For this trip, we flew out on an early flight from Detroit to Philadelphia with Ann, Aaron, and Aaron’s friend Matt who was a first time flyer.
It’s always cool to watch a kids face when they experience flight for the first time. Seems like it always brings back great memories and as with most people, once you fly through the clouds, you never look at them the same way again.
After a short layover in Philadelphia, we were on our way to St. Thomas.
Upon arrival in St. Thomas we collected our bags and immediately had a taxi hailed for us. Cost for the taxi ride to the St. Thomas Red Hook ferry to St. John was 15 dollars per person.
The Red Hook ferry departs every hour, on the hour and the cost per adult is 6 dollars. Bags are at a small, extra charge. The ride across the bay to St. John doesn’t take long at all and arrival at the Cruz Bay boat dock immediately gives you a much different feeling than St. Thomas.
Because 75 percent of the island is a national park, thanks to the donation of land from the Rockefeller Family, you wont see any high rises or other things associated with bigger, developed islands. Certain parts of St. John have a Key West feel to many of the streets & restaurants. In the town square, you will find long time residents trading stories with visitors in a way that instantly gives you a very invited, laid back welcoming feeling.
We were also greeted by Michelle from the villa management company. Michelle escorted me to St. John Car Rentals – http://www.stjohncarrental.com/ just a block away where I picked up our 4 door Jeep Wrangler for the week. Cynthia Dupigny manages St. John Car Rentals like a champ and she always has a great, welcoming smile on her face.
St. John Car Rentals has brand new vehicles all of which, are in great shape and they are a wonderful place to rent a car from. Because parking is at a premium in downtown Cruz Bay, you will have to pay to park. With St. John Car Rentals, you can park for free at their lot. St. John is also one of those places where you would want to rent a car. With so many beautiful beaches, it would be a shame not to explore them. We had a 4 door Jeep for the week and we were very pleased with it.
Another nice point that Michelle took care of, was to escort us to Villa Maria. Finding it on our own would have been difficult to say the least so that was very helpful.
Check in was seamless and we couldn’t have been happier. Once on property, Michelle did a great job showing us the villa and she covered several items that normally, a person would be on their own to figure out so we really appreciated her assistance. One tip from us, look in the cabinet above the microwave !
Meredith from St. John Provisions also had everything we asked for placed in Villa Maria as well. Many thanks to Meredith and her team too.
Villa Maria is a 3 bedroom (2 king and one double twin rooms) multi level villa overlooking Great Cruz Bay. From the decks of the villa we had a wonderful view of the bay and St. Thomas. You have a full kitchen, and all the modern conveniences one would need.
One of the best features is the outdoor pool with its own outdoor bar complete with bar seating, a sink, refrigerator, and a bathroom to use while poolside. With all of the foliage surrounding the pool, there is also ample privacy for those who seek it. One of the bedrooms sits off on its own, perched above the pool. With the front slider curtains open, you have a wonderful view of Great Cruz Bay to wake up to.
There is also a separate seating area with coffee table inside the master bedroom. The bathroom is also very large with double sinks and a walk in shower built for 6! not that you would need 6 in a shower but that’s the size of it!! Every room has its own private deck area as well to enjoy quiet reflection, reading, wine drinking or anything else you could want to do. Villa Maria also has a whole house stereo system with iPod hookups so you can enjoy your favorite music, poolside or deckside, your choice!! Tiki lights also line the pool area for night swims.
As sunsets go, I don’t think there are many better places to watch it. At the beginning of the bay also sits the Westin Resort. Boaters from far & wide tend to like spending time in Great Cruz Bay as well because of the protection it offers. Time seems to slow down and hang in the balance down here and its easy to see why people enjoy St. John so much.
We decided to check out the beaches along the coast. The views of Trunk Bay were spectacular, but we continued on and we ended up at Cinnamon Bay for the day.
Cinnamon Bay – This is a great beach with some of the softest sand on the island. We spent the day watching the sailboats move in and out while snorkeling in some of the clearest water down here. Cinnamon Bay also has shower facilities along with a full service restaurant & bar, washroom facilities and a small gift shop.
Coral Bay & Skinny Legs Bar & Grill – another must do while visiting St. John, is a trip over to Coral Bay and the world famous Skinny Legs Bar & Grill. From Cruz Bay, the 8 mile drive will take 45 minutes to an hour because of the twisting turning up and down the mountain drive. If you needed further proof of the benefits of a 4 wheel drive vehicle, this will convince you. But the view is spectacular and there are several spots to pull over and take pictures of the beautiful shoreline vistas.
Skinny Legs is another one of those places on the island that has a rich history. Originally started by the original Skinny Legs owners, Doug “Dougie’ Sica of New Jersey and Maurice “Moe” Chabuz of Massachusetts, opened the bar in May 1991 when there were only a few homes on the Coral Bay hillsides and a handful of boats in the harbor.
Moe and Dougie were best friends who worked at the famous Back Yard Bar in Cruz Bay together in the 1980s. With little more than their bartending and schmoozing expertise, the two took over what had been known before as Red Beards.
The bar was eventually purchased by Doug Bean and his wife Jaime Elliott, who bought the business on April Fool’s Day 2012 after a visit down to the island. That seems to be a common theme down here. For those who dream of running away to a island and to live and work the rest of your life in the sun, it all comes down to timing and opportunity. Very nicely done Doug!!
Skinny Legs is located on the quiet side of a quiet island and titles itself as “a pretty ok place”.
Angels Rest Floating Bar
Another one of our favorite stops, was a beach down past Coral Bay near Hanson Bay or sometimes known as Vie’s Beach. Captain Peter mans the wheelhouse of Angels Rest, a floating pontoon bar of his own creation. Time and lots of effort went into the creation of Angels Rest and Captain Peter……..is one of the nicest, no stress, laid back guys you will meet down on the island. All the drinks are 5 dollars and his Rum Punch is quite tasty.
We had a great time on our afternoon down with Captain Peter listening to stories about the island and how he built his one of a kind party-barge and is living life on his terms – Something many of us only dream about!! Thanks for taking great care of us Peter – we will be back to see you soon!!
Shopping – several great shops call Cruz Bay home, but one of our favorites is run by a nice lady way up in the hills. Tutu as she is known by has a great selection of handcrafted, local jewelry and has a great selection of the St. John Vibe necklaces & rings.
Woody’s Seafood Saloon – located street-side, this bar/restaurant serves up some of the best seafood platters in the area. We found ourselves there a few times during this trip down. Woody’s is another one of those small dive bars with tons of personality. According to locals we spoke with, Woody’s is one of Kenny Chesney’s favorite spots when he visits the island.
Other favorites were High Tide with its waterfront dining on Cruz Bay at its finest and just a few steps farther is Joes Rum Hut.
Bad Kitty – one of our most memorable parts of the trip, was a day sail on the Bad Kitty – http://www.calypsovi.com/bad_kitty.html – The Bad Kiity is a twin 225 HP Catamaran with an upper deck area. Awesome Captain & crew on the Bad Kitty – cant say enough good things about them.
Another stop along the way was a trip to Virgin Gorda and the Baths.
At The Baths, the beach shows evidence of the island’s volcanic origins, which deposited granite that eroded into piles of boulders on the beach. The boulders form natural tidal pools, tunnels, arches and scenic grottoes that are open to the sea. The largest boulders are about 40 feet long. These large rock formations line the baths and visitors can crawl through the natural voids.
Cooper Island – Lunch – Cooper Island is a eco resort situated on a great stretch of beach in the British Virgin Islands. Food here is excellent and well presented.
Snorkeling at the Caves & the Indians – this area is normally overlooked as a snorkeling area because of the waves. but on our day to the area, the water was calm & flat. tons of fish in all shapes & sizes call this area home & we even encountered a moray eel swimming in and out of the small outcroppings about 20 feet down.
White Bay, Jost Van Dyke – Hands down, the best beach we visited on our trip was White Bay. home to world famous beach bars such as One Love, the home of the Bushwhacker and The Soggy Dollar Bar, home of the Painkiller. Several boaters make day trips to White Bay and others stay the night – probably because of too many Painkillers!!
Sandy floors and ceiling fans along with flags & patches from visitors past decorate this open air bar and from all appearances, its the place to gather year-round. Mic, or Old-Timer as some call him works the bar like a champ and he never misses a beat all while keeping a mile-wide smile on his face.
The party starts in the bar and spills out onto the beach & up in the boats, sailboats and catamarans lining White Bay. One of the biggest parties of the year happens on New Years Eve when the island whose population is just under 300 swells to well over 15,000 people with craziness happening at every turn.
Trunk Bay – Probably one of the most developed beach areas on the island. Trunk Bay has a great beachfront, awesome views of the neighboring islands, and a Snorkeling Trail complete with underwater trail markers.
Last but not least, is Maho Bay. This is a very unique beach because of its status as a Turtle nesting ground. During August, countless turtles travel back to their birth site to start the process all over again. Snorkelers reported several large Sea Turtles & Sting Rays.
What a great trip it was and we are already planning a return visit.