Spice it up St. John Style

where to stay st. john, st. john villa rental, vrbo st. john vi, virgin islands, st. john usvi, where to stay in cruz bay, st. john vacation rental, trunk bay, st. john

Caribbean cooking is known for it’s delicious use of spices – Jerk and blackened seasonings being the most common. The locally famous drink The Painkiller even uses fresh ground nutmeg on top.

Guests often ask us about how they can take home the flavor of the islands and our answer is: SPICES!

We are lucky to have an amazing shop on St. John, conveniently located in Cruz Bay by the St.Thomas/St.John Ferry Dock called St. John Spice. This great store has everything from homemade curated spice blends to cutely packaged nutmegs and grater sets.  Spice blends are mixed in house, meaning they are fresh and authentic! Their Cruz Bay Grill Rub is a best-seller and a great gift item, or something to cook with when you return home to remind you of your time in St. John.  We also love this shop’s curated locally made hot sauces, including Valley Doll and Blind Betty’s.

We also love locally made Kitchen Creole spice blends. The Bordeaux Mountain and Condado Adobo have become go-tos in our kitchen, but you truly can’t go wrong with any of them. Pick these up as a gift for someone at home, or to cook with at your Destination St. John rental villa!  News of St. John even shared a fun, easy recipe here. You can purchase them online or at Shipwreck Landing or Pickles in Paradise in Coral Bay or Pink Papaya or Sugarbirds in Cruz Bay. 

Do you love cooking with spices? What is your favorite local seasoning? Share photos with us by tagging #DestinationSTJ on Instagram!

St. John from the Sea

One of the best parts about vacationing to a lovely island like St. John is that it’s just that – an island – and surrounded by water! The turquoise, sparking waters arounds St. John are absolutely stunning and a must see.  A great way to explore the island and take advantage of the beautiful surroundings is by renting a dinghy and and taking a self-navigated tour of the coast and beaches! It’s a beautiful new perspective and great way to view the island.

A dinghy rental day allows you to check out multiple beaches and snorkel stops at your own leisure, by boat, and experience an exciting adventure.  The rentals stay in the USVI, meaning no hassle of clearing customs and no need for a passport. It’s an affordable way to enjoy a private, fun boat day in the Virgin Islands.

There are a few options for dingy and boat rentals in St. John:

Cruz Bay Watersports (book online and save 10%!)

Bad Kitty / Calypso

Noah’s Little Arks

A few of our favorite spots to visit by boat in St. John include:

  • snorkeling the starfish beds at Waterlemon Cay
  • a snorkel and swim at Honeymoon Beach followed by a yummy smoothie at the concession stand ashore
  • a lounge on the beach at pristine Cinnamon Bay

We highly suggest renting snorkel gear at St. John Beach Bum or Arawak Expeditions to make the most of your day and explore the beauty below the waves as well! While we know it’s hard to leave your beautiful Destination St. John villa, you won’t want to miss this sunny activity!

Cool Down with Irie Pops

Summer is for beach days and vacation. It’s for living outside at your Destination St. John villa and soaking up sunshine at the beach or at your St. John villa pool. It’s also hot, and popsicles and fun summer drinks are always a great way to cool down. Enter: Irie Pops. This fun popsicle company recently “popped” up in St. John and it’s the perfect way to unwind, cool down and feel the Irie summer island vibes.

The passion project of Laura + William, these once-tourists now-residents have created a fun island business selling fresh, homemade pops to tourists and locals alike. You can find their mobile cooler cart and colorful umbrella most often in the park across from the ferry dock in Cruz Bay, but they also like to make their way to beaches and other spots around the island.

Now to the popsicles – these gourmet treats feature fun tropical flavors like Cucumber/Coconut/Lime and Basil/Berry, Mango Creamsicle and Papaya Punch.  For adults, Irie Pops also has vacation-approved “boozy pops” like Rum Punch and of course, The Painkiller.

Other island treats that we love include TripAdvisor favorites Columbo and St. John Scoops or a Bushwhacker at Joe’s Rum Hut

What cool concoctions and treats did you enjoy on your trip? Post them and tag #DestinationSTJ and we’ll share them too!

It’s Carnival Time!

st. john carnival 2017, st. john virgin islands, usvi, where to stay st. john

St. John Carnival is currently in full swing and we’re enjoying every moment! A bit different from your usually Fourth of July celebration, carnival time is a once-a-year festival that celebrates the music and culture of the Virgin Islands and Caribbean. St. John’s carnival happens to coincide with America’s birthday, making it an even more exciting time!

Carnival village gets built in a parking area in Cruz Bay – booths serving food and drink surround a big stage for musicians from the Virgin Islands, Haiti, Santo Domingo, Trinidad and more. All this week, we’ve been enjoying local foods like conch and beef patй, chicken roti, johnny cakes, fresh ginger beer and other local specialties from the various vendors at the village. Music and dancing are the highlight, though, with favorite Caribbean performers like Destra, St. Thomas’ R. City and more.

Tomorrow, the excitement continues with J’ouvert and the Fourth of July parade. J’ouvert is a celebration that starts at 4am and includes dancing behind flatbed trucks with bands playing – until the sun rises!! The parade starts mid-day and features more music, dancing, moko jumbies and elaborate costumes. 

Carnival time is a celebration and an incredible time to visit St. John, when the island is alive with culture and happiness. Sound exciting? Book your villa for carnival next year!

When Pizza Meets Island Life

pizza pi, tripadvisor, where to stay st. john, st. john virgin islands, vrbo st. john, best villas st. john

St. John and the Virgin Islands are full of fun, quirky spots (think floating bar and free rum shots in your smoothie). Another fun spot to visit that boasts your “only in the Virgin Islands” type activity is Pizza Pi, a brightly colored boat that sells…pizza! Anchored in Christmas Cove right off the East End of St. Thomas, Pizza Pi has created a lot of love and buzz and is a must-visit spot if you find yourself on a boat trip during your stay.

Self-proclaimed dreamers, owners Sasha and Tara had a vision of taking “the familiar food truck concept to the waters of the US Virgin Islands where we prepare & serve New York style pizza to hungry boaters in the bay.” They quit their jobs, built a boat and have never looked back. Serving over 7,000 pizzas to date and ranked #1 restaurant in the US Virgin Islands according to TripAdvisor for more than a year, Pizza Pi is a local success. Their custom-built boat cranks out some of the most delicious pizzas, and the setting couldn’t be better.

Including and beyond signature pizzas like Margherita and Cheese, Pizza Pi also offers some pretty incredible flavors like the Mango Mami featuring tangy mango chutney, red onions, fresh mango, goat cheese & bacon or the Rasta Mon, wit a red curry coconut sauce, flaked coconut, snap peas, red bell peppers, & fresh mango. Hello tropical toppings!

Call in your order ahead, and raft up next to this awesome boat, or have them deliver it to your boat via dinghy. It doesn’t get much more island style than this….

As always, we love to see highlights of your vacation! Did you make it to Pizza Pi? If so, share your pics by hash tagging #DestinationSTJ!

The Virgin Islands’ Signature Drink

painkiller, soggy dollar bar, where to stay st. john, villa rental st. john, vacation rental st. john, st. john villas

There’s nothing quite like a tropical drink to put you into vacation mode. The Virgin Islands are known for a signature drink called the Painkiller. No, it’s no a prescription or medication, but it is the remedy to your worries and will put you on “island time” right away!

You can find this drink at most beach bars in St. John, as well as throughout the Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands. It was really made famous by Soggy Dollar Bar in Jost Van Dyke, that claims credit for “The Original Painkiller.” The Longboard on St. John also has Frozen Painkillers on tap!

We wanted to share the recipe with you, so you can get the ingredients while you’re here on island and mix up a batch in your villa during your stay, or make them at home to prolong the euphoria of vacation!

RECIPE:

  • 1 part cream of coconut (Coco Lopez is the most common and cans should be available at the grocery store)
  • 1 part orange juice (no pulp is preferred)
  • 4 parts pineapple juice
  • Rum to taste (careful here!!)
  • Fresh nutmeg

We like to use local Virgin Islands Cruzan Rum, but in the BVI, Pusser’s Rum is the standard! Shake first four ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice, pour into a glass and top with fresh grated nutmeg. St. John Spice in Cruz Bay sells jars of nutmeg pods with little graters – a great essential for vacation and wonderful gifts to take home!

Did you enjoy a painkiller while in St. John? Have you made them at home or in your villa? Share photos with us by tagging #DestinationSTJ!

Happy Vacationing,

Bring Home St. John Art

st. john villa rental, where to stay st. john, usvi. house rental st. john, st. john villa, airbnb st. john

Rather than bringing home knick knacks that will collect dust, why not purchase a piece of beautiful art created by a local St. John artist? For such a tiny island, we have a LOT of talent. Maybe it’s the draw of living on a spot of land in the middle of the ocean and the creative, wanderlust-ing types that are attracted to this lifestyle, but St. John has a slew of incredibly talented artists ranging from painters, jewelers and photographers to wood carvers, writers and potters. 

Last year, a young island couple bought Bajo el Sol, a local art gallery, and has since stepped up the local draw and now features St. John artists, as well as those from St. Croix and St. Thomas.  The gallery features only local artists, spotlighting both fledgling and well-established creatives, and hosts a number of exhibits and events to celebrate the culture and arts of the Virgin Islands. You can learn more about their upcoming exhibits and featured artists on their Facebook page

Bajo el Sol is a gem – this little spot is a must see on your vacation, and we’re sure you’ll fall in love with an artistic creation that will be a perfect way to bring home a piece of St. John culture. 

The gallery also participates in Mongoose Junction’s “First Fridays,” a fun event the first Friday of each month, where the beautiful Mongoose Junction shopping center comes alive with local flavor.  Expect live music, drink specials, moko jumbies, sales and special events throughout the evening from 6-9pm.

We also love to find art, pottery, jewelry and other locally made pieces at Donald Schnell Studio, Sloop Jones, Pottery in Paradise, Kimberly Boulon Fine Art Gallery, Coconut Coast Studios and Pink Papaya.

Local Brunch Spots

Where to stay st. john, st. john brunch, brunch on st. john, cruz bay, villa rental st. john

Who doesn’t love a good brunch, especially when you’re on vacation and relaxation and lazy days are the daily plan?

On St. John, we have a few excellent brunch options that make for a perfect low-key start to your day. We’ve highlighted them below

Triple B (Babes Brunch Bay)

You don’t want to miss brunch at this super chill Coral Bay spot. Originally a food truck, Triple B is now located inside Oasis and cranks out some of the best brunch eats we’ve ever had. Enjoy delicious items like the Huevos Rancheros (Crispy Corn Tortillas, retired black beans, cheddar, 2 eggs your way, roasted red peppers and house-made jalapeño cilantro crema), The Veg Head (local Josephine’s organic greens with an asparagus and sweet pea salad, poached eggs and house made citrus aioli) or the amazing scone of the day! We also love the homies – yukon gold home fries. There’s also always a daily homie, like homies topic super garlic parmesan butter.

Open Friday-Tuesday, 6am-12pm

Extra Virgin Bistro

We’ve shared our love for this Cruz Bay restaurant before here, but now they do brunch! With some of the best Bloody Mary’s and coffee drinks around, as well as luxe menu items like Short Rib Hash (braised short rib & root vegetable hash, over easy eggs) or the Knuckle Sandwich “Lobster Roll” (home-made english muffin, hand-picked fresh Maine lobster, Old Bay lemon aioli, celery, served with choice of house-made chips or side of fruit). The laid back, breezy spot is totally different during the day and we find ourselves brunching for a solid 3 hours in this spot.

Open Saturday & Sunday 11am-2pm

Rhumblines

This quaint little garden eatery in the heart of Cruz Bay is a beautiful spot during the day, with sunshine, breeze and lush planting. The Caribbean-Thai fusion style is more subtle at lunch than on their dinner menu, but still offers great flavor and a fun twist to brunch.  We love the Tuna BLT – seared (or cooked to whatever temperature you prefer) Ahi tuna on a pita with all the BLT fixings served with a side of Rhumblines’ signature “Indo Fries,” french fries with a spicy, tropical sauce that can’t be beat! There is also a Bloody Mary bar, and you can order bottomless Mimosas (hello, vacation!).

This fun spot was also recently included in a fun NY Times article.

Open Sunday 10am-2pm

Did you visit any of these brunch spots on your vacation? Share them on social media by tagging #DestinationSTJ.

What Locals Love to Do

St. john, USVI, Where to Stay St. John, VI, Virgin Islands

Residents of St. John are privy to fun events and activities that are a bit under the radar and not as visible to our island visitors. Lucky for you, we are sharing some of our local knowledge, offering information on some of our favorite St. John happenings. A few of our top insider picks:

Mathayom Private Chefs Full Moon Dinners

Local chef Mathayom caters private events and weddings and creates culinary experiences that are top notch. About a year ago, he started hosting Full Moon dinners, a once a month dinner event that falls on or close to the full moon. The dinners take place at his quaint Windy Level spot just a short drive outside of Cruz Bay.

What to expect?
Each month, the dinners are themed – last month’s theme was “Raw Deal: Uncooked & Cured,” and featured an incredible menu with items like Beet-Cured Salmon, Duck Breast Bacon and more. February’s dinner was themed, “Keep the Romance Alive: Legendary Aphrodisiacs” and featured house-made burrata with local honey and a killer dish, Plantain-Stuffed Scottish Salmon with ginseng-coconut couscous, balsamic-grilled asparagus and a lobster sauce.

Bottom Line: You wont want to miss these fun dinners! Prices are generally $90 for food only, $125 for dinner with wine pairings.

The next dinner is Friday, May 12. You can view the schedule on Facebook.

Strong + Well with Jen Endicott

Surprisingly, St. John doesn’t have a dedicated wellness center or yoga studio, so sometimes finding yoga classes can be a bit of a challenge. We are fortunate to have local yogi Jen Endicott leading incredible classes at the St. John School of the Arts, Gallows Point, The Westin Resort and on the beautiful beach at Cinnamon Bay. You can view her full schedule and locations here. Classes are as challenging or relaxing as you want them to be, so no need to worry about the level of your practice.

What to Expect?
Jen creates not just classes, but beautiful, mindful sessions that are thoughtfully planned and often include a relaxing and uplifting musical playlist.

Bottom Line: Whether you’re at the high-ceiling, breezy School of the Arts location, or soaking up the stunning views at Cinnamon Bay, you’re sure to feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for being right where you are.

Women Who Wine

Sorry guys, this is for the ladies (though men are always found enjoying the event too)! Every month, DR!NK St. John does a fun evening event called “Women Who Wine.” It includes tastings for a series of highlighted wines – buy a tasting of 3 for $10 or 6 for $20 and sample the featured wines. Buying a tasting enters you in the raffle for fun gift certificates to local businesses. Every event features a product or craft from a local entrepreneur- sometimes jewelry, sometimes skincare or shoes, you name it!

What to Expect?

Usually the events start around 5pm and include a few hours of social fun, shopping the featured trunk show or local business, and sampling fantastic wines.  The raffle is always a plus, with great prizes!

The next event is Friday, May 20th featuring MermaidSwimVI.

Bottom Line:

Mix and mingle with a fun group of local ladies, shop and support a local business and enjoy the stunning sunset views from this spot located overlooking Cruz Bay beach.

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.