The Beaches, Botany and Beaten Paths of St. John (U.S. Virgin Islands)
Posted by E.G.D. on May 7, 2012
Today’s Featured Writer: Lori Hughes:
The smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, St. John is a secluded paradise of untouched beaches, hiking trails and beautiful botanical gardens. The Virgin Islands National Park consists of thousands of acres both above and below the sea’s sapphire surface, making St. John a true nature retreat and the perfect place to get away from it all. Campgrounds, eco-lodges, small inns and luxury resorts appeal to many levels of landscape lover.
Hitting the Beaten Paths
Hiking, biking, bird-watching and horseback riding are just a few of the ways to experience the nature of St. John. The Reef Bay Trail and Petroglyphs is the most popular trail in the National Park. The well-kept trail begins on Centerline Road and takes hikers through a tropical forest setting of stone stairways, lush vegetation and mango trees. Hike past the remains of sugar plantations and ancient petroglyph rock carvings.
Dating back to 1780, the Annaberg Sugar Plantation once produced sugar, molasses and rum. Today, hikers can see the ruins of an old windmill and view demonstrations on gardening, bread making and basket weaving.
Botanical Gardens and Butterflies
As visitors navigate the 18-hole miniature golf course at Pastory Gardens, they can take in botanical gardens filled with tropical flowers, banana trees, small streams and waterfalls. A butterfly conservatory offers a peek at the many varieties of St. John’s winged wildlife. The restaurant serves lunch, dinner and a late-night menu. Sit back with a tall fruity drink and enjoy the sunset views of Pillsbury Sound.
The sandy strands of St. John border beautiful blue-green water in shades of turquoise, teal and cobalt. Cinnamon Bay is a great beach for snorkeling, windsurfing and kayaking, as well as hiking the Cinnamon Bay trail. Located next to a campground, this beach offers the amenities of lockers, restrooms, showers, picnic tables and barbecue grills. Leinster Bay, next to the Annaberg Ruins, is quiet and popular with boaters and snorkelers for its array of turtles, starfish and stingrays.
The most famous snorkeling site in the Virgin Islands is found at Trunk Bay. Perfect for beginner and experienced snorkelers, soft white sand leads the way to an underwater trail marked with descriptive plaques to identify the coral and marine life found in the area, which includes turtles, stingrays and tropical fish.
Cruz Bay is the main port and site of ferry service to St. Thomas and the British Virgin Islands. There are galleries, a museum, cafés and beach bars to while away the hours. Decked out in Caribbean colors with flowing tropical vines and flowers, this beachfront shopping area offers jewelry, beach gifts, tropical apparel, local handicrafts, spices, tea and island art.