Written by two cruisers on 22 Jul, 2012
Our cruise director told us that by stopping at the United States Virgin Islands first we would be introducing ourselves gradually into the Caribbean. He was right. This island had the worst traffic, very American high speeds and lots of honking. This island also had…Read More
Our cruise director told us that by stopping at the United States Virgin Islands first we would be introducing ourselves gradually into the Caribbean. He was right. This island had the worst traffic, very American high speeds and lots of honking. This island also had US Postal Boxes just like at home, they use US dollar, and speak English (with a charming accent). All of our port visits are similiar on this trip. We debark, acknowledge the colorful greeters, and walk or ride to the main shopping district. There we look for museums, art galleries, local flavor restaurants and souvenirs hopefully of local origin. Many of the other people from our ship bought shore tours ranging from snorkling, to beach picnics, to boat trips to near-by islands, and to adventuresome athletic activities. At this point in our lives, walking to Main street is as adventurous as Bill wants to get. I was very interested in learning the history and culture of each island. Some shore tours hinted at that feature, but Bill was reluctant to commit to the length of those tours. I agreed, figuring the cruise personel would provide a lecture on history and culture to fill my needs. Wrongo...at least not on the Carnival Freedom.So off we went to catch a taxi, which was a van shared with others. We were dropped off near the Post Office in down town Charlotte Amalie. I was impressed to see a large old building painted in coral with limestone trim dating 1571. Wow! We proceeded down the Main Street in search of elusive gift shops and art galleries. All we found were jewelry stores and very persistent salespeople. These folks are agrivating. Finally I let one of them lure me into his shop. I told Bill to sit in the "hubby" chair while I delt with the salesman. That man frantically showed me a large array of gem stones looking for what I would tumble for. I kept a watch on Bill and when he looked rested, I thanked the clerk and left the store. Am I mean? No, the clerk didn't lose any sales by spending time with me. And who knows...I might have found something I like.We saw signs pointing to a cluster of shops on a side street or alley. This was what we were looking for. We visited a wonderful art glass shop and two antique stores. We like the less frantic sales people here they were better about sharing information about the island. Bill found a treasure, a petrified whale ear-bone. I found us a restaurant.Located in one of the oldest buildings still on the island, Gladys' Cafe serves a blend of Caribbean and American cuisine. The walls of the building are made of an assortment of materials, balast stones, bricks, limestone and coral. It was lovely and alive with centuries of use. They are particularly known for their hot sauce. Bill stayed with the American side of the menu by having a bacon cheeseburger. I selected a local special of stewed chicken with sweet potatoes, plantains, fancy rice and macaroni salad. What a taste treat!After lunch we walked along the waterfront, which was dangerously busy with speeding vehicles. We decided to try Main Street again and this time found the home of Camille Pissaro. Going back to Art History 102, I remember this famous artist was born here in the Caribbean, left to study in Paris...and never came back. The museum gallery was not open when we were there. As we headed back to the place the taxi let us out, a driver of a taxi who was cruising Main Street recognized our tired look and hustled us into his vehicle for the ride back to the dock. Apparently this is the normal practice. When you are done shopping, just step to the curb and a cruising taxi will stop for you.When we returned to the ship we walked around the Panorama Deck to enjoy the view of the beautiful harbor, and the lovely volcanic shaped island. Close
Written by lovethecaribbean on 18 Oct, 2008
Spring Bay When we arrived our room was not ready. So we changed and headed out to Spring Bay for LD’s picnic. I thought this beach was gorgeous! Again, I love the exotic feel that the boulders seem to give it. I also think this…Read More
Spring Bay When we arrived our room was not ready. So we changed and headed out to Spring Bay for LD’s picnic. I thought this beach was gorgeous! Again, I love the exotic feel that the boulders seem to give it. I also think this beach is prettier than the Baths. LD had umbrellas set up as well as a beach barbeque, steel drummers, and limbo. The barbeque lunch was very tasty. We enjoyed exploring the boulders here and getting in some swimming. We didn’t snorkel here because the water was pretty wavy. Little Dix Bay Beach We spent some time here in the afternoon of our arrival day, hoping to get in a little snorkeling. But the water was a little churned up on the left side of the beach where I heard there was some good snorkeling, so there wasn’t much to see. Even though the water was calmer in the middle of the bay, it was mostly sea grass and we didn’t see anything of much interest. We mostly lounged on the floats, and my husband did some kayaking. Mountain Trunk We took an afternoon beach drop here. It was just a few bays over from Little Dix Bay. When we arrived, there were only about 5 or 6 other people on the beach. The beach is wide, but not one of the prettiest on the island. It has a bit darker sand than most of the others. But we weren’t really there for the beach anyway—we were there for the snorkeling. The snorkeling was fantastic! I thought it was much better than anything we had seen on St. John this year, and even what we saw last year at Peter Island, St. John, The Indians and Caves. We snorkeled the left side of the beach near the rocks. It was nice because there was a lot of reef to explore, it was pretty easy to get to, and there was so much underwater life. Lots of coral and fish. I was very impressed. The Baths Even though we had visited the Baths before, I wanted to come to get some photos. We arrived before 9 am by taxi, and were the only people there, until about a half hour later when a few people arrived on a dinghy. We decided to go through the trail again. We did not see a soul until we got to Devil’s Bay. We spent some time swimming and snorkeling at Devil’s Bay. It was nice, but I couldn’t get as far as I would have liked, since we didn’t bring our flippers with us through the trail. You have to do some climbing and ducking, so carrying the flippers would have been annoying. We just had the mask, snorkel and camera. Unfortunately, I guess we spent a little too much time on Devil’s Bay, because as we made our way back through the trail there were about 200 cruise ship passengers going the other way. We had to do a lot of waiting for this huge trail of people and that was no fun! When we got back to the main beach we did some snorkeling. We saw a bit, but it definitely did not compare to Mountain Trunk. George Dog We took an afternoon beach drop to George Dog, a small island probably about a 10-15 minute boat ride from Little Dix. It had a small beach, which was almost like a sandbar—with water on both sides, and land on the other two sides. The snorkeling here was absolutely spectacular—the best I have ever seen. The reef is very shallow (in some places too shallow, so it can be tough to navigate your way back to the beach). It’s also extremely close to shore, so it was a very easy swim to get to it. The fish, coral, sea fans, etc were fantastic. It’s a pretty large reef too, so we did not even see a quarter of it in our 2 hours of snorkeling. It’s also probably the healthiest reef I have seen. I can’t wait to go back here! Close
It seems like all the restaurants were more expensive than last year. It could just be that since we were on our honeymoon last year, we weren’t paying as much attention to what things cost because we were going all out. We ended up spending…Read More
It seems like all the restaurants were more expensive than last year. It could just be that since we were on our honeymoon last year, we weren’t paying as much attention to what things cost because we were going all out. We ended up spending a lot more on food than we planned. We were also surprised at how early restaurants stop serving food. I didn’t remember having this problem last year (but maybe we just always went to dinner early- I can’t remember!). Generally we would go to dinner around 7 pm. But one night we didn’t make it out until 8:30-9 pm, and we had to try 3 restaurants for us to find one that was still serving food! Also, my husband really wanted to visit Uncle Joe’s Barbeque on this trip, but both times we tried they were closed. Café Roma-I really enjoyed the chicken parmesan here. My husband had seafood manicotti and liked it as well. I had a strawberry daiquiri that wasn’t so great here though. Caneel Bay Beach Bar- This lunch was very overpriced. A $18 hamburger! It was good, but not that good. My husband had wings and liked them, but again I thought they were too expensive. Simple Feast- we had some good sandwiches here for lunch one day. One of our less expensive meals on the trip. Paradiso- The night we went they were having special—like a neverending pasta bowl. You could order a pasta entrée and then try another one. When we got there my husband was excited about that. They also had really good bread and a great appetizer (though really small for the price) of mozzarella fritta. I had lasagna and it was great. It was too much for me though so I didn’t order a second pasta. My husband had seafood pasta and really enjoyed it. Even he had too much to get a second order. The portions were quite large. Asolare- This was very convenient since it’s next door to Estate Lindholm. This was our most expensive dinner on the island. The view of the sunset was nice, but it was really cloudy that day, so it didn’t make for a beautiful one. We really enjoyed our calamari appetizer. I had the filet mignon, and it was good, but nothing special. My husband had a soup (can’t remember what kind) that he enjoyed and he was thought that the lamb was great. I personally thought it wasn’t worth, because my steak just wasn’t anything special. We did have crème brulee for dessert and it was very good. But I guess you’re also paying for the ambience and view. Baked in the Sun-- We took sandwiches from here with us on our snorkel sail for lunch. They were great! I had a turkey croissant and it was delicious. My husband said his tuna salad was the best he had ever had. Margarita Phil’s- My husband was annoyed that they would not serve tap water here. He got it at every other restaurant we visited on St. John and it was fine. But at Margarita Phil’s you had to buy bottled water. He drinks a lot of water, so getting bottles can get expensive. I had great chicken quesadillas here. My husband had conch and shrimp fajitas. He said they were good, but nothing special. The Balcony- I had a great burger here and my husband had a great chicken anq brie sandwich for lunch one day. This place also had delicious homemade potato chips. Morgan’s Mango-My husband really wanted to try this place. There wasn’t much on the menu that I liked (I’m not much of a seafood eater), but I figured I would give it a try. I decided to go with the filet of beef—and it was just awful. I ordered it medium well and on the outside it was cooked, but the inside was at best medium rare. I sent it back and they tried again, but it was just completely burnt on the outside and still uncooked on the inside. We ended up not paying for that entrée—and I wasn’t the only person that returned the filet that night. I do have to say that the mashed potatoes were delicious, as were their frozen drinks. Instead of ordering another entrée I got keylime pie. It was good but nothing special. My husband had conch fritters which he really liked and a steak salad which was also good. Close
We love the beaches here and the easy access snorkeling. Solomon Beach- on our first full day we hiked down to this gorgeous secluded beach. We were the first people there! We relaxed at this beach for a while and did some snorkeling. The water…Read More
We love the beaches here and the easy access snorkeling. Solomon Beach- on our first full day we hiked down to this gorgeous secluded beach. We were the first people there! We relaxed at this beach for a while and did some snorkeling. The water was a little bit rough so it wasn’t the easiest snorkeling. I only snorkeled on the left side of the beach. Saw a few fish and some coral, but nothing spectacular that day. Honeymoon Beach- We then hiked over to Honeymoon Beach. This beach is beautiful! Very few people here and the beach is much larger than Solomon. Again, the water was a bit rough so we did not spend too much time here. Caneel Bay-We walked the gravel road from Honeymoon to Caneel on our first full day as well. We had an overpriced lunch there and then went to the beach. It was so much calmer than Honeymoon and Solomon, so we spent lots of time snorkeling here. We actually came back to Caneel the next day as well because we were looking for calm snorkeling waters. Both days we snorkeled on the right side of the beach. One day I made it almost all the way around the point and the snorkeling was great. We saw a wide variety of sea life here. Every time I have been to Caneel the water was completely flat, when other beaches were rough (same thing happened last year). I suppose that the bay must just be more protected than others. Frances Bay- On our second full day we visited this beach in the morning and were the first people there. We loved how uncrowded the beaches were! Last year when we visited this beach the water was rough and all churned up—we couldn’t see a thing when we tried to snorkel. This year the water was very calm. We first snorkeled the left side of the beach. Saw some schools of small fish here and it was interesting to see the large fish darting in and out of these schools. We tried snorkeling the right side of the beach as well, but we didn’t see too much. I feel like we just didn’t go out far enough though. That afternoon after lunch in town we went back to Caneel Bay. Waterlemon Cay- We wanted to go back to Waterlemon this year, but were a little worried about making the long swim to the island. So we took a snorkel sail there on our third full day instead. The trip was with Rusty on Tressel, a small catamaran. It was just the two of us and the captain. Lauren at Estate Lindholm booked this for us last minute. We left at 11 am from Great Cruz Bay and returned around 4 pm. And it was only $150. I thought it was a great deal. Unfortunately, the snorkeling at Waterlemon wasn’t as great as I had remembered. We did not see any starfish this time. Also, there was a lot of coral, sea fans, and other more stationary underwater life—but it just didn’t seem like the fish were as plentiful this time. Don’t get me wrong, it was still beautiful, just not as great as I remembered. It was fun taking a rest on the sandbar there. And it made for a few pretty pictures. Lavongo Cay- This was our second snorkeling spot that we visited on our day sail. I thought this was the best place that we snorkeled while on St. John. Lots of coral and fish, and it wasn’t too deep so it was easy to see what was going on. Salt Pond- Part of the reason we decided to go back here was just that I wanted to drive around more of the island and get some photos around the Coral Bay area. Again, this beach was deserted when we arrived, only 2 or 3 other people there. There were more than that by the time we left, but still not crowded. Last year we snorkeled the left side of the beach, so we thought we would try out the right side this time. It was great and we saw a wide variety of fish. Trunk Bay- My husband wanted an easy snorkel so we decided to go to Trunk Bay in the afternoon of our last day. This was by far the most crowded beach we visited. But, it wasn’t as crowded as I had expected. The water was really calm this day so it made for easy snorkeling. We went beyond the snorkel trail on the left side of the island and that was where we saw the most. I do want to mention that I was suprised at how uncrowded the beaches were. They seemed even emptier than they did when we were there in October. I realize we were there in low season, but being in December, I just assumed that there would be more people around (and from the fact that our afternoon ferry from St. Thomas to St. John was packed). The empty beaches were of course a very pleasant surprise! Close
Snorkeling and Beaches—All I can say is WOW! The Virgin Islands had the most beautiful beaches and snorkeling I have ever seen—I’ve been to lots of Caribbean islands, and there were the best in my opinion. I always judge snorkeling by seeing things I had…Read More
Snorkeling and Beaches—All I can say is WOW! The Virgin Islands had the most beautiful beaches and snorkeling I have ever seen—I’ve been to lots of Caribbean islands, and there were the best in my opinion. I always judge snorkeling by seeing things I had never seen before—now I don’t think there is much that I haven’t seen. Here’s my beach/snorkeling pick list for St. John: Most beautiful beach—Hawksnest (our favorite in general!) Best beaches for seclusion—Jumbie, Gibney Best snorkeling-Waterlemon Cay, Henley Cay, Jumbie, Salt Pond Best all around beach (nice beach, good snorkeling, good food)-Caneel Bay Other beaches we visited-Frances, Maho, Cinnamon, Trunk Devers-our villa’s beach—very rocky but supposed to have good snorkeling on the right side. I saw a jellyfish shortly after getting in the water so I got out pretty quickly. Reef Bay-pretty beach, but the water was way too rough for snorkeling that day. Hawksnest- This was our favorite beach-just gorgeous! We went to this beach twice. The first time the water was very calm and clear. Saw lots of fish near the rocks in between Hawksnest and Gibney. Also snorkeled the reef in the middle of the bay. We saw a stingray with a fish following it, a baby squid, lots of fish and coral with some fish I hadn’t seen before. The second time we went the water was too rough and not clear enough for snorkeling. Gibney-Swam here from Hawksnest—there were only a few people on Hawksnest, but noone on Gibney. This is a picture perfect beach second to Hawksnest. Saw much of the same fish as Hawksnest. Cinnamon Bay-Also a pretty beach, but there were more people here. Snorkeled by the island –didn’t see anything spectacular, but did see a few trunk fish. Jumbie-Loved this beach for solitude and snorkeling. There was just one other couple when we got there who had dinghied in, and they left before we did so we then had it to ourselves. I saw a fish that was shaped like a trumpet fish, but it had a blueish/purple face. Also there was a large piece of brain coral that had these red flower looking animals on it. When they "sensed" me hovering over them, one by one they disappeared into the coral, except for one that stayed around. Trunk-Went there early in the morning hoping to beat the cruise ship rush. It was a beautiful beach, but the waves were quite large that day. We still managed to do some snorkeling on the trail and around the island. Saw more fish and coral than I had expected. Saw a large variety of fish, including a couple of the brown and white trumpet fish which I had never seen before that day. We left after about 2 hours when the cruise shippers started rolling in. Francis Bay-This was also a beautiful beach, but it was a little rough that day and there was no visibility. We made the mistake of putting our stuff on a picnic table near the rocks. The waves kicked up and took my husbands flippers and snorkel with them. I was out in the water at this time, but he was sitting right there and didn’t notice for quite a while! We luckily spotted the flippers floating out in the water far, far away, so I swam out and got them. He owed me big time for that! Maho Bay-We stopped by here, but the conditions were much like Francis and there was hardly any beach to sit on, so we skipped it. Caneel Bay- The beach here was also gorgeous, very uncrowded and had great snorkeling to the right of the beach near the rocks and point. This was right after going to Frances and Maho, and the water was just so much clearer and calmer. We had a tough time deciding between the villa and Caneel Bay and being here almost made me wish we had stayed here, but I just don’t think I could give up our private pool, Jacuzzi, and garden showers at the villa. Back to the snorkeling! The snorkeling was almost as nice as Salt Pond-This was also a pretty beach, but seemed to have more rocks than the others. The hike getting there wasn’t bad at all, but coming back, that was a killer! I’m so glad we went because we got to see more of the island and stop by Coral Bay. Again, I digress. Snorkeled mostly to the left of the beach near the rocks and point. I saw quite a few fish I hadn’t seen yet—but I don’t know what most of them are called! Saw quite a few trunk fish, and a hound fish pretty close up, so that was great. Also hung out for a while in the middle of the bay hoping to see a turtle, but had no such luck. Close
Boat Trip- We rented a 25 ft cuddy w/ captain from Ocean Runners. This was an expensive day, but also the most fun day of the entire honeymoon! Our captain’s name was Joel and I highly recommend him. He was very knowledgeable about the island…Read More
Boat Trip- We rented a 25 ft cuddy w/ captain from Ocean Runners. This was an expensive day, but also the most fun day of the entire honeymoon! Our captain’s name was Joel and I highly recommend him. He was very knowledgeable about the island and it’s history, gave us great snorkeling tips and handled the boat perfectly (he also was easy on the eyes!). We started off with a snorkel at Waterlemon Cay—this I think was the best snorkeling of the entire trip. It was gorgeous, vibrant colors everywhere. I saw turtles, huge starfish, barracuda, and a flounder looking fish (beige and brown). I had seen one of these before in Cozumel, burrowed in the sand, but this one was swimming and it was cool watching it swimming in the water, it looked so graceful. (though I have a feeling he isn’t a flounder). We then went to clear customs in Tortola and headed out to Norman Island to snorkel at the Caves. Unfortunately a large boat beat us to it. We tried snorkeling into one of the caves, but people kept swimming into me, so I decided to get out of there. There was lots of coral and fish around there though and it was beautiful. We then headed over to the Indians. There were only two other people snorkeling there, so we liked that. I thought there were much more fish and coral here than in Norman. Saw a huge houndfish and some moon jellies (which still scared me, even though I hear they don’t usually sting, I still tried to avoid them). It was lunchtime, so we headed over to the Jost and had lunch at Foxy’s. He was there singing, so that was a lot of fun. Then went to the Soggy Dollar—that beach is gorgeous! We were about to head over to Sandy Cay and Sandy Spit when a squall came up. So we took cover at Sydney’s Peace and Love. We must have had good timing—right as we entered the bar it started pouring. This place is known to have great lobster and my husband would have enjoyed that, but they make everything to order and it takes a LONG time, so we just had some drinks. Joel said that guests make their own drinks here and hopped behind the bar to make ours. I have never been to a bar like that! After enjoying the drinks the rain finally stopped and we were off. First we stopped by Sandy Cay, its so pretty. But then you get to Sandy Spit and I thought it was gorgeous. I wouldn’t mind being stranded there, well maybe only for a few hours. We then headed over to Lavongo and Congo Cay for more snorkeling. But the visibility wasn’t very good probably because of what the squall earlier that day had kicked up. We then headed back to St. John for one last snorkel stop at Henley Cay. It used to be Caneel’s honeymoon suite until the park took it back—I think that would be a great place to honeymoon! He said he doesn’t always bring people here, because it depends on the current. The snorkeling here was great because there were so many different types of coral to see and tons of fish. I just can’t say enough good things about Joel and Ocean Runners. It was so nice to have the boat to ourselves and go to all the places we wanted, plus some great suggestions from the captain when we had some extra time. Close
Written by ripplefan2 on 24 Jun, 2007
While on we were on St. Thomas, my brother and sister-in-law decided to take us all around and explore. They picked us up at the ferry from St. Thomas with a Jeep they had rented, gave us all breakfast and then we headed off. The…Read More
While on we were on St. Thomas, my brother and sister-in-law decided to take us all around and explore. They picked us up at the ferry from St. Thomas with a Jeep they had rented, gave us all breakfast and then we headed off. The first stop on their agenda was a place called Lameshur Bay on the other side of the island. This is a secluded beach over the mountains with amazing nature trails. We pulled right into this three car parking lot, suntan lotioned and bug sprayed ourselves and headed off on the hike up the mountain. Our hosts had done this hike a couple years earlier while on their honeymoon and wanted us to experience it. With the beach to our right calling us with its cool, crystal clear waters, it was hard not to jump right in but with the promise that after our hike it would feel that much better, we headed off. The hike started on a rather level plateau then slowly escalated to a higher degree. Please, bring comfortable walking or hiking shoes and not sandals like I did. The trail is filled with large, sharp cornered rocks that have been slightly weathered from the constant summer rains that run down this trail like a skier. Also, every now and then, a hermit crab on its pilgrimage from the bottom to the top of this mountain will jump out at you and try to take a snap. Keep an ever watchful eye out. A little more than half way up this trail, there is a sort of rest area that consists of a giant black rock and a breathtaking view of the island and the water. Do not forget your water bottles and ration yourself well because after you get to the top, you still have to come back down. After the rest area, our hike continued in full swing up a narrow pathway in the overgrowth that only exists in mountains. When we finally reached the top, we were greeted with cooler temperatures and a large pool of water that seemed to have a dried up waterfall above it. However, that wasn’t the coolest part about being there; there were actual old hieroglyphics embedded in the rocks from the old natives that once inhabited the island. No one seems to know what the hieroglyphics mean but they are everywhere. What is also everywhere are those vagabond hermit crabs. Hundreds of them had made their way to the top of this mountain and were basking in the cool temperatures and plentiful water. After a well deserved rest and downing a goblet of water, we decided it was time to submerse ourselves in the cool waters that Lameshur had to offer. The hike down is actually more treacherous then the way up because gravity kind of takes control of your feet and your speed is faster and less controlled. You almost feel like a drunken bobsledder hitting the turns at all of the wrong moments and still pushing through. Coming out of the woods and seeing the endless miles of cool water, none of us could control ourselves, so we grabbed our snorkel gear and jumped right in. The cool waters felt great over our extremely overheated bodies. The one down side to the water front there is that the shoreline is lined with rocks that are anything but welcoming on the feet. Try to put your flippers on before you head in to avoid that unpleasantness. But overall, the waters are so clear, you can see forever and the things living there are extremely curious about you and follow you around all day. If you are looking for a day of none touristy things to do with a minimal amount of damage to be done to the wallet, Lameshur Bay is the ideal place for you. When you get there, you can ask your hotel which is the best way to get there, since there are plenty of options. But be savvy and don’t ripped off. Remember, these places survive by tourism and will try to squeeze every dime out of you. Anyway, try out Lameshur Bay, it's great. Close
Written by AgedToPerfection on 13 Sep, 2006
The largest underwater national park in the United States is in St. John. Almost half of the Virgin Islands National Park is submerged and boasts spectacular snorkeling and diving. Pack up your snorkel gear, towels, some fresh rinsing water, and head out. If you see…Read More
The largest underwater national park in the United States is in St. John. Almost half of the Virgin Islands National Park is submerged and boasts spectacular snorkeling and diving. Pack up your snorkel gear, towels, some fresh rinsing water, and head out. If you see a spot, pull over and jump in. Here is our tour of the beaches starting from the west side of the island.Great Cruz Bay: The Westin is located here on the west side of the island. Because boats moor here outside the national park, the water is murky. However, kids love the water trampoline and climbing hill.Cruz Bay: Downtown St. John where most of the boats and cruise ships moor is not a good place to snorkel but a terrific place to stroll and catch a sunset.Hawksnest Bay: Some say Hawksnest Bay has the best snorkeling because of the reef. But the coral and the waves made for tough swimming. The coral grows in shallow water so be careful not to harm it or yourself. If you snorkel here, go during high tide so that you snorkel safely above the reef.Maho Bay: This long stretch of powdery sand felt as if I was walking on velvet. The long beach contributed to the calm water. We saw fascinating animal life despite the monotonous sandy bottom. Fish congregate along the rocky left side of Maho. Rays and a sea turtle meandered by as we hovered over them. As an added surprise, a wild donkey stopped by to say hello as we were leaving. Waterlemon Bay: If you snorkel here, be prepared. My husband called the only restroom here one of the scariest experiences of his life. He likened it to the Flukeman episode of The X-Files. The 15 minute walk is enough to deter someone. The hike is easy on flat ground but becomes unstable over the rocks. Note that brush and dense forest lies behind the beach, making a humid home to mosquitoes. Here I received most of the mosquito welts from our trip. The snorkeling was fair due to the boats moored in the bay. But we saw several turtles due to the abundance of sea grass, and spent two hours there.Salt Pond Bay: We drove to Salt Pond Bay on the south side. This was the last stop on the paved road. We parked in the small lot at the top of the hill and walked 10 minutes down to the beach. The hike is easy but sloped so don’t carry too much equipment. Note there is little shade so have sun protection. The snorkeling here was eventful as there was a black tip shark sighting when we were in the water. We saw our first ray and followed it along the length of the bay. We found most of the fish at the rocky area on the left. Unfortunately, on the day that we went, the visibility was approximately 8 feet. Close
Written by PabloDiablo on 28 Jun, 2000
St. John is the smallest and most beautiful of the three main American Virgins, but as such it presents a trade-off to travelers looking for social excitement. On this island there isn't really much, especially at night. There are a few bars around…Read More
St. John is the smallest and most beautiful of the three main American Virgins, but as such it presents a trade-off to travelers looking for social excitement. On this island there isn't really much, especially at night. There are a few bars around Cruz Bay, and they can be fun for a little while. In fact, one of them (I can't remember the name) was holding hermit crab races one night. So we picked one, named it, and for $3 Reginald was entered into the circle. Problem was, Reginald didn't leave the circle. Oh, he moved a little during the first race. After that, though, it was all downhill for the little guy. He was so bad he even came up short in the loser contest--he was the SECOND to last crab to finally move. Idiot. He looked so speedy in the bucket...
Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, the lack of nightlife. This is a nature-oriented island, which is great when the sun is out, but after a while some of you may want to do more than stargaze at night. There are clubs, livelier bars, movie theaters and such just across the water in St. Thomas, and the ferry that runs between the two takes about half an hour to get between Cruz Bay and the Charlotte Amalie, the main city on St. Thomas. If you're looking for nightlife, I'd suggest going there. I was quite happy just enjoying nature, though, for the most part. Close
Written by lilbear on 06 Jan, 2005
Travel from a large airport such as Denver to the island of St. John is an adventure in itself. Flights from anywhere must terminate at Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, as St. John has no air facilities at all. Caneel Bay Resort has thought of…Read More
Travel from a large airport such as Denver to the island of St. John is an adventure in itself. Flights from anywhere must terminate at Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, as St. John has no air facilities at all. Caneel Bay Resort has thought of that and supplies the necessary transportation across Pillsbury Sound to the hotel. Once off the plane on St. Thomas, it is only necessary to check in at the Caneel Bay kiosk inside the airport, then retrieve one’s luggage. That done, the porters transfer the baggage to vans while you relax with a cold drink in their lounge. Once all resort guests are accounted for, you load into the van for a short drive to the ferry across to St. John. The Caneel Bay ferry is privately run by the resort, so there is no need to determine which boat to board, etc. It’s all taken care of, and it’s a large enough boat to make the crossing of the sometimes choppy three-mile sound fairly comfortable.
Once at the dock, which is literally steps from the check-in desk, we were greeted by resort staff who promptly escorted us to our rooms. The luggage was delivered a few minutes later. Caneel Bay is arranged on a peninsula on the north side of St. John and is totally surrounded by ocean and beaches on three sides. At night, it is a little difficult to get one’s bearings, as the paved cart paths curve around among the native shrubbery, blocking any direct views of the ocean until you are at your room. Every block of rooms either faces the ocean directly across the beach or is a very short walk to the beach.
Our favorite location on the resort is at Hawksnest Bay, a beautiful crescent-shaped white beach facing the morning sun. The rooms are on either the ground or the second floor, and we have enjoyed both, preferring the upper level because the sound of the surf and the cooler breezes reach the upper rooms a bit more unrestrictedly. Each room has air-conditioning, which is welcome during the hottest months, but rooms also have louvred panels that can be opened to allow the sea breeze to flow through. Though Caneel Bay is a luxury resort, I can not honestly tell you that you will appreciate it as much as a luxury resort in a large city. The atmosphere is part of the resort’s ambience and could be described as more "luxury-rustic." The entire experience is one of living on the beach, yet with clean, comfortable accommodations and great food.
At Caneel Bay, you can participate in as many activities as you want, or you can choose to relax on the beach and do absolutely nothing--and everything in between. We chose to swim and sit on the beach for the most part, but the small port of Cruz Bay, just over the hill, has some neat shops. A sightseeing tour of the six-by-nine-mile island is also a worthwhile endeavor. The resort has seven beaches, each slightly different but all with excellent snorkeling. Hawksnest Beach has wonderful reefs at each end of the beach, and it is possible to swim across to the public beach at Hawksnest Bay, but why do that when you can have the beach pretty much to yourself? Beaches on the west side of the resort face St. Thomas and have complimentary kayaks, as well as sunfish sailboats, for resort guests. The one beach on the north end of the resort, Turtle Beach, faces out across the sound towards other islands, including Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands--just a six mile sail--and offers views of sea turtles, usually in the early mornings. Just offshore, the water deepens and the cold current off the ocean sweeps through, allowing the cooler water closer to shore. It is a common sight to see the island ferries making their way around that point of land on their way to and from Tortola, as well as the other islands in the BVI.
Restaurants and food service at Caneel Bay are expensive. Of course they are. There isn’t a food supplier on the island to send out a semi-truck every couple of days to restock large freezers. Everything on the island must be brought in by boat, and you can bet the freight prices are as high as the market will bear. These local people have to make a living, too, and the cost of living out there on the islands is not cheap. Enjoy the fact that the food is fresh, the service is great, and the people are friendly. I offer that to say that this island is surviving primarily on tourism, and there is no other primary industry on the island, other than building luxury homes on vertical cliff faces. It’s still worth the expense, as far as I am concerned. Bear in mind that, though the Virgin Islands are a U.S. territory and have representation back Stateside, the population does not get to vote in U.S. elections, so they still run their "nation" the best they can.
Our favorite restaurant on the resort is Turtle Bay. That restaurant has the only public air-conditioned room on the peninsula and is recommended, as nighttime temperatures in late April and May can stay as high as 95 degrees, and until June, men are required to wear a jacket for dinner there. The food is excellent. My favorite is the caper-encrusted sea bass, but other items on the menu are equally good. The other two main restaurants on the resort are the Caneel Bay Terrace, which is where the breakfast buffet is served each morning, and The Equator, which is built atop the sugar mill ruins just across from the main office. The Equator is not air-conditioned but sits atop a hill and is open to the sea breezes, making it very comfortable in the evenings. The other food service, and one of our favorites, is the Caneel Beach Bar, where a great hamburger can be had. The beach bar has covered seating on a first-come, first-served basis and is literally steps from the Big Caneel Beach, right next to the dock where the ferry arrives. There is a veranda between the beach bar and the beach, and it has a nicely ventilated second-floor level that overlooks the beach. It's a great place to relax and regroup after a trip to town or when returning from shopping over on St. Thomas.
Our experiences at Caneel Bay run the gamut from sublime indulgence to rustic survival, as it is possible for nearly anything to happen due to the remote location of the island. On one occasion, following a day-long sail to Jost Van Dyke and back, we returned to the resort only to find the water system shut down due to a failed valve at the water reservoir. The problem was repaired, and the water system was back in working order within an hour of our return, and that was about the worst of it. I do recommend, if you have a sensitive digestive system, that you ensure you have a supply of bottled water in the fridge that each room has. The local water is supposed to be purified through a filter system, but it has a definite taste to it.
As a word of warning for those who just can’t pry themselves away from work, Caneel Bay has no phones, clocks, or televisions in the rooms! There is one TV in the Caneel Beach Bar, and phone service is available through the resort office. Cell phones, however, seem to work fairly well on both St. John and St. Thomas, as long as your carrier is AT&T. Obviously, that also means there is no Internet service on the resort. One shop in Cruz Bay offers Internet service priced by the minute, should you just not be able to resist.
Should you be considering a trip to Caneel Bay, I recommend reading up on the history of St. John. Learn about the Indians and the sugar plantations before arriving, and you will have a good idea of how the population became what it is. Over 70% of the island is also national park, and there are hiking trails to explore. It is not, however, like the national parks you may be used to, so plan accordingly. The national park has a web page that tells about everything you’ll need to know. Maps of the island are also available on that web page.
I hope this has given you some insight to the Caneel Bay resort and a little taste of the island life on St. John. I can’t live out there full-time, so I am content to go to the resort and take lots of pictures so I can relive the experiences.