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Trip Report St John Trip Report ~ March 19 - 24 (long, with photos)

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We recently returned from our first (but not last) trip to St. John. It ranks right up there as one of my favorites now. We stayed at the Westin because we had an owner referral deal. This was also our first time traveling in high season. While it was nice to escape the cold and the temperature was absolutely perfect, we probably won’t do it again because of the higher costs, cooler water, crowds and North swells (plus we actually had more clouds/rain during this trip than any in the spring or summer). I already obsess about the weather before a trip (even though I know I shouldn’t) so I don’t need to throw another dynamic into the mix!

This trip was just me and my husband. Our almost 4 year old daughter stayed home with my parents and my step-kids were with their mother. But we want to bring the kids back next year…probably St. John but possibly Virgin Gorda and stay in a villa. We originally had a boat trip planned to Jost & the Baths but on the advice of TA members we cancelled since we only had 4 full days on St. John. It was a good call...though I definitely want to do that trip when we return.

As soon as we arrived at the airport (our favorite moment is stepping off the plane into the warm, tropical air), we were handed a shot of Cruzan rum. Nice way to be welcomed! We took the Westin private ferry and as soon as we hit the dock, a rum punch was thrust into our hands. I was feeling pretty good by the time we were whisked off to our room in a golf cart. Since we didn’t pick up our jeep until the next morning, we decided to eat at the hotel that night since we were kind of beat. I loved all the iguanas running around. Some were huge! And two just dropped out of a tree as we walked passed. We even saw them sipping from the pool.

WESTIN: We usually stay in villas but we since we had this offer, we decided to try the Westin. I had read all of the reviews and it was pretty much as expected. Service for the most part was good and the landscaping and pool area was pretty. It was a nice hotel but no way would I pay the rack rate. Due to the many issues I had when booking, I was promised a renovated room. I wasn’t sure if it was or not (bathroom definitely wasn’t) but the view was better than expected so I was ok with it. We got our complimentary water and coffee about every other day (considering they charge a $40/day resort fee, I thought this should have been more consistent). The heavenly beds were the nice but the pillows were hard. The heavenly shower was average and the towels were rough and scratchy.

BEACH CAFE: Nice setting, food was pretty good. Calamari and Painkillers very good.

The next day (Friday) we got up early and picked up the jeep (an orange Wrangler) from O'Connor's on the Westin property. Then we headed off to explore. We are used to driving on flat terrain in the islands so this was an adventure! My husband really liked all the hills and turns. We drove along the North Shore beaches and stopped at the overlooks. First destination was Maho/Francis. We made a lot of wrong turns here and there over the course of the trip (all we had was the "cartoon map" with only the two main roads marked so we pretty much winged it and followed signs) but we always got back on track quickly. My first observation of the beaches was they were much narrower than the likes of Grace Bay and Seven Mile Beach. We stopped first at Francis but it was a bit choppy and the sun hadn't really hit the beach yet..we were desperate to feel the sun on us after escaping a Maryland winter. So we headed over to Maho and set up camp for the morning. We really enjoyed this beach. We walked along the beach, laid in the sun, hubby snorkeled and I took pics :) The water was a bit chilly for me so I didn't snorkel just yet. Hubby saw some stingrays and fish. We were hoping to see turtles (that would have got me into the water all the way!) but no luck.

We did have one interesting surprise though. I had forgotten my magazine in the jeep so I went back, swung open the door and there sitting on the floor of the passenger seat on top of my mag and flip flips was a chicken laying an egg. She politely scooted over while I retrieved the magazine then sat back down. We were discussing how we would get her out but by the time we were done at the beach she was gone but had left us a present - 2 eggs!

We headed back to Cruz Bay for lunch (parking was not fun). This was the one and only time we paid to park as we found spots along the road near ZoZo's from that point on. We got lucky with a spot in a free lot one time but that's it. We dined at High Tide. Food was good (I had the fish tacos and hubby had the mahi mahi sandwich) and the setting was nice. Then we headed over to Caneel for the afternoon.

Loved the Caneel Bay resort. Much nicer than the Westin. The beach is nice and the water clear, unlike at the Westin. Hubby saw an octopus here while snorkeling. I loved all the donkeys roaming around. Most let me pet them but a couple were skittish. On the way out we checked out the ruins. One note…the entrance is under construction and there is no sign so if you are going soon and are unfamiliar with island, just turn in when you see construction. We drove past a couple times before realizing it was the entrance.

Then we headed back to the hotel to shower and head to town for happy hour and dinner. I wanted to try Woodies after all I'd heard about it. We got one drink and never went back. I felt old! It was mainly a rowdy college age bunch. And the place was packed. And those who couldn't afford the dollar drinks I guess, sat on the curb drinking rum straight from the bottle! We wandered around and happened upon The Balcony. Great view from the bar. We met another couple and talked for a while then headed to the Lime Inn for dinner. Hubby had the Caribbean lobster. In all of our travels, we had never tried it! It was delicious..much prefer it to Maine lobster. And I got the red snapper special. It was an entire snapper from gills to tail.

O'CONNOR's JEEP RENTAL - No problems at all. Good service, nice vehicle. Would recommend (I feel like I am leaving EBay feedback :))

MAHO BAY - Great beach. Maho had it all...yachts and sailboats anchored in the bay, views of hills and other islands, sea grapes and palms, calm water, shallow, snorkeling (not great but it was there).

CANEEL BAY - Hotel was very nice. Loved the ambience of the bar, restaurant, lounge area by the beach. Nice beach, pretty views, calm water and snorkeling.

WOODIES - Overrated in my opinion. Yes, the drinks are cheap but it's kind of a hole in the wall (which I guess is supposed to be part of the appeal)..very crowded and a very young crowd.

THE BALCONY - Great bar overlooking Cruz Bay and good drinks.

THE LIME INN - Fun, casual restaurant with very good seafood.

Saturday...up early again (actually we got up and out early every day) to do the Ram's Head trail. Stopped for pics at Bordeaux Mountain overlook on the way. Great views. Again, we are armed only with our cartoon map and some hiking trail info I had printed out. I didn't have Feet, Fins & 4WD because I figured I would pick it up at Border's before the trip but no bookstores near me sell it and by that time it was too late to order online. This is one trail that is not marked at all! We drove back and forth a couple times, then stopped for directions. The area in which to park is very obvious but we just didn’t realize we were at the right place. I had my sneakers on but hubby I guess wasn't expecting it to be what it was and opted for flip flops. I don't recommend this. I am not a big hiker (I don't exercise and am not in shape at all) but I did this just fine and actually enjoyed it. I highly recommend this trail.

After the hike we headed over to Little Lameshur for some beach time. Boy was that a rough little road!! We saw someone there in a vehicle comparable to a Ford Taurus. I can't imagine. Saw lots of goats along the way. Which reminds me..there are mongoose all over the place too. This was a nice quiet beach, though a little rough on this day. We snorkeled. It was okay..didn't see much except for some fish and the highlight which was a Caribbean lobster.

For lunch we were off to Skinny legs. We passed Shipwreck Landing on the way and it looked very nice and beachy and we intended to come back another day but never made it. Our burgers were good but the service was absolutely horrific. I am not talking island time here, I am talking the nastiest waitress I have ever had. She ignored us and was flat out rude. All the people in her section were complaining to one another. One couple just up and left. Aside from her though we had a very nice lunch!

Then we headed back to the Westin to enjoy the afternoon sun. We grabbed chairs at the beach and read until late afternoon. Was a nice and relaxing. Dinner tonight was at Rhumb Lines and I was looking forward to this meal the most I think. We parked in the usual spot up near ZoZo's and walked to the Balcony for our pre-dinner drink. We met another nice couple and enjoyed talking to them for a while before heading to dinner.

Dinner was fabulous. The ambience was wonderful, service impeccable and food outstanding. We started with the lobster bisque special and I had the Shrimp pad Thai (word of warning..it is spicy! I love spicy so it was all good but it wasn't just the usual little kick). Hubby had the Cuban pork...he about licked his platter clean. The mashed potatoes were outstanding too.

After dinner, we got rum and pineapple juice at the little convenience store right outside Rhumb Lines so we could make our own beverages. Liquor prices were cheaper on the island vs. at the airport duty free. This is the first time we have encountered that.

RAM'S HEAD TRAIL - Very rocky but scenic trail with great views. Don't wear flip flops! You have to go across Salt Pond before the trail actually starts. The red-headed cacti were very cool. There is no sign indicating the trail.

SALT POND - Small picturesque bay. South shore beaches aren't quite as nice as the North Shore ones.

LITTLE LAMESHUR BAY - Another small bay with a sandy beach. You pass Lameshur which is rocky before reaching Little Lameshur which is sandy. So-so snorkeling. Nice ruin just off the beach. Plenty of shade.

SKINNY LEGS - Casual little place with good burgers. several shops right there too.

RHUMB LINES - My favorite! Everything about this restaurant was outstanding...the ambience, service and food.

Sunday was our day to check out the bigger North Shore beaches. Our concierge (who was just wonderful and marked up our cartoon map nicely) said Cinnamon was the same as trunk only you don't pay the fee and it's a little less crowded. We got there early again..the crowds at all of the beaches don't hit full force until close to lunch time. The North swells were still aound so the water was choppy. We sat and read for a bit then hubby did some snorkeling around the cay. It's a long swim out and then around the cay and back. Didn't see much except for some fish. Overall, I was expecting better snorkeling around the island. Maybe we just hit an off week for sea life. Grand Cayman is still the best we have found. Very nice homes surround Cinnamon Bay though.

Then it was off to the Lindt point Trail to Salomon Beach. I had high hopes for this beach and it did not disappoint! It is a 15 minute hike from the National Park sign and you have to make a few turns at the spurs. One led into Cruz bay and another to Honeymoon. I did this one in flip flops and it was fine though sneakers would have made it a tad easier. When we emerged onto the beach I was so happy. Salomon is the perfect little beach! it was calm, the beach was wider than Maho, there were palm trees right in the sand, boats anchored out, views of St. Thomas, various cays and Jost Van Dyke. There were also rocks off to each side with a close reef for snorkeling. This was paradise. Of course the spot where I wanted to set up shop next to a palm tree also happened to be very close to an older man sunbathing in a G-string. He was on his stomach most of the time and I couldn't even see the dental floss (not that I was looking :)). I totally thought he was naked. Hubby kept gesturing to me to go to another spot, but I was adamant about my spot. I snorkeled here while hubby slept on the beach. The reef is very close to shore and very pretty. Again, saw some fish but nothing spectacular.

We went to Margarita Phil's for lunch. Hubby's grouper quesadillas were very good. I wanted to check out Hawksnest after lunch...can you say crowded!? Granted it was a Sunday afternoon bu…oh my. It was packed. There were screaming teenagers and drunk men tossing beer cans all over the beach. I could only take that for about 10 mins. I did see Gibney across the way and wanted to go over there but cars were lining the streets and we weren't sure exactly which was the public and which was the private beach so we just headed back to the Westin. I am not a big pool person when in the Caribbean. The sea is much nicer in my opinion. But we decided to do the pool this afternoon and it was actually quite nice. Chairs were very comfy and they had steel drum music playing. Hubby made us some rum drinks and we relaxed and read.

Tonight was the only night we didn't have reservations so we headed to town, parked in our spot and decided to just wander until we saw something we liked. I had seen the Crazy Cracker's sign earlier and wanted to check it out. We ended up staying there all night. We loved the feel and atmosphere here. We ate outside upstairs. It was also $1 margarita night. We had the tuna sashimi app which was very good and I had the mahi mahi wrap (excellent) and hubby had “Gimme Shrimp”. Very good but not a lot of food. He almost got the fish tacos and then our neighbor ordered them and they looked great. Our table neighbors were the owners of the Cloud 9 sailboat which does day sails around the islands. He and his wife were very interesting and nice. If we had more time we could have booked a sail with them! Instead of going back to our room after dinner as usual, we hit the bar downstairs. Very lively and fun...good music, nice people. This was a good atmosphere for our age group (I am almost 38 and hubby is 40). Our bar neighbors happened to be the owners Dave and April. We had a lot of fun talking to them and found out that they were also the owners of the relatively new St. John Inn. An affordable inn type hotel in Cruz bay. After seeing how Cracker's is run we will definitely check out the Inn for a future visit. But the fun ended when hubby lost his wallet (or quite possibly was pick-pocketed as the owner of Larry’s landing said the next day was probably the case).

CINNAMON BAY – Nice wide beach, very scenic

SALOMON BAY – The perfect beach J Salomon has it all…scenic views, boats anchored, cool palm trees, relatively wide beach, softest/whitest sand of all beaches we went to, snorkeling, uncrowded. Quintessential Caribbean beach

MARGARITA PHIL’S – good, casual Mexican restaurant

HAWKSNEST– overrated in my opinion. Nothing wrong with it just rougher than other beaches because of the reefs in part, very “steep” beach and very crowded. Gibney looked more our speed.

CRAZY CRACKER’S – Fun place! Great atmosphere, food, bar. Great drink specials.

Monday was forecast to be rainy and cloudy so decided to do the Westin timeshare tour for $125 “sand dollars.” We had no intentions of buying one but we thought we’d see what the villas looked like. They were very nice but the price was steep. If you are interested, you can get a much better deal buying directly from an owner. The timeshare lady is the one who told us our room was not renovated and compared to these places it definitely was not. One of the hotel managers though assured me that our room was renovated. Hmmmmm. After the tour, the skies didn’t look too bad so we headed back to my favorite beach..Salomon. Was a lot rougher today and we were only there a little while before the dark clouds started rolling in so we decided to do some shopping in town. Got a really cool wind chime for our Tiki bar at Dragonflies & Dreams in Wharfside Village. Then we picked up sandwiches to take back to the hotel. I got one from Mojo’s and hubby got one from Larry’s Landing, Both delicious. We ate by the pool and did some reading. Sun poked out here and there so we gave up our umbrella seats for ones in the sun. Bad move. Half hour later it started raining pretty good. So we stood under someone else’s umbrella for a while but it wasn’t a super brief shower so we headed back to the room.

Tonight’s dinner was at Morgan’s Mango which I had high hopes for. This was the only night we got a spot in the free lot. We did a little more shopping but were still way early for our reservation but they had room for us anyway. Monday was definitely the quietest day/night that were there. The atmosphere is pretty good but the frozen drinks were weak in flavor and alcohol. The calamari app was very good. I had the mahi mahi in mango rum sauce and hubby got the tuna. They were good but nothing special. And the potatoes tasted like instant! What a let down after Rhumb Lines! After dinner we went back to room to read and watch 24.


MOJO CAFÉ & LARRY’S LANDING – Casual lunch spots with great sandwiches (very slow though)

MORGAN”S MANGO – Good but not great. Atmosphere pretty good, food and drinks average. Not a bad meal but with so many other restaurants, I probably wouldn’t return.

Tuesday – our day of departure L We were taking the 11 AM ferry so we got up at 7 to clean out and return the jeep, grab a bagel from Mango Deli and soak up the last few rays by the pool.

Here are 2 links to photos…the 1st is a smaller Facebook album with captions and the 2nd is the full Shutterfly album.

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2018700&id=1419036172&l=324876bfcb

http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8IcMWzRu5aM1w

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