We have always wanted to do the Reef Bay coastal walk, but for some reason never got around to it. Maybe it was because we heard it was a very hard trail that involved holding onto ropes on the descent down to the beach and then a rock scramble! Well, we did the trail last week, which is also called the Parrot Bay Trail, and we lived to talk about it. Yes, it does involve some ropes at the beginning and a rock scramble, but if you are in decent shape it is definitely very doable and incredibly worth it. Check out this video to see the beauty and solitude that awaits you if you do this trail!
The trail is only steep at the very beginning and is a short distance. Once you get to the beach, the trail is very flat and you are walking on the beach until you get to a section of beautiful red rocks you need to scramble over to get to the next beach. There isn’t much shade so wear plenty of sunscreen and bring lots of water.
The Reef Bay Coastal Walk provides an alternative route to the historic Reef Bay Sugar Mill, the petroglyphs and the Reef Bay Estate House, normaly reached via either the Reef Bay or Lameshur Bay Trails. By taking short trails, walking along the beach and scrambling around small headlands, you can cover the entire perimeter of Reef Bay. The distance between the Reef Bay Sugar Mill Ruins and Parrot Bay on the western end of Reef Bay is about 1.2 miles.
For exact details on how to reach the trail head and do the walk, make sure you get a copy of St. John Off The Beaten Track (we have a copy at St. John Escape.) So if you have a zest for adventure (and good balance!) we highly recommend this trail. You will see a side of St. John you have never seen before.
The Francis Bay trail is an excellent short hike (about 30 minutes round trip) that starts from the parking area before you start down the road to Francis Beach. The trail starts right behind a scenic old stone building. It wanders about half a mile, through the forest, past some ruins, around a salt pond, then leads to Francis Bay beach. Watch this video to experience the diverse flora and fauna along this beautiful trail.
The trail is built and maintained by Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting our National Park. A large portion of this trail is ADA and eco friendly. Almost half of the trail is built as a raised platform to protect the ecosystem of the local salt pond. Here you’ll find many native species of birds and ducks. It is also common to see lots of land crabs, hermit crabs, iguanas, deer, mongoose and, of course, donkeys. The pond is of the best bird watching spots on the island. Expect to see lots of Maho trees and Mangroves towards the pond.
Right after you start the trail there are some interesting ruins.
We usually suggest that our guests go out on a sunset sail during their vacation on St. John. St John has some amazing sunsets, and even though you get an amazing view from the terrace of St. John Escape, there is nothing quite like being out on the water to experience the sunset. On a recent visit we decided to go out with Beach Charters VI for their sunset sail featuring a performance by the very talented Erin Hart. It was a delightful evening and we were treated to a beautiful sunset and great music. Sit back with us and relax aboard this beautiful catamaran as the sun goes down.
Cinnamon Bay is one of our favorite beaches on St. John. If you haven’t been for awhile, watch this video of our recent visit to see for yourself what an amazing beach it is!
Cinnamon Bay, at about 1 mile, is the National Park’s longest beach. There is good snorkeling around Cinnamon Bay Cay, a short swim from shore. The clear waters will tempt you to spend your time swimming and snorkeling, while the beautiful turquoise water and sugar white sand will call you to spread your beach blanket and relax. Don’t forget to check out the hiking trail through the Cinnamon Bay Plantation ruins just across from the beach parking area (see a previous blog post)
Welcome to Trunk Bay, widely considered one of the most pristine, best-preserved beaches in the Caribbean. It has perfect blue water, and features a 225-yard long underwater snorkeling trail and .3 miles of a soft white sand beach to walk on. Trunk Bay is commonly considered one of the best beaches in the world and is certainly one of the most popular on St. John. In fact, in 2013 Travel + Leisure ranked this beach as one of the “Best Beaches on Earth.” Watch this video to see why a visit to Trunk Bay is a must on your visit to St. John!
On your way from Cruz Bay stop at the Trunk Bay overlook to take photos that will make all your friends back home jealous.
Trunk Bay is often mobbed, since it is the most popular stop for organized day trips from St. Thomas and the cruise ships. To avoid the crowds come early or late, but do come–this is what Caribbean beach dreams are made of.
One of the shortest and easiest hikes on St. John (about 100 yards) is the Peace Hill trail. The short hike up the trail from the parking area takes you up to the aptly named Peace Hill. At the top of the grassy knoll is a wonderful early plantation windmill ruin. Peace Hill looks over Hawksnest Bay to the West and Denis Bay and Trunk Bay to the East. From the top you can also see Cinnamon, Great Thatch, Tortola and Jost van Dyke. The views are worth the walk … so don’t miss this one! Watch this video to see the views for yourself and make sure to visit Peace Hill on your next trip.
Cinnamon Bay is the National Park’s longest beach. This great beach offers snorkeling, swimming, and a long, wide beach. . There is good snorkeling around Cinnamon Bay Cay, a short swim from shore. The clear waters will tempt you to spend your time swimming and snorkeling, while the beach will call you to spread your beach blanket and relax. Across from the beach and campground entrance/parking area is a hiking trail through the Cinnamon Bay Plantation ruins. Check out this video to see what a visit to Cinnamon Bay has in store for you.
Hurricane Irma destroyed the small archeological museum. This is what remains.
Here’s another view of the picture perfect beach. Plan to stay a while!
Hawksnest Beach is a favorite beach for both St. John locals and visitors alike, and a preferred beach for families with children. The reason for this is that Hawksnest is not only one of the most beautiful beaches on St. John, it is also the most convenient. It’s the closest beach you can drive to from Cruz Bay and the parking lot is close to the beach. Here’s a video of what it’s like to walk along Hawksnest Beach.
Hawksnest Beach also offers the closest reef to shore, coming right up to the sand. The snorkeling is easy and there is some great elk horn coral here. You do need to pay attention to how close you get the reef with your body and fins because the water gets pretty shallow in spots. It is best to snorkel Hawksnest when the bay is calm and there are no north shore swells.
For those considering a day trip to Anegada from St. John, you can easily do so. If you happen to be on St. John the first Sunday of the month, InterIsland Ferry Company has a reasonably priced day trip. Yes, it’s a long day but the change in scenery and the incredible beaches make it worthwhile. We did the trip ourselves in June and here’s a video of what it’s like to visit this paradise.
Anegada is the northernmost of the British Virgin Islands. It lies approximately 15 miles (24 km) north of Virgin Gorda and is about 55 miles from St. John. Anegada is formed from coral and limestone, rather than being of volcanic origin. While the other islands are mountainous, Anegada is flat and low. It is the only all-coral atoll in the VI and a mere 28 feet above sea level. Anegada is known for miles of white sand beaches and the 18-mile (29 km)-long Horseshoe Reef, the largest barrier coral reef in the Caribbean. Aside from the Lobster for which Anegada is mostly known, it is also great for surfing, it is the Virgin Island that is most exposed to the swell.
The sand is even whiter and pinker than on St. John (since it is of coral and limestone) and that gives the water an absolutely amazing turquoise color. The island is very laid back and relaxed. It is amazing how chill you will feel during your time here.
We rented a Mini-Moke for the day (as seen in the video above) and it was an absolute blast exploring the island on this dune buggy like vehicle. You can easily see the whole island in a day if you want to. We would recommend checking out Cow Wreck Beach to truly have lobster in paradise! The Anegada Beach Club was also a great place to hang out.
There’s certainly no shortage of ruins on St John, and most of our favorite hikes include a ruin or two. One of our favorite ruins can be found by hiking the America Hill spur of the Cinnamon Bay trail. Not only are the ruins attractive, the views of the north shore of St John are stunning. Watch this video to see what you will experience on the great St. John hike.
The trail starts 100 yards past Cinnamon Bay’s entrance on North Shore Road. The trailhead is marked by a sign for “Cinnamon Bay Trail” (there’s another sign along the way for the America Hill spur). It’s adjacent to the Cinnamon Bay Ruins and there is a place for one or two cars to park or you can just park at the Cinnamon Bay beach lot. This is a great hike to take before heading to the beach at Cinnamon Bay.
The hike up is steep at first, and fairly exposed, but as you cross the gut it levels out a bit and becomes shadier & cooler. Once you reach the America Hill Spur, which is not very far up Cinnamon Bay Trail, it’s only about five more minutes to the ruins. The walls of the house are mostly intact, and you can see where the remains of the front steps were.
The ruins were once home to sugar cane plantations and bay rum distilleries, the most prosperous on island. Today, the remnants of the old rum factory are still prominent, and when you reach the top of your hike, you’ll be able to see the ruins and enjoy the stunning views over to Maho Bay, Francis Bay and Tortola. These unforgettable views, with the ruins and forests all around, make this hike one of our favorites and certainly worth the effort.