Virgin Islands National Park

The island of St. John covers the majority of U.S. Virgin Islands National Park. It’s a park known for its breathtaking beaches and tropical forests. This was a combo parks and birthday trip because both my mom and I have birthdays in January. I have yet to meet anyone who loves the beach & ocean more than her or I, so we decided this would be a fun trip together.

We flew into St. Thomas, took a taxi from the airport to the ferry, and then a sunset ferry over to St. Johns.  It was beautiful!  After getting to St. John’s, we had quite the experience trying to get checked into VRBO, but eventually made it and settled in.  Our VRBO was at the top of a hill (more like a small mountain) near the restaurant and bar district in Cruz Bay, so we ventured down the hill for dinner that night.  We didn’t have reservations, and at the time didn’t realize how important that would be.  Turns out, it was extremely important… but, we got lucky and found seats at the bar at a restaurant called Banana Village.  The hostess told us people were already calling and making dinner reservations for 6 months in advance!! So crazy.  So, if you’re planning a trip to St. John’s in the near future, here’s your reminder to make reservations now if you plan on eating out! Lol.

We had 4 full days on the island and were ready to make the most of it.  There is quite a bit of hiking around the island, however since we didn’t rent a car, navigating different hikes with group taxis and spotty cell service would have been tricky to say the least.  Its fine though because I was more than prepared to live the beach bum life all week 😊

I’ve listed below a few of the hikes we considered doing before realizing the logistics and the layout of the island.  I recommend downloading AllTrails to help you out and provide you with more information on each hike.

  • Reef Bay Trail
    • Ruin sites, petroglyphs, waterfall, beach
    • Length: 4.4 miles, 1200 ft elevation gain
    • First mile is steep and descends into the jungle
  • Caneel Hill Trail
    • Panoramic views of Cruz Bay and Trunk Bay
    • Trail leads to top of Margaret hill (good at sunset)
    • Length 4 miles, 1700 ft elevation gain
  • Ram Head Trail
    • Southern most point on St. John
    • Accessed by Ram Head Trail via Salt Pond Trail
    • Route: starts on unpaved road, passes through beach, wraps around salt pond, another beach, and then to grassy/rocky ram head point
    • Length: 2-3 miles, 314 ft elevation gain

The next day, our first full day, we walked down our big hill (small mountain) again to where the taxis hung out.  We stopped for coffee at Cruz Bay Landing, then took a taxi to Maho Bay.  This beach was recommended to us because it had food trucks, as we hadn’t yet made it to the grocery store.  This beach was nice, but the actual beach area wasn’t that spacious.  We hung around through lunch, then made our way to another beach down the road, Trunk Bay.

Trunk bay is the official beach of the National Park, and the only one that requires a fee for access.  However, they let us in for free that day, and we found out the next day was actually a free parks day as well.  We played in the water at Trunk Bay, and loved all the beach space there was.  It was a little too wavy for good snorkeling, but it was still fun to be in the water.  That evening we ventured to the grocery store, and spent way too much money on way too little groceries.

Second full day was spent at Trunk Bay again—however, today the waves were INSANE and most of the beach area from yesterday was engulfed by the high tide. Upon our arrival to the park, the park ranger told us that snorkeling was not allowed today because the waves were too dangerous. This was a bummer because Trunk Bay has an underwater snorkel trail that we weren’t able to see the day before either. However, a day at the beach is still better than no day at the beach.

The next day we decided to take a boat tour around the islands.  We booked a small private tour with a company called Stormy Pirates, which I would highly recommend.  It was a small group (10 people, including the 4 of us), and they provided unlimited drinks and snacks while on the boat.  We stopped a few times to snorkel, and got lunch at this popular placed called Lime Out.  It’s a floating taco joint in the middle of the ocean!! Very popular.  After our day on the boat, we stopped at the official visitor’s center and then got some ice cream before heading back to the VRBO for the evening.

Our last full day on the island was spent at Hawksnest beach.  The waves had finally calmed by the end of our trip, so I was able to do some snorkeling around the reefs at this beach.  I also snorkeled my way to another beach around the corner, which had a lot to see along the rock wall/cliffs.  After spending the day at the beach, we had dinner at a restaurant called the Windmill.  It sits high up on the island, so you get a great view overlooking everything.  We ate dinner and stayed for sunset, and it was such a nice way to end our trip.

Saying goodbye to our island oasis/home away from home for the week!

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