• 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!


  • 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!


  • Eat/Dine
  • 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!


  • 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


  • 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.