Beaches, Bars, Ruins, Trails… There’s just so much to see and do on St. John, Virgin Islands!
St. John has more than 30 beautiful beaches – some of which have been named the best in the world – ruins that date back to the 1700s, 22 hiking trails, and dozens of restaurants and bars including the Virgin Islands’ only floating bar. For those of you unfamiliar with St. John, here are some of our favorite spots:
- Solomon and Honeymoon – Solomon and Honeymoon are the two beaches closest to town, and they are separated by a rocky section of land. Both are gorgeous with crystal clear blue water, lined with palm trees and seagrapes, and have stellar views of St. Thomas and the surrounding cays. Honeymoon beach has a snack shack, small gift shop and water sports rentals. We can visit these beaches one of two ways: 1. We can hike in from Cruz Bay (around a mile each way) or we can park at Caneel Bay and walk in. The walk from the Caneel Bay parking lot is about 10 minutes. There is a $20 parking charge at Caneel, although that is waived after spending $20 on property.
- Hawksnest – Hawksnest is one of the island’s most accessible beaches, as there is a parking lot adjacent to it. Hawknest is a bit wavier than the other beaches, has a good amount of sand to lounge on and has great views out to the British Virgin Islands. Hawksnest has a shaded pavilion area with picnic tables, so it’s a great place to stop and have lunch. It has pit toilets, but no running water.
- Trunk Bay – Trunk Bay is consistently ranked as one of the top beaches in the world. Why? Because it is simply breathtaking. At just about a mile long, Trunk Bay is beautiful with its white sand beach and turquoise waters. It’s also the home to St. John’s famous underwater snorkeling trail. Trunk Bay has modern facilities, including toilets, showers and a pretty good snack shack that serves foods and drinks, including adult libations. Trunk Bay is also one of the busiest beaches on St. John, so parking can be scarce at times.
- Maho Bay – Maho is my absolute favorite beach. It’s super calm and I can guarantee that you will see at least one, if not several sea turtles, during your visit. There is ample sun and shade, so it’s a great spot for everyone. Because it is so calm, you can honestly sit in the water for hours. Parking is convenient. It has pit toilets, but no running water.
- Haulover – Haulover is located on the East End of St. John. It’s a beautiful, out of the way beach that attracts only a handful of visitors at a time. Angel’s Rest, the Territory’s only floating bar, is typically found anchored just offshore here.
- Hansen Bay – This is the furthest beach on our list, located all the way out around mile 11 or so on Centerline Road. However, it’s worth the drive. Hansen is a very calm bay with ample amounts of white sand. The beach is sandy, but there is a shaded area just off of the beach. One of the coolest things about Hansen is that the two cousins who own the land along the beach recently set up an honor bar for guests. There is a $5 parking fee when visiting Hansen Bay.
Bars and Restaurants
Let’s be honest, no one knows the bars and restaurant scene on St. John quite like Jenn from News of St. John! Want to check out the Virgin Islands’ only floating bar? We can take you there! A great place to have lunch? Best happy hour spots? We know all of them! And the best part… You never have to worry about driving home after all the fun! Leave that up to us! Here are a few of the most popular spots…
- Angel’s Rest – This is the only floating bar in the entire Virgin Islands. If we’re lucky enough to catch Captain Peter out and about, I can guarantee you’ll have a fantastic time. He tends to hang out on the island’s East End, typically near Haulover. You have to swim out to the boat and then back to shore, so you must be a decent swimmer to visit Angel’s Rest. We do have noodles to help you along the way. All drinks on Angel’s Rest are $5 and only cash is accepted.
- The Beach Bar – This Cruz Bay bar is one of the most happening spots on the island. Located directly on the beach in Cruz Bay, it’s known for its delicious Bushwackers – pretty much an adult chocolate milkshake, but made almost solely of alcohol. It has good food, a great vibe and the views from this quintessential beach bar are unparalleled.
- Joe’s Rum Hut – Also located directly on the beach in Cruz Bay, Joe’s has a great lunch, cold drinks and beautiful views of Cruz Bay. You can choose to sit inside or directly on the beach in one of their very comfortable Adirondack chairs.
- The Tap Room – Want to sample a few brews that were crafted right here on St. John? Then you’ll want to add The Tap Room to your list of spots to visit. It has several beers on tap, a very good lunch and air conditioning, which is hard to come by on St. John. The Tap Room is located in Cruz Bay at Mongoose Junction.
- Skinny Legs – Located over in Coral Bay, Skinny’s is best known for its burgers. This super laid back bar has good food, cold drinks and great waitstaff. There are also a few shops next door for those of you looking to purchase a souvenir or two.
- Indigo Grill – One of the island’s newer restaurants, Indigo tends to be a quieter spot during the day. It has a nice outdoor bar, as well as ample table seating. It has very good pizza and early happy hour specials. Indigo does not open until 2 p.m., so it would be one of your last stops of the day.
- Peace Hill – Years ago, a windmill sat high atop Peace Hill and was powered by the trade winds that constantly rolled over the hillside. The windmill has been partially restored and now offers a beautiful backdrop for photographs. There is also the remnants of the Christ of the Caribbean statue, which once adorned the hill. The statue succumbed to Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. There is a quick, one-tenth of a mile walk up to Peace Hill.
- Catherineberg Ruins – This served as the site of sugar plantation in the 1700s and 1800s before being converted into farm where cattle grazed. There are impressive remnants of an old windmill, as well as a horse mill. This is one of my favorite ruins and it’s great for photo opps. There is parking right at the ruins.
- Annaberg Ruins – Annaberg was the largest sugar mill in the Virgin Islands and by the 1800s, one of the island’s biggest sugar producers. It also produced molasses and rum. Annaberg’s extensive ruins include a windmill tower, factory, slave quarters and other structures associated with sugar production. The ruins at Annaberg are just a short walk from its parking area.
- Lameshur Ruins – These are some of the most remote, but most beautiful ruins on St. John. Located out past Salt Pond on St. John’s South Shore, you have to traverse a somewhat treacherous dirt road riddled with pot holes to reach Lameshur. These old sugar mill ruins are very well preserved, and offer some of the best scenery on island. Parking is available right at the ruins.
There are six separate overlook areas on St. John, five of which can be reached by Jeep. All are great spots to snap a few pics, relax for a bit, or even enjoy a cold drink or snacks.
St. John has 22 hiking trails just waiting to be explored. Because your day with News of St. John: Tours is meant to be fun, we will will only hike the easiest trails on island … you know the ones where you can reward yourself with an ice cold adult beverage once you reach your destination. 🙂 Here are a few of our favorites:
- Peace Hill – This trail is super short at only one-tenth of a mile. Peace Hill is a flat, grassy area perched high above Hawksnest and Denis bays. There are ruins of an old windmill at the top of the trail, which provide a beautiful backdrop for photographs. In addition to Hawksnest and Denis bays, you can also see a portion of the Caneel Bay Resort, the British Virgin Islands and the world famous Trunk Bay.
- Lind Point – The Lind Point Trail is a favorite of mine because it’s pretty easy (it’s only 140 above sea level at its highest point). From this trail, we can check out a great overlook of Cruz Bay (just .4 miles from the start) or continue walking to Soloman and Honeymoon beaches (.75 and 1.1 miles respectively). This trail leads through a cactus scrub, is relatively flat and has a decent amount of shade.
- Ram Head – This is, by far, my favorite hike on the island, however it is a bit challenging. The hike out to Ram Head starts at the Salt Pond parking lot and continues down past Salt Pond bay. From there it meanders through a wooded area before coming out to Blue Cobblestone beach. From there, you will have a steep climb with little to no shade before ending out on the point which is 200 feet above sea level. A one mile hike doesn’t sound too difficult, but the hike out to Ram Head is steep at points, very sunny and hot, so you will need to wear sneakers, sunscreen, a hat or sunglasses, and carry plenty of water. The payoff is worth it though as the views atop Ram Head are some of the most gorgeous on island. On a clear day, you can see St. Croix to the South, all the way to Virgin Gorda to the East and St. Thomas and Puerto Rico to the West. (We advise only hiking Ram Head during the winter months due to intense heat and sun exposure.)
Other Places of Interest
- Caneel Bay – This is the premier resort on St. John and it welcomes day guests. Located on a 170-acre peninsula, Caneel Bay was once owned by Laurence Rockefeller. Mr. Rockefeller donated the majority of the land to St. John’s National Park, so we have a lot to thank him for. We can grab a bite to eat, have a few drinks (you, not me of course!), indulge in some gelato at resort’s gelateria or check out its gift shop. There is a $20 parking charge at Caneel, although that is waived after spending $20 on property.
- Mongoose Junction – One of two shopping areas on the island, Mongoose Junction is the premier shopping and dining destination in Cruz Bay. With 18 shops and seven restaurants, you can search for souvenirs, indulge in some homemade ice cream or perhaps sample a few beers at The Tap Room which are created right here on St. John.
- Wharfside Village – Located right on the water in Cruz Bay, Wharfside Village is the home to an array of shops and restaurants. Its beachside restaurants are know for great food, even better views and some of the best happy hours on island.