National Park #26 - US Virgin Islands


Trunk Bay, USVI

It's one of my life goals to visit all 59 US National Parks. When Josh and I were deciding where to celebrate his 40th birthday, he suggested Hawaii or the Caribbean. I am always down to go to Hawaii. It's a relatively short, direct flight from Seattle to Paradise. Selfishly I wanted to head to the Caribbean, specifically to St. John, to check the US Virgin Islands National Park off my list. My fiance obliged.

Plane tickets from Seattle to St. Thomas were dirt cheap. Less than half the price and more than double the distance than Hawaii. Lodging is another story but since we had a Jeep to call home we moved around every few nights.

After landing at Charlotte Amalie we cautiously navigated our way through the streets of St. Thomas towards our Airbnb near Red Hook. We would've walked a mile or two up the crazy steep driveway that was somehow a two lane road had it not been for our Jeep. That's a must if you want to explore the USVIs. We checked into our sweet room and headed down the hill to Iggie's Beach Bar for our first night filled with painkillers (the drink) and fish tacos, barefoot by the ocean.

The next morning we squeezed our Jeep onto a barge, inches away from the wall and a garbage truck that took us over to St. John.

Car barge'n it to St. John.

Once we arrived the small island (most of which makes up the park) we headed straight towards the National Park Visitor Center. We decided to "rough it" for the first few nights and rented a tent at Cinnamon Bay Campground. Next time we'll bring our own so we can sleep near the beach on the sand, which would have been way more comfortable than the tiny cots provided. There are a bunch of hiking trails that start near the campground which take you past old sugar plantations. A great one is a hike up to America Hill off of the Cinnamon Bay Trail which gives awesome views of Maho Bay.

Maho Bay

My favorite hike on the island is Ram's Head. After passing Salt Pond Bay (we dumped most of stuff off on the beach) we hiked up the rocky hill to the point for stunning 360 views.

Ram's Head Point.

Salt Pond Bay on the left, Drunk Bay on the right.

Aside from hiking, every morning we looked at the map and planned out what new beach to visit. Here are some of our favorites (most of them require some kind of short hike):

  • Solomon Bay: a short hike to a secluded beach great for swimming with lots of tiny palm trees to hunker down under
  • Honeymoon Beach: great for swimming
  • Caneel Bay: the dudes at the resort here hooked us up with some SUPs for free
  • Waterlemon Bay: SO MANY SEA TURTLES EATING SEA GRASS! And some sting rays that I pretended to not see
  • Salt Pond Bay: great for swimming and snorkeling
  • Trunk Bay: the perfect beach

Almost every day we wound up swimming at Trunk Bay (even though there's an entrance fee and it's the most crowded beach on the island). It's absolutely incredible and we wanted to snorkel the Underwater Trail (it had been closed for days due to choppy water). There's also a concession stand that serves booze in case you need a painkiller at all times.

From under a palm tree looking at Trunk Bay. Seriously.

Solomon Bay beach.

Do you remember how hungry you get after spending a day at the beach? Why is that? The sun / sand / sometimes swimming combo makes me ravenous. Aside from choosing what beach to explore we also spent a fair amount of time finding the best happy hour, burger and fish tacos. Vacation can be so rough sometimes.

  • The Longboard: amazing happy hour drinks and hummus
  • Aqua Bistro: the best fish sandwich I have ever had (unfortunately the onion rings didn't make our favorites list)
  • Skinny Legs: the only place to get a burger
  • Asolare: amazing view, decent food (great for a 40th birthday dinner)

And no trip to the Virgin Islands would be complete without going sailing. We hopped aboard the Survivan for a day cruise around St.John, filled with just enough snorkeling spots and bottomless beverages. While we were eating lunch in Christmas Bay an older gentleman a few boats away tore his finger off while trying to untangle some rope. Our captain and crew hopped in the dingy and helped him get to the hospital. I thought I blocked out the crazy screams I heard during lunch but as I type this much I'm starting to get nauseous. So moving on, most of the cruise was great. And I found the my new home on Lovango Cay.

Lovango Cay

We left St. John the same way we arrived, car barged it back to St. Thomas and spent the night there before making the journey home. I've never been to the Caribbean and didn't know what to expect. All I can say is that these photos don't do it any justice. And when we're missing the Caribbean vibes we can just walk a few blocks out the door and get the best painkiller (served in a toasted coconut) at Hotel Albatross.