I have a new island crush and its name is St. John.
Crystal clear water of teal, turquoise and azure wash up on white sand beaches and the land rises and falls with plush green hills of untouched forrest . The contrast of colors makes you feel like you’re looking through a low-fi filter. Seventy-five percent of the island is protected National Park with meandering trails of unspoiled beauty. It is much less inhabited and urban than its USVI neighbors St. Thomas and St. Croix, and Cruz Bay itself is a cute, low key village with incredible dining and cute boutiques. A three mile coral reef is right off many of the beaches offering incredible snorkeling . The people are friendly, everyone always has a smile and salutation to offer as you pass. There is something about this place that is incredibly special, you’ll feel it the moment you set foot on the island. I know I will without a doubt return, the real question is, next time, will I leave?!?
Where to Stay: Estate Lindholm (Estatelindholm.com)
Nestled in the hills overlooking St. John’s Cruz Bay is Estate Lindholm. A 16 room Bed & Breakfast that I wish I could move into, and from the moment you step on the property the owner and staff make you feel right at home.
(Disclaimer: If you’re looking for a luxury resort, sip your pina colada at the pool all day vacation, this is not what you’re looking for.)
We were in the Jumbie Suite, their most requested room. All of the rooms have amazing views and large balconies but I believe this is the best, a sweeping vista of Cruz Bay, the National Park and that’s the island of St. Thomas the sun is setting behind. SWOON.
A continental breakfast is included and while you eat the staff and the owner chat with you about the island, talking about the history and making recommendations. There is a small pool, which we plunged in every day after the beach while raiding the “honor bar”. As the manager Gordon told us the first day, make your drinks as strong as you like, but if you have to be carried to your room you’ll be charged for the bottle! Fair enough.
Solomon and Honeymoon Beach are a 10-15 minute hike down a trail through the National Park. Solomon is much more deserted and serene. Honeymoon has a beach bar, activities, hammocks and snorkeling. I also almost stepped on this “little” guy while in waist deep water!
Where to Eat
North Shore Deli: If you want to quickly grab an egg or lunch sandwich or fill up your cooler for the beach this is a great place, plus it’s open early and close to the ferry.
Cruz Bay Landing: If I had let my husband get his way we would have eaten the shrimp here every day. Happy Hour is half off appetizers.
Asolare: Located right next to Estate Lindholm, tucked away from the busier streets of Cruz Bay, the view is phenomenal and the food is supposed to be as well. I say supposed because in a major choke, we never walked the fifteen feet to eat here! It will be our first dinner upon returning to the island.
Extra Virgin Bistro: The reason we never made it to Asolare is because we had to come here again. Everything here was amazing. From the homemade Portuguese bread to dessert, it was all phenomenal, especially the scallops and fried gnocchi.
Morgan’s Mango: The ambiance is much more of an “island” feel and has a great Caribbean menu. The paella was the best I’ve had since Brazil.
Colombos: If you choose to rent a car this smoothies spot is about midway through the other side of the island, and the added rum is free!
Adventures in BVI
If you’re into seeing natural wonders, the Baths (in Virgin Gorda) is unlike any place on earth- no, seriously, nothing else like it. When the beach comes in sight you see these massive granite boulders, stacked on top of each other in what seems like mysterious ways. Could be aliens. Or it could be the slow cooling of magma and millions of years of erosion. (Or aliens)
The walk through the Baths is incredible. You step, or swim, into “rooms” with tidal pools and hidden grottos you can only get to by squeezing and crouching through granite tunnels and archways. (Side note: the walk through the Baths is a little on the precarious side with uneven and haphazerd wooden stairs and planks, slippery rocks, and the current can be strong especially during high tide and a full moon). Clausterphobics beware, there are some tight spaces. It isn’t rigorous or scary, just be careful.)
You only need about an hour to do the full experience and the rest of Virgin Gorda didn’t look like it had all that much to offer.
Jost Van Dyke
When the boat slowed down to this teeny tiny island in the British Virgin Islands, it was love at first sight. We swam to shore and paid for Painkillers with our soggy dollars at The Soggy Dollar bar, a drink created and perfected there, made of dark rum, cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juice topped with fresh grated Grenadian nutmeg. Magic mushrooms are legal and mixed in everything from tea to ice cream. I know, like this place wasn’t perfect already. I hear their full moon parties are not to be missed; just another reason I am counting down the days ’til we return.
– You fly into St. Thomas (STT), a direct flight from NYC is only 3.5 hours. From there take a shared van ($15 PP) to the Red Hook Ferry (about a half hour in low traffic), the ferry to St. John is $7 PP and 15 minutes.
– Many restaurants and businesses are closed August and September and start reopening in October, but the beaches aren’t too crowded yet and rates are still down until Thanksgiving. April through June are supposed to be optimal times to visit to avoid hurricane and high seasons.
– A passport is not necessary for US citizens, but recommended so you can visit the very close and very beautiful British Virgin Islands. American dollars are accepted currency even in BVI.
– Rent a car for at least a day. You can get a jeep for about $70 in Cruz Bay and explore the island. Be advised, driving is on the left side, but the wheel is also on the left. “Stay left!” is a motto on island. It also gives you the chance to do some grocery shopping for staples.
– The best snorkeling is off of Maho Bay and Watermelon Cay. You can take a cab, but they do get expensive and then you’re at the mercy of having them pick you up, so see above tip.
– Ferries make it very easy to island hop including to BVI, which you can do on your own out of Cruz Bay (view schedule at http://www.stjohnusvi.com/ferry.html), passport IS necessary- A great day excursion is the Bad Kitty Tour which hits 5 different islands in the British Virgin Islands including the famous Baths and Jost Van Dyke’s White Bay. The total cost for the whole day including lunch, drinks and tip came to about $250 PP, it was worth it. (calypsovi.com) Trips do sell out, book in advance. Private charters also available.
– If you have the time, spend a full day on Jost Van Dyke, drink a painkiller from Soggy Dollar Bar and think of me.