As I type this, it is officially our first day back to reality. Oh St. John I miss you! We throughly enjoyed our time on the beautiful Island. This trip has been a long time in the planning and I can’t believe it is already here and gone. I wanted to document our time there to remember and share with others who may be interested in going.
A little back ground.
It was our five year anniversary in January so it seemed like the perfect excuse to go on a trip. Rewind 6 years. I went through a lot of anxiety in college. During that time my Uncle, who lived in Florida, passed away. Our family spent many vacations with him in Florida and we were close. I wanted to go to his funeral. I flew down with my family, but had to fly back alone. I have never been afraid of flying, in fact I actually really enjoyed it. For some reason, that particular time, my anxiety kicked into full gear and I had a panic attack on the plane. Ever since then, even the thought of flying struck panic in me. A mere year later, I was not ready to hop on a plane for a tropical honeymoon. We drove to the Smokey mountains instead. It was a very nice honeymoon, but I always regretted not going somewhere tropical and just going all out like you do on honeymoons :). Since we never took that tropical getaway, we decided we were going to go for it. I had only braved a plane once since my panic attack, but I am sick of anxiety keeping me from doing things I want to do. We booked the trip and didn’t look back.
That is, until I shipped my daughter off to her Grandparents for two weeks! I started rethinking everything! The plan ride, the trip, leaving my baby!! YIKES! We flew out on a Thursday morning and landed in St. Thomas that afternoon. As soon as the wheels touched the ground I was already forgetting about all my worries. It was beautiful! I couldn’t get over the beauty of the water and the Island.
(Our first day on St. John, exploring Cruz Bay)
We booked a VRBO on St. John for the week, but it didn’t start until Friday. We spent one night at the Mafolie in St. Thomas. We thought it would be fun to be on a different island for one night. It was kind of fun, but if I did it again, I would go straight to St. John. In our opinion St. Thomas was not nearly as nice. The motel was nice, but the restruant/bar in it had music playing loudly till the wee hours of the morning. For me it wasn’t a big deal, I sleep through about anything, but Loren is a light sleeper so it wasn’t his favorite. The people on St. Thomas did not seem like they were very friendly. It was a huge difference in attitude from St. Thomas to St. John. St. Thomas also has way more going on. It is packed with people, and the atmoshpere is more about the night life. Which is fine if that is what you like. Loren and I are not partiers, we like nature and being alone so St. Thomas was just not our cup of tea!
(All views from our hotel the Mafolie)
(View from our room)
On Friday morning we checked out of our hotel and took a taxi to the people ferry. We couldn’t wait to get to St. John. Once on St. John we were greeted by the property managers of our VRBO and escorted to the condo. They kindly let us leave our luggage in a room close to the lobby since our check in wasn’t for a couple hours. We explored Cruze Bay and ate some lunch while waiting to check in. We instantly fell in love with St. John. Like I mentioned above, the people were so friendly and helpful and the Island seemed much nicer. We ate lunch at High Tide and enjoyed the breeze and ocean view as we planned our upcoming days. St. John has many beaches and 2/3rds of it is a national park. Since the vast majority of the Island is a national park, the beauty is not hindered by a huge scattering of houses. Just raw natural beauty. Between being tiny, and the majority being a park, it leaves little room for tons of people. We like being secluded so that was awesome! Many times, when we went to the beach in the early morning, or evening we would be the only ones there. During the day there were definitely people there with you, but still not very many in comparision to other places I have been.
(I loved waking up to the beautiful views from our room. We were literally right on the beach. We sat outside on our deck every morning and ate breakfast!)
St. John has so many absolutely beautfiul beaches. We were not able to go to all of them because we kind of got hung up on our favorites! It was so fun to beach hop though. I don’t think we were ever on only one for the whole day. We would hit up a couple each day!
Maho Beach– This beach was probably my favorite. It is hard to pick a favorite on St. John because they are all so beautiful. What we loved about Maho was the abundant shade. As much as I wanted to come back with a big beautiful tan, I also was not in the mood to become a lobster. Maho provided shade so we could pick between sun or shade. The view and sand were also amazing. Maho had nice snorkeling and we saw sting rays, turtles, tarpon, a barracuda, and of course lots of beautiful fish. The coral on the right side around the point was very nice!
Cinnamon Bay– Cinnamon Bay was the biggest beach we were on, both in width and length. The sand was so fine and white and the view was AMAZING! We only visited Cinnamon once and really loved it, but the snorkeling wasn’t that great and there was hardly any shade. Cinnamon did have restrooms, a camping site, and showers. Since we were only on Cinnamon one time I totally forgot to take pictures!
Hawksnest Beach– This was another of our favorites. Again, beautiful view, sand and good snorkeling. There was lots of parking space on this beach, It also had restrooms.
(One evening we were able to watch rain clouds roll in. We got rained on but saw this amazing rainbow!)
Jumbie Bay– This beach was tiny, hardly any parking, and you had to hike to it (A mere 300 feet). The view was very pretty and you could see Trunk Bay from it. The sand was more course, almost like it was broken sea shells and coral. The snorkeling was really good on Jumbie Bay. We went to it in the evening and there was no one else on it. I probably wouldn’t choose to sit and read a book on it over all the other beautiful beaches, but I would go back for the snorkeling. Lots of great coral on Jumbie.
Solomon Beach– This was the first beach we went to. It is about a 30 min hike to get to. This was another of our favorite beaches. Whenever we went, we were never there with more than three people/couples. We loved that. It was secluded and the snorkeling was good here too. There was a lone rooster who roamed this beach. We saw him every-time we went! The sand again was beautiful. The only complaint we had with Solomon was we could see St. Thomas. Which isn’t a huge deal, but the other beaches you looked out to see raw islands without a bunch of houses. St. Thomas is littered with houses so you don’t really get the true nature view. Honeymoon beach was just around the corner from Solomon, we never made it to that beach, but we snorkeled around the point and could see the beach.
(Every single time we visited Solomon we saw our little chicken friend. He must have claimed the beach as his own!!)
Francis Bay– This was the longest drive of the north shore beaches. We only made it there once. It was a nice beach, but when we were snorkeling we kept getting bit by things. It was one of the first days that we explored this beach and after finding some favorites we didn’t go back. It was a nice beach, we just didn’t have the best luck snorkeling. We saw a donkey on the way to this beach. We stopped and I rolled down my window. He stuck his head in and let me pet him. He probably wanted food, but he was out of luck ;).
Leinster Bay/Waterlemon Kay– We never sat on this beach, we went there to snorkel Water Lemon Kay. This was supposed to be the crown jewel of snorkeling on St. John. It did not disappoint. The water was very clear and the coral was amazing. We snorkeled around the tiny island and found the most beautiful sights to be on the backside of the island. We snorkeled it twice and enjoyed both times. There is about a 30 min hike to get to the bay. It is along an old danish road, it was a pretty cool hike. We saw lots of beautiful fish, a nurse shark, turtles, and a lion fish. Lion fish are poisonous and are predators, so we were told if we saw any to report it.
(You can see Waterlemon Kay in the first two pictures, the tiny island off to the right.)
There are so many great trails to hike, but we weren’t able to hike them all. We will just have to do more hiking when we go back!
Reef Bay Trial– This is a 3 mile hike (one way) and it takes you to reef bay and the reef mill ruins. It also takes you past petroglyphs. The reef sugar mill ruins were very neat to see! We checked out the beach but didn’t really hang around since we were in our hiking clothes. There was hardly anyone on it though, and of course it was very pretty! We saw also a huge iguana at the ruins.
Annaburg Ruins– This is hardly a hike. You pretty much walk up a set of stairs and you are there. It was fun to see both reef bay ruins and the annaburg ruins. Annaburg is situated in a very beautiful spot. You just look around and see nothing but ocean and mountains. The view itself it worth seeing! Along with the ruins was a garden with things growing in it that were growing back in the sugar mill days. It was fun to see what kind of things they were able to grow.
Caneal Hill– This is NOT a leisurely hike. We knew it wouldn’t be before we started, but we arn’t afraid of a good challenge. This hike is a 719ft incline in less than 1 mile. There is barely any flat ground on the hike, just a steady incline littered with tree roots and rocks. We had the brilliant idea to leave around 6:15 with the goal to see the sunset. The trail was meant to take 45 minutes to hike, but by then the sun would have already been down. We hurried as fast as we could and made it in around 25 minutes. We were both about half dead and terribly sweaty by the time we made the top. It was an amazing view though! Next time I would want to leave sooner and take my time getting up the mountain to enjoy it more. We pretty much turned around and headed back down to make it before it was dark. Again next time, knowing the hike better I would have stayed the entire time and hiked back down after sunset using a flashlight. It was only the second day and we had tons of nervous energy to burn and things we wanted to do so we didn’t enjoy the view as much as we should have. By the time we got back down the mountain we both said our skin was burning. We were so sweaty!
Unfortunatly those were the only trials we hiked (aside from Solomon bay trail and the Leinster bay trail). Next time I would like to do Ram’s Head and Margraet Hill (which is the same trail as Caneal but goes higher.) We decided we could spend two weeks down there, one hiking and one snorkeling!
These were all taken from overlooks that you could pull off on. One day we pulled off and ate lunch on the overlook!
The roads were really narrow and very steep and curvy at times. The fastest we ever drove was like 35 miles and hour and it felt like we were zooming!!
We saw different animals on our drives :).
Let me just say one word. AMAZING! We really enjoyed the food and restaurants in St. John. First of all most all of them were semi outside. Many of them were half inside/half outside, but not closed off to the outside. There is a constant breeze on the Island keeping you cool. Plus they have fans. I loved eating outside every single night!
The Restaurants we ate at were:
High Tide, The Fish Trap, The Landing, Joe’s Rum Hut, The Lime Inn, Virgin Fire, Morgan’s Mango. We pretty much ate seafood the entire time and loved it. They really know how to cook down there! The food was very expensive since it is all imported. Figure to spend around $20-40 a plate. We normally ordered an appetizer then split a meal. We also packed a carry on bag full of snacks, cereal, and pop tarts. We ate breakfast off of the packed food. We bought some bread, meat and cheese for lunches. I would say if you are watching your budget, pack as much food as you can because things like a bag of Dorritoes and milk are $6.00 in the grocery store! We really only went out to eat for supper, but even that could be cut out if you are not wanting to spend a bunch on food. I just don’t like cooking on vacation :).
I wanted to include this for anyone who many want to go to the Virgin Islands and wonder what the cost would be. That and I wanted to see the final damages to get a better idea for when we go back!
Rental: We stayed at Grande Bay Resort in a studio rented at VRBO. The view was amazing and Grande Bay was so amazingly nice! The building was very nice. It had a pool, exercise room, and parking. They also had complimentary drinks and appetizers for Grande Bay people Monday and Thursday night from 4:30-6:30. I also really loved Grande Bay because you could walk to the restaurants. We did rent a jeep for going to beaches, but if we were to drive it into town you would have had to pay to park. It was nice to be super close to everything going on. We also stayed one night in St. Thomas and one night in Chicago since we flew out early in the morning.
Rental Cost: Grande Bay: $1851.68 Total including taxes, cleaning, and insurance incase we were unable to make it for some reason. Mafolie in St. Thomas: $165.74. Chicago Sleep, Park, Fly: Country Inn and Suites $158.84 (I probably wouldn’t recommend this one, it seemed dirty and gross). Total Rental Costs: $2176.26.
Plane Tickets: $861.52 Plus $50.00 for a checked bag. Total Plane Ticket: $911.52.
Rental Items: We rented a jeep and snoreling gear while on St. John. The jeep total was $480.00 for 5 days and the snorkeling gear was $90.00 (45 each) for the entire week. Total Rental Items: $570.00.
Food: Like I said, we tried to pack as much food as we could but we still ate out and bought some grocery items. Grocery Items: $69.30. ($30.00 of that was some authentic Island Rum, so really we only spent $39 on things like milk, lunch meat and cheese, and some ice cream of course!) Eating Out: $487.38. This included eating at the airport. We also bought about one drink per meal so if you aren’t into that it could be less, or if you drink more, it will be more. Again we usually bought an appetizer for around $15-20 and then a meal for around $20-40. With tip we typically spent about $50-60 a meal. The cool thing is though, they don’t have sales tax on anything! Total food items: $555.68
Taxies and Ferry Fees: $124.00. We only used the taxies on St. Thomas. If you didn’t have baggage it was around $20.00 (for a couple). We had 3 bags so we paid between 26-30 each time. The ferry from Redhook was $26 for two people and three bags.
Grand Total for a trip for two to the Virgin Islands: $4338.46. We are the type of people who pay extra money on our house before we spend fun money. We are currently saving to pay cash for a van, so that number above seems a little frivolous. But it was worth every single penny. We had an amazing time and we view it as an investment in our relationship. As much as I want to go back every year 😉 we won’t be, but we hope to down the road again! It was the best vacation and I don’t regret it one bit!
I absolutely loved every minute of St. John. Going through these pictures makes me want to go back so bad! We have every intention of visiting again in the future!