Virgin Island National Park

St. John is postcard perfect everywhere you look – an idyllic destination of white sand beaches, turquoise waters that lap against the shore in unbelievable shades that will make your heart and soul sing for the simple joy to be alive and bear witness to the splendid beauty that unfolds before you in every direction. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

St. John is the smallest of the three United States Virgin Islands. What makes it a must see destination? The lack of commercialization; almost two-thirds of the entire island is part of the Virgin Islands National Park.

History has often judged the railroad and land barons harshly, but we do owe a debt of gratitude to Laurence Rockefeller; if not for him, St. John likely would not be preserved for all to enjoy today. In 1956 Rockefeller donated land to the Federal Government to establish a National Park. The 5000 acres became the nation’s twenty-ninth National Park. This has left much of the land and beach pristine and unspoiled.

The USVI in general do not have the sophistication and night life of many of the resorts located in Cancun, Jamaica or the Bahamas, the driving is scary with narrow crowded roads, and much of the islands reveals the economic difficulties common with island nations. Yet for shear beauty this destination is near the top of my list. Perfect for a a romantic getaway or a fun beach trip with friends and family with many options that will keep the whole family engaged; this is especially important when planning multi-generational travel. From simply enjoying nature, to grabbing your partner for a shopping marathon (on St. Thomas), a relaxing day at a spa or partaking in Snorkeling St. Thomas &  St. Johns 008world-class scuba diving and snorkeling you will find it all here. Is your idea of the perfect vacation sipping island drinks on a beautiful beach? Or would you rather go kayaking before breakfast and ziplining in the afternoon? The USVI offers up all the activities that will make for a great tropical escape and no passport is required for US citizens.

Ready to plan?

Due to the lack of commercialization there is limited lodging on St. John, however St. Thomas is an easy ferry ride away and offers a vast array of hotels for every budget. If you want to stay on St. John you will have more limited options, but still a variety of price points. Lodging choices run the gambit from Maho Bay Camp an ecotourism development in the National Park (114 units) connected by an extensive network of stairs and boardwalks.

These roomy tent-cottages comprised of translucent fabric on wood frames, screened windows and open air terraces take advantage of the cooling island trade winds which means there is no air conditioning, but you wouldn’t mind. Each has a separate sleeping area with comfortable twin beds and an extra mattress behind the sleeping-couch in the living area. Linens, blankets, towels, cooking and eating utensils are all provided. Restrooms are located in bathhouses scattered among the units. This is an incredibly economical option starting at less than $100 per day (off season). For those looking to the lux side of things I highly recommend Gallows Point Resort on St. John or the Ritz Carlton if you choose to stay on St. Thomas and make St. John a day trip.

St. Thomas

Recommended Eats: Aqua Bistro in Coral Bay.

Must See

The beach at Trunk bay! You will always find it near the top of the lists when the topic is World’s Best Beaches! In addition to a perfect beach, you will also find an underwater marked trail for snorkelers. BEFORE YOU GO SNORKELING AROUND CORAL FOR THE FIRST TIME, PLEASE TALK TO AN EXPERIENCED GUIDE OR SCUBA DIVER AND LEARN WHAT YOU CAN DO SO YOU DON’T DAMAGE THE CORAL.

Getting There

You must first get to St. Thomas which means fling into Cyril E. King Airport, before you can get to St. John. Passenger ferries to St. John depart St. Thomas from Red Hook and from Charlotte Amalie. It’s an easy taxi ride from the airport (STT) to the Red Hook ferry dock, about a half-hour trip. Taxis are plentiful and normally run $12 per person plus baggage fees.

The Red Hook ferry to Cruz Bay St John leaves every hour on the hour from 6:00 a.m. until midnight during high season and takes about 20 minutes. The cost of the ferry is currently $6 per person, plus $2 per large bag (small purses and backpacks that remain with you are free) Time on the islands is not the same as back home; always double check schedules and don’t be surprised if they are running behind.

St. Thomas is one of the busiest cruise ports; if your cruise ship is stopping in St. Thomas, don’t be afraid to venture out on your own and discover St. John. If you need help planning, give Midwest Travel Solutions a call.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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