A poquito coquito, anyone?

Word is that that Vice President Joe Biden and his wife were spied on St. Croix a few weeks ago.  That marks their second visit in four months. Were they just doing what many of us were wishing for:  a quick escape from the endless winter?  And, are they just being patriotic going to America’s Caribbean island?  No. We know they are big fans of St. Croix.  The couple has spent every New Year’s holiday in the USVI since Biden was elected vice president in 2008.

He wasn’t the only VIP who decamped to St. Croix for the holidays.  While little is known of the Bidens’ activities while there, Martha Stewart, on the other hand, told all on her blog about her family’s visit.  “I spent this Christmas on the beautiful island of St. Croix in the Caribbean.  Took lots of pics to share w/u on my blog,” began the first of many posts on The Martha Blog.

We hope that one day we report that the Bidens  – and maybe Martha, too – enjoyed themselves at the St. Croix Food & Wine Experience, that annual week-long celebration of Cruzan food and drink.  I hereby suggest that Martha be a judge for the event’s restaurant competition, the Taste of St. Croix, which takes place every year at Divi Carina Bay Resort.  She certainly has the right qualifications.

It’s no surprise that while exploring St. Croix, Stewart found the local’s favorite lunch spot: The Chicken Shack.  On Centerline Road, near the midpoint of the island, it’s a mecca for spit-roasted chicken, ribs and pork.  It’s the place to enjoy a coquito, too, a tropical twist on eggnog.  The Chicken Shack is only open for lunch (10:30 – 5).  Now that Stewart has introduced you to coquito, continue on to the Cruzan Rum Distillery to stock up on Cruzan Rum.  (Tours: 9-4, M-F)  In the factory store, they’ll box a six-pack of rums for shipping as baggage.  No worries about an extra baggage fee – It won’t get charged.

If you’d like to try a coquito at home, here’s a recipe.

Bonaire National Marine Park

Say happy birthday to the Bonaire National Marine Park.  This year marks 35 years of action to protect the 24-mile long island.  The goal has long been to ensure the aquatic environment remains just as it was in 1971.  As a result of its admirable foresight, Bonaire is hailed the world over as a diver’s paradise.

But, Bonaire isn’t just about water. And no longer is a vacation there just about diving.  Today, the Bonaire National Marine Park’s conservation efforts extend to protecting Washington-Slagbaai National Park as well as the Barcadera cave system.

Did you know you could go spelunking in Bonaire?  Put down your fins and check out the stalactites in the caves not far from Kralendijk.  If sporting fins while on Bonaire just seems more natural, there are guided snorkel tours through parts of the cave.

You also can get up close to nature by kayaking the island’s mangroves, another well-preserved area.  What exactly is a mangrove?  It is a tropical species of tree that performs a very important function in protecting the coastline. Data shows that where mangrove forests have been destroyed, tsunami damage has been more extensive.

Ready for another adventure on Bonaire?  Take a bike ride through Washington-Slagbaai National Park.  This vast area, nearly one-fifth of the island, is another valuable part of the local ecosystem.  Many bike rental companies conduct tours through the Kunuku (outback), following hundreds of miles of paths as well as along the coastline.  As you huff and puff you way up and down the terrain of the park, wild goats and donkeys will be leisurely grazing nearby.  Those gorgeous long-legged Bonaire beauties, pink flamingos – will be there as well.

Yes, Bonaire is gaining a new reputation as a well-rounded destination with a host of diversions for anyone who is up to it.  Undoubtedly, it is for the sporting type.

Which doesn’t mean that a Mango Colada or a Divi Funky Monkey isn’t always waiting for you at the Chibi Chibi.  Or there isn’t always a place on the Divi Flamingo dock to lay back and soak up a gentle breeze.  Ah, the Caribbean Ocean’s rhythmic sways below. While snoozing, letting the mind wander or, if need be, massaging sore muscles at The Touch Spa (which, by the way, is just across from the Chibi Chibi. How thoughtful is that?), proud Bonaireans are hard at work preserving the environment.  Thank goodness.  That is why you came, after all.

Ironmaning in St. Croix

Was a marathon on your list of goals for 2014?  Running 26 miles would top any New Year’s resolution to “get fit.”  Health experts say the key thing is to simply do 30 minutes of exercise several times each week.  So, as Nike says, “Just Do It.”  If you were in St. Croix in January, you saw the Nikes fly during the St. Croix Scenic 50. The 50 stands for 50 miles. Now that is truly going the distance.

What better way to see St. Croix than running over its rugged mountains and along its beautiful shoreline? Or so say the race promoters.

St Croix is about 84 square miles, which makes it the largest of all the US Virgin Islands. (It is nearly two and half times bigger than St. Thomas.) Its terrain is varied:  hills, rain forest and flatlands – probably one reason why the St. Croix Ironman is a key event in the Ironman series. Thirty finishers this year will go to the big kahuna:  the World Championship in Hawaii.

This year, the St. Croix Ironman competition is May 4. It has long been known as a battle between the racer and the course.  A 1.24-mile swim in Christiansted harbor starts the endurance test, followed by the 56-mile bike portion and concludes with a 13.1 mile run ending downtown. The exact course varies from year to year, but it often goes past Divi Carina Bay Resort, offering participants a beautiful vista from the high points on the road leading to the resort and providing Divi guests a chance to encourage the racers.

If you’re wearing that new Fitbit you got for Christmas, wave your arms a lot as the participants hustle by.  The device tracks arm movement, so you’ll be upping your daily activity count and calories burned, which will get you just a wee bit closer to your own fitness goal.

If inspiration struck as you were watching, head back to Divi Carina Bay for some paddle boarding in the bay.  Or, you can just relax.  The hotel has an Ironman Special (No fitness test required.) for participants, spectators or those simply in need of a dose of Caribbean sunshine in May.

Take note:  this package goes the distance.  Book five nights and stay two more nights – for free.