Saturday, July 5, 2014

{Travel}: St. John, USVI

My dad loves planning giant family adventures. He'll research and plan and come up with the best trips - and we all get to benefit. This year's trip to the US Virgin Islands was certainly an amazing trip. The whole family stayed in a villa on St. John (Great Turtle Villa - excellent house, highly recommend). Each day brought a different beach and a different adventure.

We flew into St. Thomas and stayed one night at Blue Beard's Villas - the flight got in later and the ferry/rental car on St. John wouldn't have been open by the time we arrived. The view from Blue Beard was a great first sight:





St. Thomas was fine but nothing compared to the beauty of St. John. Our first view as we approached Cruz Bay on the ferry over was beautiful:



We arrived at our house on Saturday afternoon. The house was ideal for us - four bedrooms, four and a half baths, a two tiered porch with plenty of seating, a full kitchen, and a beautiful pool.




Our view of Coral Bay from the porch at the Great Turtle Villa:



There was one king sized bedroom upstairs and three bedrooms (two queen, one king or twin beds) downstairs. Each bedroom had its own bathroom.


Like I said, the pool was perfect - relaxing with an amazing view.


We hit up the grocery store on the way to our villa. On our family vacations, we love to cook. My dad created a cooking schedule where each couple cooked one night. Up first were Ezra and Chloe with a peanut noodle with chicken dish:


Sunday we went to the Annaberg Sugar Plantation Ruins, which are right on the coast and are a short hike from a parking lot. They are one of many sugar plantation ruins around the island.




View from the ruins:





After walking around Annaberg, we walked about a mile to Leinster Bay and Waterlemon Cay. We had rented snorkel equipment for the whole week from Crabby's (highly recommend) and this was our first time to break out the snorkel. A good spot too - Waterlemon is a turtle nesting ground and known for its sea turtles.


A nice easy hike along the beach on the way to Waterlemon.


 Leinster Bay in the background:


The beach itself is pretty narrow and if you bring food (which we did), you have to watch out for mongooses (apparently the plural of mongoose isn't mongeese...). A group next to us had their bag opened and food taken by a sneaky little mongoose!

Snorkeling was ideal here - we saw several sting rays, including a huge spotted eagle ray that swam right up to us (I was quite startled). We saw two different sea turtles at this beach.



We got home in the late afternoon, just in time to relax and enjoy the view.


The parentals made dinner Sunday night - Thai Basil Chicken.


Monday brought our big sailing trip - we used St. John Sailing Charters (highly recommended on Trip Adviser) and were very pleased. The boat - the Survivan - has a back sitting part big enough for eight. You can also lounge on the front and soak in the sun.


We started the morning snorkeling - we were in a secluded part of an island that President Clinton made a bird sanctuary. We saw a lot of fish and coral on this trip.




After that we sailed to the British Virgin Islands (note - had to have a passport for this part) and checked out Jost Van Dyke's White Bay Beach. The beach there was beautiful - clear water, white fine sand. There were several bars (with some lively patrons). The most famous, Soggy Dollar Bar, is known for its Painkiller drink.



We checked out the Soggy Dollar Bar for lunch. Jake had to try out the Painkiller. He reports that it was quite delicious.


After lunch we swam and hung out on the beach for a bit.


 
Then we got back on the boat for the trip back to St. John. We spent most of the time on the front of the boat, hanging out:


The Survivan was a great experience - they were stocked with beer and alcohol (obviously I didn't imbibe but others did), the crew was knowledgable and friendly, and it made for a fun day trip unlike anything I'd ever done. 


At the end of the day we had to check back into customs and were welcomed back into America:


Something about St. John is that there were wild animals everywhere. It was really neat - chickens would just be wandering around. I spotted this hen with her baby chicks:


That night we ate dinner at Aqua Bistro in Coral Bay. No pictures but highly recommend it. Fresh fish, good non-fish alternatives for the fish averse (like myself). Great atmosphere.

 Tuesday brought a trip to Cinnamon Bay. There are campgrounds here, a little shop, and some ruins right off the beach. This particular beach was a great place to relax and enjoy beach life.





On the way back from Cinnamon Bay we got approached by more wildlife - there were donkeys along the road all over St. John.


Dinner that night was Lydia and Jacob's enchiladas:


Wednesday we went to Salt Pond Bay for some snorkeling and hiking.


We started out with snorkeling, which was fine but not the best we had. After a bit we walked a short way over to the namesake Salt Pond. This interior pond is known for its sea salt that gathers on the edges. According to our guide book, you can scoop it up, dry it out, and cook with it. It was pretty full of swarming insects so we decided against that...



From Salt Pond we followed the trail along to Drunk Bay. It was an easy, pretty walk with vegetation very different than the other parts of the island. 


Drunk Bay is a beautiful place to beach comb but you cannot swim - the tides are too dangerous. It was very different than the other beaches we went to that week. Here's Jake with some dried brain coral:


After eating some lunch, we started on our big hike of the afternoon - taking Ram's Head Trail to Blue Cobblestone Beach. The hike was more strenuous than the others we had taken so far - I would certainly recommend taking water. It included some steep elevation hiking along the shoreline but was quite beautiful.



Blue Cobblestone Beach is a - get this - cobblestone beach with stones that appear blue. The snorkeling was good (but strong currents) to the right side of the beach along the edge of the cliffs. Because of the hike, this beach was very quiet - we were the only people there when we went.





A view of Salt Pond Bay on the hike back -


The night we made dinner - various pizzas and salad:


Thursday the guys went fishing and the girls hung out, mostly reading, relaxing, and hanging in the pool:



In the afternoon we went into Cruz Bay and checked out the St. John Brewery in Mongoose Junction:


Friday we went on a ranger-guided hike called L'Esperance. The 3 mile hike is billed as "mostly downhill" but know that there was definitely some uphill parts too. Overall it was a moderate hike. It took quite a lot of time to complete because the ranger stopped and narrated a lot of the hike, which made for quite an educational experience. A lot of people go on the popular Reef Bay Trail but it books quickly so if you go to St. John and want to do a ranger hike, book in advance. 

There were lots of Danish sugar plantation ruins to explore along the way:



We saw a famous Jumbie Tree along the trail - a big part of the USVI culture:


The hike ends on a beautiful beach where the park rangers pick you up in a boat and take you back to the ranger station:


After the hike we drove over to Maho Bay for one last beach visit. On the way we snapped a picture of Trunk Bay from the road overlook:


Maho Bay was by far my favorite beach. There was a lot of sand, the water was beautiful, and we saw three different sea turtles when we snorkeled. Also you can park right off the road and the beach is right there (most beaches require a long walk from the parking lot). I highly recommend it.




After a perfect last day at the beach, we went back to the villa to get ready for our last dinner on the island.




We went to Shipwreck Landing for dinner - another perfect dining experience.





Saturday brought packing and goodbyes to St. John before dropping off the rental cars (Conrad Sutton Car Rental - we had a fine experience but this car rental has some bad reviews on Trip Advisor...).

We said goodbye to Majestic Mile and Great Turtle Villa, we said goodbye to the donkeys and chickens, and boarded the ferry to St. Thomas.



One note about St. John that surprised me - if we had only stayed on St. John, I wouldn't have thought a passport would be necessary because it is in the United States. We brought ours but when I called to ask Delta about passports, they specifically said we'd be fine and wouldn't need one unless we went out of the USVI. When we got to the St. Thomas airport, they made everyone go through customs before entering the terminals. I am not sure what you do if you don't have a passport.... so just in case, I'd bring one.

All in all, it was the perfect family vacation. I'm grateful for parents who value travel and experiences and glad that I am able to enjoy time with my family.

In beaches and snorkeling,


post signature

No comments:

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
 
Site Design By Designer Blogs