St. John USVI 2005 Vacation Guide
Although one of the smallest U.S. Virgin islands, St. John ranks as possibly the most breathtaking. Only 28 square miles, half of this island paradise is a national forest, brimming with exotic wildlife. Eco travelers come here for the miles of unspoiled hiking trails, which showcase the island's natural beauty and colorful history.
The rest of the island is alive with attractions, world class dining and shopping worth writing home about.
What to See & Do - Top Attractions & Activities
Although small in size, St. John is big in history. One great way to see the sights is by hiring a taxi driver to show you around. St. John Taxi Association, Phone: 340-693-7530.
Annaberg Sugar Plantation - The Virgin Islands National Park Service can set you up with a self guided tour, where you'll walk through the ruins and partially restored buildings of this historical sugar plantation. On certain days of the week, guided tours are available.
Fort Berg - Also called Fortsberg, this historical site is located at Coral Bay. The space served as a soldier base for the soldiers who brutally ended the slave revolt in 1733.
Scuba diving & snorkeling
Leinster Bay, Francis Bay, and Maho Bay are popular diving locations off St. John Island. Swim with the turtles and schools of fish, while exploring amazing coral and underwater caves and boat wrecks. St. John's waters are known for clear, stable waters, perfect for beginning divers. More experienced divers can enjoy Watermelon Cay's coral structures and spectacular swimming. Trunk Bay and Flanagan's Cay are hot spots for snorkeling.
Dives for certified divers cost about $80 for two tanks and two site dives; $70 for a night dive, and $80-$150 for boat wreck dives. Certification courses run about $350-$400.
Sea Gypsy Charters Phone: 340-693-8020
Soak up the sun and scenery from out in the ocean. What could be more relaxing? There are plenty of charter companies and places to rent sailboats, catamarans and fishing boats.
New Horizons Daysails - Experience adventure and relaxation aboard a 64-foot custom ketch. Choose your activity: swim, snorkel, sun or just relax as you sail the Caribbean in the spaciousness of your own private luxury yacht.
Phone: 800-808-7604 or 340-775-1171
Scubadu Luxury Catamaran - Scubadu rents luxury Catamarans, specializing in private sailing excursions. Scubadu departs from St. John or Red Hook, St. Thomas. Trips aboard Scubadu are tailored to guests' needs, from the menu to itinerary. The cost of the trip include a licensed captain and chef, 1st mate, gourmet food, open bar, snorkel gear, recreational floatation devices, towels and fresh water showers. Scubadu offers day trips, breathtaking sunset sails, dinner cruises and long term charters.
Forget about braving the brisk waters of your local river. Kayaking in the warm, clear waters surrounding St. John is a rejuvenating way to get exercise and marvel at the tropical scenery of beautiful St. John's white sandy beaches, cays and neighboring islands. Watersports abound on St. John, with dozens of options for renting kayaking equipment or booking guided tours.
Arawak Expeditions, named after the ancient indigenous tribe that once inhabited the island, provides kayaking gear, meals and experienced guides for full- and half-day outings out of Cruz Bay. Trips cost $75 and $40, respectively. Multi-day excursions with camping are also available; call their toll-free number if you'd like to arrange an entire vacation with them. These trips range in price from $995 to $1,295.
Phone: 800-238-8687 in the U.S. or 340-693-8312.
Missouri River Expeditions - If you're a true adventure traveler, you might enjoy an entire vacation focused on kayaking. Five days and four nights of pure nature. Visit St. John, Norman and Peter Island, Tortolla, Jost Van Dyke, and more. Guests will be provided with sit-on-top kayaks supplied by Wind and Surfing Adventures of St. John. Guests will have plenty of opportunity to snorkel, explore, windsurf, and sail. The package includes camping gear or lodging accommodations, all meals, kayaks and instruction. Guests can arrange for their own transportation or they can arrange it for you.
Phone: 866-USKAYAK or 605-360-2646
Deep Sea Fishing
The waters surrounding the US Virgin islands make for some exciting sports fishing adventures. Depending on location, you can catch a variety of fish species, including tuna, Barracuda, Kingfish, Wahoo, Bonita, Marlin, Mackerel, shark and Mahi-Mahi. There are numerous boat rentals and charters available.
Gone Ketchin' - Head out for your deep-sea adventure in a comfortable, fully-equipped 31 foot express cruiser. Half day, 3/4 day, and full-day trips are available. Bait, tackle, ice, and beverages provided.
Prowler Sport Fishing Charters, Inc. - For the serious fisher, the award-winning 45 foot Hatteras and 40 foot custom Jersey are available for hire. They are tournament- equipped and ready for serious Marlin excursions for half, ¾ and full day charters.
Hiking & Horseback Riding
After the May rains, St. John's trees and flowers (like native Orchids) will come to life in the National Park. There are over 160 avian species listed in the Birds of St. John USVI National Park Checklist. Prime birding months to see many of these exotic creates is November-February. St. John has countless trails. Take a guided tour, venture off on your own on foot or horseback.
Despite the island's small size there are miles of spectacular hiking trails for novice and advanced hikers alike. Naturalists will love the picture-perfect panoramic view while history buffs will be drawn to the 18-th century Danish plantation ruins and geometric petroglyphs on boulders and cliffs.
Beginners can take the Lind Point trail from the National Park's visitor center, located at Cruz Bay near Honeymoon Beach. From the 160 foot high Lind Point overlook you can take in the beautiful panorama of lush tropical greenery with the blue Caribbean waters as a backdrop.
More advanced hikers can take the Lameshur Bay trail, which feeds into Reef Bay Trail. You can reach one of the highest points on the island from Ram Head trail, which extends from Salt Pond Bay Beach through a mystical blue-rock outcropping before ascending the 200 foot crown.
Historians take note: The Annaberg Sugar Mill Historical trail is an excellent departure to learn more about the island's colonial history. Through a maze of old sugar plantations dating back to the early 1700s you'll get a glimpse into the European influence that permeates on the island to this day.
Hike St. John Phone: 340-776-6216
Thunderhawk Guided Trail Tours Phone: 340-776-6201
After traveling all the way to this Caribbean paradise, it would be a shame to go home empty handed with a golden tan the only thing to show for your efforts. There's plenty of shopping to keep you busy (in between sipping pina coladas and basking in the sun's warm glow).
Cruz Bay - Here you will find souvenirs and local wares including purses, liquor, fine jewelry, swimming gear and original local artwork. This quant shopping village is full of character, replete with an eclectic assemblage of tropical huts and Old World stone buildings. The largest concentration of shops can be found at Wharfside Village and on King Street.
Mongoose Junction - Located within walking distance of Cruz Bay's main ferry landing, this shopping Mecca handmade jewelry, pottery and local paintings, as well as hand-painted and dyed clothing.
While St. John is one of most beautiful of the Virgin Islands, it's worth a ferry ride to explore the neighboring islands. After all, how often are you in the Caribbean?
St. Thomas - If you want the natural beauty of an island but with a cosmopolitan feel, St. Thomas is perfect. Here you'll find a vibrant nightlife, fine dining and abundant duty-free shopping in Charlotte Amalie. St. Thomas is world renowned for the George and Tom Fazio-designed Mahogany Run golf course, as well as yachting and sportsfishing.
St. Croix - The largest of the US Virgin Islands, St. Croix spans 82 square miles. There are two notable towns: Christiansted and Frederiksted. Christiansted, the former Danish West Indies capital, which was founded in 1734, is a National Historical Site. On the west side of Salt River, Christopher Columbus landed in November 1493. Aside from its historical significance, the island is well known for its shopping. You'll find priceless china and crystal, handmade jewelry, even French perfume. Divers often visit Buck Island, one of the world's best diving spots.
British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands, which are comprised of 50 islands, are located about 60 miles east of Puerto Rico. Many of the islands remain uninhabited. The second-largest island in the British cluster is Virgin Gorda. Ten miles long and 2 miles wide with a population of around 1,400 people, Gorda is located 12 miles east of Tortola and 26 miles east of St. Thomas. The island got its name from Christopher Columbus who, in 1493, named the island Virgin Gorda or "Fat Virgin," because the island's mountain resembled a protruding stomach.
Where to stay - Best Accommodations
Villas & Condos
Supposedly, there are more beds in villas and condos on the island of St. John than hotel beds. Not surprisingly, St. John vacationers want their island stay to offer the same comforts of home (like spaciousness and privacy).
Caribbean Villas & Resorts the island's biggest real estate agency, specializing in villa, condo, or private home rentals. Most condos rent for less than $200 per night. In the off season you can get discounts.
Phone: 800-338-0987 or 340-776-6152
Charming Hideaways St. John - Specializing in vacation villas, cottages, and suites ranging in price from $810-$25,000. An example of the types of properties available is the Villa Choco-Cruz. Sit back, sip a frothy tropical beverage and watch a magical sunset, while relaxing in your three bedroom, air-condition villa. You won't want to leave your tropical retreat with its lighted, 30 foot pool with Jacuzzi jets and nearly 3000 square feet of deck space perched 250 feet above the pristine Caribbean ocean.
Hotels & Resorts
Caneel Bay Resort- Casual elegant beach front and ocean view rooms, seven beaches, world renowned property. $250-$650
Phone: 800-928-8889 or 340- 776-6111
Gallows Point Resort - Offers 50 luxurious one bedroom suites with fully-equipped kitchens, central A/C and all the comforts of home. Ocean view suites show off the lights of St. Thomas and nearby islands, while harbor view suites provide glimpses of Cruz Bay Harbor and its many sailboats.
Phone: 800-323-7229 or 340/-776-6434
Westin St. John Resort & Villas - Sprawling an impressive 47 beachfront acres adjacent to Cruz Bay, guests will enjoy white sandy beaches, tropically-inspired rooms and suites with beaucoup amenities (so whether or not you set foot off the grounds is purely optional). The resort features 282 rooms, 67 villas. 4 restaurants, in-room safes, minibars, refrigerators, cable TV, in-room data ports, 6 tennis courts, pool, gym, outdoor hot tub, massage, beach, dive shop, snorkeling, windsurfing, boating, fishing, shops, children's programs (ages 3-12), meeting rooms, no-smoking rooms. www.westinresortstjohn.com. PHONE: 340/693-8000 or 800/808-5020
Bed & Breakfast
Estate Lindholm - A luxury bed & breakfast guest house overlooking Cruz Bay, St. Thomas, St. Croix, and many smaller cays. Featuring 11 opulently appointed units equipped with private balconies, telephone, cable TV, A/C, wet bar, microwave, small refrigerator, and more. Complementary continental breakfast in room or at the estate's splash pool.
Phone: 800-322-6335 or 340-776-6121
Camping goes high tech? You could say that. The Eco-Tents on St. John feature private toilets, showers, solar energy and elaborate kitchen facilities in each tent. Five or six adults can sleep on twin beds and a queen-size futon. Nature lovers will appreciate the screened-in dining area that put you as close to Mother Nature without actually having to sleep outside. Phone: 800-392-9004
Dining & Nightlife - Popular Eating & Drinking Establishments
Le Chateau de Bordeaux, Cruz Bay - Featuring panoramic views of the island, this romantic dining spot in a former island mansion offers continental Caribbean gourmet food paired with the finest wines. Sample the fillet mignon or the fresh salmon. Or, try the Dijon pecan rack of lamb roasted in shallot port.
Equator, Caneel Bay - You have to sample some authentic Caribbean cuisine at least once-but you'll keep going back for more once you try the savory seafood and exotic dishes served at Equator. Located in Caneel Bay Resort's former Sugar Mill Restaurant, the imaginative menu features top selections from countries that border the equator. Specialties include pepper-cured tandoori lamb with Egyptian cous cous, Brazilian T-bone steak with churrasco sauce, and wok-fried catfish with Polynesian fried rice.
Address: In the Caneel Bay resort, Caneel Bay Phone: 340-776-6111
Fish Trap Restaurant, Cruz Bay - A stone's throw from the ferry dock, Fish Trap Restaurant serves up some of the island's freshest, and most affordable, seafood, which you can enjoy from its covered terrace. Menu items include shark, Wahoo, snapper or Mahi-Mahi, depending on the daily catch. The seafood chowder made with white wine, Eastern spices, paprika and a creamy base is a house specialty. Not a seafood fan? The Fish Trap offers traditional entrees such as sirloin, London broil, porterhouse, tender cutlets of chicken and pasta dishes.
If you're looking for a boisterous nightlife, you won't find it on St. John. That doesn't mean that locals and tourists don't know how to have a good time. After a long day of exploring the island and surrounding waters, and after a mouth-watering meal, there are several watering holes that serve up the spirit of St. John.
Caneel Bay Bar - Located at the Caneel Bay resort presents live music nightly from 8 to 11pm. The most popular drinks here include the Cool Caneel (local rum with sugar, lime, and anisette) and the trademark of the house, the Plantation Punch (lime and orange juice with three different kinds of rum, bitters, and nutmeg).
Morgan's Mango - Primarily a restaurant, Morgan's Mango is also a choice place to enjoy a cocktail or two. Located at Cruz Bay across from the National Park dock. This spot gained notoriety after actor Harrison Ford graced its walls on a past vacation.
Woody's Seafood Saloon at Cruz Bay. A stone's throw away from the ferry dock, this hangout attracts a local clientele of ex patriots and villa owners, as well as vacationers. Supposedly a hopping place during happy hour from 3-6 p.m., it is the only spot on the island where you can order food after 10 p.m. A good thing to know if you lose track of time.
See you on the Island,
John "Big Hat" Walsh