One of the questions we get asked often is about our favorite St. John hikes. With 2/3 of St. John lying inside the Virgin Islands National Park, there are miles and miles of amazing trails offering spectacular views. And many of them end at a world-class beach. So there are tons of fantastic options when it comes to hiking on St. John.
But today we want to tell you about a favorite hike on the neighboring island of Jost Van Dyke. Jost is in the British Virgin Islands, lying just across the Sir Francis Drake Channel from St. John’s north shore. If you think St. John is an idyllic island paradise, which of course it is, Jost is a place where even those living on St. John can get away from it all.
Getting to Jost Van Dyke from St. John is pretty easy. The most economical option for a day trip to Jost is to take the Inter Island Boat Services ferry, which leaves from the Creek on St. John Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 8am, returning at 4pm. The round trip cost per adult is $130, including all the taxes and fees to clear customs. Things change, so best to check their website for current schedule and cost.
Jost Van Dyke Hiking Guide:
Ok, now for the hike details. When you reach Jost, walk along the road to the right through the settlement at Great Harbor. It’s a super cool little place — you’ll see an old church and a few bars, restaurants and shops. The last establishment on the strip is the world famous Foxy’s. After Foxy’s you just hike on the road along the south side of the island for approximately 2.5 miles and then turn sharply left. The pavement soon ends as you hike the dirt and gravel road over the spine of JVD. You probably won’t see any people for a while, just goats and maybe horses. Some of the views are out of this world, especially back towards St. John.
When you reach a point above Great Harbor, there’s a short cut that will take you back down in case you’ve had enough by then (shown in yellow on the map). But you really want to continue on to Soggy Dollar Bar. At the end, just walk toward the water and you’ll find paradise, complete with ice cold beer and a hammock on the beach! After lunch and a few beers or painkillers, we usually opt for the taxi back to the ferry dock.
This is an incredible hike, but the difficulty level is hard, so it’s only recommended for the very fit and adventurous. Be prepared with sunscreen, hat, food and bring lots of water. A word of caution, there’s almost no shade on the hike and the sun can be quite intense.
So if you’re looking for a new challenge on your next St. John vacation, consider this awesome Jost Van Dyke hike from the ferry dock to Soggy Dollar. It’s a St. John day trip you won’t forget.
For its size, no island in the world has more world-class beaches than St. John. There are a few exquisite stretches of sand on the South Shore and East End, but most are found on St. John’s famed North shore, where each scalloped bay is more picturesque than the next.
Here — exclusively for guests and friends of Island Abodes — is our short guide to St. John beaches. This is just our personal take, but it’s based on many, many (did we say many?) hours at each and every one of these spectacular beaches. We’re sure you have your own favorites and insights. Send us your thoughts and we’ll include in the next update.
This is the closest beach to town, accessible via an easy 15 minute hike starting right behind the Virgin Island National Park offices. Or, drive up the start of Northshore Road, 1/4 mile past Mongoose Junction, park adjacent to the sign marking the start of the National Park, and then hike down. You’ll be rewarded with a very special beach that you might have all to yourself. Good snorkeling on either end of the beach. No facilities.
Honeymoon can be reached by trail from Salomon or down the same trail adjacent to the VINP sign on Northshore Road. This is one of the few St. John beaches that offers concessions, with food & drinks at Binkins on the Beach, water sports rentals (mainly SUPs and kayaks), from VI Eco Tours, a gift shop, and wash rooms. It’s a perfect stretch of white sand that slopes gently into the water. A half or full day here is time well spent indeed.
Although Caneel Bay is home to several amazing beaches, they are pretty much inaccessible after the 2017 hurricanes destroyed the resort. Even before that you had to be a guest to officially access them. If you really want to check them out, one option is to ask your charter boat captain to pull in fairly close so you can swim to shore. You can also book a tour with VI Eco Tours to explore the waters around the resort.
Hawksnest is a dreamy beach is the first one from town with parking right along the shore. While that makes it super convenient, parking can sometimes be at a premium in high season. There’s good snorkeling on either side, and you can wade or swim over to Gibney/Oppenheimer beach to the right.
A couple hundred yards up Northshore Road from Hawksnest, at the end of the white picket fence, are metal gates that spell “Oppenheimer” across the top and lead down to the beach. There’s parking for a few Jeeps on the road side of the gates. This is a beautiful, tranquil little beach with perfect sand. On the right side of the beach as you’re facing the water is a small community center building owned by the VI government. The entire beach is public so you’re free to enjoy all of it, but don’t wander inland as it’s private property beyond the sand.
Just past the Oppenheimer gates you’ll pass Easter Rock on your left and then reach the parking area for Peace Hill. Park there, walk about 20 yards and then veer right down a smaller unmarked trail. In about 10 minutes you’ll be rewarded with an incredible beach that you might have all to yourself. Hike back up to Peace Hill for an unbelievable sunset experience.
Jumbie often gets overlooked on the way to iconic Trunk Bay. But this is a little gem of a beach. There’s parking right on Northshore Road and then a 350 foot easy hike down to the sand. One of the coolest things is the unique sea level view of Trunk Bay.
Unless you stopped at Jumbie, your first glimpse of Trunk Bay will be from the overlook. Stopping for photos is not optional. There’s a $5 per person admission fee. For that you get access to wash rooms, showers, concessions, and sometimes lifeguards. The beach is a short walk from the parking area; when you reach the sand you’ll instantly know why this is consistently named on of the world’s best beaches…it’s simply perfect. Be cautioned that during high season, or any time cruise ships are in port on St. Thomas, the beach can get crowded. If that’s not your thing, visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon (or anytime during offseason) for an otherworldly beach experience.
Located just past Trunk, beyond the Northshore Road switchbacks, is the entrance to the exclusive Peter Bay subdivision. While all the beaches in the USVI are public, there’s no easy way to get to Peter Bay Beach unless you’re a resident or guest. If your heart is set on checking out the sand, which is very nice, one option is to swim or snorkel or paddleboard from Little Cinnamon next door.
Cinnamon Bay used to be known for its campground and cottages that led out to the longest stretch of sand on St. John. Since the 2017 hurricanes only the amazing beach remains. There’s plenty of parking and a short walk to the beach. Head left when you hit the shore and a brief hike will take you to Little Cinnamon, an exceptional small beach that will make you feel like you’ve left the world behind. Or, head down to the right end of Cinnamon in the direction of Maho Bay and explore the rocky outcroppings where you can find your own private oasis. Good snorkeling at this end of the beach. Watch out for blowing sand on windy days.
For many residents and visitors, Maho is a beach lover’s heaven. This is the most protected bay on the North shore, with the calmest waters that gently lap at the shore. This is also where green sea turtles congregate; they’re so accustomed to snorkelers that they will swim right along with you. Be sure not to touch or disturb them. There’s parking at either end. Food and drinks are available at Maho Crossroads, and you can also rent a SUP or kayak. Maho Bay is an experience not to be missed.
Northshore Road jogs inland at the far end of Maho Bay. Keep bearing left for a couple of miles and you’ll reach Francis Bay. It’s a little harder to get to than some others, which means fewer people. The sand is perfect, the water is clear, and the view of the St. John coastline is to die for. No facilities. Good snorkeling on both end of the beach.
Head toward the Annaberg Ruins, park where you can, and start hiking along the shoreline. You can stop anywhere to swim or snorkel or chill, but keep going for 20-30 minutes and you’ll find some nice sand and an easy swim out to Waterlemon Cay. It’s definitely worth snorkeling to this perfect little island and walking around. On the way, you’ll likely see lots of fish, stingrays, turtles, and sea stars. Just be sure to give yourself time to get back to your Jeep before dark. Another way to get here is to park past the Moravian Church in Coral Bay and hike in on the Johnny Horn Trail. It’s a pretty strenuous hike, so be prepared with plenty of water.
Take Centerline Road to Coral Bay, then veer left at the ball field, pass Skinny Legs, and keep on driving for 3 more miles. Easy parking on the road. The sand and pebble beach is right there. Pretty good snorkeling on either side of the bay. The water is typically very calm. This is a sweet spot if you want to get away from everyone else, and you can hike to another beach (North Haulover) without getting back in the Jeep.
Look for the narrow trail across the road from the beach. After maybe 300 feet it opens up to an incredible view of the Sir Francis Drake Channel across to Tortola. The shoreline is rocky and craggily usually with just a trace of sand her and there. The main draw is awesome snorkeling, especially to the left as you’re facing the water. Water shoes are highly recommended. Use caution getting in and out, and avoid completely when seas are rough.
Less than a mile down the road from Haulover you’ll find this delightful spot with soft white sand. It’s become a popular beach hangout for Coral Bay residents and guests, especially on weekends. While there, you’ll definitely want to paddle out to Lime Out, the floating taco bar for a delicious lunch and cold beverages.
This very special spot is the most popular beach on the South shore. To get here, take Centerline Road to Coral Bay, go right at the ball field, than drive 4 miles to just past the entrance to Concordia (now closed). Where the road turns sharply right is the parking area. It’s a 10-15 minute easy/moderate walk down to the beach. Once there you’ll discover a perfect crescent bay with white sand, good snorkeling, and trails to explore the surrounding areas. Insider tip…if the seas are rough on the North shore, head to Salt Pond where it will almost certainly be calm. This is also the start of the Ram Head Trail.
This off-the-beaten-path gem is located 1.5 miles past the Salt Pond parking area. The last stretch is unpaved so the short distance will take 15 minutes. There are actually 2 bays. You reach Great Lameshur first — a long, rocky, crescent beach where access isn’t super easy. Next door is the real charmer, Little Lameshur, with some of the best snorkeling on St. John. The beach offers soft, white sand and the bay is very protected and usually very calm (except when weather is coming out of the South). There are great trails around and cool ruins to explore.
This is really 2 distinct places. There’s one Reef Bay beach at the end of the Reef Bay Trail, accessed mid-island from Centerline Road. The trail is awesome, moderate to strenuous heading down, and quite strenuous going back up. At the bottom there are ruins and an isolated coastline with ever changing sand and rocks. The crystal clear water is incredibly refreshing after the hike. The other Reef Bay (also called Parrot Bay) is accessed from the Reef Bay subdivision beyond Fish Bay, down an easy/moderate trail, about 10 minutes to the water. The trail head can be a bit tricky to find; look for other vehicles parked along the road for no apparent reason. This is an amazing spot with incredible views of St. John’s rugged Southern coast. There’s good coral here and there and a sometimes a surf break that attracts a few surfers. If you like to get off the beaten path, go here and you won’t be disappointed.
This is an awesome pebble beach with sand here and there, located down an easy trail right in the Chocolate Hole neighborhood. There’s pretty good snorkeling in spots, with rock formations, coral, and sea life. The seas can get quite rough when weather is coming from the Southeast. We love the vibe of this usually deserted beach. If you’re staying at Down Yonder Villa or the Garden Suite, it’s a 10-15 minute walk to the trail head and another 10 minutes to the beach. Walk up Southshore Road towards town, take the first left on Chocolate East Road, then the first left on Tamarind Road, keep to the right and you’ll see a small sign for Hart Bay in front of a small parking area.
This is the other walkable beach from Down Yonder Villa or the Garden Suite. Same directions like you’re going to Hart Bay, except don’t turn left on Tamarind Road, keep straight on Chocolate East until you reach the Pond Bay development. There are two public parking areas, the first one is paved and the second one isn’t. The beach is mostly rocky with a little sand here and there, but it’s a great place to walk and explore. There’s surprisingly good snorkeling on either side of the bay, especially near the point.
You’ve booked your St. John rental suite and you’re counting down the days – you’re on your way to come see us here at Island Abodes and you’re undoubtedly excited about your travel to St. John. However, if it’s your first time traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands, then you probably have a few questions about what to expect during your stay with us here. Many people understandably are a little bit uncertain about what the lifestyle and culture is like, which is why we’ve assembled this handy guide for first timers to St. John.
You Won’t Need Your Passport (But You Will Want It!)
If you’re an American citizen, you don’t need your passport to come visit St. John. Because it is a U.S. territory, your goverment issued ID such as a driver’s license or state identification card should work just fine. That said, many people like to carry a passport with them for a couple reasons. For starters, it’s one of the best types of identification and will make getting on and off the island a breeze. And secondly, with the British Virgin Islands just a short jaunt away, including Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke and the Baths on Virgin Gorda, you’ll definitely need your passport if you decide to visit them.
The Currency is the Same
There’s no need to worry about changing your money when you visit St. John. Your dollars are still good here! Of course, it’s probably a good idea to make sure you carry enough cash on you while you’re here. ATM surcharges can add up quickly, and cash is always the preferred method of tips and the only way to pay for things like the taxi.
Be Sure to Drive on the Correct Side of the Road
Here on St. John, we drive on the left side of the road. It’s extremely important to remember this to avoid any unwanted fender benders. Your driver’s license is perfectly fine here, though. Always make sure to buckle up when behind the wheel (this goes for all passengers) to avoid a hefty ticket (and for safety!), and hang up your cell phone when you’re driving. While almost anything goes on St. John, talking and driving is against the law.
Speak the Language of the Locals
The official language of St. John is English, so you shouldn’t expect any communication barriers holding you back when you’re staying with us. However, the English you hear may be spoken with a Caribbean lilt. It’s good form to greet others warmly when out and about. Here’s a fun tip: locals don’t say “good evening.” They actually say “good night” when meeting someone after dark! Be sure to always greet with a “Good Morning”, “Good Afternoon” (after 12noon) or “Good Night” (after the sun has set). If you are unsure, say “Good Day”.
Visiting St. John can be an awesome experience for you and your family, so be sure to arrive with an open mind and a strong sense of adventure. To learn more about what it’s like here, please be sure to check out our FAQs. Or, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for an extended travel guide for St. John built just for you. We look forward to having you stay with us here at Island Abodes!
Think of St. John and you probably conjure up thoughts of swaying palm trees, crystal clear water, exquisite white sand beaches, and leaving behind the crowds and the hustle and bustle. There’s no other place like it – at 19 square miles, 2/3 consisting of the Virgin Islands National Park, perfect year round weather, and more than a dozen of the world’s best beaches – St. John is, to sum it up, an idyllic island paradise. While St. John definitely rewards those with an adventurous spirit, getting here involves just three easy steps.
The first step to starting your St. John vacation is to fly into St. Thomas, airport code STT. There are nonstop flights to St. Thomas from numerous US cities, including New York, Atlanta, Newark, Miami, Philadelphia, Boston, Charlotte, Washington DC, Houston, Chicago and Ft. Lauderdale. Another option is to fly into San Juan (SJU) from the mainland and then take a quick 20-minute hop over to St. Thomas.
After arriving at the St. Thomas airport, the next step to reaching St. John is getting to one of the two ferries. This leg of the trip requires a taxi ride. It is very simple to find a taxi, after you exit the baggage claim area, walk outside and tell them you want to go either to Crown Bay or Red Hook and they taxi dispatcher will tell you what taxi to get into. If you’re going to Crown Bay Marina it’s just a 5-minute ride for around $8-10 per person plus bags. This ferry is highly recommend and leaves twice a day, once at 3:30pm and again at 5:30pm. Or if Red Hook is where you’re headed, it is a 45-minute ride give or take for $20 per person plus bags. The Red Hook ferry leaves on the hour every hour from 7am to 12midnight. For the most part, taxis are the passenger van variety and shared by 10 or 12 travelers. Another option is to arrange a private taxi in advance. We recommend calling or texting Carol at 340-643-5837. This can be a pricey option for one or two people, but if you have a group of four or more, plus luggage, it’s actually pretty cost effective. And it’s a wonderful, personalized experience.
The cruise to St. John is hands down the best part of the trip. The ferry leaves Crown Bay daily at 3:30 and 5:30 and arrives at the “Creek” on St. John, where the Virgin Islands National Park office is located. If you can make the 3:30 or 5:30 departure from Crown Bay, it’s a more relaxed option with more personalized service in our opinion. It’s $20 per person plus bags from Crown Bay. The Red Hook ferry is $8.15 per person plus bags (unless you have a VI driver’s license, in which case it’s only $6). It arrives at the main ferry dock in Cruz Bay, St. John.
So that’s it…fly, ride, cruise…ahhh St. John! Let us know if you need any help getting here or finding the best St. John lodging.
Many publications, over many years, have named St. John as one of the world’s best honeymoon destinations. The reasons are obvious: perfect weather, uncrowded beaches with exquisite white sand, crystal clear waters, miles of hiking trails in the Virgin Islands National Park, and a laid back Caribbean vibe. It’s the perfect recipe for romance and relaxation. Some time spent planning before you check into your St. John honeymoon suite will really pay off. Here are 7 suggestions to help make the most of your St. John honeymoon.
Make Travel Day Easy
Getting married can be a whirlwind – getting to your idyllic island honeymoon shouldn’t be. With no airport on St. John, you’ll need to fly to neighboring St. Thomas and then ferry over. While there are alternatives like going through San Juan, the best bet is to reach St. Thomas from one of the several mainland gateways including Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte, New York, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston or Dallas. Airport code STT.
Once you arrive on St. Thomas you have a choice between a 5-minute taxi ride to Crown Bay followed by a 30 minute ferry trip, or a longer taxi ride (around 45 minutes depending on traffic and stops) to Red Hook and then 15 minutes on the ferry. The Crown Bay ferry departs at 3:30 and 5:30, and the Red Hook ferry departs every hour on the hour. If it works for your flight schedule, the Crown Bay ferry is a more relaxed experience. If Red Hook works better, spring for a private taxi and arrive quicker and with more personal attention. Whichever ferry you take, there’s a bar where you can sip a cold beverage and stare into your sweetheart’s eyes.
Rent a Jeep
While it’s possible to get around St. John via taxi, we highly recommend renting a Jeep. Having your own wheels will give you the freedom to come and go as you please, explore the island, find your own secret beach, or run up to the market for a bottle of bubbly.
Having a plan before you arrive will help to maximize your adventure and relaxation time, and help ensure you don’t miss any “must do” activities. But it’s also smart to stay flexible. Maybe you and your betrothed will find the experience of swimming with sea turtles at Maho Bay so moving that it warrants another day? Or maybe you decide to push off this morning’s hike for a few more hours in your plush king size bed with this view. Whatever you decide, you’re on island time and flexibility is key.
Many Island Abodes guests say that their one “must do” activity is a day on the water. There are some amazing private charter boatsthat can whisk you over to Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke, or to the Caves and Indians at Norman Island, or stay in local St. John waters and visit Pizza Pi or Lime Out for an unforgettable lunch. There are also some awesome group charters that head over to the BVIs daily and offer sunset sails in domestic waters.
There are so many world-class beaches on St. John, it’s really hard to believe. If it’s your first trip, we recommend spending part of a day beach hopping down the north shore. You can start close to town with a nice hike down to Salomon and Honeymoon, then hop back in your Jeep for a drive down to Hawksnest, where you can park just steps from the beach. The next two beaches, Dennis and Jumby, are each down a short trail, but well worth the effort. Then the iconicTrunk Bay (be sure to stop at the overlook for this not-to-be-missed photo op). Continuing down the coast you’ll reach Cinnamon (and Little Cinnamon if you head left when you reach the shore). Then the world-famous Maho Bay, which is the best place anywhere to swim with sea turtles. And finally, Francis Bay is the last beach on the north shore, with amazing views up St. John’s coast and over to St. Thomas in the distance. Remember, since the island is mostly national park, there are no St. John vacation rentals on the beach, so getting to the sand requires a short drive for everyone.
Choose Accommodations Thoughtfully
If there’s ever a time to choose the right accommodations it’s on your honeymoon! Selecting a place with spectacular views, an oh so comfy king size bed, and all kinds of thoughtful touches and amenities, is the only way to go. It should be backed up with tons of stellar reviews from past guests, the kind of place where the owners and staff take your comfort and happiness very personally. You’ll find all this and more at Island Abodes. Whether you book our Honeymoon Suite, or any of our other St. John vacation apartments or villas, you will always find affordable luxury. Let us help make your St. John honeymoon truly epic!