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.
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)
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.
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.
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