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.
Panoramic view of Haulover. Mouse over to scroll left and right!
Snorkeling Guide to Haulover North [Google map below]
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
Park 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.
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!
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.
Legendary 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 – email@example.com
Connect with the band on Facebook
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
- 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.
A Taste for 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
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
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
(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
Coconut Rice | 3 Kim Chi | 6
Pickled Local Vegetables & Fruits | 10
Crispy Potatoes | curry spices, aioli, sweet chili sauce | 10
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)
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!
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
Christmas is a time for celebration and the Virgin Islands are no different. Well, there might be somethings about Christmas and New Years celebrations that are unique to the islands. One of them is Guavaberry Wine.
Guavaberry is a small purple to orange/red fruit of the guavaberry tree. This spindly tree is very finicky and won’t grow just anywhere. But St John is one of those places that the guavaberry enjoys. High on Bordeaux Mountain on the eastern side of St John, the forest are the perfect environment for the guavaberry. With plenty of rain and cool winds – the guavaberry tree thrives.
Because it isn’t commercially produced – guavaberry wine isn’t usually available. It is something each family produces and shares with great pride.
So, make some friendships while on island and you may be lucky enough to taste this unique island treat.
For generations residents have picked the guavaberries and, according to each families recipe, made them into a traditional holiday drink, guavaberry wine. Ingredients include raisins, vanilla bean, sorrel, prune, cinnamon and rum make up guavaberry wine. But don’t let the name fool ya’h. This isn’t like the wine from Napa -this is a fruit and rum infused drink with the power to bring you great celebration [ and, if taken in large quantities - great woe]. You’ve been warned!
Brown Bay is, literally, one of the off-the-beaten-path beaches. The beach at Brown Bay is sandy and wind swept with plenty of shade along the narrow sand and pebble shoreline. The water is a mix of sandy bottom and sea grasses. Shallow entry. Waves are lightest early in the morning and on days when the wind is out of the south. Located on the East End of St John your only way to get to this beach is by rental car / Jeep. And that’s part of what makes it special and secluded and worth the hike to get there.
Hiking the Brown Bay Trail from East End Road is moderately steep from the parking area to the top of the ridge ( approx. 20 minutes). You’ll follow a narrow path that zigzags its way up the hill. Once you reach the crest it’s all down hill from here (approx 10 to 15 min.). As the trail levels off you’ll see Brown Bay to your right. When you reach a “Y” in the path – go right along Brown Bay beach. This protected bay doesn’t get the larger waves common on some of the more popular north shore beaches – but you should choose a day with plenty of sunshine and wind out of the south. And remember, hike in means hike out. Save some water for your return up the hill.
Snorkeling is best along the eastern side where the corals are exposed to a stronger current and deeper water. While Brown Bay isn’t known for snorkeling it does nonetheless have some interesting structure and marine life to see. So pack that snorkel and fins and enjoy a day of secluded paradise.
Getting there: The most popular way to reach Brown Bay is by hiking the Brown Bay Trail, located just off East End Road (Rte 10). Plan on approx. 30 min. of hiking each way.
Brown Bay Ruins – there is a rambling group of foundation stones and archways along the western side of the beach. The area is pretty overgrown and difficult to explore. Also, beware of the Jack Spaniard wasp! They love to build their nests hanging from vines …at about head height ; )
The TAP ROOM is St John’s island Microbrewery & Brew Pub. For over 10 years the guys at St John Brewery, Kevin and Cheech, – have been crafting some of the best beers in the Virgin Islands – including a nice Tropical Mango and Island Hoppin’ IPA. If you like beer then this place is a must see while on St John.
“A great place to grab a cold beer and a bite after a day in the sun.”
Full disclosure: I’m a huge IPA fan. And the Hoppin’ IPA is one of the best. Crisp, hoppy and just enough carbonation to satisfy just about anybody that likes a good IPA. Not a fan of IPAs? Then I recommend their Tropical Mango or Island Summer Ale. Both are easy to drink – with perfectly balanced flavor – and light enough to be truly refreshing. Heresy aside – if you’re not in the mood for beer then you must try a Dark’n Stormy made with St John Brewer’s own Ginger Beer. A classic Bermuda rum drink – with a St John twist.
They have an outdoor patio and air conditioned bar – either is a great spot for an island brew and some decent pub grub.
Everybody arrives on St John by ferry into Cruz Bay. To get to the Tap Room – bear left from the docks and follow the street as it winds around the customs lot. About 2 blocks up on your right you’ll come to Mongoose Junction – a collection of island shops and restaurants. Located on the second level is the Tap Room.
Mon-Sat: 11am to Midnight and Sunday: Noon to Midnight