• 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!

  • Activities
  • Must See: The Baths

    One of our favorite must-visit spots is The Baths in Virgin Gorda. Here, you will find a stunning maze of massive, smooth boulders piled atop each other, all nestled on the white sand and in pristine Caribbean waters. This picturesque spot is a true natural wonder, with volcanic and granite boulders, some as large as 40 feet. Believed to be created by molten rock seeping up into existing volcanic rock layers and slowly cooling to form a hard granite layer, the rocks are unlike anything anywhere else. Secret cathedral rooms, rock pools and grottos are fun to explore and offer the perfect backdrop for photos. Adventure through the cave system and end up at Devil’s Bay beach, an idyllic spot with views of the ocean and rock formations. There is great snorkeling as well, with tons of vibrant parrot fish, triggerfish, angel fish and the occasional turtle!

    Virgin Gorda is part of the British Virgin Islands and can be visited via ferry, or even better, on a day trip with a local charter company.  Cruz Bay Watersports and Bad Kitty both offer group day trips to this incredible spot, or book a private boat with companies like Ocean Runner, Island Roots, Palm Tree Charters, Love City Excursions, Rock Hoppin’ Adventures and more!

    We suggest that you bring a sense of adventure, sunscreen, a waterproof camera, mask and snorkel and possibly water shoes for climbing rocks and exploring! Have fun and be sure to share your photos with us by tagging #destinationstj!

  • Activities
  • Must See: Annaberg Ruins

    St. John is so full of rich, cultural history. The VI National Park and Friends of the VI National Park have done an incredible job preserving and protecting this history, as well as providing education and knowledge about our islands.  One of our favorite historical sites on St. John is Annaberg Plantation, the ruins of a plantation from 1780 that was one of 25 active sugar, rum and molasses producing factories on St. John. These ruins are the most intact sugar plantation ruins in the Virgin Islands, and also serve as a reminder of the difficult livelihood for the slaves who built and worked at the plantation. Today, the ruins are protected by the VI National Park and are open to the public to learn about, enjoy and explore.  Placards and signs are dotted throughout the property, allowing you to take a self-guided walking tour through the site, describing how sugar was produced, what plantation life involved and the history behind sugar plantations on St. John. 

    The windmill, pictured here, is one of the focal points of the plantation ruins and was built sometime between 1810 and 1830. The ruins also include a fairly intact factory, horse mill, slave quarters, kettles and other structures associated with sugar production.  There are many cultural activities that take place at Annaberg, ranging from demonstrations of baking “dumb bread” to basketweaving. Often times you will also find a local selling coconut water or doing demonstrations with calabash carvings. There are also a range of special events that take place at the site, like this week’s Full Moon Yoga and Meditation.  Be sure to check the Virgin Islands National Park, The Visitor’s Center in Cruz Bay, or the Friends of the VI National Park event page for upcoming seminars, classes and special events. 

    Make sure to take carve out time on your trip to do either a self-guided tour or book a tour with a park ranger to explore the Annaberg Plantation. Located near Leinster Bay, Waterlemon Cay and Francis Bay, you can combine a beach day with a fun, educational sightseeing option! 

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  • Activities
  • Snorkeling the Mangroves

    One of the underrated, beautiful attractions that we love on St. John are the mangroves. Mangroves are flowering trees that live in saltwater or tracking water in the mudflats on shorelines.  They have distinctive, prop roots that support a diverse community of marine life including sponges, algae, corals crustaceans, fish and more.  They offer an amazing habitat for juvenile reef panfish and lobsters, often making them an underwater nursery for sea life. Bright corals, vibrant fish and amazing creatures call these roots home!

    In St. John, we have many mangrove areas, but the most popular and prominent is in Hurricane Hole. This area was actually deemed a National Monument in January 2001.  Seeking to provide greater protection to the sensitive coral reef resources, President Clinton established the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument. The monument includes 12,708 acres of federal underwater lands within the 3 mile area off St. John, including Hurricane Hole and areas north and south.

    We love snorkeling the mangroves here, and also highly recommend a boat charter for the day and asking to stop here (Island Roots will take you there!), or going with Arawak Expeditions for a kayak or stand up paddle board in this serene spot!

    Have you snorkeled mangroves before? If not, check them out! If you have, we’d love to see your pictures! Tag #destinationstj on Instagram for a repost or share them on our Facebook page!

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  • Activities
  • Hiking: The Johnny Horn Trail

    Hiking is one of our favorite things to do on St. John. With nearly 3/4 of the island being National Park, there is an abundance of great hiking.  The views, wildlife and plants are spectacular and we highly suggest making sure to do at least one hike during your stay!

    Johnny Horn Trail is one of our top picks, as it combines a variety of views and terrain as well as some great ruins! You can park at the Annaberg Plantation Ruins (another great sight – we’ll post about these soon!). The trail starts off along the waterfront in Leinster Bay, with a great view of Watermelon Cay.  From there, you hike uphill a bit to ruins of an old Danish guard house. The views from this spot, looking out towards Mary’s Point and Great Thatch, are completely breathtaking!

    Keep hiking up the trail, and soon you will arrive at another cropping of ruins, this one The Murphy Estate House atop Windy Hill. Again, the views are stunning, with sights including Sir Frances Drake Channel, Jost Van Dyke and Tortola. If you packed a picnic or snacks, this is a great spot to stop (there’s a picnic table with a view!) or at the very least, snap some photos!

    The hike continues on, flattening out in parts, with a range of vegetation including palms, cactus, wild oregano, agave and more. You’ll dip down past Brown Bay, passing the mangroves and bay. You will head back up again, with a final steep stretch of the trail before it begins to descend into Coral Bay via a residential road. We love to take this all the way to Skinny Legs to enjoy a burger or Indigo Grill for a pizza, before heading back on the trail to our car!

    You can view more photos and a bit of the story and background of Johnny Horn here and here. We hope you enjoy the hike! If you do this one on your next visit to St. John, please share your photos with us on Facebook or by tagging #destinationstj

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  • Activities
  • Sailing on Kekoa

    With so many options for activities and dining during your stay, it’s helpful to get a bit of local knowledge and perspective on “can’t miss” excursions, restaurants, shops and more. Here on the blog, we will share some of our local picks and top things to do during your vacation, ensuring that you experience the best of the best!

    Boat trips are often the highlight of everyone’s stay in St. John (aside from gorgeous sunsets like this at Blue Papaya villa) and we highly recommend booking at least one during your trip. There are a lot of options, ranging from small powerboats, larger powerboat tours, sailboats and catamaran trips, offering something something for everyone. One of our top picks is Kekoa – a 50 foot wooden catamaran with black sails, built by two brothers who followed and are now living their dream. Kekoa’s crew is knowledgeable, friendly and genuinely wants you to have your best day ever. The charters offer a true local and personalized feel, are never too packed and you don’t feel like you’re being herded around. The engines are off, wind is in the sails and you can relax in a beanbag to the sounds of the ocean, chill and ever-so-appropriate reggae on the speakers while sipping a Painkiller. Truly, the perfect day and a great way to enjoy the beauty of these islands.

    The company offers a few different trip options. We love going to Jost Van Dyke for a full day charter, stopping to snorkel and then have lunch at Soggy Dollar Bar, home of the original Painkiller. That said, the local 1/2 day sails and stunning sunset sails are also equally as special. Really, you can’t go wrong, as a trip with Kekoa will surely be one of the magical and memorable parts of your vacation in St. John.

  • Activities
  • Top Beaches in the World

    If you’re looking to vacation in St. John, then you likely have heard about our beautiful beaches! St. John is nearly 75% Virgin Islands National Park, with gorgeous beaches, phenomenal hiking trails and stunning snorkeling.

    In 1956, Laurence Rockefeller donated extensive lands to the US Park Service, under the condition that they be protected from future development. In addition to the land, much of St. John’s waters, coral reefs, beaches and shoreline are also protected. In 2001, The Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument was created, preserving the underwater beauty of the area near Hurricane Hole. Our parks, untouched waters and land are part of what makes St. John so beautiful!

    Not to boast, but our beaches are pretty famous and a major reason to come visit this little piece of Heaven. You can stay a week and not even begin to visit each beach – the hardest part is deciding which beach to go to when you venture out for the day!

    Some of our favorites include Trunk Bay, photographed here and an iconic beach/highly photographed spot, has been consistently named one of the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world by publications ranging from Condй Nast Traveler, The Travel Channel, Travel + Leisure and other travel publications.  The New York Times named Cinnamon Bay one of six Caribbean Beaches to See Before You Die, and Maho Bay was named by Harper’s Bazaar on of the 27 Best Beaches in the World.

    Imagine yourself floating lazily in the warm tropical waters of St. John, spotting a sea turtle casually swimming by. The waves are lapping on the shore of pristine white sand, palm fronds are rustling and the sand is heating your tanned skin. This is vacation. This is St. John. 

    See you soon!

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