St. John to Do: Reef Bay Hike

Setting Out on Your Reef Bay Hike The two-and-a-half hour journey from the South Shore Road to the Reef Bay Sugar Mill and the warm water of Reef Bay should be at the top of any visitor’s list.  Whether you take the National Park Service’s guided walk, or hoof it yourself, the hike is one of the island’s best activities.

This video via YouTube was produced by Andrew Burnett, a big fan of the island.

Should I Take the Reef Bay Hike on My Own?

A word of caution, though. If you wouldn’t walk up the 400+ steps of Notre Dame, don’t think about taking the Reef Bay hike on your own. While it’s all downhill at the start, there’s always the return trip. Taking the Park Service tour means your guide is a Park Ranger and you get a boat ride back to Cruz Bay, along the south shore of the island.  (Lots of villa gawking to be done on the way.)  One veteran hiker added in a comment on TripAdvisor, “Hang out near the boat pilot and ask questions the whole way and you’ll learn a lot.”

If you hoof it yourself, going down is OK, it’s climbing back up that’s the killer for anyone who’s not in great shape and used to uphill hikes. At the very least, pack a couple liters of water with you.

What Will I See on the Reef Bay Hike?

Petroglyphs on Reef Bay HikeCivilizations lived on St. John long before the Europeans arrived to the region, as evidenced by the petroglyphs, or rock carvings left by the Taino people. Their carvings are found on the hiking trail and the ranger will point them out. These people were all but driven into extinction by Europeans in the 17th century seeking new territories as colonial properties.

Ranger-led hikes on Mondays and Thursdays take visitors down the three-mile path through tropical forests to the sugar mill. Reservations are required and there are fees for taxi transportation to the trail head and boat return to the Visitor Center.

  • Info on Reef Bay Trail Hike here

Eat and drink the St. John way

The island boasts some world-class restaurants. La Plancha del Mar, Zozo's, La Tapa, and Asolare jump to the tip of a well-used tongue.

Lately, some of the island chefs are "lifting their aprons" to reveal some of their recipe secrets.

Ovceangrill At Mongoose Junction's Ocean Grill has posted a small number of recipes.  Boasting that it offers "Contemporary cuisine with a fresh tropical flair," its web site offers how-tos for Crustless Quiche, Lemon Vichyssoise, and Banana Cake.  Each recipe is on the site and available for download via PDF. The site says there are more recipes available via a link to an Archive.  Not true.  Click it and you get the same three recipes.

Fishtrap Another source for recipes is the web site of Virgin Voices magazine.  Aaron Willis of the Fishtrap Restaurant in Cruz Bay is featured in two videos showing how he prepares Red Snapper.  The audio and video quality are a little rough (Looks like this might be an experiment by the magazine to see if it's a popular). See the video here. 

Read moreEat and drink the St. John way

The high cost of living on St. John

Technomads The first question people ask is "How can I find a job on St. John so I can live there forever?"

The second question people ask is "How's the cost of living."

The answer to the first is, "Work at it." The second is, "Very".

Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard spent about six months living on the island while they plied their trade as software developers.  They call themselves Technomads and delight in seeing the world while logging on and building their business wherever they are. They have published a successful iPhone app showing cell phone coverage around the USA.  

While on the island, they rented an efficiency apartment for $700/month.  That included electricity.  They had to buy propane for their stove.

Staying connected cost about $240 a month.  That covered Hughesnet for Internet (via DishandDat Choice WiFi), two iPhones and a Sprint data card.  "Connectivity is what makes our digitally nomadic lifestyle possible."

Read moreThe high cost of living on St. John

A good word about St. Thomas from St. John


Often, the island across Pillsbury Sound is referred to as "St. Trauma."  There are lots of reasons; not the least of which is that getting there and back takes at least half a day.  If you've been lucky enough to find what you wanted, or get done what you wanted done, it's still an anxiety-filled trek.

So, it was kind of a surprise to see Ella Anderson’s St. John Sun Times magazine's cover featuring "St. Thomas Issue."

"It's a little bit different for us," she conceded in her monthly Publisher's column. "But there are a lot of stories, not so different from our own, on our sister island." And it's only natural, then, for Anderson, who's made "Always Positive" her way of doing business, to write, "Our islands are so close it just makes sense to me to be more inclusive."

Read moreA good word about St. Thomas from St. John

St. John’s Hollywood connection

Larry Safady IS The Sandman.

If you saw this Heart sculpture the Vow Renewal ceremony at Trunk Bay on valentine's Day, you saw his work. (Photo courtesy of TropicalFocus.com)

That's his art, honed by instruction at California State University at Long Beach, years before he made the move to St. John.

In a profile of Safady, the St. John Source says he migrated to St. John after a career as an art director for Disney and 20th Century Fox and Mattel.  Now he hires himself out for $35/hour to do works of sand at parties, weddings, grand openings opr whatever, says the Source.

Building a sand castle or house or corporate logo is more than just piling grains of sand.  There are buckets of water to be carried, too, to help compact and shape the creation.

Read moreSt. John’s Hollywood connection

It’s the little things … like electricity

Karin Schlesinger's plaintive Facebook message caught the Inquiring Iguana's attention.

"Any recent news on the continued power outage on st john? it's been a long day without power here in Pastory."

And she wasn't the only one, or hers the only neighborhood, with no juice.  In fact, all or parts of of St. John, and St. Thomas and Water Island were "in the dark" Wednesday.

The problem was an oil leak in the Water and Power Authority's "workhorse generator," the St. John Source explained in its report.

The leak brought the machine to a stop early in the morning.  Backup generators couldn't handle the loads and so, one by one, the dominos fell and the other generators shut down.

By Noon, WAPA had begun to restore power in some areas, but it was 7 p.m. until Schlesinger – and St. John – were back in business.

Mary Metzger Jenkins posted on her Facebook page, "Watching a ceiling fan work is a beautiful thing."

Live the villa life at $20,000 a week

The owners of a new property at Point Rendezvous seem to be betting that the good old days are coming back.

Eco Serendib Villa and Spa opens for business next month offering "a new level of eco-friendly ultra-luxury" with eight suites, a spa,, gym and "epicurean Theater kitchen featuring sub-zero appliances.  Price tag: an introductory cost of $20,000 for a week. (One source says winter season, the place will go for $35,000.)

"Everyone dreams of having a private villa of their own in the Caribbean, whether to just get away with family and friends, experience a wellness journey or hold an event of a lifetime such as a wedding," explained Harith Wickrema, the villa's manager. 

"Our credo is to provide experiences that entertain, excite, educate, provide escapism and aesthetics," said Wickrema, who is a nationally recognized event planner. "It is also our mission to offer our influential guests an opportunity to experience the benefits of spending time at a destination designed with the Earth in mind."  He explained that the Villa's goal is not necessarily to be "a 100% ecologically pure resort" but, rather, to show the discerning traveler how luxury and ecologically sensitive products and designs can co-exist in total harmony.  

"We seek to redefine luxury," he said, "so that it becomes less about self-indulgence and more about self awareness in the world we all share."

Read moreLive the villa life at $20,000 a week

Villa sales pace ahead of last year

To judge by data on the island's Multiple Listing Service, the real estate market is fairly steady compared to a year ago.  By one measure it's showing strength, too.

The number of properties on the MLS is 151, compared to 148 this time last year.  The average asking price is $2.032 million, a 10% decline from a year ago.  The median price of a home is down seven percent to $1.4 million.

240000 There are 50 homes with an asking price of less than $1 million, and 43 with prices of more than $2 million.

On the plus side, the home sales history on Cruz Bay Realty's Web site shows a gain form last year: 10 sold four months into the year versus 20 sold in all of 2010. CBR's Gretchen Labrenz adds there are six more homes under contract to close for sale.

Read moreVilla sales pace ahead of last year

Court hears Grande Bay a grand mess

The controversial Grande Bay condo/timeshare development at Cruz Bay is front and center in a Sarasota, Fla. courtroom.

At the defendant's table is David S. Band, a real estate developer and law firm founder.  He is accused of defrauding his partner by not properly overseeing the project.

Wanda Libby, wife of the partner making the charge said when she visited, "It was just a total mess."

Budgeted originally at $15 million, the Sarasota Circuit Court was told the ultimate cost is more likely $45 or $50 million, according to a report published by the town's Herald Tribune newspaper.  The project is still unfinished, according to testimony.

Read moreCourt hears Grande Bay a grand mess

Making noise at Maho

A pavilion picnic area, costing nearly $500,000, is being built at Maho Bay beach. (Photos courtesy of Bob Schlesinger of TropicalFocus.com.)

The money for the work has been raised by fees visitors paid at Trunk Bay as well as those from boaters using the Park's moorings.

The project involves removing some of the old pavilion as well as constructing a new facility, adding a toilet, and a few additional parking spaces at the far end of the beach.

Read moreMaking noise at Maho