A day trip from St. Thomas to the nearby island of St. John is usually undertaken from Red Hook, the main ferry terminal for inter-island trips. Red Hook is located on the East End of St. Thomas. Parking is available at the dock or across the street for $10 a day. The ferry runs every 30 minutes until 9 am and then on the hour for the rest of the day. The twenty-minute crossing costs $6 per person and $2.50 a bag if you are bringing luggage.
St. John is the smallest of the three US Virgin Islands, and two-thirds of its 9 miles make up the Virgin Islands National Park. There are no tall buildings, no cruise ships and much less commercialization, excluding the tourist area right around Cruz Bay. A dream for nature, beach and water lovers, St. John really focuses on its hiking trails, hidden beaches and general vibe of relaxed enjoyment. It markets itself as a true escape.
Once landing in Cruz Bay on St John you will either need to rent a car or jump in a safari taxi to get to one of the beaches. We asked around about cars so we could have more flexibility but the three companies we visited were sold out. For reference, we asked the last one about how much the daily rate was and she told us they started at $75. St John is only nine miles long so how much driving could you do? There are set prices to each beach depending on the distance from Cruz Bay so no worries about negotiating, but it is still wise to confirm the price before setting off in one of the safari taxis. The taxis also offer a ’round the island tour that lasts 2-3 hours from what we gathered.
We opted to head to the ever popular Trunk Bay. Touted as the best snorkeling beach on the island it did not disappoint. With fine white sand and clear blue waters this was truly a spectacular beach. There is an underwater trail with signage to let you know what you are looking at underneath the water. Some are about fish you might be seeing. Others describe the coral.The snorkel trail is kind of fun, though for divers and experienced snorkelers, the area to explore is rather small and inevitably crowded. This is THE beach touted in all of St. John’s tourist guides. Entrance fee is $4 per person for the park. There is a small shop, shower facilities and a snack bar with expensive snacks.
Later we walked up the steep and winding road to the next bay over named Cinnamon. It’s not as crowded as Trunk Bay, and geared more toward the campers staying there. Right at the edge of the beach is a small structure with artifacts and history of the area. When we were there some university students were inside studying and having a discussion with what looked like their professor.
Back at the entrance are showers and changing facilities/bathroom. On the other side, in a shaded area is a restaurant and check-in for the campground. The restaurant, like most beach snack shacks is basic and overpriced, but we had a decent fish sandwich there. There is also a small convenience store with basic food, water, beer, sunscreen, etc., and another shack where you can rent equipment (for snorkeling and such).
The beach is long enough to seem less crowded than others we visited. The views are spectacular, lots of blue hues and a look at the surrounding islets. There are some areas to catch some shade, especially at the two ends of the beach. Very relaxing!
After lazing in the sun and cooling off in the calm waters we jumped in a safari taxi back to Cruz Bay. We read about a small restaurant with some killer local food and friendly staff to match. One of the best meals of our trip, the catch of the day (King Fish) was grilled to perfection and the creole sauce was super yummy. Check out our review of Sogo’s on Yelp.
While waiting on the next ferry we enjoyed a beer on the beach watching the sunset over St Thomas. On the sail back to St Thomas the captain turned out all the lights except those essential for navigation and we were able to enjoy the stars.