Our party of 4 (two couples) travelled to St. John June 16-23, 2013. This was the second trip for me and my husband (we stayed at Caneel for a week last June), but first for the other couple travelling with us. We rented Wings over Water through Vacations Vistas for the week. This is a long post, but I found other trip reports very helpful in planning our vacation so I hope this helps some of you all in the planning phase.
Arrival day: Met by Basil (sp?) at the STT airport and were transported to ferry by one of his drivers Ken. Ken was very nice and it was a quick easy ride – we would definitely recommend Basil and his drivers. I believe cost was $15 pp, no extra charge for luggage. Landed at 1:08 pm and barely missed the 2 pm ferry. Ate lunch at Fishtails while waited. Slow service and food just ok. In hindsight, would have waited and picked up sandwiches in Cruz Bay. Take 3 pm ferry to STJ. We were Met at end of dock by Vacation Vistas rep. She takes one of us and all of luggage to Varlack (other party members walked as it is just a 2 block walk, if that) – where we rented 4 door jeep wrangler for $572 for week (no insurance because paid with credit card which provided insurance). This was our 2nd time renting through Varlack and we have had good experiences both times. I would recommend. Arrive at villa around 4 pm. Driveway was scary at first! Villa is spectacular! Just as pictured. The views were amazing, and it was perfect for two couples traveling together as the two pods provided more privacy. One thing to note is that there are no indoor showers – I thought this might be a problem at first, but we all actually ended up really enjoying the outdoor feel. Others have questioned whether you can see one showering in the upper pod from the main deck and you definitely can – there are, however, clips on the deck that you can use to hang up a sheet or a towel which solves the problem. The outdoor shower of the lower pod is fully enclosed, so no issues there. The villa was well appointed and had everything we needed to cook meals, etc. (pots, pans, dishes, coffee maker, coffee filters, some condiments in fridge, left over liquor in cabinets, etc). Vacations vistas provided us with welcome basket of 6 pack corona, bottle red wine, some sandwich meet, triscuits, cheese, fruit, and cookies. Leave and go into town to go to grocery and buy some food/drinks for the week. Cooked dinner in that night.
Day 1: Travel to Low Key sports and rent snorkel equipment. Started day at Cinnamon Bay. Saw turtle, sting ray, and some large fish. Hiked to little Cinnamon. Snorkeled to sunken plane (much smaller than imagined, but neat nonetheless). Snorkel from little Cinnamon to Peter Bay –views of the villas from the water were incredible. Ate lunch at restaurant at Cinnamon Bay– nothing special (we ate hotdogs and ruffles, which were $5 a piece), but was a neat atmosphere inasmuch as it was “in the trees.” In hindsight, should have gotten sandwiches at Sam and Jack’s or Deli Grotto and eaten on beach. Next stop= Maho. Saw an abundance of sea life. Many turtles, many sting rays, starfish, etc. Left Maho and did Peace Hill hike. Then hiked to Denis Bay. Really great little beach, would definitely return. Unfortunately, water fairly rough so we did not attempt to snorkel around Perkins Cay, but think it will be good based on what we saw. Lots of colorful parrotfish and nice coral. Returned to Cruz Bay for dinner at Across the Street Bar. Got fish tacos, steak tacos, and Ahi Tuna Sandwich. All were good and very reasonably priced. Great Happy Hour.
Day 2: Started with Ram Head hike. Views from the trail and at end were spectacular. Relatively easy hike, though hot at times with sun. Nice breezes. Would definitely do again – our favorite hike in St. John so far. Hiked to Drunk Bay on way back to Salt Pond Beach. Snorkeled and laid out on Salt Pond for about 1.5 hours. Left and had lunch at Miss Lucy’s. Still one of our favorites on the island. The views from the restaurant are gorgeous! We got seafood wrap, conch fritters, steak wrap and jerk chicken wrap, and some Johnny cakes –all were excellent. After lunch, we hike to Brown Bay. Saw large sting ray in water while standing on the shore (did not get into water). Saw tons of crabs on trail to Brown Bay. Saw Brown Bay ruins. Return to villa, get ready, and head to Cruz Bay for dinner. Had dinner at Uncle Joe’s after trying Rhumb Lines which is randomly closed on Tuesdays . Our party ordered the chicken and ribs. The ribs were excellent but, overall, just an ok dinner compared to other meals.
Day 3: Rained ALL day, literally. We were up and ready to leave by around 8 am, but rain started right as we were getting ready to leave. Decide to hike Reef Bay trail. Drive to trail head via Gift Hill road and Centerline. Switchbacks on Gift Hill were BRUTAL! Pretty scary experience with the wet roads – we were very glad we had jeep and 4 wd as I’m not sure we would have made it otherwise. Hike to Reef Bay, taking spur trail to petroglyphs along the way. Petroglyphs were very neat, but no waterfall even though it had rained extensively the night before and most of the day. Saw Reef Bay ruins and famous restroom (Lady Bird Johnson). Walked along Reef Bay beach, but did not see any sharks (raining pretty hard, did not get in water). Hike back up Reef Bay was long and hard. Can’t imagine doing in sun and heat! Took a little over three hours for entire hike. Return to villa and drive to Cruz Bay for dinner at Rhumb Lines. This was one of our favorite meals! We got guava daiquiris, crab cakes, Szechuan tuna, Steak and potatoes, conch fritters, banana mahi mahi, scallops and oreo pie. Ambience was great – we really liked this place and will definitely eat there again on our next trip to St. John.
Day 4: Drive to Francis Bay. Hike to beach, see blue land crabs on trail on way to beach. Spend a few hours at beach. See lots of pelicans diving for fish. Hike back on boardwalk trail. Head towards east end, but first stop at Annaberg school ruins. Out to east end, stop at Miss Vies for lunch. Each of couples gets garlic chicken, johnny cakes and rice. Although the food was good and it was a neat local place, this was not one of our favorite meals. Onto Hansen Bay, one of our favorite snorkeling spots. Snorkel to Pelican Rock. Back to Cruz Bay for Caneel Hill/Margaret Hill hike. Hike Caneel and Margaret Hill. Hike takes approximately 2 hours. Back to villa, get ready and drive back to Cruz Bay for dinner at Banana Deck. Really nice meal. We got the Polynesian Pork, which was really good, mahi mahi , steak and spring rolls. We didnt enjoy as much as Rhumb Lines, but was a nice meal overall.
Day 5: Drive to Lameshur. Hike to Great Lameshur. Hike to Yawzi point. Hike to Little Lameshur. Rock scramble around point to Tektite/Cabrite trail. Hike back to Lameshur road. Hot hike, trail not well marked/maintained. High grasses. Incredible views, crystal clear water, we were just about only people out there. We really enjoyed this area and would have stayed longer, but had to go back to villa to pick up the rest of our party. On our next trip, we will plan to spend at least one full day at these beaches. Head back to villa. Have lunch at villa. Drive to Caneel bay and park. Hike to Salomon. Swim/snorkel at Salomon. Lots of waves and more people than last year, but still beautiful. Head back to Caneel and have drinks at the bar to cover parking fee. Back to villa to get ready and then head into Cruz Bay for dinner. Dinner at Sun Dog Café, another one of our favorite meals. The Mexi cali dip and the Shrimp Vera Cruz were AMAZING!! Would definitely eat at Sun Dog again.
Day 6: Briefly rained in the morning and saw beautiful rainbow over water from terrace while eating breakfast. Drive back to Maho and spend several hours there. See tons of turtles, sting rays and conch shells. Also see a nurse shark, which I unknowingly took picture of!! Returned to Miss Lucy’s for lunch, and we all get seafood wrap, which was great! Return to villa and spend afternoon by the pool. Get ready for dinner and head to Cruz Bay. Dinner at Spyglass. Dinner was just ok, but the fried key lime pie was phenomenal!
Departure day: Pack up. Fill up car with gas, return snorkel equipment, and return car. Have mimosa from High Tide while we wait for ferry. Take 11 am ferry to STT, where Basil is waiting. In car on way to Charlotte Amalie, get message that flight is delayed and we are going to miss connection. Buy and carry out lunch from Gladys’ café. Airport is chaos, but both parties end up making it home that night.
In all, it was another fabulous trip to St. John and we are already talking about our return visit. We brought, and frequently used, both the Pam Gaffin book (feet, fins and 4 wheel drive) and the Off the Beaten track book. Both are excellent resources and I highly recommend buying if you plan to travel to STJ. We loved Wings Over Water and would definitely stay there again. We are torn as to whether the villa option was “better” than our trip to Caneel last summer. There are definitely pros and cons to both -- we loved having the extra space at the villa and the ability to cook meals, eat snacks, etc., but the convenience of being right on some of the most beautiful beaches on the island when at Caneel is definitely a perk. We love this island and I feel confident that we will return many more times and will probably return to Caneel but also rent a villa on future trips.