Our trip to the Virgin Islands is now one of our most favorite of all time. I can’t describe into words the beauty of the island of St. John, where we spent most of our time. 60% of land in St. John is a pristine national park which in my opinion makes it the most idyllic of the three islands. There are no high-rise buildings, cruise ship docks or an airport. We chose to fly into St. Thomas which is a 20 minute ferry ride to the island. We spent 8 days exploring the island via our rented Jeep- which is a must to tackle the windy switch back roads.
There are a few resorts located on the island but we suggest renting a villa to get the real local island feel. We woke up early, cooked our own breakfast and then hit the road to explore a new piece of the island each day. Each beach on St. John is different and spectacular in its own way. We suggest trying them all!
Salomon Beach: Scenic beach- white sand and palm trees, not overly populated. We suggest taking the Lind Point Trail from Cruz Bay. It’s a scenic hike and you don’t have worry about paying to park/day access to the beaches.
Honeymoon Beach: Popular beach next to Salomon, great views and options to rent kayak’s and SUPs. We found it a little too crowded the day we visited. Make sure to eat lunch at the Caneel Bay Resort, a short 5 minute walk from the beach.
Maho: Great views, easy access (parking directly across the street), great beach/water for kids, one of the best places to see and swim with sea turtles feeding on the sea grass (no need to pay for any tours). We saw tons of adult sea turtles, sting rays and numerous fish here. You may see iguanas and rusters on the shore.
Trunk Bay: Beautiful large beach, gets sun pretty much the whole day. You do have to pay $5 per person for this beach but it goes towards the facilities available and the self-guided Underwater Snorkeling Trail. I suggest going in the early morning to get a good spot on the beach and before the charters start coming in. This is one of the most popular destination beaches on St.John.
Leinster Bay/Waterlemon Cay: A short 1 mile hike along the shore line takes you to Leinster Bay/Waterlemon Cay. Make sure to check out the Annaberg Sugar Plantation Ruins near the parking lot. It is definitely worth it. We loved the views on this beach and it was not crowded at all. We saw sea turtles, parrot fish, puffer fish, and a baby black tip reef shark. Brandon saw the 5-6ft “momma” black tip reef shark a few feet away from us. We were snorkeling towards dusk but the shark seemed more scared of us. Beware of sea urchins, there were a lot along these reefs.
Cinnamon Bay: Beautiful beach but crowded due to the Cinnamon Bay Resort & Campground. We ate at the Rain Forest Cafe before taking a stroll down the beach. Definitely worth a stop.
Hansen Bay: Definitely seemed like a local beach hang out near Coral Bay. The views again from this beach were absolutely amazing. We did see a few sea turtles from the shore.
Hawks Nest/Little Hawks Nest Beach: I hate to give away a secret but if you climb the rocks to your left at Hawks Nest Beach you will find a private stretch of sand called Little Hawks Nest Beach. Parking is right off the road which allows easy access to the beach. We enjoyed seeing the local donkeys that roam the island.
Jumbie Bay: A a short path leads to a small beach called Jumbie. Great views of Trunk Bay here without the crowds.
Salt Pond Bay: A short hike leads you down to Salt Pond Bay. A great spot for snorkeling and for cooling off after your hike up the Rams Head Trail. We saw lots of amazing sea life at Salt Pond Bay- baby sea turtles, barracuda, squid and many types of fish. Rams Head is another one mile hike from the beach that leads to a crest that is 200 feet high and has an absolutely amazing views of the east end of St. John. The trails due tend to get a little steep so I would recommend tennis shoes. Make sure to check out Blue Cobblestone Beach on your hike to Rams Head.
If there is one hike we would suggest to everyone while on St. John it is the Cinnamon Bay Trail to the ruins of a great house known as America Hill. Make sure to wear tennis shoes and take bug spray as the trail takes you through the shaded forest. The trail begins at the ruins of the historic Cinnamon Bay Sugar Plantation right off North Shore road. This is described as a “strenuous 1 mile hike uphill” but it is absolutely worth it! Follow the signs along the trail to America Hill, about 0.38 from the start of the trail. Remember the way back is all down hill 🙂 The view is of both Maho and Francis Bay as well as Tortola, BVI.
This island was perfect for us- St. John has a laid back feel but offers pristine beaches, hiking, spectacular views and great restaurants. It is a place to go to completely relax and truly escape. It is hard to believe that this island is part of the U.S. and we can’t wait to go back.
Our snorkeling pics and our excursion to the British Virgin Islands… on the next post. Thanks for reading!