BY CANDY PARKER
Think about the last time you vacationed at the beach — the warm weather, the soothing sound of waves lapping against the sand, a frothy frozen drink in your hand and a relaxed smile on your face as you and your girlfriend watched the Technicolor sunset.
Chances are at some point during that idyllic existence the two of you entertained the fantasy of leaving the daily grind in the dust, buying a business at the beach and living the lesbian dream full-time. More than likely, that fantasy was shattered as you reluctantly packed your bags at the end of the week and hopped a flight back home.
Well, meet Sheryl Smith and Simone Palmer — the women who made that universal fantasy their personal reality. The couple turned a St. Croix vacation into their very own lifelong Caribbean adventure when they purchased Sand Castle on The Beach, one of the first LGBT-owned beachfront properties in the Caribbean.
The venture began in 1999 when the couple escaped the harsh northeast winter to the tropical beauty of St. Croix. Enchanted by the incredible natural beauty of the island and charmed by the welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, Smith and Palmer let their imaginations soar when they saw a real estate broker showing Sand Castle on the Beach, a late 1960s property renowned for both its title as the original Caribbean gay resort and its design by noted U.S. architect Richard Macdonald. The entrepreneurial seed was planted as the couple toured the gorgeous beachfront oasis and dreamed of owning and operating the resort full-time.
Dreams — especially those that involve uprooting one’s life, purchasing a resort and moving thousands of miles — aren’t realized overnight, but after substantial deliberation and negotiation the couple signed on in 2001 to purchase Sand Castle on the Beach. The resort opened under its new, hands-on ownership in January 2002 and one year later the complementary Beach Side Café began serving its award-winning fare.
Lesbian.com talked with Smith and Palmer about their stunning St. Croix property.
Congratulations on a successful 12 years with Sand Castle on the Beach! Please tell us about the accommodations at your resplendent resort.
Sand Castle on the Beach can accommodate over 40 guests in our 21 individual accommodations. Dolphin Villa is an exquisite 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom beachfront villa. We also have two 1-bedroom villas, five sea view suites, two garden view suites, three garden studios with balconies and eight economy “no frills” rooms for the more frugal traveler. Several of the economy rooms can be opened to include a full kitchen and living room space, as well.
What types of activities are available on-site at the resort?
We have something for every activity level. For the more adventurous types we offer kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving. For those looking to relax, we offer yoga, Ai Chi and, of course, the classic vacation favorites floating in the pool and reading in a hammock.
We also offer massage therapy for those seeking instant stress reduction and a fitness center with one-on-one personal wellness training.
The beach is replete with sea glass and seashells for those who enjoy collecting the treasures as they stroll the seemingly endless miles of beach. And diving, paddle boarding, jet skiing, hiking trails and horseback riding are all within a half-mile of the resort.
The Beach Side Café also offers live music every Saturday night, wine tastings with small plates on the second Friday of each month and imported beer tastings with food pairings on the last Friday of the month. The Iguana Lounge features a refreshing selection of frozen tropical refreshments, a wide array of world-class beers and an affordable wine list honored with the 2012 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.
Finally, of course, a romantic dinner on the beach is a favorite for many of our guests.
For those who have not previously visited St. Croix, what time of year would you recommend making the trip?
Any time of year is wonderful with the possible exception of mid-September through October when the Café and many of the island’s attractions are closed for the annual vacation. And for those looking for seclusion, Easter week might be a bit much, though those who enjoy a Mardis Gras atmosphere with camping on the beaches would love it.
What would you say makes your location unique?
The intimacy of the venue and the relaxed atmosphere provide the time and space to unwind without pretense. The island is amazingly welcoming – people congregate on the beach in the evening to watch the spectacular sunsets, providing an environment to make new friends or foster lasting friendships. Many of our guests return year after year to rekindle these friendships in the serene Sand Castle on the Beach environment.
Are you running any 2014 specials you’d like our readers to know about?
Yes! We’re very excited to introduce Lesbian.com’s readers to our little piece of paradise in the Caribbean so for those who book directly with Sand Castle on the Beach, we’ll apply a 15% discount off the room rates for 2014. Just use code Lesbian.com2014 at booking to get the discount.