St. John, USVI
In May we had the opportunity to visit St. John, USVI and stay at two terrific villas, One in Cruz Bay the other in Coral Bay. The first week we stayed at Las Brisas Caribe on the south side of Cruz Bay with a beautiful view of the island of St. Thomas in the distance. The second week we went to the east end of the island and spent a week at Blue Palm Villa overlooking Coral Bay.
I know that this is not your typical “road trip” as it involves flying 5 hours to get to the destination, however the roads of St. John are an adventure in themselves. The island is 19.61 sq miles in area with two-thirds of the island owned by the National Park Service, so most of the island is undeveloped. Some of the most picturesque beaches in the Caribbean are located along the island’s north shore. The most spectacular and well known of these is Trunk Bay, which has been consistently voted one of the ten best beaches in the world. Since the beaches are located on National Park land, they are all open to the public with the exception of Caneel Bay, which is privately owned.
The reefs near St. John beaches are also world-famous for their snorkeling and marine activities. In some areas, such as Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay, signs identifying various marine flora and fauna have been placed by the National Park Service among the many offshore coral reefs to assist snorkelers and divers.
The beaches on the east end are mostly pebble and coral with a few sandy spots scattered around. In most cases to get to these secluded beaches requires a short hike through natural terrain. St. John is a volcanic island and has many hills and sharp turns. Driving here can be a little scary and you drive on the left side of the road. Although the roads are steep (some having an incline as great as 37%) they lend themselves to great views of the pristine waters surrounding the island.
If you look at our Caribbean Connection section in this issue you can see the ad for Las Brisas Caribe and see this beautiful property. With the constant breeze of the Trade Winds and walls that are actually doors, the great room of the villa is always comfortable temperature wise. The kitchen area is immense with a dining room table that will seat 8 persons. The master bedroom is in the main part of the villa and the “Crow’s Nest” is at the very top with spectacular views of St. Thomas and the waters between. The good looking guy on this issues cover is our new friend “Iggy” the Iguana who resides with several of his pals in the foliage around Las Brisas. A few of them joined us for breakfast by hanging out in the bougainvillea around the main floor balcony. They were good pool buddies as well. We were also joined by a few land crabs who treat the place like they own it. We know that they certainly don’t like being chased with the kitchen tongs, but that’s another whole story! These are the things that really make Las Brisas special.
There are two separate suites on both sides of the main building, which can accommodate two to four guests. The pool, which is surrounded by lush vegetation, is the gathering spot each day, unless you head for one of the nearby beaches. We had invited two friends from Colorado and two more from New York to join us and there was plenty of room for everyone. Check out their web site at lasbrisascaribe.com
The second week we stayed at an old favorite, Blue Palm Villa. Perched on the hillside, BPV has a beautiful view overlooking the valley and the turquoise waters of Coral Bay. Like the first place, this villa has the great room with master bedroom as well as two additional suites and a pool. For the second week we invited three friends from Virginia to join us and there was ample room. We are lucky enough to have a friend, Doug Weaver, who sailed his boat Runaway to St. John 14 years ago and now lives in Coral Bay. The second and third days that we were in St. John we were sailing with Doug, his wife Clare and 4 year-old son Audie. The 50-degree temperatures we left in Virginia were now a distant memory.
While we did venture to Jost Van Dyke in the BVI via ferry from Cruz Bay the first week, the trip we took our second week was made special since we had the opportunity to sail with Doug, Clare and Audie at the helm of Runaway. This is where you find the famous Foxy’s and Soggy Dollar Bar, home of the original Painkiller rum drink, which was perfected in the 1970’s. As there are no docks at the Soggy Dollar, to enjoy this drink, you must swim ashore. We have both been to these favorites before but Doug turned us on to a new place that will definitely be on the radar when we are there again. Sidney’s Peace & Love Bar. We had some of the best lobster ever at this fun place! To top it off, the bar there is a serve yourself kind of deal – excellent!
Everything in St. John is casual, especially in Coral Bay. Shorts, short sleeve shirts and flip-flops are the dress for the day, unless of course, you prefer to go barefoot. There are not as many restaurants in Coral Bay as Cruz Bay, but the ones they have are good food and definitely a good time. One of our favorites is Skinny Legs, which is owned by Doug Bean and his wife Jamie Elliott, who also writes our Caribbean Connection column every month. On our last day there we got to watch their annual “Pitch-N-Bitch” all women horseshoe tournament. Anything for a good time!
As I mentioned earlier, this is not a typical road trip, however we wanted to introduce St. John to those of you who have never been. It is truly a great escape from this area, but still has all the comforts you might need. Even though it has finally warmed up here, the trade winds and crystal clear waters of St. John make it a great destination in the summer – the airfare and villa prices are reduced this time of year and the beaches are not crowded…just be careful on the roads!
Written by: Bob Tagert