Visiting the Virgin Islands National Park St. John
The National Park Service is celebrating their 100-year anniversary in August 2016, and one of their more unique parks is Virgin Islands National Park St. John. The adventure begins in just getting to the park, and continues with outdoor activities both on land and sea. From enjoying the scenery at the resort to hiking through historic ruins, this national park has something for everyone.
Virgin Islands National Park is located on the island of St. John, and covers 7,259 acres, which is more than half of the island’s total land mass. The island does not have an airport, which makes arriving at the park a bit tricky. The easiest way to visit is to fly to St. Thomas Cyril E. King Airport (code STT) and then either rent a car or take a taxi to Redhook, on the west end of St. Thomas. From there visitors can take a barge or a ferry to St. John. The Visitor’s Center is a short walk from the ferry terminal. Lodging and camping are available directly in the National Park, turning the park into a welcome vacation destination.
- Hours of operation:
- 8:00AM to 4:30PM daily
- Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas
- Ticket prices:
- Day pass is $5
- There are also ticket options for:
- Mooring and overnight stays
- Season or annual passes
- Family passes
- Summer: Light winds, semi-frequent rain
- Winter: Stronger winds, less-frequent rain
As a national park, this location has a variety of activities available both on land and sea. The largest land activity, and the most popular, is hiking. There are twenty trails to choose from, several of which include historic ruins. Trails vary in complexity and length. The most notable trails include Reef Bay and Cinnamon Bay, which showcase the history of the island.
Park Ranger guides are available for some of the more difficult trails, like Reef Bay Trail, to both assist in seeing the sites, like Petroglyphs, and ensuring that the trip is completed safely. Visitors looking to hike are reminded to bring sturdy shoes, sunscreen, and water during their treks.
Hiking Trails include:
- Reef Bay Trail
- Lind Point
- Cinnamon Bay
- Francis Bay
- Salt Pond
The local beaches are also a large draw on the island. As part of the national park, visitors can enjoy the landscape while catching some sun on the sandy shoreline. There is no shortage of typical beach activities for all ages, from swimming to snorkeling, sailing, and even scuba diving. The resort has beachfront, as does the campground, which allows all visitors access and enough beaches to go around.
Beach activities include:
- Scuba diving
- Boating and fishing: interactive map provided online
- Tours available include: boating, sailing, snorkeling, and island safari
The main campground for those visitors who wish to visit the National Park is Cinnamon Bay campground. This site is eco friendly and tranquil right inside the National Park itself. A variety of locations are available to stay, from cottages, tents, and even bare sites. Each site is private and only a short walk from the beach. There are onsite bathhouses that include restrooms and cool water showers.
In addition to the campground, Cinnamon Bay also has a restaurant, beach shop, and general store. These features provide a very well rounded service, and along with the water sports activity center and nearby ruins, visitors can get the perks of hotel living while staying in the natural camping atmosphere.
- Open most of the year, check website for specific dates
- Daily rates are from $37-$170
- Daily rates change depending on the season and the camping style
- Reservations can be made online
Visitors are encouraged to stay at the Caneel Bay Resort, located within the National Park. This particular resort covers 170 acres of the peninsula. The resort prides itself on being an escape from stress and that distractions that come with everyday life, and helps the guests unplug by only providing wireless Internet in each room, no television or telephone. They aim to help guests connect with loved ones, no matter whether the stay is a family vacation or a romantic getaway. Operating as a full resort, everything is available from several dining options, to fully stocked hotel rooms, and luxurious amenities.
- Airport greeting
- Use of sailboats, kayaks, paddle boards, snorkeling gear
- Fitness center, tennis courts, basketball courts, pool
- Garden walk
- Feature movie presentations
- In room wireless Internet
- Seven beaches:
- Scott- complete with turtles
- Paradise- calm and serene
- Turtle Bay- ideal snorkeling spot
- Caneel- most popular beach at the resort
- Hawksnest- first beach for the sunrise
- Little Caneel- excellent boat watching spot
- Honeymoon- ten-minute walk from resort, start of Lind Trail