Saturday, February 20, 2016

Virgin Islands National Park


Unlike my other national park trips, a trip to the Virgin Islands National Park doesn't require a detailed itinerary. It basically just requires a bathing suit and some flip flops - maybe some sneakers and shorts if you want to do a hike. Virgin Islands National Park is located on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. To get there, fly to St. Thomas International Airport and then take a boat to St. John - most of the hotels on St. John have their own boat, and there are public ferries you can take, as well as water taxis. To get to one of the public ferries, you have to take a taxi from the airport. Be sure to take a shared taxi if you don't want to spend $90 getting to the ferry.

I've been to St. John and Virgin Islands National Park twice. Both times I stayed at the Westin, which is wonderful. Caneel Bay Resort is another lodging option. It looks amazing, and it is located within the national park. (I highly recommend getting dinner at Zozo's at the Sugar Mill at Caneel Bay Resort; be sure to make a reservation well in advance.) There are only two other resorts on St. John - Gallow's Point Resort and Concordia Eco-Resort. I'm not familiar with them so I cannot recommend (or not recommend) them. There are a number of bed and breakfasts, house rentals, and campgrounds as well. One of the campgrounds - Cinnamon Bay Campground - is located within the national park. The island of St. John is small - roughly the size of Manhattan - so if you do not stay within the park, you won't be far from it.

The best way to explore the park is to spend a different day at each beach. The various beaches all have gorgeous views. Some have snorkeling - and Trunk Bay even has an underwater snorkeling trail. (You can rent snorkel gear at the beach itself.) Cinnamon Bay has good snorkeling as well. Other beaches, like in Haulover Bay, require you to hike to them for access. The National Park Service is now offering yoga on Saloman Beach (which requires a hike to get to). I missed out on that this year, but hope to do it next year. 

If hiking is more your thing, be sure to check out the Reef Bay Trail. I have hiked it on my own, but hope to do the ranger-led hike next year. I also hope to enjoy kayaking and horseback riding on St. John. I hope to check out the British Virgin Islands next year as well - and possibly even do a long weekend in Puerto Rico on my way home. (El Yunque National Forest looks amazing!)

If you want a relaxing national park trip, Virgin Islands National Park is the right choice for you. 

Trunk Bay
Trunk Bay

Swimming at Haulover Bay

National Park Ranger

Donkeys all over the island

The Westin St. John
The Westin St. John
The Westin St. John

Ready for the national park tour

Cinnamon Bay

Hawk's Nest Bay

The beach at the Westin

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