours if planning on eating there.
Two special nights of the week are Sunday and Monday. Sunday is Pizza Night. They make a mean pizza. The head bartender has created a customer cocktail menu with local high quality ingredients. I really enjoyed both the drinks I had.
Monday night is a must visit night for the café. It’s open mic night at the café. They bring in a live band and do karaoke. I was really impressed that the café was crowded during my visit. It was late in the season, yet the café was full. The crowd was a good mix for local and tourists.
Concordia is a 30-45 minute drive from Cruz Bay and a 15 minute drive from Coral Bay.
Coral Bay has two small grocery stores. They both have a good selection of canned and non-perishable foods but fresh meat, fruits and veggies are limited. I would pick any of these items up at the larger grocery store in Cruz Bay.
The only gas stations are located in Cruz Bay.
There is a small short 15-20 minute downhill hike from the resort to Salt Pond Bay. There are beach towels for purchase in the Concordia gift shop. Along with the beachfront home rentals, Concordia also offers rentals on beach chairs and snorkeling gear.
If booking a trip in 2017, make sure to book thru USVI Department of Tourism to take advantage of the $300 Centennial Promotion.
Disclaimer: I was provided the accommodations by Concordia Eco-Resorts. All opinions are my own.