in the United Virgin Islands,
is one of my absolute favorite places in the Caribbean.
There are gorgeous sandy beaches with crystal clear blue water, and friendly island residents.
2/3 of the island is a National Park…
It’s close to all the ‘hot spots’ like Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten,
And best of all, as a United States Territory, it’s easy for an American citizen to come and go.
You won’t make the mistake of thinking you’re home, though.
Saint John is unique —
…….. and you’ll be leaving the busy hub-bub far behind ya, bub.
The easiest way to get there from the U.S. is a flight into Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, a taxi to the ferry terminal at the main downtown pier or at Red Hook, and then the ferry over to St. John.
The ferry at the main pier is closer to the airport, but the ferry at Red Hook runs on the hour, and it’s a shorter boat ride.
The ride isn’t usually choppy, and it’s a great way to get a feel for the islands.
Actually, you might as well get used to the ferry, since it’s the primary way folks get around down there if you don’t have your own boat.
And of course, it’s possible to bring your car by ferry from St. Thomas,
….. but driving here can be kinda problematic for a first timer, since there aren’t a lot of road signs.
But, it’s not like there are that many roads, either, come to think of it…
The island is only a couple miles wide and nine miles long.
When you get off the ferry, you’ll be in the heart of the quaint town of Cruz Bay —
You might want to climb up toward the Balcony and have a rum punch on me at the famous Joe’s Rum Hut.
(And by “on me” I mean: ‘you’re buying your own drinks, pal’)
Some of the most popular places to stay here would be about a mile or less away to the Southeast–
Grand Cruz Bay Resort, the St John Inn and the Westin all overlook the beautiful Grand Cruz Bay, are within reasonable walking distance of the pier.
Take in the sunset at ZoZo’s bar– and then get a table for a nice Italian dinner !
Seeing St John’s Beaches
Cruz Bay Town is the place where most of the activity on the island is centered…
From here, it’s just a short hop to the National Park, and some breath-taking beaches.
There is a visitor’s center here, where you get information on the island and the park, too.
It’s easy to get anywhere on the island from here– and if you need your beach fix in a hurry, there are places in Wharfside Village where you can get a cooler, some supplies, and then rent a boat to roll up onto the beaches on the northshore.
You can also hike —
Many people come to St John to hike the National Park, and the trails are well marked.
Either way, you’ll find some bays, coves, and beaches that beggar description.
One of my favorites is called Honeymoon Beach, and the one adjacent, called Salomon Beach.
The walk can be a bit strenuous at times, but is only about a mile from Cruz Bay–
Or, by boat, it’ll just take you a couple minutes.
Simply turn right and follow the coast, around the first point, Lind Point.
Salomon Beach is a great place for snorkeling, especially around the reef that lies around the rocky point separating the two…
On the coral reef, you can see parrotfish, angelfish, sea urchins, barracuda, and much more.
Salomon used to be well known as a nude beach, but the Park Service has cracked down on that,
…. so — a nude.., I mean.., nod is as good as a wink, ya know.
A bit less crowded is Honeymoon Beach, a little further east, via the Lind Point Trail.
What I like the best is the view from here.
You can see across Pillsbury Sound, and clearly see the islands of Jost Van Dyke, St. Thomas, Thatch, Grass, Mingo, Lovango, Ramgoat and Henley Cay.
The Rockefeller family used to own most of the land around here, and their old estate can seen up on the promentory to the east at Caneel Bay.
Caneel Bay is a resort now — pricey, but right on the bay, and with a commanding view.
It is a five star place, with a killer buffet, a private beach, and beautifully manicured grounds.
If money’s no object, then, you’ll want to stay there.
Up around the next point, which is called Hawksnest Point, is Hawksnest Bay– a fine family beach is here, with picnic tables, and plenty of afternoon shade.
The locals like this beach a lot, and there is even parking– on Route 20, close to the beach.
From here, you can see the ruins of the Peace Hill Windmill, towards the east, on the precipice separating Denis Bay from Hawksnest Bay.
it’s worth a climb, only about 1/10 of a mile, and it’s cool and quiet…
You can see almost the entire north coast from there!
Around the next bend are the famous beach of Trunk Bay, and the National Park Underwater Trail at Buck Island.
This snorkeling mecca is an Elkhorn barrier reef, featuring exotic sealife like seafans and turtles, alcoves, grottoes, etc.
Trunk Bay is a world class stretch of white, silky sand and clear, turquoise water–
and is the most photographed beach in St. John.
Continuing east up the North Shore will bring you to Cinammon Bay.
There is well known camping resort here, called the Cinnamon Bay Campground.
If you want to stay there, be ready for some inconveniences–
……….. and many, many mosquitoes.
The beach here is lovely, if crowded, and there are plenty of facilities like a small general store, the Tree Lizards restaurant, snack bar, lockers, restrooms, changing rooms, showers, telephones, picnic tables and barbeque grills.
There’s also an information desk which can help with offers snorkel trips, scuba, snorkel and windsurfing lessons, day sails, cocktail cruises, guided day hikes, etc.
You can hike up to the old America House Estate, which you can see from the beach.. just take the switchback spur trail.
It’s the ruin of an old guesthouse , and a nice example of 19th century island architecture…
It was last used by rumrunners during prohibition days.
There’s also a ruin site called Hammer Farm — which includes buildings of an old sugar plantation, a wind mill tower, a horsemill and a stable.
As we progress east on the North Shore, the next beach is kind of a rarity in St. John… a beach you can drive right up to.
Called Maho Bay, it’s a calm, shallow cove lined with coconut palms and maho hibiscus trees.
The beach is a bit narrow, but at one time was so wide, the locals would have horse races here.
Around Mary’s Point, and you arrive at Leinster Bay, home of the Annaberg Sugar Mill ruins, and more great snorkeling at Waterlemon Cay.
At the Annaberg site, founded in 1758, you’ll see the ruins of a sugar plantation, a horse driven sugar mill, a dungeon used to imprison unfortunate slaves, a cookhouse, a sugar factory with boiling pits, and even a rum still.
Further along is a nice, quiet beach called Brown Bay Beach.. it’s about 3/4 mile from the road, but accessible for hikers from the Johnny Horn Trail.
If you’re in a boat, you could continue east another couple nautical miles, and circle around the East End at Privateer Point.
This is a rugged stretch of the island, and there are many ruins to explore if you’re hiking.
If you’re driving, your next stop will probably be the Fortsberg Hill at Coral Bay —
…a ruined fort which served as the base for the soldiers who brutally crushed the 1733 slave revolt.
The view there at Harbor Point beach is very scenic and interesting.
To your left, is an inlet called Hurricane Hole ,
to your right, Lagoon Point, and the settlement of Calabash Boom.
As you proceed south, you will arrive at the very aptly named Blue Cobblestone Beach, at Saltpond Bay.
This is one of the best beaches for snorkeling on the South Shore-
…………. although the cobblestones make bare-footin the beach a little different.
You’ll find the beaches on the South Shore to be mostly cobblestone or coral type, but they are certainly much less crowded, due to their relative inaccessibility.
The best spots for surfing and boogie boarding are at Little Reef Bay, which is also close to the Petroglyphs, the Reef Bay Sugar Plantation ruins and the White Cliffs.
Little Reef Bay’s beach has a sea-grassy bottom, but by far the best one on this stretch.
Up the Reef Bay Trail, there’s a fresh water pool, surrounded by large, smooth rocks on which has been engraved dozens of drawings and symbols.
The pool and the carvings are collectively called “the Petroglyphs”, and again, are worth the hike…
They are thought to have been made by the indigenous Taino Indians.
If you’re hiking from Route 10, it’s about a mile and a half from the road, alongside the Reef Bay Great House.
Now, head west another couple miles ,
…… and you’re back to where you started– Cruz Bay!
There are, of course, many spots on St. John that I didn’t cover……
That’s so, when you go, you’ll have more stuff to discover !
SO, get goin’… and let me know how much you loved it !!!
( FYI: in 2014, no nude sunbathing is permitted anyplace on St. John.
For that, jump over to Orient Beach in St. Maarten, about 10 nautical miles.
See my post about Cruising and St. Maarten here )