Day 7 of Your Perfect Week on St. John

Salt Pond 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.

 

 

 

Day 5 of Your Perfect Week on St. John

Watermelon Bay 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.

Francis Beach Update

Francis Beach Update

Francis Bay is a laid back beach that  really makes you want to stay and chill out at for a while.  The bay is on the north shore and since it faces west it tends to be calmer than other north shore beaches.  This makes it especially good for stand up paddle boarding, and it is another great spot to snorkel with the  turtles.

francis bay st john

Irma has taken away many of the shade trees, so it you want shade you may want to bring an umbrella for the time being.  The beach is still beautiful and also wider, so I would definitely check it out on your next visit. We noticed that many of the branches of the seagrape and maho trees are growing back nicely.   Some people have been creative and have created little sun shelters out of the driftwood.

Here’s a short video to show you that Francis is #stillbeautiful

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

Honeymoon Beach Update

St John Honeymoon Beach

Like most every beach on St. John, most people are struck with just how much Honeymoon captures the whole “paradise on earth” theme.   There is no doubt that this perception of Honeymoon will not change for people who visit after Irma.  This beach is still gorgeous, and is in fact, wider than before the storm.  Honeymoon contains the magnificent qualities common to all of St. John’s north shore beaches, sugar white sand and clear, turquoise water.

Currently,  there are only two ways to get to Honeymoon.  You can go by boat or dinghy, but nowadays since Caneel is closed, almost everyone arrives by Lind Point trail.  We’ll cover this trail in another update, but walking along this forest path trail gives you the chance to really enjoy the peace and beauty of the unspoiled interior of St. John.

We prefer walking to Honeymoon on the Lind Point trail, right from St. John Escape.    It is a little over a mile from Cruz Bay to  Honeymoon.  The trail starts at the steps just beyond the National Park visitor center.  Since the option of parking at Caneel and then walking over is not possible at the moment, you can actually catch a dinghy ride offered by Virgin Islands Ecotours roundtrip to  Honeymoon right from the beach in front of Grande Bay.

Here’s a short video clip to give you a sense of how Honeymoon is #stillbeautiful.  If this doesn’t make you want to visit, I don’t know what will 🙂

 

Day 3 of Your Perfect Week on St. John

Day 3 of Your Perfect Week on St. John

Here is an adventure involving a hike that most active visitors will really enjoy, but you must wear comfortable shoes (no flip flops) and bring along plenty of water.  The Reef Bay trailhead begins nearly 5 miles from Cruz Bay on Centerline Road and descends about 2.5 miles down to the south shore beach.  Along the shady, damp trail you will find a diversity of plants and the remains of sugar cane estates and abandoned farming communities.

There are usually two options to do the Reef Bay trail hike.  The hard core way is to hike down and back up for a total of 5 miles.  If you are in decent shape it shouldn’t be too difficult.  The other option is to take the guided walk organized by the National Park Service, whereby you walk down with a guide and then take a scenic boat ride back into Cruz Bay.

There is a not to be missed short side trail near the bottom of the hike.  About 1.5 miles down the Reef Bay Trail, you can follow signs leading to the petroglyphs–rock carvings attributed to early Taino Indians marked along freshwater pools.  If you are lucky enough to do this hike shortly after it rains you will be rewarded with a beautiful waterfall.

 

When you reach the bottom of the Reef Bay trail you also have the option to wander down the Lameshur Bay trail, which continues another 1.2 miles from the junction with the Reef Bay trail.  Once you get to Lameshure Bay you will be treated to a south shore beach with white sand and turquoise waters.  There are also some great photo ops of the ruins that you will find there.

If you still want to hike some more there is another spur trail that leads to a salt pond and a coral rubble beach at Europa Bay.

Solomon Beach Update

Solomon Beach Update

We revisited one of my all time  favorite beaches on St John today, Solomon beach.  Solomon has so many things going for it   For one,  at least for us, it’s only about a 25 minute very enjoyable walk from our condo.   The beach has fewer crowds than most because of its limited access.  The only way to get there is either on foot or by boat.

There is no doubt that Solomon took a hard hit from Irma and is different from what it was.   Everyone’s favorite arched palms are now gone.   The beach is also rockier than it was, but in the two weeks we have been here the beach has definitely gained more and    more sand back.   Although Solomon has changed, it is #stillbeautiful!  I think these photos can can attest to that.

 

So enjoy this short clip of an amazing beach on an amazing island.

 

 

A Visit to Peace Hill

A Visit to Peace Hill

The Peace Hill hike on St. John is a very easy one, but nonetheless very rewarding. It begins at a small parking lot off Northshore Road, about half a mile after Hawksnest.  A 10 minute walk on a well-maintained trail with moderate incline brings you to a breathtaking view over Hawksnest and  Dennis Bay.

There are ruins of an old windmill at the top that originally was powered by the constant trade winds that passed over the top of the hill.

True to its name, Peace Hill is a truly peaceful place, there are rarely any crowds and it is great for a picnic and watching the sunset. It was voted as one of the top 10 romantic places to see while on honeymoon on St. John.

There doesn’t appear to be any damage from Hurricane Irma.  Having just visited one of our favorite spots on St John just a couple of days ago,  we can attest it’s just as great as ever!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 of Your Perfect Week on St. John

Day 2 of Your Perfect Week on St. John

If you’re the active type, why not start the day by working up a sweat on the Cinnamon Bay trail, followed by cooling off and relaxing at Cinnamon Bay beach.  Head a few minutes past Trunk Bay down the North Shore road until you reach Cinnamon Bay, either in your own jeep or take one of St. John’s open air taxis.

Cinnamon beach is the National Park’s longest beach.  It’s almost a mile long and is perfect for walking, snorkeling, water sports, and of course, lounging.  Right now Cinnamon is still recovering from Hurricane Irma, so the water sports concession is closed as is the campground.  The beach however, is open and still beautiful.

Ah, now for the working up a sweat part.  Before you head to the beach you can take an uphill hike that begins right after the Cinnamon Bay Campground entrance off of the North Shore Road.  The moderately strenuous trail follows an old Danish plantation road and provides breathtaking views down onto Cinnamon Bay and the British Virgins Islands in the distance.  Those that make it to the top will see the ruins of an old plantation that happens to be one of my favorite photo ops.

First Visit After Irma – Impressions

Jumbie Bay St John USVI

Well, we’ve been here for a week and wanted to let you know our impressions, observations and experiences so far. We promise not to oversell anything. Having proper expectations is key to enjoying this amazing place – either pre- or post- hurricanes.

What’s still here? Let’s talk nature first…Great temperatures, beautiful colored skies and water, green hills and mountains, sunsets and sunrises painting the clouds coral and pink, rainbows – both single and double, boat and ferry activity in the harbor to observe, beaches with the amazing soft white sand we all love, clear water to see your toes in the beautiful sand, turtles, fish chasing each other across the surface of the water and hermit crabs rolling down the trail as you hike the nicely cleared and maintained trails.

 

Changes in the natural environment… palm trees and many of the sea grape shade providing trees on the beach are down. Solomon Beach is very different with lots of rocks washed up, but you can see where more sand is being washed up onto beach. The three twisted palms are gone and that was a bit sad. We walked on to Honeymoon Beach which still has beautiful sand, but less shade. Jumble Beach was the first beach we visited and thought it was great! We found some shade, the beach was a little wider. Francis Bay was very nice, still a great place to snorkel or stand up paddle board. Cinnamon Beach is wider and the sand is still beautiful. Unfortunately Maho Beach will take your breath away due to the amount of trees it lost. But even the bent trees are sprouting new growth.

Here is a general theme – getting to and approaching many beaches will be shocking and overwhelming at times when you see the destruction to some vegetation, others will be slightly changed from before. But once you get there, sit down in your chair (possibly under the beach umbrella we brought down) you will sigh and say “aaahhhhh – this is why we love this place.”

We keep trying to put our feelings into words to adequately convey to you what to expect. One thought is this. People who love St John will probably really enjoy it now. Why? Well for one thing it is a lot less crowded. That may not last long but it reminds us of when we come in the fall and you recognize faces -locals and tourists. And it reminds you of a simpler, less spoiled island.

Let’s move on to the man made attractions. Biggest change that we saw when arrived on ferry was that Wharfside Village is not open and there are still two boats on the beach. But barges with cranes are moving sunken ferries and sailboats every day.

But you can have a waterside drink at “Drink” right next to Grande Bay. (I can see its roof from where I am sitting writing this.). And we hear that High Tide on the ferry terminal side of Wharfside Village will open any day now. The Terrace is open, Lime Inn, Dalivio’s, Longboards. Many people will watch playoffs today at Drink, The Doghouse Pub or Quiet Mon.

We’ve actually enjoyed Quiet Mon a lot this week and even the guy who made it famous by singing about it was there last night hanging out with his local buddies. Yep, I mean Kenny Chesney, a true hero to the island with what he and his foundation have done.

There are lots more restaurants and stores open, just can’t name them all. And many more beaches to visit.

And then as always, you start and end your day with the incredible views from your terrace at St John Escape.

panoromic-view-towards-st-thomas

We will share more with you next week. Pls feel free to ask questions.

Cheers!
Leslie & Peter