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.
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.
The Battery is a short walk from St John Escape at Grande Bay. Once a fort that protected Cruz Bay since the late eighteenth century, the building now serves as government offices. However, the building itself is protected as a National Historic Site, and has a small museum inside. The grounds of the Battery offer great views of Cruz Bay and the harbor.
To reach the Battery you walk out of the Grande Bay garage and head onto the beach. You walk towards the ferry dock along Cruz Bay beach which is always an interesting experience, no matter what time of day.
Once you reach the ferry terminal you continue on the small beach until you reach the Battery grounds entrance. To get some great photos just walk along the perimeter, close to the rocky shore. You’re reward will be some great views!
St John’s Caneel Hill Trail begins in Cruz Bay about twenty yards past the Mongoose Junction parking lot and rises to the summit of Caneel Hill. It’s a great hike that can easily be done starting right from St. John Escape, but it is by no means an easy hike. When you reach the viewing platform at the top of Caneel Hill you will be able to see spectacular views all the way out to St. Croix and Puerto Rico. It is definitely worth the effort.
Check out this video to see what it’s like to go on this excellent hike.
The total distance is 2.4 miles. The trail to the peak of Caneel Hill is a steep and steady incline, gaining 719 feet of elevation in less than one mile. We would recommend wearing proper footwear as this is definitely not a flip flop hike. You probably want to wear sneakers or Keens and bring along a bottle or two of water. So while it is not an easy hike, it is definitely doable.
You will be amply rewarded for your efforts with spectacular views. So if you like a nice little hike with stellar views, add the Caneel Hill trail to your list on your next visit.
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.
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!
May is National Photography Month. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and since it was invented, photography has given us the incredible opportunity to capture a moment in time and keep it alive forever. And if that’s not worth celebrating, what is?
There isn’t a day that photographs aren’t being taken, shared, or pulled out of our wallets or cell phones when we meet someone new. This month it is important to take the time to think about how often we see images, how often we take them, and what a large role photography has in our lives. To celebrate National Photography Month,we will be posting a St. John photo every day this month.There will be photos taken both before and after Hurricane Irma.The common characteristic of all the photos is the beauty of St. John.
We had to start with a photo of Salomon Beach for Day 1. For us, Salomon was the quintessential, gorgeous tropical beach. We can easily walk to it from St. John Escape and it had my three favorite palm trees 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.