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How to best "group" beaches for St. John day visits?

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Feb 4th, 2007, 01:44 PM
  #1
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How to best "group" beaches for St. John day visits?

Hi everyone,

Our family of 4 (kids are 16 and 12) will be staying at the Marriott on St. John for 8 nights in June. We plan to take our rental car (SUV) over to St. John for 4 of the days.

We would like to spend each day visiting a couple of beaches for some snorkeling and relaxing. We'll most likely have a picnic lunch, or want to grab some inexpensive local food for lunch. Then we'd like to have an early dinner so we can catch the 7 p.m. car ferry / barge back to St. Thomas.

How should we "group" our beaches? Looking at a St. John map I was thinking of doing something like this (this is totally a guess so correct me as needed!):

Day 1 - Caneel, Hawksnest
Day 2 - Trunk, Jumbie, and Cinnamon
Day 3 - Haulover, Lenster Bay / Watermelon Cay
Day 4 - Salt Pond, Lameshur Bay

Maybe on Days 1 and 2 we could have dinner in Cruz Bay, and on Days 3 and 4 we could have dinner in Coral Bay? We've got the Lime Inn, Fishtrap, La Tapa, and Uncle Joe's on our Cruz Bay list, and Sweet Plantain's, Shipwreck Landing, and Miss Lucy's on our Coral Bay list.

By the way, are there any places to take a shower before dinner?

Thanks for your help!

Carole
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Feb 4th, 2007, 01:59 PM
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If you're planning to spend 4 out of 8 days visiting St John, why not stay on the island for those days? Ferrying back and forth to STT seems like a huge waste of time!

Caneel's beaches are mostly for their resort guests, not all are open to the public, so Day 1 seems like too much time, or plan to use some of your Day 1 time to explore Cruz Bay area.

Depending on how much time you plan to spend on each beach...they all start to be similar to each other. Going to 3 beaches on the same day just seems like alot of the same stuff in different places.

We enjoy spending 2 weeks on STJ, but we also slow down and relax. Mix up beach time with snorkeling, casual dining & just kinda wandering around town some of the time.

Going from beach to beach to beach seems strange to me.

I'll be curious to hear what other folks think.

Your visit to Salt Pond should include a hike up to Ram' Head and over to Drunk Bay. A hike out to Yawazi Point along with Little Lamesur Bay beach would also be good. Plan to pack a lighweight cooler with picnic snacks and drinks as there isn't really anyplace to buy provisions once you're out south of Calabash Boom area in that part of the island.
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Feb 4th, 2007, 02:18 PM
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Thanks tpatricco - We're staying at the Marriott for free, using points... hence staying on St. Thomas.

We actually would like to pick one beach for snorkeling (morning is usually best for that), and then drive around a bit for sightseeing and visiting other beaches, (but not necessarily snorkeling) in the afternoon. The hikes you mention will add in a nice mix, as well.

Thanks for the clarification on Caneel... I was wondering if that was the case. We could do some shoping, looking around Cruz Bay on that day.

So which are the 3-4 BEST beaches we should go to for snorkeling? My 12 year old doesn't want to have to swim way out for snorkeling... so we'd like to select beaches with reefs near shore if possible.

We will make one of our St. John days a Sunday to hit either Miss Lucy's jazz brunch, or the one at (I think) the Beach Bar in Cruz Bay.

Carole
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Feb 4th, 2007, 03:53 PM
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On the day you want to do Waterlemon, I'd eliminate Haulover. Do Waterlemon in the am for snorkeling and then head over to Maho or Francis Bay for beaching.

I'd not plan more than one beach a day.

Hawksnest's reef is very close to shore. So is Jumbie's. Salomon's too.

I agree with Trish about the beaches all the looking the same after awhile. It is a good problem to have however!

I'd do one day at Caneel, one day out in Coral Bay and the East End driving around (stop for fritters at Vie's), one day Waterlemon/Francis and one day Trunk Bay. Intersperse some exploring on each of these days in the mornings or afternoons. Hope this helps.

-Bill

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Feb 4th, 2007, 05:29 PM
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Thanks Bill - I appreciate your response. I actually went back to your trip report earlier today when I was trying to figure out our itinerary!

I'm now reading "Feet, Fins, and Four-Wheel Drive" and am contemplating whether or not to buy "St. John Off the Beaten Track". People who recommend both, but that might be overkill for our 4 days on St. John.

Carole
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Feb 5th, 2007, 06:19 AM
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Parking is limited at Trunk, Cinnamon and Hawksnest. If I remember correctly, these are the only beaches with showers. We went to these beaches early and noticed that there were no spaces left by lunchtime. Cruise ships take their guest to Trunk and the beach got pretty crowded and noisy by 10:00. So I suggest you get to this one early, pick a pretty spot, and enjoy it at peace for most of the day. The food there is decent so lunch would not be a problem.

In comparison with the other beaches, we thought Caneel Beach was a waste of time. Our favorites for easy snorkeling were Hawksnest, Trunk, Francis, Saltpond, Hanson's Bay. The walk to the beach for Watermelon is long and might not be the best use of your time.

Because the surf was up on the North shore, we went to Hansen Bay (right past Vie's there is a free spot) and really enjoyed it.

Unless you are really an avid shopper, especially for fine jewelry, I cannot imagine spending time browsing in the shops in Cruz Bay. I glanced around a bit as we were early for the ferry back to St T and was totally disinterested in what I saw.

We ate most of our meals in the Coral Bay area. Sweet Plantains was our favorite and we had their non-spicy golden chicken curry twice. Shipwreck was noisy, but fun. It was packed and fortunately we had reservations. Miss Lucy's has a wonderful setting right on the water but we thought the food was so-so. I understand she no longer is doing the cooking. We enjoyed Aqua Bistro, too. You can get burgers and pizza there, in addition to full dinners.

A good on-line beach guide: http://stjohnbeachguide.com/Beaches/beach_home.html
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Feb 5th, 2007, 06:51 AM
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Wow evelyntrav - this helps a lot.

Unfortunatley, cruise ships will be in port EVERY day for all 8 days we'll be on St. Thomas. Two of the days there will be 2 ships (we're going diving or to Jost Van Dyke on those 2 days!!). On the other days the cruise ships get in at 7:00 a.m.! That's early... we'll probably depart on the 8 a.m. ferry from St. Thomas to St. John ourselves.

We're not big shoppers at all, by the way.

Thanks for the restaurant recommendations. We had planned to go to Vie's - that's why we had Haulover on our list, but will look into Hansen's Bay.

Carole
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Feb 5th, 2007, 08:06 AM
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Just so you know, Haulover's beach (north and south) are rocks. It's a good place for snorkling (south was better when we were there). But there is no sand beach for lounging.

Also, Vie's is not open every day...so investigate prior to planning which day to do East End.

Shopping on STJ is not great, but it can provide a diversion for part of a day if desired. I prefer Mongoose Junction to the Wharfside Village for this as well. The only place I really want to go at Wharfside is the Beach Bar!

evelyntrav didn't mention it, but Skinny Legs is an institution for burgers and is a great casual lunch spot in Coral Bay. Island Blues too.
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Feb 5th, 2007, 08:45 AM
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All in all, your itinerary depends on your preferences. My wife & I spent several days doing multiple beaches. We really aren't into just sitting on the beach doing nothing for hours. We are into snorkeling bigtime, so we loved trying several spots per day.

The book you have "Fins, Feet, & Four Wheel Drive" is really all you need along with a decent map. Most of the beaches aren't too hard to find. Of course some will have very limited parking.

I wouldn't hesitate to try the Caneel beaches at all. They are very nice, and easy reefs to snorkel. The reefs here are in good shape, and should not be missed. I'm sure the dive shop at Caneel will help steer you in the right direction for good snorkeling oppurtunities on site. Honeymoon & Solomon are both postcard beaches, with decent reefs close.

Waterlemon is about a 15-20 minute hike (all flat), and entry is pretty easy depending on where you decide to get in. Keep in mind that the reef/Caye is at least 100-150 yards off shore. If your 12 year old doesn't want to swim far, this might not be a good choice. It is however, a great spot with lots of sea-life.

Trunk is okay, but crowded. The snorkel trail is average at best. Major coral bleeching here. Although this is a beautiful beach, we would not return. There is just so many other beaches that are much better.

Francis was one of our favorites. Gorgeous beach, and lots of sea-life. Not a lot of coral here, but we swam about 100 yards to the right of the beach, and were surrounded by millions of siversides, along with huge Tarpon, and also sharks...it was awesome.

Another one of our favorites was Salt Pond. The hike to the beach is a little hot (no shade), but quick walk of about 5+ minutes. Again, the best snorkeling here is quite a distance off shore. You will see a set of rocks about 150-200 yards out. These rocks have awesome coral heads around them, and are teaming with life. Truly an incredible snorkel. However, this was easily one of the longest swims out to the "Good Stuff".

As far as restaurants, most of your choices look pretty good. Our worst meal was at Uncle Joes BBQ. So many people raved about this place, but the ribs were tough. Seems that the guy who used to cook the food there has opened up somewhere else, and the food had gone downhill. Lime Inn was very good, Fishtrap just okay. For cheap eats in Cruz Bay, burgers at the Beach Bar are excellent. Also, we had a fabulous meal at The Balcony. Their lobster crepes are to die for!!

I think your over-all plan looks great, and I'm sure you'll have a great time. My best advice is to rememeber to slow down sometimes, and just roll with it. Weather can also have an effect on beach choices and snorkeling. If it's blowning hard on the north shore beaches, hit the south side.

Hope this helps a bit......

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Feb 5th, 2007, 05:11 PM
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Here's another nod for Sweet Plantains! Loved, loved, loved their food. It was the most interesting and creative food we had on the island while we there. We ordered A LOT of food and it was all good. I recommend the flan for dessert. Delicious.

-Bill
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Feb 5th, 2007, 10:49 PM
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Thanks, everyone, for the additional information.... I now have all these details tucked away in my notes!

Are Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay the only beaches with fresh water showers?
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Feb 6th, 2007, 07:00 AM
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The beach guide I mentioned will indicate which beaches have showers. Hawksnest might, but I am not certain.
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Feb 6th, 2007, 07:02 AM
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Evelyntrav - I just now am looking at the beach guide. It's GREAT with pictures and detailed information. Alas, no showers at Hawksnest.

Carole
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Feb 6th, 2007, 07:06 AM
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Oh, also... now I see that Vie's is on Hansen's Bay, not Haulover Bay. It says Vie's is open Tuesday - Saturday.
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Feb 6th, 2007, 09:08 PM
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Your schedule seems doable, but I wouldn't suggest eating dinner in the Coral Bay end, unless you're eating really early. Be careful not to miss that last car ferry because it'll be a real hassle. I would make reservations on the car ferry because they tend to fill up and if you don't have a reservation, it's first arrive first on. I'd day your restaurant list is more ambitious than your beach list. Haulover can definitely be eliminated from your list. Unless you're avid snorkelers, there are better beaches. Neither side is a "hanging out" type of beach. Also, June is low season, so I would still call Vie (not sure if that's possible) because she can be a little unpredictable during the summer. But no worries, the beach there is nice consolation, and the drive out there is very pretty. Leinster/Waterlemon Cay is a pretty good walk, at least 1/2 mile and no facilities. It's worth it if you are again, avid snorkelers. Caneel has 7 beaches, so you might want to accord it at least half a day. Since you may be worried about your rental car, you might want to reconsider Lameshur because the road there has some quite challenging spots. In fact, I have punctured a rental car tire there before. Luckily, we were on STJ long term, and my DH is pretty good re: changing tires, and I brought the tire to a local mechanic who patched up the puncture for me good as new. Saltpond is fine. There's a little parking area at the beginning of the entrance route.
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Feb 6th, 2007, 10:20 PM
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Thanks Tuxedocat. Actually, we've scratched Lameshur off the list... the jury is sitll out re: Watermelon Cay.

We do love snorkeling, but my husband and daughter will be doing a few scuba dive trips in both the USVI and the BVI... my son and I will come along (except for the Rhone trip) for snorkeling. We'd still like to see some good shore snorkeling too, however.

So you don't like the idea of eating in Coral Bay? Oh, I get it... because we need to get back over to catch the ferry. Maybe we can do Miss Lucy's jazz brunch... that will be early enough. I sure was hoping to try Sweet Plantains too.

We'll definitely do the reservation with the ferry... don't want to get stuck! How soon before the last ferry departure do we have to be there?

Carole
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Feb 6th, 2007, 10:38 PM
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It is my understanding that there is only one beach that non-guest can use at Caneel. We thought that beach was very small and uninteresting compared to the other St John beaches. The other beaches at the resort are supposed to be wonderful, but you do need to be a registered guest to use them.
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Feb 6th, 2007, 10:42 PM
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Vie's charges to use her beach, but there is a small, informal beach with rather nice shore snorkeling right past her establishment. We parked right across the street in a pull off area.

Carole, I'm please you checked out the beach guide I had mentioned. I found it very helpful and accurate.
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Feb 6th, 2007, 10:47 PM
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Yes, evelyntrav - it's a great St. John beach guide. Looks like it's somehow affiliated with the other book I was interested in buying.... "St. John Off the Beaten Track".
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Feb 7th, 2007, 06:51 AM
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cawhite, Tux is right about dinners in Coral Bay. You may think STJ is a small island but driving back from Coral Bay to Cruz Bay at night can be a haul and to add making a car ferry back to STT onto it is quite ambitious.

For example, we stay in Coral Bay area and rarely make the effort to go to Cruz Bay for dinner, especially if we want to have a drink or two.

I suggest you do your first choice STJ activities on the first day you plan to go, because you may find that it's so much effort to go back and forth every day that you could end up changing your mind about the whole thing. Remember, part of the pleasure of an island vacation is relaxing and enjoying it...not running around like a nut to try and see and experience everything there is.
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