The word Carnival brings to mind an assortment of images; for music lovers it might mean heated Calypso shows and for children it brings to mind amusement park rides and cotton candy. To those who enjoy Caribbean delicacies Carnival may mean food/drink booths at the village. And to anyone who has experienced the Carnival parades, the word certainly brings to mind steel drums, bands, colorful costumes, people of all ages dancing in the streets, mocko-jumbies and fireworks. And if none of these images came to mind, perhaps you have never experienced Carnival in the U.S.V.I.
It’s incredible that just 10 months after Hurricane Irma blew through that the people of St. John could pull off another Carnival festival. It’s one great celebration and party. This video that I am sharing gives you a little taste of what the parade is all about. It is by far the most fun parade that I have ever witnessed and it is so easy to get up close and connect with the people in the parade.
As we prepare to celebrate the fourth of July here stateside, we thought we thought it would be fun to write about how it is celebrated on St. John. The great news is that it is still on for this year!!!The biggest annual event in the U.S. Virgin Islands each year is Carnival. It’s held at a different time of year on each island, and they each have their own distinct flavor! The St. Thomas Carnival festivities take place during April-May, St. Croix’s is around Christmas, and St. John’s celebration culminates with the Fourth of July.
St. John Carnival, or St. John Festival is in full swing right now! There are events for a full month leading up to the parade and fireworks on July 4th. Some of the highlights each year include ‘Pan-o-Rama’- a night of live Caribbean steel pan music, the Prince & Princess and Queen selection pageants, and Food Fair- a full day of local food, drinks, crafts, and other goodies. The ‘Festival Village’, a collection of local food and drink booths surrounding a huge stage with various live bands performing each night is a local favorite. If you enjoy adult beverages, we can definitely vouch for the drinks at the Electric Lemonade stand. Definitely gets you in the mood to dance to the music. Thursday night/Friday morning, July 4th at 4am is the start of another fun event- J’ouvert! Revelers gather in Cruz Bay to dance through the streets behind large trucks featuring their favorite bands.
Friday, July 4th is parade day, beginning at 11am. It’s always a fun and lively event, with great music, colorful costumes, festive ‘troupes’ dancing through the streets, Mocko Jumbie stilt walkers, baton twirlers, steel bands, and above all, an energetic and entertaining crowd! Friday night at 9pm the fireworks display will begin over Cruz Bay Harbor. Locals and visitors alike will gather on the shore to watch the beautiful explosions erupt over the ocean! It truly is a magical sight, with the outline of St. Thomas in the background to illuminate the horizon. The very best spot to view the fireworks is definitely right from the balcony of St. John Escape. There will be one last night of live music and revelry in the ‘Festival Village’ to mark the end of another successful Carnival!
Here are some photos I took at Carnival last year.
Sharing a terrific video done by on island photographer Christian Wheatley. It is a great time lapse of a typical day on St. John. The island is ready for your visit and St. John Escape is ready to host you. Watching this certainly enhanced our excitement about our upcoming visit. Enjoy the video!
Anyone that’s been to St. John, knows that snorkeling on St. John offers more great shore snorkel spots than probably any other Caribbean island. From beginners to seasoned snorkelers alike, there is something for everyone. View gorgeous underwater gardens of coral and visit with the residents; turtles, rays, octopuses, moray eels and an abundance of fish large and small.
If you know where to go, you can find a variety of healthy fish populations.. You can also find healthy soft and hard corals, including a great deal of Elkhorn Coral around the island and colorful sea fans around the island. St John also has areas with interesting underwater topography that have cool areas to explore, like caves, big boulders and walls.
While there are many boat tour options on St. John that can be lots of fun, you can access nearly all the best locations for free from shore. And if you are interested in renting a kayak or a dinghy, there are a couple of great areas easily paddled to that are in fairly protected water. And no matter what the wind direction, you can always find some place calm to snorkel.
We have snorkeled just about all of the spots, including those right from the beach, as well as the off shore locations. We will share our favorite spots and how to get the most out of them in future posts. If you know where to go, you can find a variety of fish species and coral. We hope to help you better understand why St. John is such a snorkeling paradise.
Ever wonder what you would see if you hiked the Ram Head trail? Well tag along as we take you on a photo and video journey to the summit of Ram Head, starting out at Salt Pond. We start off hiking along Salt Pond Bay and then head inland, walking across Blue Cobblestone beach, past amazing cactus fields, before reaching the summit of Ram Head. The reward for getting to the top is the amazing panoramic view. On the way back we will pass the actual Salt Pond that the beach is named after, before we get to Drunk Bay and see the rock statues. This is an amazing hike and one of our favorites. Enjoy the views!!
On the sixth day of your perfect week on St. John, we would suggest hiking the Lind Point trail to Honeymoon and Salomon beaches. Starting behind the V.I. National Park Visitor center in Cruz Bay, the Lind Point trail provides a 1.1 mile hike to Honeymoon Beach. The small little shells you see and hear falling down around your feet are the many hermit crabs.
Before reaching Honeymoon, the trail ascends to the Lind Point overlook at an elevation of 160 feet above Cruz Bay. The views towards town and the neighboring islands is stunning.
Continuing on Lind Point, a side trail leads to Salomon Beach, a smaller, more secluded bay that shares the same crystal clear waters as Honeymoon.
I would rank this trail as one of the easiest on St. John. Still, I wouldn’t walk it in flip flops. I would recommend either wearing Keens or Tevas.
Once you get to the end of the trail you are rewarded with this beautiful vista. And if you do this hike first thing in the morning you should have this magical place to yourself. By the way, all of these photos were taken by me post Irma.
End your vacation with a finale so amazing it will bring you back to St. John—over and over again. Make sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection because the southeast end of St. John is hot!
Drive nearly four miles south of Coral Bay to Salt Pond, or you can even take the public bus which runs on a fairly reliable schedule between the Cruz Bay ferry dock and the parking lot of Salt Pond for only $1 per person each way. From the parking lot you walk on a wide, rocky trail through arid, scrub land to Salt Pond beach where there is excellent snorkeling and another great chance to swim with sea turtles.
Neighboring Ram Head point can be reached by a mile long trail beginning at the southern end of of the Salt Pond beach. The red rock strewn path, a favorite for full moon hikes, leads to a blue cobblestone beach before switch-backing up to the the 360 degree viewpoint.
As you stand 200 feet above the Caribbean Sea, with views of the sparkling waters below and the endless ocean stretching as far as the eye can see, you will be left humbled and awestruck–no matter how many times you take in the amazing sight.
Another quarter-mile trail from Saltpond beach leads to the pond where sea salt accumulates during the summer, hence the beach’s name. The trail continues past the salt pond to Drunk Bay where visitors often arrange the stones of the beach to create a reminder of their adventures on St. John.
For an afternoon spent exploring one of the best preserved plantation ruins on the island, find your way to Annaberg Sugar Plantation. Named after Salomon Zeeger’s wife Anna, Annaberg Plantation was a leading producer of sugar, molasses, and rum back in the 1800’s. Today, Annaberg Sugar Plantation is protected by the Virgin Islands National Park.
The Windmill at Annaberg is the main focal point at the ruins and the largest windmill in the Virgin Islands. Built between 1810 and 1830, the windmill could produce between 300 and 500 gallons of juice within an hour. Slaves were used at the plantation to pass the sugarcane through rollers which then made the juice that was caught below and stored until ready for processing. When there was no wind, a horse mill was used to continue making the sugar. These remains can still be seen at the plantation today. There were 16 slave cabins found which have since deteriorated. Today there are informative plaques describing their location.
When you visit Annaberg Plantation, go and see the ruins but stay for the views. The views are nothing short of breathtaking at the Plantation. Looking out from Annaberg, you can see Leinster Bay, the Sir Frances Drake Channel and a few of the British Virgin Islands. The plantation is also within walking distance of Waterlemon Cay which is a perfect spot for snorkeling.
Travel Tip created by Leslie and Peter in association with Vacation Soup
On the fifth day of your perfect week we would suggest you head on over to see the Annaberg ruins and then take the Leinster Bay trail to Waterlemon Cay. Begin by taking a taxi or park your car near the historical Annaberg sugar plantation ruins where you will see breathtaking views of Mary Point, Leinster Bay, and the BVIs. By following the signs, you will learn about the island’s sugar cane plantation era while touring through the sugar factory ruins.
A short walk down the hill from the Annaberg site, you will find the Leinster Bay trail which follows the old Danish road along the shore. The trail leads to one of the best snorkel sites on the island, Waterlemon Cay. Here you will have the best odds for seeing the greatest variety of underwater species, including sea turtles, starfish, spotted eagle rays, all of the colorful reef fish and maybe even a harmless nurse shark.
If you still have some energy left you can head from Watermelon to the Johnny Horn Trail, a hike that leads all the way to Coral Bay.
Here’s a video of some folks taking the Leinster Bay trail to Waterlemon. When you do snorkel, just don’t touch the sea creatures like they do.
Travel Tip created by Leslie and Peter in association with Vacation Soup