We went to St. John thinking that we would just relax on the beach and snorkel here and there, the way most normal people do when they travel to paradise, but we had no idea how wild St. John would be and what this new adventure would have in store for us. Most of St. John is a National Park with walking trails and reefs for snorkeling. Staying in St. John is very expensive, so Uday and I decided to camp in the National Park area at Cinnamon Bay staying in a tent with twin beds (cots). The Cinnamon Bay campground was a short walk to the beach and had outdoor pull-string shower for the low price of $80. If we brought our own tent and equipment it would be a little cheaper ($30), but there were no more tent sites available plus it would cost more to have carried it on the plane. This was the cheapest place to stay in St. John and one of the most beautiful beaches and the longest beach in St. John with very few people on it. I never knew that camping could be in a location as lovely as this!
The first day we decided to hike the Cinnamon Bay Trail before checking into our tent. It was not a bad hike and the view was spectacular, but the view was not any better than some spots along the road. We couldn't enjoy the hike too much since we were more anxious to get to the beach. If time is of concern, I would not recommend taking the hike (although I was glad to get the exercise).
The first day at the campsite, ignorance was bliss, and even though sleeping on the cots was not that comfortable, it was better than sleeping on the ground and I loved falling asleep listening to the sounds of the insects, birds, and the small gentle waves of the ocean... The next night it rained and we were in for something different... First off, Uday almost stepped on a tarantula and in four days we saw a total of three tarantulas!! The first one we saw was on the pathway next to our tent, another in the ladies bathroom, and the third in our tent in the morning by my shoe!!! Yuk!! and scary!!
No one else saw them in the whole campsite that we talked to except for us. I swear they were following me to help me get over my fear of spiders. I was afraid to walk outside of the tent at night and had difficulty sleeping every night we were there after the first night, especially since it rained every night after. We were told that the rain brought them out from their holes in the ground. This camp is usually sold-out a year in advance and we got our tent about a month before. Maybe this is why we got a tent site because I think we were next to a tarantula nest. We also found out there were small brown scorpions and we learnt that these are the most dangerous. There were no signs about these dangers and luckily after the first day we were wearing our flip flops everyday (and not our sneakers, since scorpions hide in dark places such as sneakers). Here is a picture of me sitting blissfully where we saw our first scorpion, the day after. Glad I missed the stinger in my buttocks !!
In addition to being afraid of our new found nature, it also wasn't helpful when I had to wait to shower until nighttime since we were in the salt water everyday from morning until sunset... snorkeling! The shower was outdoors with three walls and a door so the person showering was covered, while still enjoying the view of the sky. However, it only ran cold water and in order for the water to come out one had to pull the chain at the same time showering to conserve water. So if it rained, it would have been much easier!! Needless to say I was shivering every night and it felt like a little bit of torture as the cold water sprinkled on my body and mixed with the chilly night air.
The whole time I was checking for the many types of bugs, dangerous and non dangerous. The leaf bug was interesting to look at as was the locust.
It was quite an experience camping there but I still have some fond memories. One night at the campsite restaurant they had a Caribbean night with a steel drum band and Uday and I had fun eating dinner there and dancing with the rest of the campers.
It's no wonder that the last Island that we visited in the U. S. Virgin Islands is called St. John because we felt blessed to be "baptized" by the lively water everyday we were there. In four days we covered 7 beaches plus went to Virgin Gorda (as in my previous blog) on one of those days. Each beach we snorkeled at was beautiful and unique in their own ways.
Leinster Bay was one of the first one's where we saw two turtles and went for a small hike to see the view from above. We were told that there were also star fish there further out if we swam to Water Lemon Cay but the weather was a little cloudy, chilly, and the water was a bit rough and we were a bit nervous at that time. We thought we may try again to go back a different day. We went back to Leinster Bay the evening before we left and our goal was to go to Water Lemon Cay since everyone said the snorkeling was really good there. We did see some fish but no star fish.
The most amazing and scary sea creature we saw the whole time during our snorkeling time was this gigantic stingray here at Water Lemon Cay! It's eye ball was staring Uday right in his face... and boy was it a big scary eye ball!! Uday says, "its menacing eyes are as big as my face and it stared me down!!". As I was trying to get a picture of it, Uday panickingly moved backwards in the water and before I even snapped the picture, he had already jumped out of the water and made it to the shore of the island. Unfortunately the picture was too dark and did not come out. We continued snorkeling around Water Lemon Cay after I talked Uday into coming back in the water, but Uday was so anxious to get out that it was not as enjoyable as I would have liked. On the way back we saw the stingray again and it began to follow us. Uday left me behind and found a friendly boater to take him back to shore as I swam a long distance back to meet him. Heart still pounding Uday was too afraid to be the perfect gentleman this time. We also saw more turtles and two small sting rays close to the shore of Leinster Bay our second time snorkeling there. So if you are interested in seeing turtles and stingrays I would have to say this is your spot in St. John.
We also did a small hike at Leinster Bay and got a great view and saw some wildlife such as the infamous mongoose of St. John.
One night we ate downtown in St. John at a local restaurant called SoGo's that was good local food for a good price.
Salt Pond Bay was the beach we went to the next day. The snorkeling was especially good on the left side of the beach. We also saw a good amount of fish, and some beautiful turtles that swam with Uday. Also, Uday and a few other lucky snorkelers saw an octopus swimming. I saw it as well but it was curled up by the time I got there.
We had a taxi ride there and the taxi was going to come back for us but we missed it and decided to walk a few miles to another beach that was around this area since we were told that the snorkeling is the best there. We saw a goat on our way there and back which was interesting to us. Although there are wild goats there, this one looked like it belonged to someone and it was just as curious about us as we were about it.
Lameshur Bay was the name of the beach a few miles walk from Salt Pond Bay. This beach has really cool snorkeling with cave like features among the rocks and reef. The taxis don't want to drive there since there are some un-paved roads they may have to drive on to get there. It is a long walk up some steep hills. There is the "Great Lameshur Bay" that is a long pebbly beach that at least when we went there was completely deserted. It felt really calm and soothing to stand by this beach and simply listen to the receding waves as they passed over these thousands of pebbles sounding like a rainmaker. As we go around Great Lameshur, there is "Little Lameshur Bay" which is a sandy beach. We decided to snorkel here first and if there was time we would go back to the big beach. Luckily for us since it was getting late we found what we were looking for at the smaller beach. We found to the left side of the beach what is called "the caves" and it was amazing snorkeling there. It reminded me of an underwater "Disney land" full of fish and interesting rock formations. At this time this was one of my favorite snorkeling places for the fish and the underwater landscape. We did not see any exotic creatures here but I definitely recommend this place especially if you have rented a car for ease in getting there and back.
Caneel Bay is the beach we went to the next day. This one is located close to a five star resort and an old fort (that they turned into a very cute dining area). The snorkeling was also good here.
To the left of the beach was a trail around the reef that took us to Honeymoon Beach (in St. John). If you read my blog on St. Thomas you might remember that there was also a beach called Honeymoon Beach in St. Thomas... a local person laughed when I pointed this out and stated, "I guest they were not that creative when they made the names of the beaches". Both Honey moon beaches were something to visit but the Honeymoon Beach in St. John had the best snorkeling while the one in St. Thomas was more for relaxing and swimming. Couples still find the Honeymoon beach in St. John quite relaxing...
While leaving Caneel Bay, we also saw some wild donkeys on the golf course. I had never seen wild donkeys so I thought this was pretty cool.
The last two beaches we visited on this same day was Hawknest Bay and Trunk Bay. Although Hawknest Bay was also beautiful it was a small beach and we did not have any luck snorkeling here so we only stayed briefly and moved on to Trunk Bay. Hawksnest did have a beautiful lookout view while driving on the road but we did not stop since we were more interested at that time in having time to snorkel at the many different beaches.
Trunk Bay is one of the more famous beaches in St. John and it cost about $4.00 per person to enter and they close around 4 or 5 pm. We just made it in time and were able to get a bite to eat there before snorkeling. Trunk Bay is famous for it's underwater trail with signs that tell about the fish. I loved the beach as it was large and had nice sand. I thought this place had more percentage of fish per area than all of the places we snorkeled in St. John. We also saw a huge Barracuda, which I overheard a guy say that it looked like the same one he saw many years ago in the same spot. We did not see anything else too exotic but it had plenty of colorful and different varieties of fish. If you add convenience, nice sand, and snorkeling, I thought this was the best place for most people to snorkel if they are going to St. John. I have read other reviews and talked to tourist who did not agree with me. Uday seemed to think the same way as me on this one but everyone has different opinions. I would suggest checking this one out first if you are ever in St. John and want to see a lot of fish and have an easy way to get there.
Our last night we visited Annenberg Sugar Mill close by Leinster Bay (where we snorkeled our second time to go to Water Lemon Cay). Right from snorkeling Uday and I changed our clothes in the woods instead of trying to get back to our campsite. We walked up the hill to go to a cultural festival we heard about. Having no idea what this was about we ended up having a practically free dinner and a great time there. The fruit punch was free, ice-cold, and delicious and they kept handing out their special warm cheese sandwiches which Uday and I got our full on and later we paid five dollars for a large chicken soup that we both shared. Now that's the way to travel cheap.
The night before, we ate at an expensive restaurant called "Sweet Plantains" that we heard was really good but we left both unsatisfied, not completely full, and broke. So this night at Annenberg helped to make up for the night before. At the cultural festival they presented the history of St. John an the other Virgin Island's and we thought it was going to be boring until they started bringing on the entertainment. I felt like I had to pinch myself when I saw what they call the Moko Jumbies - stilt dancers that originated from West Africa that were used to scare off the evil spirits. The experience was so surreal I felt like I was in the middle of one of my weird dreams. These Moko Jumbies were dancing, doing back-bends and kicking up their legs and they were truly amazing. They also kept dressing up in different colorful and unique constumes. Without planning, this night ended up being my favorite night experience on our whole trip. I was so thankful that I got to experience such great talent and culture.
The next day was our last day and we took our time exploring the beach we were staying at called Cinnamon Bay. The snorkeling here was also good next to the small island out to shore.
Uday enjoyed some rock climbing and in addition to all of that Uday and I did take a romantic walk in this paradise.
We also met some guys who climb coconut trees for a living and sell the coconuts they got a kick out of us taking pictures and were more than happy to let us take picture of their work but we could not stick around for long as their preparations in climbing the trees in the wild took some time. We also happened to see a banana spider here.
After taking a ferry boat back to St. Thomas we were told to go to a restaurant beside the airport if we wanted good local food. We did, and Uday and I both got jerk chicken wings that were soooo messy yet soooo good. We enjoyed our last refreshing frozen drink to celebrate the end of another awesome vacation. Uday told me that he truly loves snorkeling now and feels more relaxed at it but he still can't get over that monstrous sting ray...!
Click on the picture below to see all of our pictures of St. John: