In celebrating the 100th year of U.S. National Parks, we decided to go to the U.S. Virgin Islands composed of the three stunning islands of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. St. John’s awe-inspiring Trunk Bay was the main reason why we decided to base ourselves in St. John away from the maddening cruise ship crowd of St. Thomas. Two-thirds of the island of St. John is protected as part of the Virgin Islands National Park.
We flew from New York’s JFK airport into St. Thomas which is the primary gateway to both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. We were whisked off from the airport by a private shuttle bus provided by the Westin St. John to the dock where we took the private ferry direct from St. Thomas to the Westin dock in St. John. We chose this route as we had our four-month old baby girl in tow. An alternative and cheaper but more inconvenient route would be to take a 30-min. taxi from the airport to Red Hook in St. Thomas and take the ferry from there to Cruz Bay in St. John and then take a short taxi ride to the hotel. All transportation information to St. John can be found at this link.
THE WESTIN ST. JOHN
We earned enough Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points for the year to spend a few nights at any Westin property so selecting our hotel in St. John was a no-brainer. Otherwise, it would have been a toss-up between Westin St. John & Caneel Bay Resort if I wanted closer to Cruz Bay area.
Taking the hotel private ferry gives passengers a spectacular approach to the Westin dock as the ferry makes its way to the docking area……..
…..and as the amazing strip of the private white sand beach comes into view in a stunningly clear and sunny weather like what we experienced.
Here is how the resort would look like from above. I flew my drone much higher to get this shot. Just kidding. Photo credit goes to the resort website.
As we arrived at the resort, we were immediately served the great tasting island signature rum punch as the welcome drink at the check-in area. We brought our refillable drinks with us as we were transported by a hotel cart to our room. Our luggage was delivered later. We were given a room facing the pool (shown above) that made it possible for me and my wife to dip in the pool later while our little angel slept. We brought with us our video monitor that worked via the hotel’s complimentary and reliable Wi-Fi.
Shown here is part of the massive hotel pool during the day.
Early one beautiful morning we had a photo shoot at the resort’s pool side when almost everyone was still asleep or was busy having breakfast.
Our lovely, little angel, shown here with my voluptuous wife, was very cooperative.
She even posed for some unforgettable shot.
At the other end of the resort near the breakfast area are the colorful canoes and speedboat docked at the resort’s private beach available for guests.
Whether it is late afternoon….
..or early morning, the resort’s private beach is a great place to relax.
This beautiful piece of paradise is a part of the Virgin Islands National Park and it is the main reason of our visit to USVI. This photo was taken from the final vantage point as we began to descend to the entrance of the magnificent beach. If you are driving your own rented car you can just stop by the lookout area. Taxis would usually make stops too that is why I was able to take this shot.
I have previously read that even if there is an entrance fee to the national park, if you arrive before it opens at 7:30 a.m. you won’t be paying anything. We arrived there around 8:00 a.m. and the ticket counter was still closed so we did not pay anything! We just paid for the chairs and umbrellas later rented at the single store operating there.
What a great treat to have the entire beach to ourselves! I was actually hoping that day that the massive cruise ship crowd won’t be filling this beautiful beach and certainly they did not for the entire time that we were there! There is actually a cruise ship schedule to make one aware when the crowd would be arriving at St. Thomas and be flooding Trunk Bay.
An hour after we arrived, there were still less than ten people on the beach.
This not-so-young lady kept walking from one end of the beach to the other for many times since we arrived. Like us, she could not get enough of the stunning scenery!
Now as more people rushed into the beach I set up my camera on a tree and we had our family portrait.
As our little angel took a nap under the shade on her mother’s arms…..
……I explored the other end of the beach!
There were boulders that were less distinctive than the ones in Virgin Gorda, BVI.
Yet from that point, the view of Trunk Bay was truly breathtaking.
At last one of the beaches I was dying to check off my list was finally conquered in an early morning solitude and in a stunningly sunny weather. I would love to be back. This beach immediately made my list of the top 10 best beaches that I have been to.
Longer but less impressive than Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay is worth a visit too.
The sand here was white too but not as fine as the one in Trunk Bay and the water was invitingly clear.
This is where our daughter had her first saltwater dip.
We left before sunset as we were told that it would be hard to get taxis after 6 p.m. We surely missed the highly-acclaimed Maho Bay Beach just a few miles from Cinnamon Bay but we promised to be back to visit it.
During our stay at St. John, we only had one dining experience outside the Westin St. John and it was at the highly recommended Morgan’s Mango. The famous place is a neo-Caribbean restaurant with West Indian and Latin twist.
We ordered the celebrated grilled Caribbean lobster served with sweet plantains, black beans and seasoned rice with the usual butter-lemon sauce. Honestly, Maine lobster is still juicier (and probably the best) but this one is good enough!
This seafood soup made my day. It’s made of shrimps, mussels and squid with quinoa in seafood broth. Excellent!
The seafood paella also captivated our taste buds! The Latin kick created that different twist!
GETTING AROUND ST. JOHN
There are only two main options how to get around St. John. One is to rent one of those reliable Jeeps. Please take note that you would drive at the other side of the road opposite of the U.S. experience.
The other option would be the island taxis that abound everywhere. These are non-aircon cars that can take up to 20 passengers.
Shown here is my wife and our daughter as we were about to leave Cinnamon Bay using an island taxi.
One of the most breathtaking views that you can have as you travel around St. John is Cruz Bay. We saw many tourists pending time just looking at the beautiful scenery.
Truly, this has been one of my family’s most memorable Caribbean experiences. Swaying palm trees, gorgeous beaches, sumptuous food, friendly people and laid back atmosphere. Ah, paradise! Virgin Islands, we will keep on coming back!