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.
Sharing a terrific video done by on island photographer Christian Wheatley. It is a great time lapse of a typical day on St. John. The island is ready for your visit and St. John Escape is ready to host you. Watching this certainly enhanced our excitement about our upcoming visit. Enjoy the video!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Travel Tip created by Leslie and Peter in association with Vacation Soup
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.
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.
Travel Tip created by Leslie and Peter in association with Vacation Soup