Snorkeling 101 & protecting our coral reefs

Snorkeling Basics

Turtles Nest Snorkel gear rentals, ecotours and gift shop
Snorkeling Guide

Snorkeling is one of the top activities on St John. Each year thousands of visitors step into our waters to discover the amazing variety and beauty of the reefs and marine eco systems that surround our island. And that’s where the trouble starts. With so much “traffic” it is imperative that each and every one of us tries to mitigate our impact on these sometimes fragile environments.

Snorkeling 101 mask and finsThat’s where you come in.
Learning and teaching some snorkeling basics can go a long way toward protecting the corals and sea creatures of St John.

Numer onePROPER FIT OF MASK, FINS and SNORKEL. Struggling with ill-fitting gear probably causes more people to stand on or damage coral than any other factor. Not sure how it should fit? Ask for assistance at one of the many retail outlets on island or consider a snorkeling excursion where the boats guide will give you invaluable info on choosing and using snorkeling gear.

number 2 destination St JohnDO NOT TOUCH – as tempting as it may be there are lots of coral and marine life that can sting! And if that’s not reason enough to look-not-touch then consider the life of that creature. The coral reefs are teaming with bacteria and many creatures have developed a complex mucus that covers their skin for protection. When you touch them – you remove this layer of protection and could cause disease.

Voted number 3 St John destinationDO NOT STAND ON CORAL HEADS – sounds obvious but I’ve seen too many people stand on coral to adjust their mask or take a break from swimming! The damage this causes takes years to rebuild. If you’re an inexperienced snorkeler or poor swimmer – consider using some sort of floatation device so that you can enjoy the view safely. If you must stand – find a sandy spot and adjust equipment or rest.

number-fourDO NOT STIR UP SEDIMENT/SAND – it can settle on corals and sponges and literally suffocate and starve them to death. Always maintain a good distance between you and the bottom and remember – those fins extend well beyond your foot! Consider using the short fins – they’re easier to walk in and there’s less chance they’ll strike coral as you explore the shallow reefs.

Corals take years to grow under optimal conditions. With the world’s oceans warming and pollution and human activities putting pressure on our coral reef systems – it’s more important than ever to take a few basic steps to reduce our impact on St John’s coral reefs and marine life so that they may be enjoyed for generations to come!

DISCOVER ST JOHNs TOP SNORKELING and BEACHES

Check out St John’s TOP SNORKELING DESTINATIONS!
Check out our ST JOHN SNORKELING MAP & GUIDE!
Check out St John’s TOP BEACHES!

How do you get to St John …

Ferry dock in Cruz Bay on St John

When people hear that you live on St John they invariably ask, with an almost timid embarrassment, “Where is St John?” “Isn’t it an island somewhere?”. And they’re right, it’s the smallest of the US Virgin Islands. A speck, really, when compared to big places. All are forgiven for not knowing where our tiny island is located. After all, how many of us can point on a map to Malawi, a country of over 15M people! Not many …I’m sure.

So, St John is in the US Virgin Islands, no doubt that begs the question “Where are the Virgin Islands?”. The U.S. Virgin Islands consist of the Caribbean islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas [ capital: Charlotte Amalie]. They are located approximately 40 mi east of Puerto Rico in the heart of the Caribbean Sea.

Google Map of St Thomas and St John [mobile-friendly]


View Where is St John in a larger map

Now that you know where St John is located – getting to St John should be a lot easier. In fact each year nearly 2.5M visitors discover the US Virgin Islands by sea and by air. Most arrive on the dozens of cruise ships that call on the popular port of Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas. Since St John doesn’t have an airport – everybody comes to St John via an inter-island ferry system. Visitors wanting to see St John can leave from Charlotte Amalie or take a taxi to Red Hook. From there you’ll board the St Thomas to St John ferry. It takes approximately 45 minutes from Charlotte Amalie and 20 minutes from Red Hook to Cruz Bay.

NOTE: Like many things on the islands – the ferry schedule can and does change depending on season, demand, weather and repairs. If you are planning your itinerary – allow for delays and call to confirm departure and arrival times when you are close to your dates.

Discover St John

St John travel video

Discover St John as you’ve never seen her before …in HD! This video captures what no single static image could convey and that is the rugged beauty and awesome tranquility of the island of St John. From stunning time lapse of clouds to the crashing of waves, the trickle of water across a shallow pool and the grace with which nature unfolds every day …as only it can in a place like this!

Special thanks to Jacob Schwarz for posting this wonderful “trip” around and across the island of St John.

St John – Top Island Choice in the Caribbean

St John, USVI

2013 Tripadvisor Choice Award winner

Tripadvisor®, arguably the leading travel site on the web, just announced its 2013 TRAVELER’S CHOICE® winners.

No surprise, the little island of St John in the US Virgin Islands ranked #1 destination in the Caribbean for travel.

The 2013 Top 10 Caribbean List highlighted the many beautiful beaches, food and eco tourism that have made this tiny island world famous. And they’re right! With Trunk Bay beach ranked among the top 10 beaches in the world – you’ve got to consider St John. And with a history for eco tourism that predates today’s eco tourism boom – you’ve got to consider St John. Add to that the preservation of so much of the natural resources of the island and reefs within the Virgin Islands National Park – and you’ve got a #1 Destination in the Caribbean!

So what makes St John special?
Beaches: Top among every visitors list of things to do and see are the sheer number of beautiful beaches on St John. With the highest concentration along the North Shore – beaches like Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Maho Bay and the beach at Caneel Bay Resort, consistently rank among the top beaches on the island.

Snorkeling: St John is a top pick for snorkeling because so many of the reefs enjoy easy shallow water access from the beach. Combine that with the protection that is afforded within the Virgin Islands National Park – a it is a snorkeler’s paradise.

Rental Villas and Top Resorts: St John is a haven for Caribbean travelers. Whether you enjoy the amenities of top resorts like The Westin or Cannel Bay Resort or the privacy of a luxury rental villa – St John has you covered.

Need help selecting a rental villa?: Check out the many sites related to the rental market – to see availability and selection. Sites like Tripadvisor® are a great place to see villa reviews and first-person feedback on specific St John Villa rentals.

Top snorkeling spots – Haulover Bay St John

St John top snorkeling spot - Haulover North


Panoramic view of Haulover. Mouse over to scroll left and right!


Snorkeling Guide to Haulover North [Google map below]Snorkeling 101 mask and fins
A STAFF FAVORITE

Once the over-looked sister beach of the more popular Haulover South, Haulover North is now “on the map”, literally and figuratively, with avid snorkelers. And for good reason. With its off-the-beaten-path location and stunning underwater structure it should be on any snorkeler’s short list of top St John destinations. The beach at Haulover North is pebble and coral rubble with some flotsam and jetsam. Entry is easiest at the apex of the beach where the sandy bottom comes nearest the shoreline. Depending on wind and waves – this can be an easy snorkel or a bit of a challenge; but rest assured, well worth the effort.

Elkhorn and brain coral stand amid forests of seafans …and beautiful Caribbean fish!

What To Expect
Haulover North St John Virgin IslandsPark along East End Road, just after you see signs that you’re leaving the Virgin Islands National Park. Follow a narrow path through the woods heading north-east. The beach is about 125 yards from the road. There you’ll emerge onto a cobblestone and coral beach. Rising above you to your right is the Dreekets Bay Development. To your left is the remote coastline of the VI National Park. Looking out beyond the bay and across Sir Francis Drake Channel you’ll see Tortola’s south-western shoreline. But I digress, you’re here to snorkel!

Swimming west ( to your left as you face the water) is the best snorkeling. As you’ll see the underwater structure and currents form an interesting reef system that extends all the way from the shoreline into deeper water! Huge coral heads covered in Elkhorn and Fire Coral stand amid forests of seafans that are home to a myriad of colorful Caribbean fish species. Schools of tangs and wrasses mingle with parrotfish and French Grunts. And yes, there is the occasional barracuda and nurse shark! But to truly see and enjoy this destination you’ll need to dive down among the coral canyons. Here you’ll find an amazing variety of corals, tunicates, sponges, gorgonians, marine algae and hard and soft corals.


~ Click for a Complete List
of St John’s Top Snorkeling Spots ~


Looking for a little beach time?
All you have to do is look to Haulover South. Located just across the street – on the south side of East End Road – you’ll find the visitor-favorite Haulover South. Convenient access,  decent snorkeling and a short stretch of sandy beach make this a great choice for soaking up some St John sun with sand between your toes! And keep an eye out for St John’s only floating bar, Angel’s Rest. Enjoy a unique part of St John and get rid of some of those soggy dollars while you quench your thirst with a cold beer or island drink!

Snorkeling Guide to Haulover North

Snorkeling is best along the western side of the bay where corals and sea fans grow in abundance – almost to the waters edge! Much of the nicest corals are in 5′ to 20 feet of water with many large rock and coral outcroppings to explore. You’ll see lots of fish including Queen and Stoplight parrot fish, Red Hind, wrasses, a variety of Damsel fish, Trumpet fish, puffers, reef squid and more! You’ll also see lots of hard and soft corals and sea fans. There are several large well-established brain corals, Elkhorn, firecoral, colorful sponges and tunicates as well as sea anemones.

NOTE: Because of the surf at Haulover, I don’t recommend exploring the shallow parts of the reef along the shoreline. Three feet of water can quickly become less than a foot leaving you on the jagged coral covered bottom!

Getting there:
From Cruz Bay – take Rte 20 ( North Shore Road) or Centerline toward Coral Bay. Continue past Coral Bay, Skinny Legs heading east. As you descend a steep hill you’ll see signs indicating you are leaving the Virgin Islands National Park. At the bottom of the hill is parking on your left or further up on your right. On the left side of the road is a narrow path leading to Haulover North. Haulover South is on your right – visible from the road. Total driving distance is approximately 8 miles.

CAUTION! - Depending on the weather, tides and moon phase – there can be a strong current if you swim past the western point. Use common sense and never exceed your abilities and always snorkel with someone.

Spotlight on – The Music of Inner Visions

Inner Visions reggae band - St JohnLegendary St John reggae band, Inner Visions, is a must see when you visit St John. This band is pure enjoyment from originals to covers – the sound is so mighty that your feet can’t resist the call to move about!

Their music has garnered them fans the world over and has helped to close the gap between racial, religious and economic divisions by leaning on the one thing we all possess and should exercise. That one thing is love! – Inner Visions

Band members: Phillip “Grasshopper” Pickering- Guitars, Percussions, Lead Vocals/ Alvin “Jupiter” Pickering-Bass, Background Vocals, Akiba “Mr. Snooze” Pickering- Keyboards Lead and Background Vocals/ Aswad “Hollywood” a.k.a. “Black Lion” Pickering-Drums

Inner Visions CDs and merchandise – see any member of the Band and our Management team,
or contact Phillip Pickering – guitargrass@yahoo.com

Connect with the band on Facebook

DIY – Painkiller Drink Recipe

Painkiller drink recipe

History of a Painkiller:
Created in the 1970s by Daphne Henderson at the famous Soggy Dollar Bar, White Bay on the island of Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. The once “secret” drink is so famous that Pusser’s Rum’s modern founder, Charles Tobias, is reputed to have reverse engineered the recipe that is shared here.

Painkiller Drink Recipe
Serves: 1

  • 2 oz of Pusser’s Rum
  • 4 oz of pineapple juice
  • 1 oz of cream of coconut
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • Top with fresh grated nutmeg to taste

Pour ingredients into a shaker filled with ice, shake and pour into a tall glass. Top with grated nutmeg.

That’s it. On-island or not, it really is that simple and easy to make your own Painkiller.

Restaurant Review – Fatty Crab, St John

Restaurant review - Fatty Crab , Cruz Bay, St John

A Taste for Fatty Crab, Cruz Bay, St JohnReview of Fatty Crab, Cruz Bay, St John.
The food at Fatty Crab isn’t your run-of-the-mill seafood joint or Caribbean-inspired Burger spot! Nope, this place wants to put as much distance as it can between itself and the seen-that-done-that food that’s popular at most tourist destinations.

The location is great – just a short walk from the center of Cruz Bay and nestled behind a thick hedge of palms. The atmosphere is Indonesian-meets-NYC in all the right ways. Lighting is perfect – intimate but bright enough to read a menu. Dark woods, comfortable tables and booths, an attractive bar and walls adorned with all manner of art and craft.

“Yeow! Back at Crabby fatso … presently surfing wave of yumminess,”- Tweeted celebrity chef Mario Batali

The food is wonderfully spicy and enticing and served in a multi-course style that never allows your tongue to get bored. Dishes like Green Mango Papaya Salad, Watermelon Pickle and Crispy Pork, calamansi-chili-rubbed Brisket and Coconut Rice seem inspired by Portuguese, Indian and Indonesian cooking. Each dish is a balance of flavors and holds the highest respect for the individual ingredients, really! And the service was anything but island-style. The dishes arrived perfectly timed and hot from the kitchen. Staff is attentive – without hovering.

And the perfect pairing …their drink selection is just as interesting. Sip a perfect “Chupacabra” made with tequila, chillies, fresh watermelon, pineapple and lime. Or perhaps you’re in the mood for a “Love City”? An intoxicating mix of gin or vodka, cucumber, basil, cardamom and lemon.

Menu prices range from $11 to $27 per dish and $5 to $11 for beer and mixed drinks. Here’s their menu …

Fatty Crab St John Menu

T’ingz
Green Mango Papaya Salad | palm sugar, chili, nuts, cilantro | 11
Crispy Shrimp | sweet chili sauce | 27
Fatty Sliders | mini spiced beef & pork burgers, chili aioli, pickles| 10
Vegetable Tempura | local veggies, fish palm glaze | 8
Josephine’s Greens | creamy green peppercorn dressing | 11
Crab Ramen | pork, peekytoe crab, Smoked lobster broth, egg, sprouts | 14
Local Sautéed Vegetables | chili, smokey pork jus, lemon | 10

Fatty Specialties
Watermelon Pickle and Crispy Pork | 24
Yellow Curry Chicken | freebird organic chicken, coconut rice, pickles, poached egg | 24
Indonesian Fried Rice | shrimp, pork, chicken, fried egg | 22
Roti | green curry, local vegetables, rice | 17    add chicken | 4

‘Cue
(smoked in-house, low-and-slow)
Pork Ribs | Indonesian long peppercorn, fish-palm | 12
Pulled Pork | smoked BBQ pork shoulder, sweet rolls, pickle | 17
Brisket | calamansi-chili rub, sweet rolls, chili jam | 16

Sides
Coconut Rice | 3
Kim Chi | 6
Pickled Local Vegetables & Fruits | 10
Crispy Potatoes | curry spices, aioli, sweet chili sauce | 10

Dessert
Coconut Panna Cotta | cucumber, rum raisin, chili-sugar-salt, lime | 10

How to get to Fatty Crab

in Cruz Bay, St. John , US Virgin Islands – Google Map with Directions

18-11A Enighed, Cruz Bay
St. John, VI 00831
ph: 340.775.9951 | fax: 340.775.9770

Wednesday – Monday | Dinner, 5PM to 10PM
Sunday  | Brunch, 11AM to 3PM

Closed Tuesdays (from July 1 to October 31)

Spotlight on – Cases By The Sea

Cases By The Sea, Coral Bay, St John

Cases By The Sea , Coral Bay

UPDAT: 12/03/13 – Cases is CLOSED : ( and Owen is working on getting a boat ready to provide local charters. Stay tuned …

Cases By The Sea is one of those places that just makes you laugh and enjoy yourself. It’s part liquor store …part bar … part place to hang out and meet people. A place to hear music. A place with great BBQ. It’s local. It’s relaxed. The place is literally built on the big-smile spirit of its owner, Owen and his better-half, Hannah. So, make the trip out to Coral Bay and visit this island gem. Have a cold beer on your way back from spending the day at Salt Pond or Little Lameshur. It’s a great place to unwind and meet some new people and see what island life is about.

How do I get to Cases By The Sea? It’s is located in Coral Bay. Coming from Cruz Bay – take a right at the bottom of the hill at the Coral Bay “T”. Cases is about a 1/4 mi down on your right – and across the street from Island Blues.

If you’re looking for an authentic island bar – this is it. And if you have a few drinks and get hungry – Reggie’s BBQ is connected to Cases By The Sea. Grab a drink and grab a seat and enjoy some of the best BBQ on the island!

Spot light on – St John Festival

St John Carnival 2013

Click for St John Festival 2014 Schedule

St John Festival 2013

June/July is the month of celebration on St John. Throughout the month there are activities planned culminating with concerts, a parade and fireworks over Cruz Bay on July 4th! This year’s events include:

  • JUNE 1st – Pan-o-Rama – 4pm @ Winston Wells Ball Field
  • JUNE 7th – Festival Beach Jam – 7pm @ Cruz Bay Beach
  • JUNE 14th – Senior Variety Show – 7pm @ Winston Wells Ball Field
  • JUNE 15th – Festival Bike Race – 8am @ St John National Park
  • JUNE 16th – St John Princess Festival 2013 – 6pm @ Winston Wells Ball Field
  • JUNE 21st – Festival Musical Mix 2013 – 9pm @ Winston Wells Ball Field
  • JUNE 22nd – St John Festival Queen 2013 – 8pm @ Winston Wells Ball Field
  • JUNE 23rd – Food Fair & Coronation – 1pm @ Franklin A. Powell, Sr. Park
    Boat races – 3pm @ Cruz Bay Harbour
    Children’s Festival Village – 6pm @ St John National Park
  • JUNE 28th – Festival Village Opening – 7pm @ Cruz Bay Parking Lot
  • JULY 4th – Jouvert 4am @ St John National Park
    Festival Parade 2013 – 11am @ St John National Park
    Festival Fireworks – 9pm @ Cruz Bay Harbor

This year’s theme
“Come explore the culture scene for Festival 2013″

Festival Village Honoree – Stedwin Frett, Sr.
Festival Food Fair Honoree – Floresa Henley
Festival Parade Grand Marshal – James U. Boynes, Sr.

Jouvay and Parade
on July 4th at 4am a truck begins to make its way along the streets of Love City / Cruz Bay. Music plays.  Revelers join the truck on its journey. This is J’ouvert – a tradition across the islands of the Caribbean.

At about 10am the parade forms with dancers, steel drums, mocko jumbies ( stilt walkers), and men and women in flamboyant Caribbean costumes march by. There are floats and fancy cars. There is alcohol and merriment.

The crowning event of the festival are the fireworks. With people finding the best spots – on land or on the water – the night sky lights up in a stunning display of pyrotechnics.

This year’s Festival Village lineup includes:

  • JUNE 28th – Music by Cool Sessions Brass and El-a-Kru & Tizzy
  • JUNE 29th – Music by Spectrum Band, Carimi and WCK
  • JUNE 30th – Music by Volume and Pumpa & the Unit
  • JULY 1st – Music by Poizon and Daddy Jones
  • JULY 2nd – Music by XPress Band, Krosfyah, Bunji Garlin, Fay-Ann Lyons and Asylum Band
  • JULY 3rd – Music by Spectrum Band, Kes the Band and Small Axe
  • JULY 4th – Music by Marsvyn David Band – After the parade, Ah We Band, Cool Sessions Brass, Roy Cape & Blaxx Featuring Benji, Denise Belfon and Patrice Roberts

St John Island

Getting to know St John island is half the fun. Discover the best St John resorts, top St John snorkeling beaches, beach bars and restaurants and more!. Our pages are the #1 Virgin Islands resource for visitors - providing maps, guides, bar and restaurant reviews, St John villa rentals and news announcements.
Enjoy!

Links

Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park Virgin Islands National Park