Virgin Islands National Park

Paradise is where you can hike to the beach

Trip Cost ($ – $$$): $$$

Time to Hit the Highlights: 4 days

Must SeeSnorkeling with Sea Turtles at Maho Bay, Caneel Hill Trail, Reef Bay Trail, Honeymoon Beach

Time of the Year to Visit: Spring/Fall

Audience: Everyone (variety of trails, small and large beaches, not all activities require hiking)

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About the Virgin Islands National Park and St. John

St. John is the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands and is home to the the Virgin Islands National Park.  The park’s hills, valleys and beaches are breath-taking and with over 7,000 acres it makes up 60% of the island!

For more information check out the Virgin Islands National Park website at http://www.nps.gov/viis/index.htm

Getting There

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  • We flew into San Juan, PR and then took Cape Air to St. Thomas.  St. John is not accessible by air, but there is a cheap ferry from St. Thomas to St. John that arrives at Cruz Bay.  
    • Make sure you leave time between your plane landing in St. Thomas and the ferry you take to St. John.  St. Thomas airport and the ferry port are on opposite sides of the island and require a twisty-turny taxi ride across the island.
    • Some hotels may have a private ferry service (for a price) from St. Thomas to St. John.
  • Once on the island we rented a car on a daily basis to get to trails and beaches that are further away.  Taxis are available to take you all over the island, but there is no assurance they will be coming back to the place you get dropped off at.

Staying There

  • We stayed at the Westin St. John which was very family focused, but there are a variety of resorts around the island and even houses for rent.
  • There are camping sites available on the island, the most popular is at Cinnamon Bay.
  • The main town in Cruz Bay, which is always a short cab ride away.

Being There

Maho Bay

  • If you love sea turtles, then you must check out Maho Bay.  We saw several sea turtles of different sizes and even a baby shark!
  • The turtles let you snorkel near them, but obviously don’t try to make friends as they are still wild animals.

Cinnamon Bay Trail

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  • Parked at the Cinnamon Bay parking lot and hiked through the ruins before taking the Cinnamon Bay trail up to Centerline Road and back.
  • This can be combined with the Reef Bay Trail for a longer hike.

Caneel Hill Trail

  • We made a big hike out of Caneel Hill Trail by parking at the Ranger Station and hiking the trail over Margaret Hill and through a resort to Caneel bay and then back to the National Park Ranger Station. This was a long hike, but we stopped at Honeymoon beach to reward ourselves in the water.
  • Along the way there are also beautiful vantage points for 360 views of the island.

Honeymoon Beach

  • This is a quiet beach just outside of a large resort. It was quiet while we were there, but we could see how this spot could easily attract lots of people during the busy season

Reef Bay Trail

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  • Parked on the side of Centerline Road and hiked down to trail to the Petroglyphs.
  • We encountered some curious donkeys at the trailhead. Be careful, they are definitely not afraid of you.

Trunk Bay

  • Trunk Bay is one of the most famous beaches in the world, and because of that it tends to be crowded.  It is beautiful place that is worth checking out for its underwater trail and beautiful coral.
  • There is an additional fee to get into Trunk Bay.

Francis Bay/Francis Bay Trail

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  • While we did not swim at Francis Bay, we did enjoy walking the boardwalk of the Francis Bay Trail. It is a beautiful and slightly eerie place that leads to yet another beautiful beach.

Peace Hill

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  • This is a very short hike with parking right off of North Shore Road.  
  • We enjoyed this little walk because of the numerous Hermit Crabs scuttling across the trail and the beautiful deer we encountered.
  • At the top of Peace Hill you will find nice vantage point to lookout over the ocean.

Watermelon Bay

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  • We parked at the Annaberg Sugar Mill ruins and hiked out to Watermelon Bay and Leinster Point.
  • There is some okay snorkeling there. You have to swim out to the little island just off the shore called Watermelon Cay to see some reefs and fish.  
  • This is a rocky place, but not too many people make it all the way out there.

Eating There

  • Hotels may have their own restaurants, but most of St. John’s bars and restaurants are found in Cruz Bay
  • Two of our favorites included the Tap Room (the local island brewery) and Longboard

More Info

  • Payment is required at the National Park Ranger Station, and while you’re there pick up a map of the island!
  • We brought our own snorkeling gear, but most hotels will rent equipment for a fee
  • When snorkeling beware of sea urchins!
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