St. John is the perfect remedy to cure winter’s doldrums. This gem of the Caribbean is simply spectacular and truly tranquil
St. John, the smallest of the developed US Virgin Islands, is less than 20 square miles. Because there are no airports on St. John, the only access is by boat. The scenic 20-minute ferry ride from St. Thomas gives a mere glimpse of what to expect of this perfect vacation setting: crystal blue waters, pristine beaches, temperate climate, and lush scenery.
The island offers a wide array of watersports, including swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, fishing, parasailing, windsurfing, and boating.
Island hopping is a breeze as the nearby British Virgin Islands of Tortolla, Virgin Gorda, and Jost Van Dyke are accessible by charter boats and ferries.
We stayed at the Westin Resort in Cruz Bay and took day trips to explore the island. We visited several of the island’s 30 plus beaches. Our favorite was Trunk Bay. Renowned for its beauty, it is consistently voted as one of the 10 best beaches in the world, and is famous for its underwater snorkeling trail where submerged signs provide a wealth of interesting information.
The “no vacancy” signs at the Cinnamon Bay Campgrounds confirmed the popularity of this outdoorsy option. Eco-friendly cottages, cabin tents, and baresites provide a range of affordable alternatives. The restaurant, general store, and beach shop make for a “glamping” experience.
We learned about the island’s once active sugar production by touring Annaberg Plantation, which is now left in ruins. The windmill built in the early 1800s was a big draw for us and other travelers.
While relaxing on the beach I saw what I thought was a mongoose. I perked up and watched the curious animal speeding around the resort’s manicured landscape. I turned to nearby vacationers and asked if they saw it too. No one did. From the expressions on their faces I surmised what they thought ”A mongoose? Have another cocktail lady!”
My husband Steve, an avid hiker, took full advantage of the Virgin Islands National Park and its 20 miles of hiking trails. The Leinster Bay Trail brought him past swamps and coral inlets. He also trekked the very popular hike along The Reef Bay Trail. Despite all the flora and fauna, there wasn’t a mongoose to be seen.
The National Park Visitor Center provided an array of information on the island. It was there that I learned that I did see a mongoose and that the island’s popular shopping and dining area was named after this elongated squirrel-like critter.
The park ranger provided the history of the mongoose in St. John, which demonstrates man’s interference with the natural order of things. They were brought from India to control the rodents who arrived on ships from Europe and Africa.
After spending time in the visitor center, we crossed the street and shopped at Mongoose Junction. We had a “Mexibbean” lunch at Margarita Phil’s. This super-casual restaurant reminded me of the Mexican specialties found in Cancun and Old Town, San Diego.
We then walked to Wharfside Village – the island’s other popular shopping, dining, and watersports area.
Time passes quickly strolling St. John’s quaint and unique boutiques.
We enjoyed hand-crafted cocktails, award winning cuisine, and a stunning sunset view at Zozo’s at the Sugar Mill, Caneel Bay Resort. Gallows Point Resort restaurant was equally impressive.
We ate Asian-fusion cuisine atop Caneel Hill as we talked about restaurant’s name, meaning, and motto. Asolare…the purposeless, leisurely and agreeable passing of time.
On the last day of our trip we set sail for a sunset cruise on “Island Spirit” a 60-foot catamaran. As we left the dock, Captain Richard pointed out the sailboat that he lives on that was anchored in the marina.
I was captivated by his tale of quitting his executive job in corporate America to sail the world and drop anchor in St. John. He was an even better version of the guy featured Billy Joel’s song “My Life.”
As I viewed the scenic splendor I contemplated Captain Richard’s commute and job.
Waking up on his sailboat. Taking a dinghy to his employer’s catamaran. Doing what he loves day in, day out. Taking a dinghy back to his sailboat to retire for the night. Repeat.
I admired Richard for choosing to live His Life, his way. I did wonder, however, what he did on his day off.
When Captain Richard asked the passengers onboard if anyone wanted to learn how to sail, I was the only one to seize the opportunity. I took the wheel and did exactly as he instructed while listening to Christopher Cross’ song “Sailing” resonate from the boat’s speakers.
As instructed, I kept Tortolla as my target and steered and adjusted the sails to take the best advantage of the changing winds and currents. Captain Richard asked the wining and dining passengers if they were happy with me at the helm. Once given the thumbs up, I sailed into the sunset.
On our last night we ate at our resort’s restaurant Cruz Bay Prime. As a rule, my husband and I don’t discuss work while on vacation as it defeats the purpose. I was given a pass as I talked about sailing the 60-foot catamaran and how it was a metaphor for business, leadership, and my career. I was inspired.
A trip to St. John is a must if you’re seeking a true escape. And perhaps, like Captain Richard, you may never go home.