- St John Virgin Islands
St John Virgin Islands
National Parks of the Virgin islands
Animals of the National Park
There are 140 species of birds, 302 species of fish, 7 species of amphibians, 22 species of mammals and 740 species of plants inhabiting the Island. In addition there are about 50 corals species and numerous gorgonians, and sponges providing St. Johnian’s and visitors with some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world.
Culture of the Virgin Islands
The first humans arrived in the Virgin Islands between 2500 to 3000 years ago.
The Taino culture developed between 500 to 1000 years ago.
Columbus discovers the islands in 1493.
Visitors from the United States began vacationing and moving to the Virgin Islands between 1920 and 1950.
The Virgin Islands National Park was established in 1956.
Nature of the Virgin Islands
Virgin Islands National Park located in the tropical Atlantic, contains examples of terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems. These include various types of dry to moist forests, salt ponds, beaches, mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs. The land is mountainous, with average slopes being 30 percent. Bordeaux mountain, 1286 feet high, plunges sharply to the sea.
Turtles of the Virgin Islands
There are seven species of sea turtles in the world, and three of these inhabit the waters of St. John. The two most common are the green and hawksbill turtles, while the leatherback is rarely seen. Sea turtles spend most of their lives in the water only coming ashore to nest. Turtles travel thousands of miles a year.
For those that are not very familiar with the Virgin Islands, you might be surprised to hear that St. John is approximately 60% national park!
Quick history and facts about the St. John National Park
In 1917 the United States bought St. John from Denmark. By the 1930s, news of the beautiful American island had spread to the United States mainland and the beginning of what was to become a tourism boom on St. John was established.
Laurence Rockefeller in 1956 donated land to the Federal Government to establish a National Park. The 5000 acres became the nation’s twenty-ninth National Park. The land was presented to Fred Seaton, who was the Secretary of the Interior, he promised the government would ‘take good and proper care of these precious acres and verdant hills and valleys and miles of sunny, sandy shores’. Since then other donations have been made and presently the Virgin Islands National Park includes 7200 acres of land and 5600 acres of underwater land.
Today St. John thrives as a favored tourist destination. A construction boom in the past couple of years is changing St. John from a quiet, sleepy island to one with a little more traffic and development.
Note: The information contained in this brief history was gathered from St. John Back time Eyewitness Accounts from 1718 to 1956, compiled by Ruth Hull Low and Rafael Valls, printed in 1985, and John Lonzo Anderson’s Random Notes on the History of St. John printed in 1970. Compiled from The National Park Service.
You can also read more on the park at National Geographic by clicking here
The Donkeys were brought to St. John to be be used as a work horse. Thy would act as the beast of burden to carry supplies up the islands rough terrain and hills.
Once sugarcane was introduced to the Caribbean, donkey’s would help transport the cane to the mills for the processing of sugar and distillation of rum. On the arid, non growing islands, the donkeys would be used to in the blazing hot salt flats to carry the heavy mineral to the waiting ships for export to both the new and old worlds.
Now with tourism the main industry in the Caribbean, the donkeys have been left to the wild. They roam the islands freely, looking for their next meal and posing for vacation photos. A life much easier than that of their island ancestors.
Wikipedia states Donkeys have a notorious reputation for stubbornness, but this has been attributed to a much stronger sense of “self preservation” than exhibited by horses. Likely based on a stronger prey instinct and a weaker connection with man, it is considerably more difficult to force or frighten a donkey into doing something it perceives to be dangerous for whatever reason. Once a person has earned their confidence they can be willing and companionable partners and very dependable in work.
Although formal studies of their behavior and cognition are rather limited, donkeys appear to be quite intelligent, cautious, friendly, playful, and eager to learn.The donkeys of St. John are loved and well taken care happy of by the community.
Here in the Virgin Islands we love our SEA TURTLES! The community has many programs and non-profit organizations advocating for our turtles so we like to think they love us back!
About Sea Turtles
- Common items include jellyfish, seaweed, crabs, shrimp, sponges, snails, algae and mollusk.
- Sea turtles spend most of their lives in the water, where not much information can be gathered on their behavior. Most of what is known about sea turtle behavior is obtained by observing hatchlings and females that leave the water to lay eggs. Sea turtles, like salmon, will return to the same nesting grounds at which they were born. When females come to the shore, they dig out a nest in the ground with their back flippers, bury their clutch of eggs and return to the ocean. After hatching, the young may take as long as a week to dig themselves out of the nest. They emerge at night, move toward the ocean and remain there, solitary, until it is time to mate.
- It is difficult to find population numbers for sea turtles because male and juvenile sea turtles do not return to shore once they hatch and reach the ocean, which makes it hard to keep track of them.
Sea Turtles of the Virgin Island
Friends of Virgin Islands National Park websites explains that two endangered sea turtles, the hawksbill and the green, are commonly seen in St. John’s waters. The hawksbill, shown here, comes ashore on remote St. John beaches to dig its nest and lay eggs. After burying the eggs in the warm sand, the female returns to offshore waters. When the youngsters hatch, they instinctively turn toward the sea. Despite laws protecting them in some countries, they are still hunted in some areas for their shells and meat.
Sea Turtle Information & Organizations
- The Sea Turtle Conservancy
- supports Sea Turtle Research and Conservation in the United States. The website has a ton of wonderful information, including a great Frequently Asked Questions About Sea Turtles section.
- They also have worked rehabilitating injured Sea Turtles and releasing them back into the Ocean with non invasive trackers. Would you like to see where these Turtles have been? Check out their live migration maps here!
Have you ever been to the Virgin Islands and spotted a Sea Turtle while snorkeling? Share your story with us below!
Renting in St. John – Finding the perfect place to rent on St. John can be a tad more challenging than renting on St. Thomas only because St. John is a smaller Island and since 2/3 of it is a protected national park.
St. John definitely has a mystical small town feel to it, where you can finally feel away from all the hustle and bustle of state side living. You will not find a huge shopping mall or retail store here! You will, however, be surrounded lush green valleys and hills most of which overlook dazzling turquoise water.
Tip & Info – Renting on St. John
- I highly recommend purchasing The VI Settlers Handbook. This book is full of useful information and everything you need to know about what to expect!
- The VI Moving Center is a website fully dedicated to those moving to the Virgin Islands. It has information on finding employment, housing, and message boards so you can connect with locals who have the inside scoop.
- Be sure to check out your local newspapers if you are searching for a long term or short term rental in the classifieds, like the St. John Tradewinds newspaper
- For long term housing rentals get in touch with your local real estate companies! Here at Sea Glass Properties you can depend on us to find the perfect rental for you.
- For short term, high end rentals check out the luxurious Residence at Sirenusa
Please contact us here at Sea Glass Properties with any questions you may have.
Happy Renting – Sarah
What is the Carnival?
- The month of June and the week of July 4th, is an exciting time to be on St John. Experience the West Indian culture with its food fairs, music, races, parades and fireworks. You will get a feel for the culture and the island truly comes to life beaming with colors, sound and of course, delicious food!
History of the Carnival
- VI NOW explains the history behind the carnival “Carnival celebrations as we know them today in the Caribbean, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, are the result of various festival traditions being introduced, interpreted, invented, reintroduced, reinterpreted and reinvented – starting a few hundred years ago.
- In the mid-1600s and 1700s Europeans from countries such as Spain, Portugal, France, England and Denmark colonized the islands of the Caribbean. They brought with them the celebrations and festivals that were familiar and naturally tried to replicate the familiar in the New World. European celebrations included religious holidays and came in a variety of forms such as dress balls, parties, house to house visits and street processions. European nations sought the islands for developing plantations and the primary source of labor was enslaved Africans from West and Central Africa. They too brought with them the celebrations and festival traditions that were familiar and tried, often with difficulty, to replicate them. Their festivals were organized around certain deities or spirits, to mark a transition in life or in the community and in recognition of changes in seasons whether related to climate or to agricultural production. They incorporated a variety of forms, quite often including singing or chanting, drumming, masking and a form of street theater with performer and audience participation.”
When is the Carnival?
- The carnival starts in June and has its grand finale the week of July 4th.
- We hope to see everyone there for this fun celebration! –Sarah
Everything you need to know about where to find the perfect place to eat! We know all the favorite local places that are sure to satisfy your taste buds and your wallet! So here is the down low on the best place to take your honey for a romantic dinner. The hippest bar to grab a Painkiller with friends at and the place that has a bit of it all for the family!
- ZoZo’s Ristorante
- Location: The Sugar Mill, Caneel Bay, St. John
- Price range: $24 – $38
- Cuisines: Italian
- Want a place to go where every single penny is well spent? Zozo’s is that place! The delicious food, beautiful location at Caneel Bay, and top notch service will make it one of your new favorites!
- The Terrace Restaurant
- 3 FA Cruz Bay Quarter, Cruz Bay 00830, St. John
- Price range: $25 – $50
- Cuisines: French, Seafood, Wine Bar, Oyster Bar
- This is a great place for a romantic date out on the terrace overlooking Cruz Bay or to gather with friends for amazing food and great cocktails!
- Rhumb Lines
- Location: Meada’s Plaza, 00830, St. John
- Price range: $15 – $25
- Cuisines: Caribbean, Pacific Rim, Asian fusion
- Rhumb Lines is hidden behind Meada’s Plaza after you walk through the mini mart there awaits a tropical treat, with bamboo, wooden benches, overhead trellis, large paper lights, pillows, and much more.
- The Tourist Trap
- Location: 14B John’s Folly, Coral Bay 00830, St. John
- Price range: $3 – $12
- Cuisines: American, Caribbean, Diner, Eclectic
- A great place for families with children! Especially if you are dining on a budget.
- The Beach Bar
- Location: Wharfside Village, Cruz Bay 00831, St. John
- Price range: $9 – $16
- Cuisines: American, Seafood, Bar, Grill
- Pull up to Cruz Bay, dock your dingy and head over to The Beach Bar. You cannot beat the magnificent view looking out onto clear blue waters.
- Woody’s Seafood Saloon
- Location: Cruz Bay (50 yards from the ferry dock) St. John
- Price Range : $9-$16
- Cuisines: American, Bar, Grill, Seafood, Local
- Woody’s is known for their “World Famous Happy Hour” featuring $1 brewskis $1 well drinks and $1 off all their cocktails! Everyday from 3pm – 6pm. Enjoy snacking on the local favorites like “Shark Bites” and try their oh so yummy “Bushwacker”!
- Skinny Legs Bar and Grill
- Location: Rte. 10 | Coral Bay, St. John
- Cuisines: American
- Price Range: $9-$20
- If you are on the east side of St. John swing by Skinny Legs! Try one of their Scrumptious burgers thick and juicy and piled high with all the extras.
- Ekaete Pink Corner
- Location: Corner of Rte 10 and Rte 107, Coral Bay, St. John
- Cuisines: Caribbean
- Price Range: $5-$15
- A family operated restaurant with authentic local caribbean cuisine prepared with love. This roadside restaurant is open catch-as-catch-can, but the welcome can’t be beat! The home made coconut-mango ice cream is simply heavenly!
- Bon Appétit Everyone!
One of the most unique attributes of St. John is the Virgin Islands National Park, which covers approximately 60% of the Island. Each year, about 500,00 people visit the park. The park is spread out on 14,737 acres and has 22 unique hiking trails to choose from. Weather you are looking for a full day adventure leading you through challenging terrain or a more leisurely wander through shady trees we have the trail for you!
Peace Hill Trail
Hiking level: Easy, Bring the kiddos!
Distance : 0.1 mile
Time: 10 minutes
Terrain : Scenic / Grassy
This short trail leads to a scenic grassy flat overlook with an old sugar mill tower. At the top of the Hill, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Trunk Bay and the north coast of St. John.
Hiking level: Beginner
Distance: 0.7 Miles
Time: 25 minutes
Terrain: Flat / Semi rocky
This enjoyable relatively flat hike leading to cozy Salomon beach. Salomon beach is usually not crowded and is very idyllic looking, just like you would imagine paradise
Cinnamon Bay Trail
Hiking level: Intermediate
Distance: 1.1 miles
Time: 1 hour
Terrain: Flat / Semi rocky
This shady hike begins around 100 yards east of the entrance to Cinnamon Bay Campground. Enjoy the educational marker signs describing various items and get a look at old Danish tombs.
Ram Head Trail
Hiking level: Intermediate
Distance: 1.1 miles
Time: 1 hour
Terrain: Pebble/ Sandy
This trail begins at the south end of Salt Pond Bay Beach winding up the hill. The gorgeous views at the top are well worth the hike up! This trail is less wooded offering enjoyable breezes.
Reef Bay Trail
Hiking level: Experienced
Distance: 2.2 miles
Time: 2 hours
Terrain: Moderately Rocky
This trail begins on Centerline Road and descends 937 feet through a shady forest. There is a variety of plant life to be seen while hiking. You can explore the aged sugar ruins and spot deer, mongoose, lizards and birds while you hike. The trail ends near Genti Bay at the Reed Bay Plantation.
- – Bring plenty of water!
- -Pack a couple snacks like granola bars or sandwiches
- -Bring a small first aid kit with you in your backpack
- -Check the weather forecast the day of your hike
- -Learn what plants will be in the region that you need avoid such as poison ivy, oak or sumac
- -Have a compass and map of the area with you
- -Always let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return
- Happy Hiking!