What It’s Like to Visit St. John Now – 2019 Update

What It’s Like to Visit St. John Now – 2019 Update

A common question we hear from people who are considering a vacation to St. John is, “How is the island doing and is it ok to visit?”  As they say a picture, or in this case a video, is worth a thousand words.  So with this in mind we have prepared this video of our recent trip to St. John so you can see for yourself.

As you will see, St. John is still full of amazing beauty, life, and is definitely ready for visitors.  St. John is a special island that’s hard to describe until you actually go for yourself. It’s beautiful in photos, but once you visit is when you truly feel the spirit of the island.  If you’ve ever been to St. John, then you understand that it has this magnetic pull on you that’s like nothing else that keeps people coming back year after year.

St. John has changed a bit since Hurricane Irma and Maria so we thought a video update was in order.  While the beaches might look a little bit different now with fewer shade trees, the water and sand are just as amazing as ever.  The island is still pure heaven if you’re looking for a destination where you can relax and truly get away from it all. Whether you’ve loved St. John for years or you’ve not yet been, it is absolutely, without question worth the trip. Even more, St. John needs the tourism to continue to rebuild.

So sit back, relax and watch the video to see what it’s like to visit St. John now as we travel to the beautiful beaches, and hike along the amazing the trails!

 

What It’s Like to Visit St. John Now

What It’s Like to Visit St. John Now

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!!

 

Get Ready for St. John Carnival. It’s still on for this year. Read on to see what it’s like!

Get Ready for St. John Carnival.  It’s still on for this year.  Read on to see what it’s like!

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.

 

Snorkeling on St. John – Does It Get Any Better

Snorkeling on St. John – Does It Get Any Better

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.

St John 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.

Escape to Ram Head and Salt Pond

Escape to Ram Head and Salt Pond

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!!

 

 

Day 7 of Your Perfect Week on St. John

Day 7 of Your Perfect Week on St. John

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!

Salt Pond St. John

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.

Ram Head St. John

 

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.

Ram Head St. John

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.

 

 

 

A Little Bit Of History on St. John – Annaberg Plantation

A Little Bit Of History on St. John – Annaberg Plantation

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.

Annaberg Plantation St. John

 Annaberg Ruins St. John

Annaberg Ruins St. John

 

 

 

 

 

Day 5 of Your Perfect Week on St. John

Day 5 of Your Perfect Week on St. John

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.

Annaberg ruins st john

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.

Day 4 of Your Perfect Week on St. John

Day 4 of Your Perfect Week on St. John

You could spend the entire fourth day of your week exploring just the north shore .  The north shore provides access to numerous white sand beaches that have calm waters perfect for swimming in the sea and relaxing in the sand.

Hawksnest Beach

The first beach accessible by road will be Hawksnest, which is perfect for a long swim and a great snorkel among the elk horn coral right from the beach.  Right past Hawksnest you can stop at Gibney/Oppenheimer beach which was formerly home to the famous tire swing.  The beach area is still beautiful, but the palm trees here have taken a hit from Hurricane Irma.  There are still some palms left and I have seen new ones sprouting up from the fallen coconuts.

View from Peace Hill

If you want a short hike to a great view point, stop at Peace Hill and you will get a terrific panoramic view of the area.  Continuing on North Shore Road, you will get to the small parking lot at Jumbie Bay, an intimate beach on the west end of Trunk Bay with views of the British Virgin Islands and the north shore cays.  There is a reef that extends out from each end of the beach at Jumbie and is close enough to shore to make novice snorkelers feel more at ease, but it also opens to the more challenging deep-water reefs between Jumbie and Trunk Bay for the more adventuresome.

Jumbie Bay

Now you could revisit Trunk and Cinnamon Bays or keep going until you reach Maho, a favorite of both locals and visitors.  Maho is a great place to snorkel with turtles in the seagrass beds about 50 yards off shore.  The landscape around Maho has seen considerable change since Hurricane Irma and will take some time to get back to what previous visitors might remember.  By following the road a couple of miles past Maho you will end your day at the sweeping beach of beautiful Francis Bay.

Francis Bay