We have always wanted to do the Reef Bay coastal walk, but for some reason never got around to it. Maybe it was because we heard it was a very hard trail that involved holding onto ropes on the descent down to the beach and then a rock scramble! Well, we did the trail last week, which is also called the Parrot Bay Trail, and we lived to talk about it. Yes, it does involve some ropes at the beginning and a rock scramble, but if you are in decent shape it is definitely very doable and incredibly worth it. Check out this video to see the beauty and solitude that awaits you if you do this trail!
The trail is only steep at the very beginning and is a short distance. Once you get to the beach, the trail is very flat and you are walking on the beach until you get to a section of beautiful red rocks you need to scramble over to get to the next beach. There isn’t much shade so wear plenty of sunscreen and bring lots of water.
The Reef Bay Coastal Walk provides an alternative route to the historic Reef Bay Sugar Mill, the petroglyphs and the Reef Bay Estate House, normaly reached via either the Reef Bay or Lameshur Bay Trails. By taking short trails, walking along the beach and scrambling around small headlands, you can cover the entire perimeter of Reef Bay. The distance between the Reef Bay Sugar Mill Ruins and Parrot Bay on the western end of Reef Bay is about 1.2 miles.
For exact details on how to reach the trail head and do the walk, make sure you get a copy of St. John Off The Beaten Track (we have a copy at St. John Escape.) So if you have a zest for adventure (and good balance!) we highly recommend this trail. You will see a side of St. John you have never seen before.
For an afternoon spent exploring one of the best preserved plantation ruins on the island, find your way to Annaberg Sugar Plantation. Annaberg Plantation was a leading producer of sugar, molasses, and rum back in the 1800’s. When you visit Annaberg, go and see the ruins but stay for the views. The views are nothing short of breathtaking at the Plantation. Check out this video to see for yourself!
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.
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.
Travel Tip created by Leslie and Peter in association with Vacation Soup
We usually suggest that our guests go out on a sunset sail during their vacation on St. John. St John has some amazing sunsets, and even though you get an amazing view from the terrace of St. John Escape, there is nothing quite like being out on the water to experience the sunset. On a recent visit we decided to go out with Beach Charters VI for their sunset sail featuring a performance by the very talented Erin Hart. It was a delightful evening and we were treated to a beautiful sunset and great music. Sit back with us and relax aboard this beautiful catamaran as the sun goes down.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.