With its unparalleled beauty and charm, St. John is indeed a paradise. Not only is it known for its alluring underwater nature trails and powdery white sands, but it is also blessed with lush forests and historic plantation ruins.
With two-thirds of the entire island designated as a national park, St. John exudes an untouched and unmatched beauty. There’s no question why tourists and travelers come back to visit it year by year.
If you’re planning to visit St. John, you first need to fly to its neighboring island, St. Thomas, on the US Virgin Islands. St. John doesn’t have an airport, so your flight arrival should be at the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas (SST).
The airport receives direct flights from some of the most popular cities in the United States, such as Miami (MIA), Chicago (CHI), Ft. Lauderdale (FLL), Boston (BOS), Atlanta (ATL), New York (JFK & LGA), Charlotte (CLT), Newark (EWR), and Philadelphia (PHL).
Some national airlines that fly to St. Thomas are US Airways, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Air Lines, while some local ones are Seaborne Airlines and Cape Air. There are also small airlines, such as Air Sunshine, that offer inter-island travel.
The Taino Indian members of the Arawak tribe were the first to establish a permanent settlement on St. John. The Arawak tribe migrated from the northern coast of South America as early as 300 AD. In the early 1300s, aboriginal Caribs became the islands’ dominant inhabitants. However, it wasn’t until the late 18th century that semi-permanent establishments began to appear on the island.
The Danish West India and Guinea Company established its first permanent settlements and gave the island its name, Sankt Jan or Saint John. In 1718, a group of 20 Danish planters from St. Thomas founded the Estate Carolina in Coral Bay, which became known as St. John’s first proper settlement.
Over the ensuing years, because of its hot climate and fertile soil, St. John became home to over 100 sugar cane, cotton, and tobacco plantations, creating the need for labor. During these times, the slave trade flourished, and plantation owners made huge fortunes from exploiting slave labor.
In the early 19th century, the United States purchased St. John from Denmark. Laurence Rockefeller purchased most of the island in 1956 and turned 5000 acres of his holdings into a national park under the control of the Federal Government.
Today, the Virgin Islands National Park spans 7200 acres of land and 5600 acres of underwater domains.
From St. Thomas, the only way to get to St. John is through water transportation. Ferries are your best bet, and you have two options. The first one is in Charlotte Amalie, while the second one is in Red Hook.
Once you arrive at the Cyril E King Airport, you will find plenty of taxis to bring you to the ferries. If you can’t find them, you can ask the dispatchers to direct you to them. Unlike the typical taxis, the ones you will find there are large, air-conditioned vans.
Take note that the taxis at the airport don’t leave until they’re full, so be sure to get yourself a cool beverage to sip while waiting for the other travelers to grab their luggage from the carousel.
The taxi rates are subject to change. However, you can expect that you will need to pay around $10 per person if you’re going to Charlotte Amalie and $20 if you’re going to Red Hook. The cab drivers there don’t accept credit cards and checks, so prepare cash.
The ferry terminal in Charlotte Amalie is just a five-minute drive from the Cyril E. King Airport, while the one in Red Hook is 30 minutes away. Here are the schedules of ferries leaving from these two terminals:
If you’re planning to opt for ferries from Charlotte Amalie, you can buy your tickets in advance. There are also commuter books available upon request. They are non-transferable and void when detached from the book.
Ferries from downtown Charlotte Amalie to Cruz Bay on St. John only run three times a day—10:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 5:30 PM. The travel time will only take approximately 45 mins.
As mentioned, the second ferry terminal you can go to is in Red Hook. Ferries from this town run at 6:30 AM, 7:30 AM, and hourly from 8 AM to 12 midnight. From this terminal, it only takes about 20 minutes to get to St. John.
If you want, you can also rent a car at the airport. There’s a car ferry terminal beside the passenger ferry terminal in Red Hook. The car ferries leave every two hours from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
When you’re on St. John, you have tons of tourist attractions to explore and immaculate natural spots to witness. While you can get to some of them on foot, the best thing to do is to rent a car. It will save you time and money and let you make the most of your trip.
Here are two of the best car rental companies:
Courtesy Car Rentals offers a wide variety of cars for you to choose from. This company provides services to tourists and travelers 24/7. If your flight arrival is not within the office hours, 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, the staff will give you a number to contact when you get to St. John.
Varlack Ventures is a car rental company that also offers other services, including ferry services. It offers four-door Dodge SUVs, two-door Jeep Wranglers, and four-door Jeep Wranglers. Its office hours are from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, but it accommodates late arrivals as well.
If you want to relax while you explore St. John, your best option is to opt for water taxi rides. Here’s the best company to hire:
Dohm’s Water Taxi is known for its quality services. It has been one of the go-to providers of the most enjoyable yet comfortable water taxi rides on the US Virgin Islands for more than five decades already. Its staff can fetch you from the airport and bring you to St. John.
The history of St. John is diverse and chaotic. Learn more about the lives of early settlers and how the area eventually became part of the National Park in 1957 at the Archeological Museum at Cinnamon Bay.
Some of the other attractions in St. John that could be of interest include the St. John Animal Center, Bordeaux Mountain Overlook, and the Elaine Ione Sprauve Library and Museum.
Reef Bay Trail is the perfect way for you to discover the secrets of St. John’s ancient petroglyphs, sugar mill ruins, and tropical forests. This two-mile-long St. John hiking trail features a steep rocky path and lets you explore the inner depths of the island. Near its end is a freshwater pond.
If you want a relaxing experience, hiking on St. John, USVI, Annaberg Hiking Trail is the one to tackle. It’s more of a walk than a hike, so it’s excellent for first-time hikers and beginners. This trail contains paved paths that wander around the ruins of historical buildings. At the top of the trail, a stunning ocean view awaits you.
Hire a personal water taxi ride to and from your destination. A relaxing and comfortable way to go.
A comprehensive list of the major cruise ships and their schedules, arrival and departure times.
One thing to remember is that here people drive on the left side of the road. You may wonder if it is better to rent a vehicle in St. Thomas or St. John. Get the opinion of a local. There are several car rental companies to choose from.
60% of St. John is a national park. This means that the island enjoys untouched beauty and splendor, preserved for many years, and will continue to be so for future generations to enjoy.
With its history as rich as its landscape, you can visit and explore the many plantation ruins and archaic buildings still existing in St. John.
This short St. John hiking trail is perfect for all ages. It’s the best trail for families looking to experience a great bonding experience while surrounded by nature. At the trail’s end, breathtaking Salomon Beach awaits. Should you decide to walk for another half a mile, you will witness the clear blue waters of enchanting Honeymoon Beach.
St. John island has the best beaches in the Caribbean. Along the famous North Shore of St. John visitors will find several miles of award-winning national park beaches, each one more enticing than the next. Be sure to view our comprehensive Beach Guide.
You can extend your exploration by visiting one of the British Virgin Islands near St. John.
St. John offers many ways to pamper and boost your spirit. Book an appointment with one of the salons, spas, and massage therapists in the area and feel rejuvenated like a whole new person.
There are multiple shopping centers in St. John where you can shop till you drop and enjoy a search for that truly unique curio find.
With many local shops on Cinnamon Bay and Trunk Bay offering rental equipment for snorkeling and diving, you will have no problem finding the right equipment for your aquatic adventures.
You can go scuba diving and experience the amazing aquatic world beneath the surface of the Caribbean Sea.
St. John has dozens of well-maintained trails where you can go strolling, running, or hiking while enjoying the tropical breeze and stunning views of the island.
Featuring a steep climb and narrow path, Petroglyph Spur Trail offers a bit of a challenge. However, the reward is indeed worth all the sweat and exhaustion. Aside from a freshwater pond, this trail offers viewings of petroglyphs from as early as 300 A.D. You might even see newly discovered ones.
Francis Bay Walking Trail is among the easiest of St. John hiking trails to traverse, and it’s also wheelchair-accessible. While the vegetation is a little brushy in some spots, the views are undeniably picturesque. It also features the Salt Pond and a dry tropical forest for you to explore
Cinnamon Bay is the longest stretch of white sandy beach on St. John Island. Private ceremonies can be held on the beach with a tranquil, relaxing and intimate atmosphere. There are no fees for entering or using the beach.Cinnamon Bay is the longest stretch of white sandy beach on St. John Island. Private ceremonies can be held on the beach with a tranquil, relaxing and intimate atmosphere. There are no fees for entering or using the beach.
In 1969, NASA along with the US Navy and the Department of Interior (DOI) launched a study at Lameshur Bay to evaluate what would happen when people live and work underwater. The first structure that was built for this experiment was called Tektite, and the Tektite Trail follows the original quarter mile road used to deliver supplies to the aquanauts. Unmarked and barely visible, the entrance to the Tektite Trail starts at the bottom of the concrete paved road that leads to both Great and Little Lameshur bays.
The first Tektite experiment was a success and a second experiment, deemed Tektite II, was launched later that year that included the world’s first all-female team of scientists to live underwater. Tektite and Tektite II were each built of two cylindrical tubes about 12 feet wide and 18 feet high that sat 50 feet underwater throughout the mission.
Today the structure is gone, but the underlying foundation underwater remains, as does the trail to the entrance. The original base camp is now the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station (VIERS), located between Great and Little Lameshur Bays and run by Clean Islands International on behalf of the University of the Virgin Islands. Visit the Tektite Museum at VIERS for some cool artifacts from that crazy time in 1969.
Trunk Bay is the most popular beach and considered one of the top beaches in the world. There is a $4.00 charge per person daily from 7:30am – 4:30pm. Trunk Bay is a picturesque location for weddings any time of the day. It is most noted for sunset weddings.
Hawksnest Beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand. It is an unforgettable place for a wedding. It offers restrooms and a place to change clothes for the Bridal couple and their guests. Hawksnest Beach is best for morning weddings because the lighting is absolutely phenomenal for photographs. There are no fees to enter or to use this beach and there is plenty of parking. Ceremonies of St. John offers canopy and chair rentals.
Annaberg Plantation Ruins was once a Danish sugar mill and plantation back in 1780. It was named after William Gottschalk’s daughter. Annaberg translates to Anna’s Hill. There are many charming settings for a wedding ceremony to be held within this elegant historical plantation with breathtaking views.
The ruins are open to the public and protected by the Virgin Islands National Park. If you are interested in having your wedding here you would want to schedule it in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat. Since the plantation is open to the public, it can get very crowded during mid day.
Clearly marked and accessible from North Shore Road (Rt. 20), the Peace Hill Trail offers far more than the obvious. A small parking lot allows for only about eight cars and is rarely full. Follow a wide path straight up from the parking lot to a flat knoll where lies an old sugar mill ruin. Great 300 degree view of the North Shore of St. John and across to the British Virgin Islands, those who only go this far are missing the best part.
From the parking lot on the way up to Peace Hill is an unmarked entrance to a half mile trail that takes you directly to Denis Bay beach. The trail and the west area of Denis Bay are park land, while the land to the east with a residential dwelling is privately owned. The west side of Denis Bay is the most interesting, with large black volcanic rocks, warmed sitting pools, and a small rocky island just off the shoreline with excellent snorkeling all around. Denis Bay also offers interesting sights and sounds. Boats cruise along the North Shore of St. John (Windward Passage and The Narrows) heading through Sir Francis Drake Channel to the British Virgin Islands, which can be seen from Denis Bay beach in the distance. Water crafts range from small motored dinghies to multi-hulled sailing vessels, and there’s never a shortage of things to watch. Visitors to Denis Bay beach are guaranteed an active view and a classic tropical beach environment.
Heading down the Bordeaux Mountain trail is a breeze, and puts hikers at Little Lameshur Bay for a refreshing dip in the clear Caribbean Sea. Heading up, you’ll wish you had made other plans!
Bordeaux Mountain trail is accessible at the top of Bordeaux Mountain Road, from an often unmarked trail head, and descends steeply a little more than a mile to the bay below. Head west to the Lameshur Bay trail to get to Reef Bay, or head east down the road to Great Lameshur Bay. Remember, only the latter will have any jeep traffic, so if you’re tired and looking to hitch, don’t head to Reef Bay!
Along the Lameshur Bay trail is a spur trail to Europa Bay, about a half mile in. When the Lameshur Bay trail reaches the Reef Bay trail, make a right up the Reef Bay trail just 50 yards to the Petroglyph spur trail, or make a left down the Reef Bay trail about a mile to the Reef Bay Sugar Mill ruins, Reef Bay beach and greater Genti Bay.
Surprisingly named for a disease called Yaws, Yawzi Point marks the location where natives who were stricken years ago were isolated. Accessible from the Lameshur Bay beach road (between Great Lameshur Bay and Little Lameshur Bay), the Yawzi Point trail is just over a quarter mile and offers hikers a great sampling of local vegetation and breathtaking waterfront overlooks.
Almost two miles from Lameshur Bay to Reef Bay, the Lameshur Bay trail offers many points of interests to hikers. Accessible from the end of Rt. 107 (Lameshur Bay road), the trail is wide and wanders through deep forest for the first half mile, then follows a ridge called the White Cliffs for the second half, ending about a mile up from the water at the Reef Bay trail. Hikers will find massive hollow trees still standing, wild deer and mongoose, and dozens of different birds enjoying the day overhead. Hiking along the White Cliffs of Lameshur Bay trail will bring you into bright sun, so remember the sunblock when you pack that extra water.
One of the trails that are open year-round is Cinnamon Bay Trail. Dogs are allowed, but they must be on a leash. With its shaded loop, this trail is beautiful and pleasant to visit anytime. This trail offers a close-up look at the old sugar factories, echoing the island’s history.
You won’t find this trail on the national park hiking maps for St. John Island, but L’Esperance is one of the most interesting. Catch the entrance to L’Esperance trail on the south side of Centerline Rd. (Route 10) about a quarter mile past the Virgin Islands National Park sign at Catherineberg. Round trip, the L’Esperance trail is almost six miles, so bring plenty of water and start your hike early in the day to ensure you will return before dark. L’Esperance trail follows the Fish Bay Gut, with at least four different ruins sites not seen by many visitors. The trail veers east about halfway down and crosses over the Mollendal gut along the Sieben Ridge and down to Genti Bay, the greater area of water of which Reef Bay beach lies just to the east. You’ve hiked this far, might as well walk on over to the Reef Bay Sugar Mill ruins, just beyond the forest line at the beach, and down the Reef Bay trail about a mile to the Petroglyphs spur trail.
Untouched and unspoiled are two of the best descriptions for the Brown Bay Trail. While it’s among the list of St. John, USVI, hiking trails that are not very well-maintained, it has its own charm and beauty. It leads to a private shallow cove that offers a peaceful escape. You will see starfish, conch, and loads of fish there.
Considered a moderately challenging route, Johnny Horny Trail takes about two hours to complete. It features a clear path, thanks to the foraging feral donkeys and goats in the area. This trail is steep and exposed to the sun, so you might want to bring plenty of water and snacks to keep you energized. It leads to historical sites and amazing views.
With the rugged natural setting of Turtle Point Trail, you are sure to experience refreshing tropical breezes and witness impressive views. It follows Hawksnest Point’s rocky shoreline and passes through a dry forest and coastal terrain. Along the path, there are strategically placed benches where you can sit and relax.
If you’ve opted to head out to Salt Pond, one of the national park beaches along the south shore of St. John Island, and you’re looking for a nice surprise, hike the short Drunk Bay spur trail, which starts at the far east end of Salt Pond bay and follows the Salt Pond along the north side for a half mile to Drunk Bay. A flat, and sometimes hot, walk from Salt Pond, Drunk Bay offers visitors who make the trek a fun surprise.
While the rocky, rough shores of Drunk Bay are not conducive to swimming, the famous bay clearly supports, and some say prompts, creative expression. While you may not see them at first, look closely to discover dozens, then hundreds, of coral statues along the rocky beach. Using the various formations of coral along the shoreline, inspired visitors for decades have created a bevy of “coral people” using the stones to create heads, torsos, arms and legs. Partially shredded coconut for hair, sargassum weed for clothes, and crooked pieces of drift wood allow for unlimited artistic opportunities. Add your creative two cents and build your beauty at Drunk Bay.
If visiting Salt Pond, take an easy, quarter-mile flat hike over to Drunk Bay. Drunk Bay shore is rocky with rough waves, but also has a surprise awaiting all who visit. It takes only some coral with a little flotsam and jetsam thrown in to make the island’s most creative outlet. Hike the short distance over to Drunk Bay to find out for yourself what everyone is talking about!
Being one of the most unique and visually stimulating St. John, USVI, hiking trails, there’s no way you should miss Ram Head Trail. This one takes you on a rocky path that leads to a blue cobble beach, the hillside, and then finally, an overlook that’s 200 feet above the Caribbean Sea.
There are a number of boat rental places in St. John that offer various cruising options, including sightseeing tours, island hopping tours, and snorkeling and diving tours. Come and enjoy the dazzling blue waters of the Caribbean while observing the splendid views and relaxing in the refreshing sea breeze.