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St. John USVI · Accommodations

Maho Bay Camps, St. John

St. John USVI Camping

The Other Side of St. John

By Fred James Sr.


As beautiful and exiting as Cruz Bay is, there is more. A short and open-air cab drive will bring you to the Maho Bay Camps. The ride itself is worth the cost of the cab fare with the vista views of the Caribbean and the exiting hairpin turns over the ups and downs of the Rt. 20 shore drive. If you want more than just the fun ride, Maho Bay Camp offers much more. There is an array of beaches, a gift shop with original art and the most economical restaurant on St. John with seating in an open-air pavilion with magnificent views of the Caribbean. After dinner, most evenings a Park Ranger will give a talk on island ecology, which I found nostalgic, as you will, if you ever took your children camping to a National Campground. There is also an opportunity to be a guest at these unique eco friendly and roomy tent cottages. This is luxurious camping. The tent cottages have real beds, provide complete protection from the elements and come equipped with everything you need. If you ever wanted to live in a tree hut like Robinson Caruso, this is your chance. Each of the tent cottages is hidden by lush foliage for privacy and they are connected in a network with stairs, ramps and walkways. These serve to interconnect the tent cottages with rest rooms, water, a convenience store, the restaurant and beaches. Both Big Maho and Little Maho Beaches are beautiful beaches with great snorkeling and are but a short walk, albeit all downhill, from these tent cottages. Within two miles along the Annaberg Trail there are several other beaches to explore including Francis Bay, Annaberg Beach, Watermelon Cay (known for its large star fish and my favorite, Watermelon Beach with its giant Green Sea Turtles (they are really brown). This Annaberg Trail will also take you past the historic ruins of the Annaberg Sugar Cane Plantation and access to the Johnny Horn Trail. For you hikers this trail is 1.8 miles long, uphill and along the mountain ridge and well worth the excursion.

Maho Bay Camps is not the only option to Cruz Bay. There is also the other St. John Township of Coral Bay. You should rent a car to access this small community that sits on the other large St. John harbor. The car ride itself will make you feel young again. Rent one with an open roof and a short wheelbase. You will quickly adjust to driving on the left side of the road and the ups and downs and hairpin turns will make you feel like you are riding a roller coaster but with speed control. You will find the Coral Bay residents very helpful and friendly. However these growth concerned residents like visitors much more than new permanent residents and you will quickly see why when you experience the beauty of this unspoiled side of St. John. The area boasts many hiking trails and a plethora of beaches. These include on the NE side, Haulover North and South Beaches, Long Beach. Privateer Beach and my favorite the left side of Hansen Beach with its shallow waters that provides for snorkeling safely above the coral with high visibility. Make sure you stop by a visit Vie. She owns both a little snack shop and a camp ground right on the beach. Vie is known for her deep fried conch and there are picking tables to enjoy them. She offers campsites at $25/night and a seaside shack for $40/night. If you like camping, this is the place to go. Your drive out to these NE beaches will take you past Skinny Legs. Skinny Legs is a tourist attraction I itself. An open-air restaurant and sports bar, with horseshoes, darts and a variety of shops. You will surely be greeted by one of the owners, Moe or Doug. They are easily recognized wearing their white socks, one long and the other short. I will let you guess who wears which, but I assure you that you will feel like you have been a there many times before when they greet you.

Heading South on Rt. 107 along the scenic coast you will pass several restaurants. Island Blues is the first and provides bar food and a drink right on Coral Bay. On the Bay you will see a beached sailboat. It has been there for years and belongs to a "missing person." (someone that became an island person and their mysteriously departure becomes an island conversation piece). Your drive will then take you past a well stocked grocery store and what for lack of a better term, a mini open air shopping mall. The 5 or 6 shops here are very much worth a stop. They offer unique items at reasonable prices. You will also pass other restaurants, each is recommended, Sweet Plantains, Miss Lucy's and Ship Wreck Landing. Ship Wreck has three chefs that enjoy collaborating on meals and you never know what you will find on the menu. It also offers entertainment on some evenings.

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John "Big Hat" Walsh

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