V.I. Ecotours recently opened the latest concession on North Shore at Honeymoon Beach, above, where visitors can now rent stand up paddle boards, kayaks and snorkel equipment. There are also lockers and refreshments available.
A formerly abandoned building is now VI Ecotours’ new St. John Base.
An abandoned structure on Honeymoon Beach is the site of the island’s newest concession.
V.I. Ecotours has led kayak trips out of Caneel Bay for the past seven years and this week the St. Thomas-based company will open its new base at Honeymoon Beach, explained owner Sybille Sorrentino.
Using an renovated structure which used to be home to a watersports company, VI Ecotours will offer stand up paddle board, kayak and snorkel equipment rentals as well as the use of lockers and flush toilets. The company will also have a retail store — selling T-shirts, hats, underwater cameras, water shoes, sunscreen, ice cream, cold water and more at the site, explained Sorrentino.
“We’re really excited,” she said. “There was a little building there that hasn’t been used in 30 years. We’ve renovated it and we’ll be based out of that building.”
As the concession operator for Caneel Bay Resort, which controls the deed to the beach as part of its agreement with the federal government, VI Ecotours did not need V.I. National Park permission to launch the new venture, explained VINP Acting Superintendent Mike Anderson.
“That was an agreement which was made with Caneel Bay since they are a concession of the hotel,” said Anderson. “I think it’s a great opportunity for visitors to hike the Lind Point Battery trail and come down to the beach and use the facilities.”
The new concession facility opportunity came about when Sorrentino began inquiring about offering stand up paddle board rentals, she explained.
“We wanted to start doing stand up paddle boards over at Honeymoon Beach and the park loved the idea and Caneel Bay loved the idea,” said the VI Ecotours owner. “When I started thinking about the logistics of where to put the boards, we started thinking about this structure at Honeymoon.”
“One thing led to another and I thought, ‘We’re going to need toilets and water and lockers,’” said Sorrentino. “There were already old toilets there so instead of renting porta-potties, I thought it would be better to fix what was there.”
Sorrentino also used the opportunity of the new concession to clean up the area, which had been the site of refuse and worse, she explained.
“People used to defecate in the bush there and it wasn’t safe; there were incidents that happened out there over the years,” Sorrentino said. “The whole idea was to clean up the area and we’ll have security there. The bathrooms flush now and there will be first aid, cold water and all kinds of amenities that you would want for safety reasons.”
“We even cleaned up all the dirt and dead branches in the area so it’s clean and it looks really beautiful,” she said.
Sorrentino will also stock extra life jackets for snorkelers or children to use at no charge, she added.
VI Ecotours will offer its popular three-hour kayak, hike and snorkel tour as well as kayak and stand up paddle board rentals.
Snorkel equipment and beach chairs will also be available to rent and Sorrentino will offer an affordable family package at the new concession, she explained.
“The coolest part of the whole thing is that I am going to be selling Honeymoon Beach all day fun passes,” said the VI Ecotours owner. “It is $49 for one person and $50 for a family pass of up to five people. And that will get you everything: use of a locker and bathrooms, snorkel gear, a beach chair and access to stand up paddle boards and pool floats and kayaks all day long instead of by the hour.”
VI Ecotours’ three-hour Caneel hike, snorkel and kayak tour will still meet at the resort’s watersports center, Sorrentino added.
“We’ll meet there and then just walk out to Honeymoon Beach from there,” she said.
Hikers can access VI Ecotours’ new concession by walking from the VINP’s Cruz Bay Visitors Center, which is an 0.7 mile trek, or from Caneel Bay. There is a $20 fee to park at Caneel and the walk is 0.3 miles, Sorrentino explained.
The new concession will be open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting this week. For more information visit viecotours.com.