Of the three islands that make up the U. S. Virgin Islands, St. John undoubtedly wins the prize for unspoiled natural beauty. Home to the Virgin Islands National Park (a 7,000-acre treasure of breathtaking hills, valleys, and beaches), St. John is distinguished for its pristine environment and diverse outdoor activities. Here are five favorite spots for you to really appreciate the beauty of the island.
It’s the only U.S. National Park beach on the island, and often ranks as one of the most beautiful in the world by the National Geographic Society and Condé Nast Traveler magazine.
Where to go: It’s located three miles from Mongoose Junction heading east on Route 20.
What to expect: Because it’s a national park, there is an entrance fee to get to the quarter-mile beach. But this also gives you access to facilities like a bathhouse, snack bar, souvenir shop and snorkel gear rentals. Keep in mind it’s also the island’s most popular beach, so expect crowds enjoying the picture-perfect setting.
Why do it: You won’t find better snorkeling thanks to the 650-foot-long self-guided underwater trail in the crystal clear ocean. Plus, the water is calm enough that kids can enjoy the experience.
RAM HEAD TRAIL
This one-mile long hiking trail is a great way to get out on foot and explore the rugged parts of the island.
Where to go: Find the trailhead at the south end of Salt Pond Bay, adjacent to Coral Bay.
What to expect: An off-the-beaten-track pathway winding past Blue Cobblestone Beach, up a hillside to a crest 200 feet above the ocean. It’s advised to go early in the morning to avoid the heat because there’s not much shade along the route.
Why do it: It’s a bit of a rocky climb, but once you’re there you’ll have the most spectacular views of the beautiful turquoise Caribbean Sea and the British Virgin Islands in the distance.
REEF BAY HIKE
Get a first-person look at the petroglyphs and sugar mill ruins of the Virgin Islands National Park on this three-mile downhill hike coordinated and guided by park rangers.
Where to go: You’ll meet at the park’s visitor’s center to be transported by taxi to the trailhead.
What to expect: This 2.5-mile guided tour ($30) only runs Mondays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. so be sure to make a reservation. You’ll also want to wear good hiking shoes because of the steep rocky terrain on this mostly downhill trek.
Why do it: The knowledgeable guides give an in-depth nature and history lesson of the island. Plus the tour concludes with a relaxing boat ride back to the dock in Cruz Bay.
A unique tour through this former sugar plantation now protected by the Virgin Islands National Park.
Where to go: Head to Leinster Bay Road and turn right when you get to the water’s edge. You’ll find a parking lot about a quarter mile to the end of the paved road.
What to expect: This is a self-guided stroll of the ruins, slave quarters, windmill and other partially restored buildings of a prominent sugar plantation. Park staff are also on hand to provide information about the history of the structures that remain.
Why do it: It’s a fascinating glimpse into the sugar cane industry that dominated the island in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was once the largest plantation on St. John.
Just the spot for a crowd-free snorkeling experience filled with colorful fish, lots of plant life and, the spot’s namesake, sea turtles.
Where to go: You’ll need to rent a boat or a dinghy to access these crystal-clear waters near Caneel Bay Resort.
What to expect: The Turtle Bay beach is private so you can’t drop anchor and head to shore for an afternoon on the beach. However, because the beach is only accessible by guests of Caneel Bay Resort, the snorkeling crowds are minimal.
Why do it: Depending on the season, the waters are so full with sea turtles, you’ll be able to take some up-close pictures of the friendly creatures.
Courtesy of Vistana