A trip to the beautiful U.S. Virgin Islands is on many bucket lists. This trip was planned before the hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the islands. Without prior experience on an island in the Caribbean, there were no expectations.. This visit to Virgin Island National Park was an awesome experience and I would like to encourage everybody not to hesitate booking your visit to this beautiful park and island. The island almost fully recovered and your visit will support the local people.
All Photos taken at Virgin Islands National Park
I flew in on Puerto Rico and continued to Saint Thomas. Flying over Puerto Rico I saw plenty of roofs , repaired and covered with blue “FEMA” plastic. On Saint Thomas I rented a car and drove to the car barge in Red Hook. When I left the airport parking I was shocked…. The steering wheel is on the left (like every other car i drove in the past) but on the virgin islands they are also driving left…. a heritage from the British occupation of the islands. I must say that driving on the left is not that difficult as it sounds and you will get used to it pretty easily.
The car barge in Red hook was not operating on it’s pre-hurricane schedule and there were a lot of trucks with supplies that had to make the trip, which resulted in a full boat at 3PM and I had to wait till the next boat at 4PM. This gave me the opportunity to do some groceries and the local supermarket.
On Saint John, I figured out that my only way of communication would be over some public wifi networks because my carrier was not covering this island, (MintSim/ T-Mobile). The roads on Saint John are challenging, no signs, a lot of one way streets, potholes and extremely steep hills. Most of the beaches are easily accessible by the (hotel)taxi’s that are driving people around. Because I’m travelling early morning, late afternoon for the best photographs I decided to go for the rental car option.
During my stay on Saint John I initially planned to stay at the Cinnamon Bay campground. Due to the damage this campground will not open in the near future. A good alternative is the AirBnB from Donna called Hawks Rest. Very kind people who picked me up at Saint John visitor center and guided me through Cruz Bay and showed me the way to their AirBnB. From the room you have a beautiful view over the island and I was treated by a beautiful double rainbow one day.
Things to do:
- Hike form the visitor center to Solomon beach
- Annaberg ruins
- Trunk Bay Sunset (or at Peace Hill)
- Ram Head trail
- Snorkelling and more snorkelling
At the visitor center, the park ranger mentioned that the second most asked question is about the best place to snorkel. This really depends on what you are looking for in my opinion. Maho Bay was the perfect location for Green Sea Turtles. Trunk Bay has a marked tour, good for beginners. Waterlemon Cay was prior to the storms the best place to snorkel, but when I snorkelled at this location in March 2018 there was a lot of underwater damage to the coral. All the North shore snorkelling locations are subject to swell, that’s why my favorite location for fish/coral snorkelling was the SaltPond Bay on the south shore. This is the most distant snorkelling location from Cruz Bay and you will not see that many people here.
While I was preparing for this trip I listened to this podcast from Everybody’s NationalParks about snorkelling at the US Virgin Islands.http://www.everybodysnationalparks.com/enp-5-4-virgin-islands-national-park-coral-reef
Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria many visitors inquired how they could come and help the park. Friends of Virgin Islands National Park organises recovery projects and was looking for volunteers to help clear ruins, trails, and vistas. They meet every Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. at the Maintenance next to Mongoose Junction. We cleared a ruin of a building used by plantation owners as a shelter when the slaves started to fight for their freedom on the island.