This was our fifth trip to St. John and our second with our boys, 10 and 13. We spent our first few days on St. Thomas, so I’ll skip ahead to day 4 when we got to St. John:
Day 4: We took the 10:00ish car barge for the first time to St. John which was a fun new adventure for us. I was concerned that we might all get seasick (we stayed in our car), but it was a quick and smooth ride. We went straight to the dive shop to get our snorkel rental gear then to Starfish. I had packed a couple of those thermal bags, so we stowed the cold things in there while we picked up lunch at Sam and Jack’s deli. We then headed to Sunnyledge, our villa above Francis Bay (our favorite beach), and we were eating lunch on the patio by 2:00 and on the beach by 2:30!
Day 5: Honeymoon, Salomon, Hawksnest. We like to start early, so most of our days we were on the beach by 8:30. We started the day at Honeymoon with a great snorkel to Salomon—some of the biggest triggerfish I had ever seen (big fish is one of the themes of our vacation). It had been a few years since my husband and I had been to Honeymoon and we were interested to see the changes. The main change was the crowd—it wasn’t super crowded, but the rental stand is definitely bringing in more people. There were some kayaking trips that left the beach with about 15 people in each group and a lot of stand-up paddle boarding. It’s still a beautiful beach that offers some solitude. We had lunch at Caneel. We then headed to Hawksnest—it was blanket-to-blanket! The most crowded I’ve ever seen, so we didn’t stay too long. Snorkeling here was ok, but we didn’t really explore too much.
Day 6: This was the 4th of July—the kids are not really into street fairs, so we didn’t go to Cruz Bay—instead we headed to Waterlemon. It was about 7:30 and it looked too rough to go all the way around—whitecaps in the channel—but, a man was just finishing and he said that if he could do it that anyone could. This emboldened my husband and older son and they headed out. My younger son and I stayed on the shore. They really enjoyed their snorkel—my husband’s only negative was that at times he couldn’t see anything because there were so many fish! We hiked back to Annaberg and a lot of people were arriving. We then headed to little Lameshur. It was our first visit to this beach and the famous road. After reading so much about it, the road wasn’t as bad as we were expecting—the kids, of course, thought it was great! We had picked up sandwiches at Pickles deli on the way. The beach was more crowded than I expected but everyone had the day off so I should have expected that. The snorkeling was good to the left with colorful coral and our first spotted eagle ray! It was huge! At least 5 feet across! My husband and older son also snorkeled around the small rocks in the center of the bay and saw some large fish that they couldn’t identify.
Day 7: This was the day that we finally had a beach all to ourselves for a couple of hours, and strangely, it was Trunk! We thought the revelers from the previous night would all still be in bed and we were right! We got there before the rangers and it was 9:30 before anyone else showed up. We thought the coral looked better than the last time we were on St. John in 2012, and we saw a 6-ft amberjack. When the others started showing up, we packed up and headed to Salt Pond. Salt Pond is another favorite of ours. There were few people on the beach with most people who arrived heading off to Ram Head. The boys did some snorkeling here but mostly took advantage of the low crowd and played catch with their water skipping ball. My husband made the long swim out to the rocks and reported excellent coral. My sons saw two five-foot plus barracudas—after someone screamed in the water they snorkeled over to investigate! We had lunch at Shipwreck Landing, stopped at the Love City Mini-mart, and spent the afternoon at Francis.
Day 8: We packed a picnic and spent the whole day at Francis after a revisit to the dive shop for a mask swap. Great snorkeling with huge turtles.
Day 9: Another picnic and more Francis with great snorkeling on the right all the way to the point.
Day 10: Today was our last day and it was kid’s choice. They chose Jumbie (because they wanted some wave action) and Maho. We only stayed at Jumbie an hour or so—the waves were not as big as the boys had remembered, but they had fun. Maho was wonderful. We had another picnic and this was probably the most consistently sunny day, so the snorkeling was crystal clear. Lots of conchs, and we also saw a large school of squid for the first time. Snorkeled around to Little Maho where we saw a group who had clearly come to Little Maho from the old campground area—not sure the beach is supposed to be accessible that way anymore. We were thinking about leaving when a huge group came and set up right next to us with one 20-something woman standing on my son’s towel to put her sunscreen on! Unbelievable but hilarious!
Day 11: Everything must come to an end. We had breakfast at Baked in the Sun and got some take out sandwiches for our travels. We lined up for the car barge—I again worried about seasickness, but this time we were on the side and could see the horizon.
A word about Sunnyledge: there are not a lot of reports about Sunnyledge, but we found it to be a fabulous, well-maintained, well-stocked, secluded and comfortable home with easy access to both Coral Bay and Cruz Bay. It has unbeatable views of Francis, and you can see the beach, not just the water, while still being high enough to have a steady breeze. It is on the old road to the Maho camps, so who knows what changes are to come, but, for now, we wouldn’t hesitate to return.
Hiking: Usually we do quite a bit of hiking but this year only to Waterlemon.
Overall, it was another great trip to St. John, and we can’t help but think about planning our next trip. We probably won’t come back over July 4th again—only because the crowds were noticeably larger. But, “crowded” on St. John is not the same as “crowded” somewhere else :)!