• 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!

  • Uncategorized
  • The Animal Care Center of St. John

    One of the reasons that locals and visitors of St. John love this island so much is for its incredible caring and philanthropic community.  A prime example of this is the St. John Animal Care Center, a non-profit dedicated to the wellbeing and care of homeless, abandoned and abused animals on island. With no official animal control or humane society, the ACC was started with the intention of helping the animals on our little island. You can learn more about the history and evolution of the program here. With the help of a slew of volunteers, donors and much love, the shelter has been able to make great strides, keeping feral animals off the streets and making St. John a better place! The community that makes the ACC possible is to be commended and truly has done so much for the island.

    Through programs such as feeding stations, spaying/neutering and an extremely successful adoption program, the ACC has touched the lives of so many animals (and people) with their dedication and efforts. 

    While many pets find island homes, over half the adoptions go stateside to their forever homes.  Locals and tourists have donated funds and flown with shelter dogs in order to get them to their new stateside homes. You can read about the story of celebrity dog Moose, who after nearly 5 years at the shelter, found a home with a Boston family.

    Right now, the ACC has an online auction that is part of their annual winter gala which is taking place at our lovely Villa Tesori on Saturday, February 4. Villa Tesori, which overlooks Fish, Reef and Monte Bay, is owned by Brian and Lisa Duelfer who do all they can to look out for the well-being of the St. John Animal Care Center. The Duelfers make annual donations to the ACC and donate a percentage of the annual revenue from their villa rentals to the St. John animal shelter and encourage other island vacation homeowners and visitors to join them.

    The ACC also has an incredible “VolunTourism” program, where island visitors have the opportunity to lend a hand and walk dogs and visit the cats. Many a visitor can be seen walking the pups around Cruz Bay or helping with daily shelter activities.

    We hope that if you are an animal lover, you stop into the ACC during your visit to lend a hand, or to simply give some love to the pups and cats.

  • Eat/Dine
  • Dining Experience: Extra Virgin Bistro

    As we’ve shared before, St. John is home to a plethora of amazing restaurants. Many visitors are blown away by the fact that there are so many incredible culinary experiences in the small town of Cruz Bay (not to mention elsewhere on island). One of the newer arrivals to the restaurant scene is Extra Virgin Bistro, which opened in 2015 across from the ball park in Cruz Bay. The name comes as a tie of the Virgin Islands and extra virgin olive oils; the menu features olive oils from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. General manager/owner Ryan Costanzo and head chef/owner Tommy Garfield, have joined forces to put on an incredible dining experience. The atmosphere, wine list, cocktails, food, presentation and staff are all top notch and we can’t say enough great things.  The cheeses, pastas and bread are made fresh in house every day, and the wine list and cocktails are curated by a super knowledgeable staff.  Extra Virgin also works hard to utilize local ingredients as much as possible and grows many of the herbs featured in dishes on site at the restaurant.

    Some of our favorite dishes include the Local Yellowfin Tuna Carpaccio, which features pickled cantaloupe, orange citronette and chives, and the Shrimp and Lump Crab Meat Pappardelle with housemade hand cut pappardelle, lemon and white wine garlic butter, spinach, roasted roma tomatoes and fresh parmigiano-reggiano and pecorino romano. 

    Extra Virgin is now also open for Brunch, Saturday and Sunday from 11am-2pm. Expect to find items like French Toast with Foie Gras Butter and Blueberry Compote, Short Rib Hash and Maine Lobster Tail Eggs Benedict. The cocktails don’t disappoint, either!

    Check out this fun video that recent visitors to St. John made about Extra Virgin Bistro.

    Let us know if you plan on dining here during your stay, or have in the past, and be sure to tag any photos you take with #destinationstj!

  • 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! 


  • Uncategorized
  • Visit: Jost Van Dyke

    soggy dollar bar original painkiller hendo's hideout

    With New Year’s Eve parties still in the forefront of our minds, it’s a perfect time for us to tell you about the gem of an island called Jost Van Dyke. Famous for it’s “Old Year’s Night” parties, the legend Foxy himself, Soggy Dollar Bar and a slew of other local celebrities and must-see spots, Jost Van Dyke is the perfect place to day trip from St. John.

    Whether you take a daysail to Jost Van Dyke on boats like Kekoa or Cruz Bay Watersports, rent a boat for the day, and make this an item on your itinerary, or take the ferry, Jost Van Dyke shouldn’t be missed. Jost Van Dyke is four miles by three miles, with a population of around 300 people. The two main attraction spots are Great Harbour and White Bay, though Little Harbour and Foxy’s Taboo/the east end of the island are great spots to visit also. Great Harbor is where the ferry comes in, as well as where you would clear customs on a day trip. This sleep little beach is dotted with bars, the most famous being Foxy’s Bar. Foxy Callwood himself has been singing and playing music at his bar since the 60’s, and has become an iconic part of the island. New Year’s Eve/Old Year’s Night brings thousands of people to the beach to party, filling the harbor and creating quite the party scene.

    Over the hill to the west lies White Bay, an idyllic white sand beach with hammocks, beach chairs and bar after bar. Most famous is The Soggy Dollar Bar, home of the original painkiller and a great spot for drinks and passing the time. Further down the beach are a few other local favorite spots including Jewel’s Snack Shack, Gertrude’s, Seddy’s One Love, Coco Loco and more. To the East of Soggy Dollar is a new spot, Hendo’s Hideout, a beautifully designed bar and restaurant that has great food, island cocktails and a fantastic vibe. A short hike to the far east part of the beach will take you to Ivan’s Stress Free Bar (the name says it all), a quintessential island beach bar that shouldn’t be missed!

    Whether it’s the turquoise waters, painkillers or adventure that entices you, we encourage you to plan for a day trip to Jost while you visit. Our staff can help you determine the best options to ensure a great day for your group! We’re excited to hear about your experience!


  • Eat/Dine
  • A Guide to What/Where to Drink

    There are so many amazing bars on St. John, and each has great cocktails and drink options. It can be hard to decide what to order with so many options, so we thought we’d share some of our favorite island concoctions at local watering holes!

    The Longboard:

    This little spot has some killer cocktails! We love the Passion Fruit Frosé and Frozen Painkillers, both on tap, icy cold and frozen. Other island favorites include the Planter’s Punch (Meyers dark rum, passionfruit, pineapple, lemon, house grenadine, Angostura bitters) and the Paloma (Reposado tequila, lime, house made grapefruit soda, Himalayan sea salt). Enjoy some great bar snacks and some of the freshest fish dishes on island!

    The Lime Inn:

    This family run restaurant has been taken over by the owner’s daughter and her husband and continues to be one of our favorite spots on St. John! We love The Danger (named after Chelsea + Richard’s son). It’s a spicy cocktail of house thai chile infused blue agave tequila, fresh watermelon juice, fresh lime juice and pineapple simple syrup! Wednesday is also shrimp night, so don’t miss it!

    Morgan’s Mango:

    We have already shared our love for Morgan’s Mango here. The Candela is our favorite; a frozen blend of Grey Goose Vodka, fresh passionfruit and mint! So cool and refreshing!

    Woody’s Seafood Saloon:

    Woody’s has become known for it’s Happy Hour, that offers $1 Coors Light, $3 well drinks, $1 for all other drinks every day from 3-6pm.  Order a frozen Lime in de Coconut or Bushwhacker and watch the world go by at this iconic Cruz Bay outpost.

    Joe’s Rum Hut:

    Rum Hut has quickly become the Happy Hour spot to be. With $3 you-cal-it (any drink is $3) from 4-6pm daily, you can’t go wrong. Grab a frozen BBV or a Dark & Stormy for $3 and sit in the adirondack chairs on Cruz Bay Beach and watch the sun go down!

    The Tap Room:

    This spot in Mongoose Junction is air-conditioned and has a slew of beers on tap, including St. John Brewer’s beers made by the owners. Enjoy a Mango Pale Ale or an Island Hoppin’ IPA, as well as other beers on tap! We also love their bar food – fish tacos are a must-try!

    The Beach Bar:

    The name says it all. An iconic Cruz Bay bar, right on the beach. This spot is always bumping, generally has great live music. Get a painkiller, relax and enjoy every second of vacation. 


    Another great waterfront spot, DR!NK has a great seating area, and has imaginative cocktails that are seasonal and always changing. Ask the bartenders, get fresh squeezed juice on the spot and enjoy every sip! You can also order appetizers from The Terrace next door, with service at DR!NK. How’s that for an island collaboration to love?

    The Bowery:

    This air-conditioned bar right next to The Beach Bar has a great vibe and different style than any other spots in St. John. With a full bar and experienced bartenders, you can’t go wrong. Make sure to also order The Bowery Board that includes fine meats and cheeses, fresh and dried fruits, bacon jam, local honey, crostini! 

    The Terrace:

    This is actually a restaurant, but they have a great Sunset Happy Hour at the bar (includes oysters!) and an extensive wine list. They also just recently launched an impressive cocktail list, including specialty drinks like The Beet Goes On, a tasty concoction of Skyy Ginger Vodka, ginger simple syrup, lemon with beet juice ice spheres!

    We’ll be telling you about some other fun spots in St. John, but for now, this list should keep you busy! Have fun!