Top snorkeling spots

Snorkel Caribbean Magazine's roundup of the island's best snorkeling puts Salomon/Honeymoon Bay at the top of the list. 

One reason it's terrific is because it's not easy to get to.  There's no road access. 

One tip is to go to Caneel and walk the trail, or visit the National Park Service building, get a trail map, and start walking from there along the north shore.  In second place for snorkeling is Caneel Bay, and third is Hawksnest. 

The magazine's list highlights the best-known snorkel sites, and not necessarily the locals' favorites, like Blue Cobblestone Beach (St. John Beach Guide).

(Photo is by Steve Simonsen.)

How to bring home a great shot from St. John

PHOTO St. John has lots of opportunities for snapshots.  But if you want more than a snap, you're going to have to do a little work.  Thankfully, an earlier issue of the St. John Sun Times has done some of that work for you, assisted by Bob Schlesinger of Tropical Focus.

In the article you'll learn when to shoot. Generally, the best time to take great photos is just before around sunset, between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.  That's when the light has a soft and buttery feel.

Read moreHow to bring home a great shot from St. John

Things to do

Discovery Undersea Reef Tours

BoatOne of St. John’s newest attractions is a 125-passenger glass bottom boat. Departing from Cruz Bay, St. John or Redhook, Discovery Undersea Reef Tours allows passengers to explore the underwater world in air-conditioned comfort from its bottom level through 20 picture windows.  The middle and upper level house a bar, seating and captain’s deck where visitors can enjoy views of St. Thomas and St. John. Available for groups, weddings and special events. For more information go to www.globalmarinellc.weebly.com.

"Accessible Trails” in the Virgin Islands National Park

The accessible trails at Francis Bay and Cinnamon Bay are now completed. These trails allow visitors in wheelchairs, families with young children and strollers and other people who are less “sure of foot” to enjoy the natural beauty and exotic fauna of the VI National Park.

The Cinnamon Bay Trail opposite the entrance to the park is now wheelchair-accessible with a 610 foot ramp that winds thru the Factory Ruins. The wide path combines concrete walkways with raised wood boardwalks. It also uses toe rails and grooved handrails to ensure that visitors are safe and comfortable. 

Virgin Islands business opportunities

There are some interesting businesses for sale on the island right now, but what if you're an entrepreneur and want to start your own? Forumites at the Virgin-Islands-On-Line.com site have been mulling this question.

Lsugolfer in Baton Rouge said "So, here's what I do when I sit in my cube and think about how crappy this is compared to STJ. Start a gas station or a 'Louisiana'-themed restaurant."

JMhouse said, "Ha ha. I'm in a cubicle, too, listening to someone else have a loud conversation on a speaker phone.  I'd much rather be the Park Ranger that leads the Reef Bay hikes."

Other suggestions people have for new island businesses.

  1. "A storage business where you could leave your snorkel gear/beach chairs, shoes and whatever you don't want to cart back and forth." (Diana2)
  2. "A wind turbine, maybe somewhere on Ajax peak." (Laurie)
  3. "An electric car rental company.  And a self-serve car wash and vacuum area." (Msgcolleen)
  4. "Chicken Removal Service." (StJohnRuth) Details 
  5. "Underwater camera rental. Would have to be a side business. (Not big enough to sustain itself.)" (Jmaq)

How to watch for a whale

Whale

It's that time of year.  When humpback whales migrate to colder water in the northern hemisphere and are sometimes seen in Virgin Islands waters.

The Environmental Association of St. Thomas-St. John sponsors whale watching tours each winter. The first of 2012  is scheduled for Monday, February 20.  Additional sails are set for Feb. 27 and March 6, the Virgin Islands Daily News reported.

According to the association, the humpback whale migrates as many as 15,500 miles.  It spends the winter and sporing in the warm Caribbean waters while breeding and birthing calves.  Whales can be 35 to 50 feet long and weigh as much as 80,000 pounds.

CatamaranBL-s

Of course, the cruises don't come with a guarantee.  But sighting the mammals is not unheard of.  Just ask Jennifer Dale and Ginny Westrick, both of whom spotted whales a few years ago off Coral Bay.

The 60-foot catamaran, Spirit of St. Christopher, can accommodate as many as 60 people.  It will depart the National Park dock at Red Hook at 8:30 a.m.

Friends to handle Reef Bay hike signups

Petroglyphs-150-x-150

According to Gerald Singer, author of the St. John Beach Guide, the Reef Bay hike is one of the 10 best in the Caribbean.  

If you want to go on the hike, there's been a change. You now sign up with the island's Friends of the Park, not the National Park Service. You go to the Friends of the Park's store on the first floor at Mongoose Shopping Center and make your reservation.  You pay $30.  The fee is for transportation from Cruz Bay, by taxi, out to the start of the hike's trail, and the boat ride back along the south shore of the island.

"The problem was that there were a large number of no-shows for the hike," said  Joe Kessler, president of the Friends.  "There were generally many empty places, depriving folks who wanted top go."  Furthermore, charging up front for transportation makes no-shows less likely, he said.  "Since the Park was not charging for the tyrip and didn't want the hassle of colecting the money, they asked us tp help. In the end we might make a few bucks in the process."

During the winter, the hike, led by a National Park Ranger, is offered Mondays, Tuesday, Thursdays and Fridays, with the taxi leaving Cruz Bay at 9:30 a.m..

The Reef Bay Hike is a 2.2 mile downhill walk through a shady and moist forest and past four sugar plantations.  It is best known for the petropglyphs (rock engravings) carved by Taino Indians.  For decades, it has been one of the most popular activities in the Virgin Islands National Park.

Previously reservations for the hike were handled by Park personnel.  

How to buy your way into the island’s top road race

8tuff
Next month's 8 Tuff Miles road race is sold out. The 16th annual running has drawn 1,100 registrants. That's 10% more than last year, when 88% of them finished the Cruz Bay-to-Coral Bay endurance test.

But there's still a way to run the race even if you haven't signed up.  Race organizer Peter Alter is allowing folks who did not make the deadline to make a deal to get a numbered bib.  They can go to the 8 Tuff Miles Facebook page  and look for people who did register for the Feb. 25 event, but who have changed their plans and won't be running.  Perhaps there's even money to be made.  "They can use Facebook to re-sell their bib numbers to the many people looking for one," he said.

The race captures more attention every year. Caribbean Travel + LIfe magazine notes the first half of the race, from Cruz Bay to the top of Centerline road, is a 999-foot change in elevation.  "That's almost as high as the Empire State Building."

Money raised by the 8 Tuff Miles race goes to help fund college costs for boys and girls who finish first in their age categories. 

Top 10 things to do in Cruz Bay

Sometimes it takes new visitors to St. John to remind the veterans about some of the best things on the island.  TripAdvisor attracts a lot of first-timers and benefits from their comments, as well as those of frequent visitors who pass along their experiences, too.

Browsing through TA this week, the Inquiring Iguana was interested to see the recommendations. Nine of the top 10 involve watersports or sailing.  Nothing about the Park, or the ruins, or hiking. Not even beaches! Coming in at #8 is St. John Brewers' Tap Room at Mongoose Junction, suggesting everybody needs a few beers after a day under sail.

Park seminar schedule released

A sure sign that the winter season is upon the island is announcement of the Friends of the Park's schedule of workshops, hikes and various activities.  The 2012 season begins in January and includes oldies but goodies as well as some new opportunities to learn about the island, its history, and its charms.

Among the 35 offerings on the list are familiar things like Tropical Light Photography on March 25, Native Arts and Crafts on Jan. 5, and Kayak the Mangroves of Hurricane Hole, April 7. Pepper Sauce Making is scheduled for Jan 4.

One new offering for 2012 is a presentation by archeology interns Feb. 22.  They will talk about burial customs of the Taino people at Cinnamon Bay, where human remains have been found.

The activities' instructors are locals who donate their time and skills.  Fees for the classes begin at $25 for Friends members nd $35 for non-members.  You can call 340-779-4940 to make a reservation.

It’s Thanksgiving Regatta weekend

Two days of racing and two nights of partying with live music are on the agenda for the 30th annual Thanksgiving regatta of the Coral Bay Yacht Club, headquartered at Skinny Legs.

There will be racing in half a dozen classes, including GaffRiggers, Cruisers and Traditional boats. Racing begins Friday morning. The wrap-up awards ceremony will be Saturday afternoon at Skinny's.

All proceeds go to Kids and The Sea program. Raffle ticket sales at Connections, St. John Hardware, and Paradise Hardware.