In St John, the well-worn Caribbean cliché of white sands and turquoise waters seems suddenly new again. Much of the island is protected natural park – including some 5,000 acres of land donated by Lawrence Rockefeller in the 1950s. The protected area extends across the pristine beaches into the ocean, forming a marine reserve stacked with sea turtles, healthy coral reefs and hordes of tropical fish. Trunk Bay, with its renowned underwater trails, is one of the hottest spots in the Caribbean for snorkeling.
As with many Caribbean islands, the water is the true star of the show in St John, and never more so than at Villa Mistral, whose terrace juts out over Hart Bay like the prow of a ship. Below the terrace two swimming pools stacked one on top of the other lead the eye through deepening shades of turquoise to the rich blue of the ocean.
It was this view that first attracted business owner and stuntman Adrian “Wildman” Cenni, and his wife Sarah Bigelow. “Adrian is into being right on the ocean,” says Sarah. “And Hart Bay is the only bay in St John where you can surf.”
The ocean follows you everywhere at Mistral, even when you’re indoors. Each of the bedrooms has a balcony over the water, while the curved sitting room features a series of arched windows that look out to sea, like the enchanted tower in a fairytale. A handmade, boat-shaped wooden swing seat hangs by the window in this room, inviting relaxation. “You can see and hear the water from every room in the house,” says Sarah.
Sarah and Adrian met while working on renovations for the 5 bedroom, 6 bathroom property that Adrian purchased in 2003. He wanted a complete remodel of the house, a vision that he and Sarah achieved together. “Adrian is from South Africa, and he wanted the house to have a very organic feel,” says Sarah, “so we added custom-made mahogany furniture, and replaced all the windows and doors with jatoba [or Brazilian cherry] wood.”
The couple also added a second pool – which turned the outdoor area into one of their favorite places to relax. “The lower pool is 9ft deep,” says Sarah, “so you can jump from the top pool into the lower one – when you’re standing at the top pool it looks like you’re jumping right into the ocean.” Her husband likes to take the adrenaline rush even further. “Adrian is a stuntman, so he likes to jump from the upper balcony,” laughs Sarah, recommending that visitors stick to the more traditional option.
The huge pool area is also a favorite among Mistral’s many visitors. Older children (and adults who are still kids at heart) also love the custom game room with full size billiard table, darts and ping pong. And the fun doesn’t end there. The house has a secluded grotto pool with waterfall, and a stone staircase that leads down to the water, where you’ll find that world-class snorkeling. It’s even stocked with surfboards and kayaks, so there are more than enough excuses to get up off your lounge chair and head out into the waves.
On dry land, hikes through tropical forests, past the ruins of sugar plantations, accompanied by iguaunas or even mongoose, are sure to delight. St John’s main town, Cruz Bay, with its shops and restaurants, is just 5 minutes away, and the fabulous beaches of the north shore can be reached in under 15 minutes. “You can try a different beach every day for 2 weeks,” says Sarah.
For many people, the first visit to Villa Mistral is not the last. St John is a special island – hard to reach (the only way is by ferry from neighboring St Thomas), and even harder to leave. Travelers are drawn back time and time again by the pristine beaches, the unspoiled beauty, and the prospect of leaping from one pool to the next with childlike glee.
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