The Reef Bay Trail in the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park holds the secrets of St.John’s tropical forests, sugar mill ruins, and ancient petroglyphs. The two-mile trail explores the depths of the island, featuring a steep rocky terrain, 40 foot waterfall, and a freshwater pond near the trail’s end. When adventuring from your St. John Escape vacation home, pack a light lunch, plenty of water, and a swimsuit to take a dip.
Watch this video to see what this classic St. John hike is like:
You will find off road parking at the Reef Bay trailhead along Centerline Road about halfway between Cruz Bay and Coral Bay. The rocky trail descends steeply from 900 feet above sea level to the rocky beach at Reef Bay. Bring plenty of water, bug spray, and wear sturdy walking shoes.
The National Park Service is currently not offering their guided hike option that included a return to Cruz Bay by boat. This means you will have to hike both down and back up the trail. The long steep, uphill walk back is far more difficult than the descent. This should not be a problem for those in good physical condition who may even enjoy the challenge. Make sure to pace yourself and bring plenty of water. It may also be a good idea to plan a picnic either at the petroglyphs or at the beach near the sugar factory. A cooling swim at Genti or Little Reef Bay is another pleasant way to prepare for the walk up the valley.
A hike through the tropical forests of St. John wouldn’t be complete without some beautiful water features. Along the Reef Bay trail you will sometimes find a stunning 40-foot waterfall, with a freshwater pool at the base. Whether or not you see the waterfall depends on how recently it has rained. Fresh water at the bottom provides a home for a shrimp, frogs, fish, hummingbirds, and dragonflies. This is a great spot to take a rest or have your lunch.
There are some historic elements along the Reef Bay Trail that will catch your attention. The sugar mill ruins along the Reef Bay Trail remind you of a different era on the island and carry a dark shadow of history. Another historic element is visible on the rocks surrounding the freshwater pool near the trail’s end. Here, you will see some mysterious carvings. Archaeologists believe that these carvings are in fact sacred symbols carved by Taino Indians over 1,000 years ago. These petroglyphs are a great historic treat at the end of a great hike.
Awaiting you at the bottom of the trail is lovely Reef Bay beach.
What’s more romantic than spending your day in paradise at a beach called Honeymoon? Honeymoon contains the magnificent qualities common to all of St. John’s north shore beaches, sugar white sand and clear, turquoise water. Here’s a video of Honeymoon Bay on St. John taken on a recent early morning visit. Enjoy the solitude!
While Honeymoon’s prime location gives you views of the islands and cays in Pillsbury Sound, its remote access keeps the beach more tranquil and private than many of the other North Shore beaches. You can’t drive directly to Honeymoon, but that’s part of its allure. There are currently three ways to get to Honeymoon: hike the Lind Point Trail, arrive by boat, or take the golf cart shuttle at the entrance to Caneel Bay resort.
According to our favorite book about St John activities, St. John Off The Beaten Track, “If you only have enough time to hike one trail, then the Cinnamon Bay Self-Guiding Trail is the trail for you. Also, because the trail is relatively short, flat and shady, it’s a perfect choice for those who would like to experience a taste of the St. John interior, but who might be put off by the prospect of a long hike on the often hilly and rugged terrain characteristic of the St. John forest.”
Here’s a video we made of what it’s like to visit this magical and mysterious place. Meander through the ruins of the historic Cinnamon Bay Sugar Plantation. Smell the scent of the leaves from the bay rum trees, which were once used to make the famous St John Bay Rum Cologne. The boardwalk and nature loop are located across the road from the entrance to the Cinnamon Bay Campground. The nature loop is an easy 0.5 mile hike.
Represented on the Trail are three important stages of the economy and life on St. John in days gone by, the sugar industry, the emergence of bay rum and the subsistence economy that existed from the end of slavery to the beginning of the present day tourism economy.
The old sugar works are in good condition and you can see the remains of the horsemill where the sugar cane was ground up and juiced and the factory where the juice was boiled down and evaporated to produce the crude sugar and molasses that were stored in the building that once existed where the stone columns are alongside the road.
You can pick up the half-mile trail that leads through the forest crosses the gut and heads back to the ruins. Here you’ll pass through a stand of bay rum trees planted in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and walk by an old Danish cemetery.
The beaches on St. John are special. The sand is soft and powdery and the water is just the right temperature. The water is also crystal clear and calm. The color of the water is varied, ranging from turquoise, to green and dark blue.
In this video we take a look at two beaches that you can walk to from St. John Escape at Grande Bay – Honeymoon Beach and Salomon Beach. To get to both of these beaches you take the Lind Point Trail, which begins at the National Park Visitors Center to Cruz Bay. It is a little less than one mile to Salomon and about another 1/4 mile to reach Honeymoon. Walking along the forest path of the Lind Point trail gives you the chance to experience the beauty and tranquility of the unspoiled interior of St. John.
The views are spectacular. From most beaches you’ll see a variety of islands, cays, rocks and small bays. Another bonus of the beaches on St. John are that most are protected by the Virgin Islands National Park and remain natural and undeveloped.There is some decent snorkeling to be found in the area fringing the reef that lies on the point separating Salomon and Honeymoon. Most of the reef lies in calm, shallow water. This snorkel is one of the most easily accessible near-shore snorkels on St. John.
As the year comes to an end we wanted to share some of the beautiful scenery we had the pleasure of seeing during our visits to St. John in 2018. In this video you will see scenes from both all the North Shore beaches, as well as the terrific views from the terrace of St. John Escape. We have an upcoming visit to St. John in a couple of weeks. Be on the lookout for our updates as to what is happening on the island as 2019 begins.
We make sure to visit Peace Hill every time we come to St. John, and we did so again on this current visit. True to its name, Peace Hill is aptly named. From on top of the hill at the end of the headland separating Hawksnest and Denis Bays, you can enjoy an absolutely spectacular view of the north coast of St. John and beyond. Years ago, a windmill was powered by the constant trade winds that passed unimpeded over the hill. The semi-restored ruin now provides a dramatic backdrop to the unique tranquility of the hilltop.
The trail to Peace Hill begins at the parking area located about a half mile east of Hawksnest Beach and leads to the top of Peace Hill. It’s a short easy walk, only about a tenth of a mile on a well-maintained track with a moderate grade. From the top you can also see Cinnamon, Great Thatch, Tortola and Jost van Dyke.
Enjoy the view and make sure to visit Peace Hill on your next trip.
Here’s a video of our just completed visit to St. John. Tag along as we visit Salomon, Honeymoon, Hawksnest, Maho, Francis, Gibney, Peace Hill and Haulover. There’s also a little detour to Jost for Sunday fun day. It was a 10 day visit and gives you an idea of the many sights you can see. Our next visit soon will cover different parts of the island. St. John continues its amazing recovery and is waiting for your visit!!
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!