The Best of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
St. John is the least developed and most sparsely populated of the three main islands in the U.S. Virgin Islands. That’s not surprising, since more than half its land is protected as a U.S. National Park. Most visitors reach St. John by ferry from St. Thomas, landing at the dock in Cruz Bay, St. John’s main settlement. A village with only a few thousand residents, Cruz Bay has gained a reputation as an upscale retreat for movie stars and other high-profile people looking for a secluded getaway.
It all started back in 1956, when businessman and conservationist Laurance Rockefeller, who had bought extensive land holdings on St. John, opened the low-key but luxurious Caneel Bay Resort. It’s still going strong, and visitors can stop in for lunch and a swim in the beautiful bay. Rockefeller later donated much of his estate to the national park.
Snorkelers should make time for an underwater tour in Trunk Bay, where the National Park Service maintains a submarine snorkeling trail. And no sightseeing drive around the island is complete without a stop to see the fabulous panoramic view from the Bordeaux Mountain Overlook. Back in the town, the boutiques at Mongoose Junction offer one-of-a-kind souvenirs, while Cruz Bay Landing is a perfect spot to grab lunch and drinks.
Caneel Bay, one of the island’s more secluded and protected bays, is home to Caneel Bay Resort, a historic luxury hotel founded by Laurance Rockefeller. After opening the resort in 1956, Rockefeller donated the land on which it lies to become the Virgin Islands National Park, which covers about 60 percent of the island. Day-trippers can easily reach Caneel Bay by taxi from Cruz Bay. The resort has no fewer than seven beaches, including Honeymoon Beach, a short hike away. Come here to relax on the main beach, book water sports at the diving and snorkeling center and have lunch at the hotel restaurant.