• Uncategorized
  • Hiking the Reef Bay Trail

    Hiking St. John, Reef Bay Trail, What to do St. John, Where to Stay Virgin Islands, St. John Virgin Islands

    One of the most popular hiking trails on St. John is Reef Bay Trail. Boasting various terrains, archaeological ruins, petroglyphs, a waterfall and a beach, it’s no wonder that visitors and locals alike love this National Park gem.

    The beautiful 3-mile (one way, 6 miles round trip) long trail starts just off Centerline Road and takes you down to the beach through a beautiful tropical forrest with lots of highlights along the way!  Descend into the valley, where you’ll see awe-inspiring ruins and some of the largest trees on St. John, including giant Kapok trees. The trail, which is maintained by the Virgin Islands National Park, features signage at various trees and plants to let you know what you’re looking at.

    About 3/4 of the way down the trail, you’ll see signs for the petroglyphs and the trail has a spur to the right. You don’t want to miss the freshwater pools and petroglyphs – carvings in the rocks that are believed to be over 1000 year old sacred symbols carved by Taino Indians. If you’re here during rainy season, you may get to witness the 40-foot waterfall that spills into the pools here.

    Continue back to the main trail and you’ll soon come across more ruins of a sugar plantation, part of the Reef Bay Estate that was established in the early 18th century. The factory building still includes a lot of original equipment and is one of the best preserved sugar plantation ruins in the Virgin Islands.

    Right near the ruins, you’ll find a short sandy path that continues on to the beach where you might enjoy popping in the water to cool off!

    Make sure to bring water and snacks, and wear running/hiking shoes. The hike back up can be rigorous! If you want to hike the trail but don’t want the more intense hike back up, you can also go on a guided tour with the VI National Park and take a boat, Sadie Sea, from the bottom back to Cruz Bay for $40. You can visit the Friends of the National Park and book this guided tour here. This is a fun option, and allows you to see a portion of the southside of the island from the water.

  • Activities
  • Visit One of the Top Beaches in the World

    Trunk Bay, Where to Stay St. John, Best Beaches in the World, Trunk Bay St. John

    St. John is home to LOTS of gorgeous white sand beaches. So many, in fact, that you can visit a different beach each day of your week-long vacation and still not hit every one.

    One of the most popular beaches is Trunk Bay, voted Top 10 Most Beautiful Beaches in the World and often included in best beach stories by travel magazines like Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure. It’s pretty unanimous that Trunk Bay is a must-visit beach on St. John, and that St. John is one of the most beautiful destinations in the Caribbean.

    This little strip of heaven features a 225-yard long underwater snorkeling trail and .3 miles of beach to walk on and accessible paths and beach ramps. Donated by Laurence Rockefeller over 50 years ago, Trunk Bay is part of the Virgin Islands National Park, with the beach, coral reefs and waters preserved by the park. It’s pristine beach, warm water and silky sands make it one of the most sough-after beaches on St. John.

    To help preserve the beach and snorkel trail, there is a $5 per person day-use fee to enter the beach. Life guards are on duty daily. Amenities include snack shack, bar, snorkel gear rentals, a beach shop, restrooms, and showers.

    Enjoy a day at Trunk Bay, or some of our other favorite beaches including Maho Bay and Cinnamon Bay! What beach was your favorite?  We’d love for you to share your experience in the comments, or tag beach photos with #DestinationSTJ and we’ll repost and share!

  • Eat/Dine
  • Local Dining: Fresh Fish

    The Longboard, fresh fish, where to stay St. John, vacation Virgin Islands, tripadvisor, best places to stay, best place to eat st. john

    We’re often asked about where to eat fresh fish on island and we love the island-inspired fish dishes that are offered at The Longboard. With a healthy menu focused on seafood, you can’t go wrong dining at this bright, upbeat Cruz Bay restaurant.

    The Longboard, which opened in March 2015, celebrates the adventurous yet laid back ocean lifestyle of the islands and draws inspiration from coastal cuisines around the globe. Head Chef Kenny Claxton and owners Clint Gaskins and Tyler Beckstead bring a fresh approach to dining on St. John with incredible flavors and offerings. Located on the stretch of road between Connections and the Post Office (across from Rhumblines), The Longboard has certainly brightened Cruz Bay with a cheery, surf-themed spot that is sure to draw you in for a drink and some memorable eats.

    Some of our favorite dishes include Ahi Poke, with fresh chunks of ruby red Ahi tuna, avocado, mango, in a spicy sesame soy sauce topped with scallions.  Not to be missed are the tacos or bowls – your choice of a house made corn tortilla, local Josephine’s greens or a quinoa and rice blend. The choices make it hard to pick, but we always go for the Grilled Pescado – it’s the fresh grilled daily catch with pickled red onion, jalapeño, baby arugula, mango and guacamole! We love it on a corn taco, but you can’t go wrong. There are also a lot of great gluten free and vegetarian options. Check out their Instagram for nightly menu specials that feature fresh catches, local and exotic vegetables and more!

    AND, don’t miss the DRINKS. Make sure to try the Frozen Painkillers on tap (yes – Frozen. Painkiller. and it’s $5 at Happy Hour!) and the Passion Fruit Frosé, a delightful concoction of rosé wine and passion fruit, frozen and perfect. We also love their inspired cocktail list with house made sodas like ginger beer, grapefruit and lemonade.  Our go to: The Heart & Sol, a tropical blend of grilled pineapple and jalapeño infused reposed tequila, Grand Marnier, lime, Thai basil, pineapple. honey syrup with a smoked sea salt rim!

    Grab a table (arrive early, the place opens at 3pm and fills up fast!), enjoy the tropical music and surf videos playing behind the bar, and watch the Cruz Bay scene as you sip a frozen Painkiller.

    Dining at the Longboard during your stay? Share a photo of your favorite drink or dish by tagging #destinationSTJ on Instagram!

  • Activities
  • Coral Bay Itinerary

    Coral Bay, St. John USVI, Virgin Islands, Where to Stay St. John, Skinny Leg's

    While Cruz Bay often gets all the glory, we LOVE Coral Bay. We have a few amazing homes in Coral Bay with stunning views, including the delightful Coconut Breeze villa, that has perfect views of the harbor and beyond!

    We love the laid back vibe and island atmosphere in Coral Bay. Whether you’re staying at one of our villas at that end of the island, or closer to Cruz Bay, we highly recommend a “Coral Bay Day.” We’ve put together a fun little itinerary for you as a guide to some of the best spots to be sure to visit:

    1- Head over to Triple B (standing for Babes, Brunch, Bay) for one of the best breakfasts on island (or anywhere for that matter). These ladies really know how to do brunch, with amazing Benedict, homemade sausage, incredible homemade scones and the best huevos rancheros we’ve ever had. AND they use Josephine’s local organic greens. Sit at a picnic table and enjoy the ocean breeze.

    2- Give yourself some time to digest, then from there, drive out to Salt Pond Bay. You’ll park at the top and take a short walk down to the beach. It’s a gorgeous white sand beach, with great snorkeling off the point. 

    3- If you’re feeling ambitious, we recommend the Ram’s Head hike (we’ve talked about it before here). It’s not too rigorous, and it boasts beautiful views and some great exercise.

    4- When you’re hungry again, head back to Coral Bay and stop at the famous Skinny Leg’s for a burger (their specialty) or Indigo Grill for fish tacos pizza or “Island Zing” jerk seasoned tater tots to name a few. 

    5- Enjoy great, eclectic shopping while you’re in Coral Bay, including stopping at the new Mermaid Cove next to Pickles, Sloop Jones and Island Muse across from Skinny Legs. There are a number of shops at the Coccoloba Plaza and next to Shipwreck Landing.

    Did you visit Coral Bay and any of these spots on your vacation? Share pictures with us by tagging #DestinationSTJ on Instagram.

  • Eat/Dine
  • Our Market + Scoops

    St. John, Vacation Rental, Where to Stay St. John, USVI, best vacation rental st. john, where to stay, luxury home

    Fresh tropical fruit and rum drinks are two things that can immediately make you feel like you’re on a Caribbean vacation! There’s no better spot to pop in when you first arrive on St. John than Our Market Smoothies, a super cute stand right in Cruz Bay.

    With over 500 5-star reviews and a Certificate of Excellence on TripAdvisor, you can’t go wrong hitting up this iconic local spot. They have great fresh fruit smoothies, using local ingredients like passion fruit, papaya, mango, soursop, coconut and pineapple. One of our favorite things to order is a fresh local coconut, in the shell, with nothing added but a straw! For an extra dollar, you can add local Cruzan Rum for the full island effect! Owner Thomas is an island icon, with his big smile and warm heart as much a staple as the delicious blended concoctions he makes!

    We also like St. John Scoops in Mongoose Junction – while they specialize more in ice creams and sorbets,  also has great smoothies. It’s all locally made, fresh and with delicious island fruits. We love the “adult icecream” options, including the Painkiller ice cream (a signature tropical blend of pineapple, orange and cream of coconut with rum and nutmeg).  Another favorite is their Root Beer Float, made with St. John Brewer’s Root Beer and Scoops homemade ice cream. You can always head over to their Facebook page for special new flavors, or check them out on TripAdvisor, too. 

    Stop in to either spot and enjoy an array smoothies, tropical concoctions, fresh coconut, ice cream or other island treats that will cool you down and put a smile on your face. Welcome to island time, welcome to vacation!

  • Eat/Dine
  • Happy Hour: Cruz Bay Beach

    the scene: boats anchoring, people watching, ferries arriving and departing, and of course and a front row seat for mother nature’s epic display of colors at sunset. 

    A few of the bars at Cruz Bay have expanded their offerings to the beach, and set up chairs in the sand and offer table service. We love going to Joe’s Rum Hut in the afternoons from 4-6pm for their $3 “You Call It” happy hour – all drinks are $3 (even frozen cocktails!). Lime in de Coconut and Bushwackers are our top picks, but you can’t go wrong with a St. John Brewers VI Summer Ale either.  With appetizers like Lobster Quesadilla and Mahi Mahi bits, or great pizzas, it’s a perfect spot to post up and watch the world go by. A bit further down the beach is The Beach Bar, aptly named. Grab a table on the beach, order a drink and enjoy the ocean breeze. And if you’re reading this from home wishing you were here, you can check out their webcam. The Beach Bar often has live music, so check the schedule online. They’re known for their burgers, and we love the Tuna Down Now, a flash-fried sushi roll that is spot on. Don’t forget to order a painkiller and unwind!

    A newcomer to the Wharfside shopping area is Island Cork. Though not beach front, it’s a great place to cool down in the AC and enjoy a drink. Check out this wine shop and wine bar where you can pick up a few bottles to bring home, as well as pull up a stool and enjoy whatever fine wines are available by the glass that day. The owner Paul has curated an incredible selection of wines that you won’t find available anywhere else. You can also order gourmet cheese and charcuterie plates, and he puts together an delicious deli sandwich, too! 

    Make sure to snap some pictures of the sunset and tag #DestinationSTJ. We’ll share the best shots on our Instagram and Facebook feeds.

    Cheers!

  • Island Life
  • Local Animals on St. John

    St. John donkeys, starfish, snorkel, Waterlemon Cay, St. John Vacation, Where to Stay St. John

    St. John is home to some incredible wildlife, both on land and in the ocean! On any given day in St. John, you can see bananaquits, donkeys, iguanas, mongoose, pelicans, sea turtles, starfish, octopus, deer and even dolphins (we spotted a pod of 5 in Cruz Bay last week!). A few local animals are described below, with tips on where to spot them on St. John:

    Donkeys: Donkeys were brought to St. John in the 16th century to work on the sugar plantations. When slavery ended and the plantations closed, the donkeys were freed and have since become wild inhabitants of the island, roaming around.

    Where to spot: Generally, you can always see a donkey on the road from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay. Groups can also be seen at Caneel Bay, along the Lind Point Trail, Honeymoon and often at Cinnamon Bay.

    Bananaquits: These cute black and yellow birds live on nectar and fruit, and can often be seen in flowering trees and shrubs. Despite its name, it does not eat bananas! They are also locally referred to as “sugar birds” or “bananakeets.”  It’s also the territory bird of the US Virgin Islands!

    Where to spot: Look for flowering plants or bird feeders around the island. Be patient and you’re sure to see one!

    Sea Turtles: These majestic ocean inhabitants love the pristine waters of St. John. We have 3 types of turtles on St. John: Leatherback, Green Turtle and Hawksbill. Green and Hawksbill are the most common on St. John, with Green turtles reaching almost 40 inches and the Hawkbill being a bit smaller, with the largest reaching about 25 inches. 

    Where to spot: Snorkeling in Maho Bay is sure to result in a sea turtle sighting! The nearby Francis beach is also a great place to see them. Make sure to never touch sea turtles, or chase them around

    Mongoose: A mongoose is a light brown, weasel-like animal with short legs and small rounded ears. They are a non-native species, brought to the Virgin Islands in the 1800’s to control rat populations on sugar plantations. They also are known for their ability to kill snakes.

    Where to spot: They can be found scurrying in bushes, and often spotted around the beaches like Cinnamon Bay.

    Starfish: Seeing a starfish is always exciting! The most common here are the red fusion stars or  West Indian Sea Star.  It has five thick broad arms with a hard surface covered with tiny blunt spiens. They can range in color from red, orange and yellowish brown and are stunning to see. If you find one, you’ll often see a few!

    Where to spot: Waterlemon Cay in Leinster Bay is known for it’s starfish bed and sighting them here is fairly common. Starfish also love to be in sea grass, so areas that are grassy are a good place to look (Fish Bay, parts of Maho Bay are also good). When looking for them, you may also spot conch!

    What animals did you spot on your vacation? Tag them on social media using #destinationSTJ!

  • Activities
  • Fun Spot: Angel’s Rest

    St. John is always full of surprises – whether it’s donkeys or quirky street signs, you never know what you’ll see. A fun, quaint spot we love is Angel’s Rest, a 40 foot pontoon “house” boat that can be found posted up about 100 yards off Hansen Bay’s shore on the East End of St. John. The boat is owned and captained by Peter Hoschl. 

    Part of the fun: you must swim out to the boat, as well as swim back after a few drinks! Once aboard, this super cute and unconventional bar is quintessential Caribbean: sunshine yellow and bright turquoise shiplap siding and a vibe that’s bright, tropical and fun. Once aboard, you can sit at a table with your feet open to the ocean, offering the option to check out the fish and dangle your toes. Or, go topside and basque in the sunshine.

    The menu is limited: enjoy a Painkiller, rum punch or beer – all $5 each. This spot is all about the location and atmosphere, and captain Peter’s entertainment. (and according to one article, this bar will help you lose weight!)

    You can just pop by, or rent Angel’s Rest for day charters or a sunset cruise. If you want to make sure they’re open before making the drive to East End, check out the Facebook page for daily updates or contact Captain John directly at 340-514-6270.

    If you’re staying at one of our lovely Coral Bay properties like Coconut Breeze or Drake’s Lookout, Angel’s Rest is a few minutes away, or if you’re staying closer to Cruz Bay, plan for a fun day trip to East End to explore all that this end of the island has to offer!

  • Activities
  • Itinerary: A Great Day on St. John

    Our guests often ask us how they should spend their days. We thought it would be fun to share an itinerary with you for a great day on island, making the most out of what St. John has to offer!

    1- Wake up and enjoy the view at whatever fabulous Destination St. John villa you are staying at! Pack a bag with sunscreen, towels, water and whatever you need for the day.

    2- Head into Cruz Bay for cold-brewed VI Coffee Roasters iced coffee and a delicious breakfast at Cruz Bay Landing.

    3- Walk over to the National Park Visitor’s Center, pick up a trail map, browse the shop and the displays and learn a bit more about this lovely island.

    4- Walk up the wooden stairs behind the Visitor’s Center to the trailhead for the Lind Point Trail, follow the trail to the Lind Point Overlook for scenic views of Cruz Bay. Hang out on the bench and enjoy watching the world go by!

    5- Continue on the trail out to Honeymoon Beach. This is a picturesque beach and a great spot to post up and enjoy some sunshine. VI Ecotours has a concession here where you can rent paddleboards, kayaks, snorkel gear and other watersports equipment.

    6- When you’ve had enough salt, sun and sand, walk the trail back. Head over to Mongoose Junction for a late lunch at the Tap Room and be sure to enjoy one of their St. John Brewers beers (we love the Island Hoppin’ IPA and the Pale Tourist).

    7- Browse the shops in Mongoose Junction – stop into Caravan Gallery and R&I Patton for gorgeous jewelry, the St. John Experience store for photo canvases of St. John and Made in St. John for locally screen printed St. John shirts.

    8- Head home, take a dip in the pool and enjoy the sunset with a homemade Painkiller in hand.

    9- Enjoy chef-driven cuisines with an island flair at Ocean362 with locally raised chef Shaun Brian’s culinary creations, such as St. Croix Conch Fritters or a Butter Lime Curry Poached Wahoo.

  • Activities
  • Must Do: Ram’s Head Hike

    St. John is the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors and there are so many fun things to do. Our miles of hiking trails and vast National Park provide the perfect platform for enjoying all that nature has to offer.  One of the best activities on St. John is a full moon hike to Ram’s Head.

    Ram’s Head is out on the south east part of the island. The trail starts from Salt Pond Beach (you’ll need to park at the top in the parking area for Salt Pond, then do the walk down the hill). The hike is only about 1 mile each way, but the terrain varies from beach to rocky shore and salt pond lowlands, then crosses a beautiful rock beach. Here, you will often find fun rock cairns (also pictured in this post’s header image)  The trail continues from the rock beach, zigzagging up the hill to the Ram’s Head. The entire point is studded in picturesque barrel cacti. These cactus have tiny pink pepper-shaped fruit that are edible and taste like pitaya or dragon fruit – they’re a true delight and fun to search for, but be careful of the cactus spines! As you reach the top of the point, on the east facing side, you can look down the cliffs through craggy cuts in the rock to see the beautiful see and waves below. The breeze on the point is magnificent!

    This past weekend, we hiked the trail out around 5:30 pm, getting to Ram’s head just in time for the St. John sunset. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sun dip below the horizon in the West by St. Thomas, Virgin Islands and the full moon rise to the East above Norman Island, British Virgin Islands. We love to hike this trail on the full moon, as it’s a magnificent spot to see the moon on the ocean and revel in the island’s beauty.  We recommend bringing snacks and drinks and hanging out, soaking up the moonshine and allowing the moon to rise enough to light your path on the walk home. If you do this, make sure you’re comfortable hiking and perhaps even bring a flashlight!

    Have you hiked Ram’s Head or another hike in the full moon? We’d love to hear about it! And, don’t forget to take pictures and share them with us on social media using #destinationstjohn!