Iconic Virgin Islands Jewelry

The Caribbean hook bracelet is an iconic piece of jewelry that is an amazing way to commemorate your vacation and time on St. John. Lots of locals wear the bracelets, and visitors love taking back a wearable and meaningful piece of St. John with them.

Both men and women wear these signature island bracelets and they come in a range of materials including gold and silver variations and even titanium. When worn with the hook facing in, the wearer is in a relationship, when worn with the hook facing out, the wearer is single. (They’re a great way to tell if someone is taken or not!).

There have been numerous times when we’ve traveled (ranging from New England to even Greece!) when a stranger has come up and commented on our hook bracelets and exclaimed, “Have you been to St. John?” because they recognized the bracelet and were donning one of their own. Such a fun way to always be tied back to the magical island of St. John.

There are a few versions of the hook bracelet, including the St. John “J” Hook, which is available at Caravan Gallery in Mongoose Junction. One of the most well-known hook bracelets comes from Freebird Creations located right next to the ferry dock (your first and last stop on St. John). Right down the road from the ferry dock in Wharfside Village is Bamboo Studio, another local jewelry company whose studio and workspace are right across from the shop, so you can even see the pieces being made! Lots of locations to find a Caribbean hook bracelet that fits your style and budget!

Do you have a hook bracelet or a story about your bracelet? Share your photos with us by tagging #destinationSTJ on Instagram.

Must Try: Stand Up Paddling

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Stand up paddling, also known as SUP, is a super cool, popular activity these days and St. John is the perfect spot to do it!

If you’re not familiar with stand-up paddling, the board is like an oversized surf board and you stand (or some beginners kneel). Balancing on the board in a standing position, you use a long paddle to propel the board over the water. It engages all your muscles, especially the core, and is a great activity on the water.  Our crystal clear waters make this fun sport all the more inviting, as you are not only getting a workout, but you’re able to see the bottom and often spot sea life such as turtles. A bit more information about SUP here and here.

There are so many amazing spots to paddle board, allowing you to explore and adventure on the water! We love to visit Hurricane Hole and paddle around the various bays, exploring the mangroves and amazing habitat, as well as paddling the calm bays of Maho Bay, Francis Bay, Salt Pond Bay and other spots. The New York Times shared a great piece about paddle boarding on St. John. 

There are a handful of great companies on island that will either rent boards or take you on a guided SUP tour:

Arawak Expeditions: The super experienced team at Arawak can take you on a guided SUP and snorkel tour in Hurricane Hole, a Virgin Islands National Monument. It’s a must see! They also offer Night SUP tours, as well as lessons and rentals. Arawak also does kayak tours, fly fishing and other excursions. Their office is located in Mongoose Junction.

Cinnamon Bay Watersports: With a cute watersports hut located steps from the pristine Cinnamon Bay beach, you can’t go wrong with renting a SUP here. Their knowledgable staff can help you find the right board and even give you some pointers. They also rent everything from Hobie Cats and windsurfing gear! 

SUP St. John: This company has a slew of information on their website, and offers board rentals, night paddling, GoPro rental and a handful of lessons and options.

VI Ecotours: With a shop location at Honeymoon Beach (accessible from the water or via Caneel Bay Resort or the Lind Point Trail), VI Ecotours rents paddleboards. The location at Honeymoon is ideal for paddling, with calm, turquoise waters and plenty to explore. The concession here also rents kayaks, snorkel gear and conducts kayak tours.  VI Ecotours also offers a SUP Yoga class, combining stand up paddle boarding and yoga to “bring you back to breath, movement and presence, not only on the mat but in your every day life.”

Have you ever stand-up paddled? We’d love to hear you experience, and don’t forget to share any pictures on social media by tagging #DestinationSTJ!

Local Fruits We Love

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There’s nothing that can make you feel like you’re in the Caribbean quite like taking a bite of a piece of delicious, sun-ripened tropical fruit! Exotic, tropical fruits are fun to find and enjoy during your visit! We’ve highlighted a few of our favorites here:

Genip – This summer fruit is a local favorite, and if you’re here in the summer months, you’ll see it for sale in Cruz Bay, and children running around with branches laden with the little fruits. The green fruits grow in clusters on branches, and have a rough, thick skin.  You’ll want to bite the skin/outer shell, cracking it open to get the fruit inside. The fruit itself has a tart, tangy taste and soft texture similar to it’s cousin the lychee. You don’t eat or chew it – it’s best to suck the creamy pulp off the hard seed. Discard the seed and go back for more!

Sugar Apple – This tropical fruit grows on small trees or shrubs and is round with a very lumpy skin. They’re greenish brown and the flesh inside is white. This lumpy, seedy fruit is tricky to eat but well worth it. The flesh around the seeds is sweet and delicious, resembling custard. Break the sugar apple in two and eat with a spoon, making sure not to eat the seeds – spit these out!

Passion Fruit – Yet another seedy fruit, this one is tart and tangy! The passionfruit vine produces gorgeous flowers that produce a round fruit about the size of a tennis ball that ranges in color from green to purple. Slice it open and you’ll find tons of black seeds and a vibrant orange pulp. The seeds are edible and crunchy. Enjoy the fruit spooned over yogurt, ice cream or other sweets, or try a local favorite where you add lots of sugar and water through a sieve to create delicious passionfruit juice that’s tart and sweet!

We have additional favorites like Mango, Key Lime, Coconut, Guava and more. Read about them here!

Did you enjoy any local fruits on your trip? If so, be sure to snap a photo and tag them #DestinationSTJ

Local Animals on St. John

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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!

Dining at Morgan’s Mango

Despite our tiny size of 8 miles long and 5 miles wide, there are quite a few restaurants on St. John that all offer incredible food. From local Caribbean cuisines to Italian, Spanish, coastal fusion and more, we have an array of food options.

One of our favorite spots is Morgan’s Mango. This locally-owned restaurant has been a Cruz Bay staple since 1992. Morgan’s Mango serves “neo-Caribbean cuisine” that offers a sublime tropical taste of the islands. The food includes flavors from Creole, Bahamian, Cuban, Jamaican, Haitian, Maya, Puerto Rican and native Virgin Islands foods, as well as influences from Africa.

The drinks at Morgan’s Mango are some of the most refreshing and tropical that you can find on-island. We love the Candela, a frozen concoction of Grey Goose Vodka, fresh passion fruit and mint, or the Lime & Coconut, another frozen delight featuring local dark and light Cruzan rums, fresh limes and cream of coconut.

Every Tuesday and Saturday, Morgan’s puts on a spectacular lobster night, featuring fresh locally caught Caribbean lobsters that are grilled and served with their special house butter blended with garlic and parsley, a side of sweet plantains, seasoned rice and homemade black beans. An added bonus: the lobster special comes with a complimentary glass of Chateau Lamothe Bordeaux Blanc. We also love the Yellow Fin Tuna Tartar appetizer and the fresh grilled “Voodoo Snapper” can’t be missed. But really, you can’t go wrong with this menu.

The family-run restaurant not only has great drinks and food, but the atmosphere is lively and manifests the sights, sounds and smells of the Caribbean. There is live music every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Also, if you are visiting St. John for the holidays and January 1, don’t miss Morgan’s New Year’s Eve Party, a true party in paradise!


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


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!


Living the Dream

Here in St. John, aka Paradise, the term “Living the Dream” gets thrown around A LOT. At Destination St. John, we revel in the term because we are doing what we love everyday by creating magical vacations for our clients and ensuring that those that visit fall in love with St. John, just as we did when we never left here 25 years ago!

We moved to St. John in the early 90s, as we sought a beautiful, unspoiled place to live, work and raise a family, which we have done! We are a family owned and operated property management and vacation rental company here in St. John, and are one of the best known and most well respected rental firms in the Virgin Islands. In 2012, Islands Magazine named Destination St. John among the best of the best, and we are the only rental firm in the VI to claim this prestigious title.

We are proud of the range of homes we represent, offering island visitors both quaint Caribbean cottages as well as multimillion dollar luxury homes, ensuring that you can enjoy St. John on a variety of budgets without sacrificing quality, customer service and experience! We have curated a friendly, knowledgeable staff that is on call 24 hours a day to make your stay and vacation as perfect and idyllic as you would imagine your island getaway. (More on that later…!)

We invite you to continue to follow our blog where you will learn about fun activities on St. John, island history, local events, featured villas and travel deals, and where we can share with you an insight into our little piece of paradise. We feel grateful everyday that we get to Live the Dream here on St. John and look forward to sharing our journey with you.