Caneel Bay Resort Honors 50th Anniversary with Commemorative Book

The Caneel Bay Resort is the grande dame of Caribbean resorts and for decades its laid-back atmosphere has attracted visitors who come back to stay again and again.

A book titled “Caneel Bay – A Celebration of 50 Years” will commemorate this unique charm in honor of the resort’s 50th anniversary this December.

The book’s author, Joan Tapper, familiarized herself with the islands during a 13-year stint as editor of Islands Magazine. The book was inspired by a Santa Barbara publisher who’s such a Caneel Bay Resort fan that he named his daughter “Caneel,” said Tapper.

“He thought it’d be important to do a commemorative book for Caneel’s 50th anniversary,” she said.

Many Interviews
Tapper was on island late last month collecting stories and recollections from long-time residents, guests and employees of the resort. These memories, along with photos from Caneel Bay’s archives, will make up the coffee table book.

“We’ve worked with Caneel to tell the story of the resort, the island and the people,” said Tapper. “It’s a beautiful physical space, but it’s really the people who have made it really important over the years. It’s a fascinating and unique story.”

The book will feature chapters on the beginnings, the people, the island, the traditions and Caneel Bay today, according to a preview of the book in the Caneel Bay Registry.

Caneel – the bay, not the resort – was named for its numerous Cinnamon trees, or “caneel” in Dutch, by a Dutch planter who set up a sugar plantation there.

Caneel Bay sported only a small guest house in the 1940s when Laurance Rockefeller first visited St. John.

“Captivated by the place and by St. John itself, Rockefeller envisioned a different kind of resort – tranquil, luxurious and surrounded by nature,” according to the Registry.

Rockefeller’s vision came to life with the opening of the Caneel Bay Resort in December 1956. Since then, guests have come back again and again.

Christmas Crew
Tapper interviewed some of these long-time guests for the book, including the “famous Christmas crew,” she added.

“There’s a whole group of guests who have come every Christmas, in some cases for 30 and 40 years,” she said. “That’s one of the unique aspects of this place. It has that kind of loyalty and longevity.”

Tapper also spoke to previous Caneel managers and chefs, and interviewed a guest who came to the resort as a child in 1958.

“It’s very much a celebratory book,” she said. “It’s a very special property, and it has a really fascinating story to tell.”

Emotional Connections
Tapper discovered the emotional connections that people form with Caneel Bay during her interviews, she said.

“I’ve been to St. John before, and I’ve obviously traveled in the Caribbean, and it’s very rare to have people remember an entire history of one place,” said Tapper. “It’s important to talk to them before they’re gone.”

“What’s been so memorable for me is to hear the emotion and connections that people have with each other, and with the place,” she added. “The experience of talking to so many people is wonderful for me.”

Tapper is seeking out Caneel Bay memorabilia, including photos, newspaper clippings and advertisements. Anyone who is interested in contributing a piece of memorabilia for the book can email:

“We’re in a frenzy of assembling memorabilia,” she said.

“Caneel Bay – A Celebration of 50 Years” will only be available through the resort.

The book is scheduled to be published in November and can be pre-ordered at the Caneel Bay gift shop. For more information, call 805-565-9799 ext. 101.