St. John Excursions Part Two- What to do When the Beaches are Busy

St. John Excursions Part Two- What to do When the Beaches are Busy

Good Afternoon Everyone!  I woke up this morning to a notice that there would be nearly 18,000 cruise ship passengers disembarking between Charlotte Amalie and Crown Bay today.  CRAZY.  That’s a lot of extra humans on St. Thomas, Water Island and St. John for the day!  And there are several days throughout the rest of this month (and season) that reflect a similarly high number of cruise ship passengers who will be disembarking for the day to enjoy our beautiful islands.  So, I thought now might be a good time to make some recommendations about other fun things to do that will feel a little less busy but be just as fun (and beautiful) as the beach!

St. John Excursions Part Two- What to do When the Beaches are Busy 1
Today’s cruise ship schedule: CB= Crown Bay, WICO= West Indian Company/downtown

First a few things about cruise ships in the territory.  You can check the daily schedule of arrivals at VINow.com when you get into planning your week and aim to be at the more popular beach destinations on days with lighter cruise ship traffic.  Most of you probably already know this, but for those who don’t we do not have a cruise ship dock on St. John.  However, we do see a huge influx of daytime traffic on big boat days that is significantly noticeable in Cruz Bay and on most popular beaches (Trunk, Maho, Honeymoon to name a few).

St. John Excursions Part Two- What to do When the Beaches are Busy 2

And while we all might have our opinions about cruise ships, with the currently ridiculous costs of airfare, flight delays and cancelations, I feel like some of our long time and first-time guests might be opting for a visit via cruise ship versus paying, say, $8000 in flight costs for a family of five to visit for a longer period of time.  I know of at least two people who have reached out to me directly about this query and I’m sure there are others.  And on these days, our local retailers, lunch spots and taxi drivers do extremely well!  While week-long stays and overnight visits might be a little lighter this season, business on these busy cruise ship days can be a blessing for local businesses.

So, first, check the cruise ship schedule for the week of your visit.  While the parking situation might be just fine at most of our incredible beaches on these busy days, you might discover large crowds once you hit the white sand!  Plan your beach days for the slower traffic days and check out the following ideas about what to do on those busier ones!

St. John Excursions Part Two- What to do When the Beaches are Busy 3
Oppenheimer Beach view from the side of the road next to Easter Rock.

A few months ago, I published the first part of this excursion series with some fun pointers on island tours, paddle and kayak tours and guided hikes.  So, read that one first!  In addition to these awesome suggestions, the following activities are great to plan for days when you see more than three big boats on the cruise ship schedule.

This one is a given, but I’ll mention it anyway 🙂 Get on a boat!

St. John Excursions Part Two- What to do When the Beaches are Busy 4
Avoid the crowds on the beach and take it all in from the water…

A sure-fire way to get away from the crowds is to charter your own private boating excursion.  Yes, you may see boats with a large number of snorkelers at some of the spots your captain takes you to but, at the end of the day, it’s just you, your Captain and maybe your crew enjoying quiet time on your vessel of choice. Here is a list of St. John based charter boats that can get you out of the crowds for a day.

If you want to take it one step further, ask your captain at the beginning of your trip (or in advance) to take your group to some of the less popular destinations.

St. John Excursions Part Two- What to do When the Beaches are Busy 5
A surefire way to relax away from the crowds is on a private boating excursion! Photo: Sailing Asante

Which leads me to my next suggestion…

Go to Coral Bay!  Our beautiful East End is a LOOOOOONG haul from the cruise ship docks in St. Thomas and will likely be less affected by the influx of day traffic.

St. John Excursions Part Two- What to do When the Beaches are Busy 6
Coral Bay

A 30-minute cab ride to Red Hook and then a 15-minute ferry ride will likely leave our daytime visitors looking to get to the closest beautiful blue water once they arrive in lieu of another 45-minute cab ride across St. John 🙂  Take a day to explore hiking, beaches, restaurants and retailers on the Coral Bay side on these bustling cruise ship days (or at least once while you are here for a week!).  A few places to hit on a Coral Bay Day:

  • Grab a bite:
    • Miss Lucy’s for lunch (Current hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from noon-4PM and Thursday for Open Mic from 5:30-9PM)
    • Love City Cafe for grab and go breakfast, coffee or lunch on your way to or from the beach (located in the container next to the old Pickle’s in Paradise building
    • Salty Mongoose for happy hour and pizza (a great stop once you have checked out the shops and Coral Bay Fresh Market at Isola Shoppes – see below).
    • Book a shuttle to Lime Out with Flyaway Charters
St. John Excursions Part Two- What to do When the Beaches are Busy 7
Take in the view with a leisurely lunch at Miss Lucy’s
  • Stock up:  I LOVE heading out to Coral Bay for a little grocery adventure.  Yes, I know I’m a weirdo.  Head out to Josephine’s Gardens for some local produce.  Coral Bay Fresh Market and Calabash Market both offer unique grocery shopping featuring local produce, specialty food and beverages and fresh fish.
  • Hit the beach:  Hansen Bay Beach, Saltwell Bottom Beach (just past the more well-known Hansen Bay Beach), Salt Pond, Kiddel and the Lameshur Beaches are all great places to get away from the west end traffic.
St. John Excursions Part Two- What to do When the Beaches are Busy 8
The view from Saltwell Bottoms Beach
  • Take a hike:
    • I’m sure many of you have already done Ram Head, but if not, it is a MUST DO!  Hit the trail early in the morning to avoid the scorching afternoon sun as the trail, albeit short, is very exposed and does not have much sun protection.
    •  The Brown Bay Trail is a relatively short, yet straight up and down, trail that ascends from the trailhead one mile past Skinny Legs and descends to the beach at Brown Bay.  Bring your snorkel gear for a swim and a change of clothes for dry bottoms on the hike out 😉
    • The Yawzi Point Trail (if you are bold enough to drive the road to Lameshur!) is a relatively easy hike with awesome snorkeling around the tip of the peninsula…Think forests of Fan Coral!  The views of Great Lameshur and Little Lameshur from the walk is well worth the…Well, we will call them canals in the road on the drive out. 🙂
St. John Excursions Part Two- What to do When the Beaches are Busy 9
Ram Head Trail is exposed to the sunshine, but also to the trade winds for a breezy hike once you get high above the water!

While we are talking about hiking…I know most of you are aware of the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park guided Reef Bay Hike that occurs on Mondays and Tuesdays.  But did you know there are a TON of other guided hikes and seminars you can attend during daytime hours in order to avoid those crowds, learn something neat and enjoy a day immersed in nature and St. John history and culture?

  • The Annaberg Cultural Program takes place Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10AM-3PM and is an excellent way to explore the ruins at Annaberg with Ms. Olivia Christian conducting bread baking demonstrations in the cookhouse and Mr. Charles Jackson teaching about the fruits and plants that grow in the garden there.  There is also a historical tour of the property on the second Friday of each month from 10AM-Noon.
  • Guided Ram Head Hike: Last Friday of the month from 9AM-11AM
  • Guided Leinster Bay Hike:  Third Friday of the month from 9AM-11AM
St. John Excursions Part Two- What to do When the Beaches are Busy 10
The guided Reef Bay Hike is a MUST DO in my book!

Most of the Friends VINP seminars and activities are free but you do have to register for some of them as space is limited.  Take a peek at their website for all of the educational (AND FUN!) activities they have planned for this season!

I hope that all of you have a spectacular Wednesday!  And I hope that next time you are visiting, you take some time to get away from the crowds and explore St. John a bit past the beautiful beaches and happy hours…

5 thoughts on “St. John Excursions Part Two- What to do When the Beaches are Busy”

  1. Thank you. I love to read these emails throughout the year from my home in Minnesota. Fortunately, my husband and I are on St John now for a 3 week trip!! Staying at a villa in Coral Bay which we love.

    We spent the day at Trunk Bay and we definitely saw some cruise ship visitors. But it wasn’t terrible. At all 🙂

  2. Thanks for this Hillary.
    All of you copy is very well written and presented.
    We are actually “cruising in” for a on the Enchanted Princess, February 18th.

  3. Great work once again! This is our go-to source for island life. We are new residents to Coral Bay and continue to learn from you and your thoughtful reporting. Well done and thank you!!!

  4. Thank you for this info. We have been to St. John in the past for the day from a boat trip but have never stayed there which we plan to do in March. Your newsletter and tips are very helpful!

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting the hours for Miss Lucy’s!!! I have never been able to figure it out and it has been hit or miss the 5 times we have been on Island. We are definitely planning a trip to Coral Bay for one of those busy cruise ship days – checking that schedule is KEY!!!

Leave a Comment