Paradise Found- St. John, USVI

Paradise Found- St. John, US Virgin Islands.

St. John was easily one of the prettiest places I’ve ever traveled to.

I’d been day-dreaming about spending my days swimming in turquoise water for weeks and from the moment we started to fly over the Caribbean islands, I was giddy with anticipation.

I mean, seriously. Look at that water.

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Gorgeous, right? As soon as we landed in St. Thomas (you can’t fly into St. John), we picked up our Jeep and headed over on the ferry towards Cruz Bay. (approximately a 30 min ride)

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A few quick facts about St. John:

  1. It is the smallest of the 3 main US Virgin Islands- less than 20 square miles
  2. 60% of the island is a protected as it is a state park- Virgin Islands National Park
  3. There are really only 2 “towns.” Cruz Bay, on the west side of the island, where you’ll find restaurants, a few shops, and most of the resorts/hotels, (there aren’t many…it’s a teeny little island) and Coral Bay, over on the east side of the island. We stayed in quiet little Coral Bay for the week, tucked away into the hills with dynamite views.
  4. If you are renting a car, choose a Jeep- you’ll need to 4 wheel drive. Note that you will be driving on the left side of the road 🙂
  5. You do not need a passport to visit St. John, St. Thomas or San Croix. You will however need it if you decide to visit the neighboring British Virgin Islands

The drive from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay takes about 30 minutes, which is astonishing considering it is only 8 miles away. The roads are narrow and windy as they weave through the mountains. You can’t go much faster than 45 mph because of the many blind turns and the fact that you’re driving on the left side of the road and probably not feeling overly confident as a result. Oh, and because of the donkeys. And the goats. And the sheep. And the occasional chicken…they all like to hang out in the street. 🙂

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But I have to say, the all looked healthy and well fed. I suppose there are worse places to be a wild donkey than the islands?

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The water is every bit as beautiful as I’d heard/read about. Pictures honestly don’t do it justice.

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There were so many moments when we were driving that we had to pull over because we were just so in awe of the natural beauty. You really have to stop and take it all in. It was truly astounding.

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Our little cottage in Coral Bay.

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We spent most of our nights grilling out and hanging out in the hot tub on the deck. Wouldn’t you if this was your view?

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I was wondering who would actually use the pool when the beaches are that insanely beautiful, but it was quite nice to take a dip after a long day at the beach and rinse off all of the salt water. We’d sit around in the evening while having cocktails and take in the views of Coral Bay.

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Watching the sunrise with coffee on the balcony.
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Even when it was overcast it was stunning.

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Complete with an open-air shower.

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The trade winds in Coral Bay were awesome- it was breezy and cool enough to sleep with the doors and windows open. Mosquitos were a non-issue for us, thankfully.

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We did our best to hit up as many beaches as we could…and let me assure you that there is NOT a bad beach on the island.

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Our favorites were Maho, Cinnamon, Hawksnest, Honeymoon, Waterlemon Cay, Francis Bay, and Salt Pond. While they all have beautiful water and beaches, certain ones may fit your particular needs- i.e. a decent amount of shade, bathrooms, picnic tables, camp sites, etc. Some are also better for snorkeling than others. (although I found them all to be pretty amazing for a non-local who doesn’t get to snorkel very often) Here is a guide the different beaches and another guide for snorkeling.

Which brings me to snorkeling…oh my. If only I’d had an underwater camera or a Go-Pro to capture the beauty that I saw. The sea life was INCREDIBLE. Seeing sea turtles was the highlight for me, and Kevin swam up on a (harmless) nurse shark one afternoon. We must have seen hundreds of colorful fish, coral, sponge, reefs…it was fascinating. St. John is every bit as pretty under the water as it is above. We spent hours swimming around exploring, only coming up for sunscreen and beer. 🙂

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The beaches were not at all crowded, in fact we found that it wasn’t difficult to find a beach that was more or less deserted. (although important to note that July is their off season, so things were quieter than usual)  Trunk Bay was the busiest beach we visited, (famous for their underwater snorkel trail) and it really wasn’t even that bad.

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Too many painkillers to count…Caneel Bay Resort has a beach-side bar that made really good ones.

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Paradise. I posted a few videos to my YouTube channel- you can check them out by clicking the icon on the blog front page or by clicking here.

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Visiting Annaberg Plantation

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Sampling the local west Indian cusine- pate. (dough filled with meat, similar to a Jamaican meat pie)

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Excellent dinner at Extra Virgin Bistro (order the Cioppino!)

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Enjoying the scene at Skinny Legs

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Restaurant recommendations:

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It was such a fun and relaxing week. St. John is the perfect place to completely unwind- leave your cell phone at home, grab a snorkel, (and a camera!) and spend your days exploring everything that this untouched island has to offer.

Bring with you:

  • Sunscreen, and a lot of it
  • Bug spray
  • Lightweight, breathable clothing- temperatures are in the high 80’s most of the time
  • Camera
  • Passport in case you want to visit the nearby British Virgin Islands

 

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