- Coconuts & Plumeria
- Rte 104 - Cruz Bay
- St. John - US Virgin Islands
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The smallest of the 3 U.S. Virgin Islands
St. John is a paradise for nature lovers. Like a green gem set on a sea of blue, this idyllic island of tranquility and outdoor activity shelters many natural treasures. Two-thirds of the island is protected by the Virgin Islands National Park, where hikers and mountain bikers relish the challenge of a trio of volcanic mountains that rise sharply from the sea.
Nature lovers paradise - Magnificent coral gardens surround St. John, while smaller islands are strung like jewels across Pillsbury Sound. Beachcombers and green turtles alike seek out the sugar white sands of some of the most scenic and unspoiled beaches in the world. Snorkelers glide over an underwater trail and swim with spotted eagle rays. Scuba divers can plunge off small islands that dot Pillsbury Sound or explore shipwrecks off the nearby British Virgin Islands.
Calm waters beckon kayakers, while windsurfers anticipate the cooling tradewinds and yachtsmen seek out the protection of picturesque coves. The finest campgrounds in the Caribbean can be found adjacent to luxurious resort accommodations, and private villas and condos, all of which are nestled in tropical splendor.
Island history - St.John has more to offer than just natural beauty. There are restored plantation homes to visit, sugar mill ruins, historic buildings, and the laidback artist colony of Cruz Bay. This village-size town has pastel-colored West Indian architecture, parks, museums, funky bars, interesting restaurants, and unusual one-of-a-kind shops.
Turbulant past - Columbus may have claimed the island for Spain in 1493, but traces of Arawak and Carib Indian Settlements and Rock Picture Drawings can be found on the island. Over the centuries, pirates plied the waters while the Spanish, French, and English fought for control.
Permanent Danish settlers arrived on St. John in 1717. Over 100 plantations grew sugarcane, tobacco, and cotton. Danish wealth grew at the expense of African slaves whose suffering and anguish culminated in the Great Slave Rebellion of 1733.
Emancipation came in 1848, and the island returned to quiet serenity as the former slaves made a new life for themselves on their own small farms. In 1917, the United States purchased St. John and her sister islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix from Denmark for $25 million.
Carnival - The islanders of today are friendly and move at a casual pace. And though the atmosphere may appear laidback, the people have a strong sense of community and are protective of the splendid environment which draws visitors from around the world. Jo-nians (as they are called locally) come to life during their annual carnival. A multitude of events take place from June 18 through July 4, and include boat races, food fairs, and a re-creation of a carnival village. It all culminates in the St. John Carnival Parade on July 4.
Canadian and U.S. citizens need proof of citizenship. UK citizens need a passport and a visa. To visit the nearby British Virgin Islands, a valid passport or birth certificate with a picture ID is required.
Arrive by ferry - There is no airport on St. John! Most people arrive on St. John from the island of St. Thomas, only two miles away, via ferry. It's on the ferryboat that the magic of St. John begins. Gliding past islands that dot Pillsbury Sound, the traveler is reminded of the not-so-distant-past when all visitors to the Caribbean arrived onboard sailing ships that plied these very waters. Time begins to slow and tensions begin to melt away as the incredible beauty of the island fills the horizon and you find yourself pulling up to the dock in Cruz Bay.
Ferry schedule - There are regularly scheduled services between St. Thomas and St. John. There is limited service between Cruz Bay and Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke Island in the British Virgin Islands. Caneel Bay and the Westin on St. John offer additional "luxurious" ferries to and from their properties.
Once you're there - You won't really need a taxi if you just came over for lunch and a quick visit of the town. When getting off the ferry, check the board at the end of the pier. It will have the latest information on travel news or special events posted. A short walk over to the National Park Visitors Center will provide you with a wealth of information on hiking, guided tours, wildlife, beaches, lectures, and park activities.
Taxis are plentiful and meet all ferry arrivals. Though taxi fares are fixed, it is a good idea to negotiate before touring the island. Taxi tours generally run about $35 for 2 hours.
Rental Cars - The best way to explore the steep hills and twisting roads of St. John is by jeep. You can select from several local rental agencies including Hertz and Avis. US and Canadian drivers licenses are valid for up to 90 days. Allow between $50 and $65 per day for car rental. Driving is on the left side of the road.
World-class in every way, St. John offers spectacular settings for every activity from diving, to kayaking and windsurfing and beyond.
While not as glitzy as St. Thomas, Cruz Bay can be lively in her own right. More intimate surroundings mean great places to lime (chat), drink, and be merry. And over the last few years, culinary choices have really opened up on the island.
Though St. John does not hold the treasure trove of shopping that you might find on St. Thomas, there are gems to be mined here. There is no sales tax and US citizens can bring back $1200 worth of goods duty-free per person.
Cruz Bay is where you'll find most of the shops and its hub is Mongoose Junction, a small mall with snack bars and shops that sell everything from t-shirts and souvenirs to jewelry and island clothing.
Throughout Cruz Bay you will find local artwork, handmade jewelry, and books and maps on the Caribbean. So take your time and look around the different stores and shops to find that special island gift.