Civilizations lived on St. John as early as 1100, as evidenced by the petroglyphs, or rock carvings left by the Taino people. These carvings are found especially on the Reef Bay hiking trail. These people were all but driven into extinction by Europeans in the 17th century seeking new territories as colonial properties.
In 1962, Congress expanded the boundary of Virgin Islands National Park to include 5,650 acres of submerged lands to protect and preserve the beautiful coral gardens and seascapes. Today, the park conducts research, and has developed policies and practices aimed at protecting the fragile coral reef systems.
A Presidential Proclamation established the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument in January 1999 to protect reefs from further degradation. Hurricane Hole is the only area of the Monument reachable by land.
Flora and faunaEdit
Much of the vegetation on Saint John is second generation growth. Almost the entire Island was clear-cut to make way for sugar cane production during the colonial era. Some native species like the type palm remain, but much growth today are introduced species. The only mammal known to be native to the island of St. John is the bat.
Climate is temperate year-round ranging from low 80s F (26-29 °C) during the winter to the low to mid 90s (32-36 °C) in summers.
Route 20 (North Shore Road) runs from the ferry dock past the Visitors Center to the most contiguous part of the park, including most beaches and the campgrounds as well.
Fees and permitsEdit
Admission to Virgin Islands National Park is free. However, at Trunk Bay a one-day user fee is collected. Adults $5, under 17 free; individual annual pass, $20; family annual pass, $30; Golden Age and Golden Access annual cardholders are admitted for half price (2020 prices).
A Special Use Permit ($25) is required at Hawksnest for organized activities that include ten or more people. A permit is required for weddings and other special events regardless of the number of people participating. In addition to the Special Use Permit, there is a Cost Recovery Deposit of $100. The fee is refundable after grounds inspection and removal of trash when the event has ended. Picnic pavilions and grills are available for all activities.
- The park's beautiful beaches are the "can't miss" attraction as they are stunningly beautiful.
- 1 Virgin Islands National Park Visitor Center, Cruz Bay. Offers an exhibit showing both natural and cultural resources with examples of reef fishes and coral on display. Other panels depict the cultural history from the earliest inhabitants to the subsistence era. Artifacts from the pre-Columbian Tainos, tools used to harvest sugarcane during the late 1700s and early 1800s sugar production era, and examples of objects that became essential for survival after slavery emancipation are displayed.
- The St. John Historical Society has a small museum located at the Battery (Offices of the Governor), just a short walk from the Visitors Center.
- 2 Cinnamon Bay Archaeology (Past to Present) (Cinnamon Bay is located about 4.3 miles from the Visitor Center. Just follow the North Shore Road. It can be reached by boat, car or taxi. ). Learn about the history of St. John from the arrival of humans (about 840 BC), through plantation and maritime eras to present. Archaeological exhibits recovered from the nearby dig surround the laboratory (a converted sugar factory warehouse) within a preserved 17th century structure. If planning a visit, call first to ascertain that the building is open.
Diverse beaches, coral reefs, historic ruins, and hiking trails are available for exploration and enjoyment. Some visitors explore the park on their own, while others prefer a two-hour safari bus island tour with a private tour guide. To learn more about the island and its diverse plants, animals and people attend a Park program. Beaches without facilities are favored by some for more solitude.
- Enjoy the crystal blue waters on a charter day-sail or boat snorkeling tour offered by private operators in Cruz Bay and Coral Bay.
- Annaberg and Trunk Bay are the most popular park sites. Trunk Bay is considered to be one of the world's most beautiful beaches and has a marked underwater trail. Facilities there include a bathhouse, snack bar, souvenir shop and snorkel gear rentals. Lifeguards are on duty daily. These facilities close at 4PM.
- 1 Cinnamon Bay Beach and Snorkeling. Cinnamon Bay offers a long gently sloping snow white beach to stick your toes in, or go for a leisurely stroll. The crystal clear waters provide many delights for even a novice snorkeler. Turtles and fish of all sizes and colors can be seen here. There is a water sports center that rents snorkel gear and windsurfing equipment. You can also arrange day sailing, snorkeling and scuba diving lessons.
- Cinnamon Bay Nature Loop And Accessible Trail. Cinnamon Bay Plantation was established in 1717 and was one of the earliest and most prosperous sugar plantations on the Island. In 1903, the Danish West India Plantation Company bought Cinnamon Bay and began growing bay rum trees to produce bay leaf oil, which was used in popular colognes and lotions known as St. John Bay Rum.
- 2 Francis Bay Trail. Francis Bay Trail starts at the Francis Bay Sugar Factory. It continues past the Mary's Point Estate house and around a salt pond. The dry tropical forest and salt pond provide an excellent opportunity to view birds. The lower portion of the trail is an accessible boardwalk that continues through the mangroves to the two viewing platforms.
- 3 Hawksnest Bay. Hawksnest Bay offers three fingers of mostly Elkhorn coral reefs to snorkel. It is not advisable to snorkel directly over the reef. The Elkhorn corals are a federally protected species and extremely fragile. Snorkeling around the fingers you will see many juvenile fish and other reef creatures in and among the branches of the Elkhorn corals. Hawksnest has changing rooms, picnic tables, grills and restrooms. It is the closest beach to Cruz Bay. Restroom facilities are not close, amplified music is not allowed, and there is a 10PM noise curfew.
- 4 The Lind Point Trails. The Lind Point Trail starts just behind the park visitor center and ends at breathtaking Honeymoon Bay or Solomon Bay. The trail offers several spurs one of which heads to the overlook. Stop and rest on the bench as you watch the boats sail by.
- Salomon/Honeymoon Bays. Salomon/Honeymoon Bay, two white-sand beaches, can be accessed by a short hike from the Virgin Islands National Park sign off North Shore Road, Caneel Bay or by boat. A narrow reef follows the shoreline east of Honeymoon to Caneel Bay.
- 5 Salt Pond Bay and Ram Head Trails (Salt Pond Bay Concordia St. John). Salt Pond is perfect for someone looking for a pleasant stroll to a beautiful beach. Just a quarter mile hike from the parking area to beach, has only a slight grade.
- 6 Tektite Trail (Trail head can be found on the right of Lameshur road at the first switchback.). The trailhead can be found to the right of Lameshur Road at the first switchback. The .7 mile trail begins with a moderately strenuous ascent on the Cabritte Horn Point. Hike through the desert-like terrain to reach scenic views atop coastal cliffs.
- 7 Yawzi Point Trail (Located on the south west side of the island between Great Lameshur Bay and Little Lameshur Bay. It takes about an 1 1/2 hrs to cover the 13.5 miles. Map to Yawzi Point ). Located between Great Lameshur Bay and Little Lameshur Bay, this .3 mile trail is a good choice if looking for an easy hike. Stone ruins of homes from the Danish colonial period can be found alongside the trail. Small rocky beaches can be accessed by side trails for a quiet snorkel entry spot.
Lodging of all stripes is available outside the park on Saint John.
- Cinnamon Bay Campground, ☏ , toll-free: . Bare tent sites and tent covered platforms with cooking utensils and linens. Store and cafeteria. The campground closes to unregistered guests at 10PM. Two week maximum stay. Reserve well ahead.
Hurricane season is from June to November; be aware.