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St. John is abound with hiking trails through its gorgeous and expansive National Park. The Reef Bay trail is one of our favorites as it taks you through an expansive valley or “gut.” While we reference this amazing trail often, we rarely get the opportunity to talk aobut the history of the Reef Bay Valley. This month we are talking about history of the Virgin Islands and Reef Bay is a great spot to start!
One of our favorite resources for St. John history is from Gerald Singer and his incredible book, St. John Off the Beaten Track. It is a fun read with a plethora of knowledge about the history of St. John, the best beaches, trails and more. In his book, Gerald also tells us about the history of Reef Bay Valley:
“The first human inhabitants of Reef Bay were hunter-gatherers who arrived in St. John almost 3,000 years ago. These primitive peoples were conquered or replaced by a farming-oriented society who were the biological ancestors of the Tainos, the people who Columbus encountered on his voyage across the Atlantic. The farmers, like the hunter-gatherers, migrated from the South American mainland and up the island chain of the Lesser Antilles arriving in St. John about 2,000 years ago.
When Columbus sailed past St. John in 1493, he reported the island to be uninhabited. The Tainos that lived on St. John may have already fled the island in the wake of Carib raids or they may have gone into hiding at the approach of Columbus’ fleet, later to fall victim to the depredations visited upon them by the Spanish colonizers.
In the early sixteenth century, St. John was reported to be re-inhabited by Amerindians feeling Spanish persecution in St. Croix and Puerto Rico. By 1550, the island appeared to have been totally uninhabited, and it remained that way for about 100 years.
Between 1671 and 1717, St. John was intermittently occupied by small groups of woodcutters, sailors, fisherman and farmers.
St. John was officially colonized and settled by the Danes in 1718. By 1726, all of the land in the Reef Bay Valley had been parceled out to form 12 plantations. At first, these estates were devoted to a variety of agricultural provisions such as cotton, cocoa, coffee, ground provisions (yams, yucca, sweet potato, taro, corn, etc.) and the raising of stock animals as well as to to the productions of sugarcane.
By the later part of the eighteenth century, the 12 plantations were consolidated into five, and sugar became the dominant crop in the valley. Only Little Reef Bay never switched to sugar, growing some cotton but primarily concentrating on ground provisions and animals that were sold to the neighboring plantations.
By the end of the eighteenth century, when sugar productions was at its peak, and the population of the valley was at its greatest (300), about half of Reef Bay Valley was classified as woodland.
In the nineteenth century, agriculture in the Reef Bay Valley began to decline. By 1915, only Par Force and Little Reef Bay in the lower valley were still active, but with only ten acres planted in sugar. Otherwise the plantations were devoted to cattle and other livestock, coconuts, fruit trees and ground provisions.” (excerpt from St. John Off the Beaten Track by Gerald Singer, Copyright 2006).
When hiking the Reef Bay Trail, one can take the quick trail to the Petroglyphs to stop and see carvings that were likely created by the Tainos prior to Columbus’ arrival. (look closely, you may see the familiar Caneel Bay logo carved in stone).
You will also see the remains of the Par Force plantation, the ruins of Josie Gut Sugar Estate, the Reef Bay Sugar Mill (which is still in great condition) and more. It’s a stunning hike through some of St. John’s rich history as well as an opportunity to learn more about the trees and plants of St. John.
We highly suggest picking up a copy of this book prior to a trip to St. John, or even as a resident, as there is so much rich history and so many incredible stories about St. John that even locals may not know! You can also learn a bit here as well!
Spring Break is a great time to visit St. John. When the cold winter months are really beginning to wear on you, planning a warm, tropical getaway is a great way to hit the refresh button! St. John has gorgeous beaches – you could visit a different beach every day during a week long vacation and still not go to every one! With over 75% of our island being National Park, the beaches are pristine, protected and clean with crystal clear water! In addition to beaches, St. John has a great beachside bar and dining scene in Wharfside Village that will make for the perfect Spring Break vacation! Some of our favorites include:
– Joe’s Rum Hut: a great happy hour right on the beach, offering you the quintessential ocean front bar. Happy hour is from 4-6pm with $3 “you call it” (meaning anything on the menu or that you order is $3). Our favorite: don’t miss the Lime in Da Coconut frozen drink or a Dark ‘n’ Stormy!
– The Beach Bar: another low key spot right on the beach in Cruz Bay. Stop here for the sunset and pull up a chair on the beach, play some cornhole and enjoy what island life is about! Our favorite: the “Tuna Down Now” is a great snack or app and we love to order a Light Cruzan Rum and Ting (local grapefruit soda)! You can also view the live webcam here to help you get through those cold days until you are in paradise!
– Waterfront Bistro: Waterfront Bistro offers a beautiful beachside location, combining fine-dining with a laid back atmosphere. The wine list is extensive, menu is light and fresh with local fish and a number of gluten-free items! Our favorite: we love the local green papaya salad and the octopus tartine. The Swann is a great specialty cocktail!
Kick back and enjoy some time on the beach in Cruz Bay at some of these great bars and restaurants during your Spring Break!
If you are looking for some things to do on your spring break (or in general while on a vacation) you have come to the right place! Below is a list of top 5 things to do on St Thomas! As always feel free to post comments or questions!
1.) Start your trip off right with a visit to the world famous Magens Bay Beach located on the North side of the island. Click here to hear what others have to say about this beach!
2.) Do some duty-free shopping in downtown Charlotte Amalie! Our favorite thing to shop for is the beautiful jewelry!
3.) Hit the links at Mahogany Run Golf Course
4.) Play with Sea Lions and view colorful sea life at Coral World located at Coki Point
5.) Take the tramway up to Paradise Point and take in some truly spectacular views
We’ve talked a lot this month about the Virgin Islands National Parks – after all, it’s part of what makes our islands so special! The VI National Park not only protects and preserves our beautiful islands, beaches and coastal waters, but it also serves as a platform for learning! There are some fun ways to experience the VI National Parks!
The Friends of the VI National Park (which we talk more about, here), offers a slew of seminars, hikes, coastal cleanups and events where you can get involved and learn more about the history, ecology, archaeology and more of our islands. Whether it’s a snorkel tour, a guided hike or a tropical ecology lecture and tour, there is something interesting and exciting for everyone. Through the Friends of the VI National Park seminar series, you can even learn how to make hot pepper sauce or shoot underwater photography! A few of our favorite upcoming activities can be found below, or check here for the full schedule of events.
The Beach to Beach Power Swim is also coming up in May, so sign up and find more information on the Friends website here. Get involved, learn something new and experience more of the VI!
Why Choose Sea Glass? At Sea Glass Vacations, the number one priority is to make your vacation enjoyable, fun and a wonderful experience. That comes with impeccable planning and attention to detail on our part. As you may know, we have been busy shooting a number of videos for our villas (you can view a few here, such as Marea, Rivendell or Capri). Recently, a few of our staff got together to talk about what goes into making your vacation a memorable experience! Take a look here:
With a knowledgeable staff that has either grown up in the Virgin Islands or lived here for years, Sea Glass offers a local knowledge and approach to your vacation. We also pay attention to all the details, ensuring that nothing is overlooked during your stay! OR if you are a villa owner and want to effectively market your home, our team has the knowledge and expertise to put together great campaigns, stunning videos and other collateral to showcase your home in an eye-catching, professional way!
Reasons to Come to the Virgin Islands – Community!
This month we are sharing some of our top reasons to come to the Virgin Islands. The perfect white sand beaches, warm tropical breezes, beautiful views and crystal clear ocean waters are obviously at the top of the list! That said, there is so much more to these islands than being a tropical paradise. One of our favorite parts of living here is the sense of community that the Virgin Islands offers. Long-time residents, “snow birds,” new residents and even tourists see these islands as home and a place where one can make a difference, give back and get involved. The Virgin Islands are so small and we depend on community involvement for a slew of events, charities and organizations to function and operate. At Sea Glass, we understand the importance of giving back and being a part of the community and help in many ways with our Sea Glass Cares organization.
As a visitor or new resident of the Virgin Islands, there are so many opportunities to get involved and be a part of the community that allows our islands to thrive! Whether it is volunteering with the Friends of the National Park, helping to walk dogs at the St. John Animal Care Center or St. Thomas Humane Society, pitching in for a beach cleanup or donating your time to help St. John Cancer Fund, there are countless ways to get involved!
Sea Glass recently donated a 3-night stay at Sirenusa for a 3 bedroom villa to St. John Animal Care Center for their online auction. Have a look now and bid on this incredible villa, along with restaurant gift certificates, boat trips and more! If you are on island Saturday January 24, attend the winter gala fundraiser, The Buccaneer Ball at Eden’s Whim from 6-9pm.
As you can see, the Virgin Islands community really comes together to give back, get involved and make these islands a special place to live and visit. What more reason do you need to come to the VI?
Planning a Vacation? Sea Glass Vacations Can Help! While Sea Glass Properties helps you find your perfect home or property in the Caribbean, but our sister company, Sea Glass Vacations, will work with you to find a perfect villa rental! Whether you plan to visit the Virgin Islands for the first time, come often and are looking for a new villa to stay in, or want to try out island living before you buy a property, we can help! With a portfolio of stunning homes and rentals in the Caribbean, Sea Glass Vacations can assist you every step of the way in order to have a perfect, stress-free vacation. From helping you find the right villa, to setting up airport transportation, provisioning, car rental and more, Sea Glass Vacations can assist with every aspect of your vacation! Our on-call concierge is even available to make restaurant reservations, book day trips, activities and excursions or give recommendations on great things to do during your stay. The Sea Glass Vacations blog is also a great resource for tips on where to dine, shop and a local look at favorite activities and things to do in the Virgin Islands.
Check out some of the festivities in St. John this Halloween
- The Mongoose Monster Ball
- Best costume wins a weekend trip to Miami
- Skinny Legs Annual Halloween Bash
- Come check out the costume contest at 10:00pm
- Montu’s Heroes versus Villains Halloween
- Dress as your favorite hero or villain and try a seasonal flavored Pumpkin drink
Hope everyone enjoys some Trick-Or-Treating & Pumpkin Carving!
- Virgin Islands Paradise Awaits
- Planning a trip to the Virgin Islands? Here are some answers to a lot of the common questions! Grab your calendars and mark out some dates paradise awaits
When is the best time to visit the Virgin Islands?
April – June is the slow tourist season so hotel rates will drop, the beaches will be less crowded and you can get the true feel of “ Island Time”. Temperatures range form 75 to 85 degrees °F. This is my favorite time of year!
December – March is the peak tourist season so you can expect hotel rates to be a bit pricey. Temperatures are cooler during these months averaging 80 degrees °F. This is the best time to come if you want to get away from state side winter weather.
July-November can be a toss up! Many travel websites offer good package deals during these months just keep in mind season is late June – October. You can expect hot temperatures and lots of rain.
Do I need my passport to travel to the Virgin Islands?
A passport is not required for U.S. citizens when traveling to the Virgin Islands. Your drivers license or birth certificate will suffice in the airports just like it does with stateside travel. If you have a passport I would recommend bringing it just in case you decide to go boating to the British Virgin Islands.
What is the official language of the Virgin Islands?
English is the official language but you will often hear it spoken rapidly with a local dialect.
Will I be able to Drive?
We drive on the left side of the road. A valid U.S. or foreign license is accepted. If you do not feel comfortable driving on the left side of the road there are plenty of taxis. You can also catch a ride one of the Safari Buses for $2.
What is the time zone?
Atlantic Standard Time. The Virgin Islands does not participate in Daylight Savings.
Should I bring a stroller and car seat for my child?
Most rental car companies offer car seat for small children. If you are staying on St. John check out Island Baby! Island Baby is a full service baby and toddler equipment rental service.
Will I need an adapter for my electronics?
No need to bring adapters. Standard 120-volt current is used in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Have more questions about planning your next visit? Comment below!
St. John: St. John, also known as “love city”, is a laid back, lusciously green and pristine island. This island is about 80% national park so the vast majority of it is untouched— and that is part of what is so attractive about it. There are around 19 beaches, and around a dozen other “off-the-beaten-track” beaches on St. John. Each of the beaches have coral reef that is rather close to the shore so this makes St. John a great island for snorkeling. Aside from all of the water activities to partake in, this quaint island has a surprising number of fine dining options and high-end shopping that makes it impossible to run out of things to do!
Water Island: Water island is conveniently located just outside the West End of St. Thomas. This little island is much smaller than St. Thomas and St. John with a population of about 500. Because of its small size and meager population almost everyone drives a golf cart around. The two beaches to visit on Water Island are Honeymoon Beach and Sprat Bay Beach. Make sure to check out Water Island’s Movie Night located at Honeymoon Beach every Monday night!
Jost Van Dyke: Jost Van Dyke, located in the BVI’s is a 3.9 miles X 1.4 mile island that hosts around 304 individuals. Jost is a great place to visit while on St. Thomas as it only takes about a half hour to arrive by boat. The main town in Jost is Great Harbor, but most tourists will stop at White Bay where the famous Soggy Dollar Bar can be found. Make sure to try the world famous “painkiller” drinks while you are there! Another great spot on Jost is Foxy’s Taboo which is located on Diamond Cay. Stop in at Foxy’s for a bite to eat (and maybe another painkiller) before “hopping” over to our next location.
Sandy Spit: Also located in the BVI’s is Sandy Spit, a very tiny island measuring about a half acre in size. Because it is truly uninhabited, with no restaurants, shops, or anything for that matter— this spot is great if you have some food and drinks on hand and want to admire a true paradise.
Norman Island: This 610 acre island is the southernmost island of the BVI’s and very close to the international line that separates the USVI and the BVI. Aside from it’s uninhabited beauty, Norman Island is alluring with all of its history and legends of pirates (i.e. Treasure Islands). Known for tales of buried treasure, The Caves are without a doubt the main tourist attraction of Norman Island. The other place to check out is Pirate’s Bite located right on the shore of The Bight Bay. Pirate’s Bite is a great place to stop after you have snorkeled the caves to enjoy incredible views along with tasty food.
I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about some of my favorite islands. I’d love to hear about some of your favorite islands to explore! Comments are always welcomed.