If someone were to mention the U.S. Virgin Islands to you, the first thing you’d probably picture would be glorious beaches, followed by large crowds. Then, you might envision shopping, eating, and delectable local favorites. Did you know that these things you’re envisioning are on St. Thomas? What if we told you that visiting St. John instead could give you your dream vacation without dealing with as many people?
Why St. John is the Prettiest Island in the USVI
While St. Thomas represents the more upscale lifestyle and St. Croix packs a mighty historic wallop, St. John is the island with the most natural beauty. In fact, St. John has a well-deserved reputation for being the most pristine of the islands. Some of the many benefits that you’ll only find on St. John include:
- Stunning sea views.
- Amazing beaches.
- Glorious sunrises/sunsets.
- Stars, stars, stars—look up at night, and you’ll be wowed.
Of course, you can also add on some St John activities, as there is much to do on this island. Everything has more of a laidback feel to it, though, which is ideal if you want to get away from it all.
8 best places to view St. John’s beauty
You’ll see beauty everywhere in St. John, so make sure you don’t forget to bring your camera! There are so many places that highlight St. John beauty that the only question will be, how can you possibly see it all? Here’s our guide to some of the best of the best in St. John!
1. Swim with the sea turtles at Maho Bay
St. John may be the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, but it’s got the opportunity of a lifetime waiting for you. After all, is there anything more beautiful than sea turtles in their natural habitat? Even better, you’ll have the opportunity to swim or snorkel alongside them!
There’s a reason that St. John is known as the destination for sea turtles, so if you’ve ever wanted to get up close and personal with these creatures, St. John is the place to do so. You’ll even encounter three different types of sea turtles: Green sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles, and loggerhead sea turtles. Just make sure you don’t actually touch any of them and follow sea turtle etiquette.
2. Go hiking in the Virgin Islands National Park
There are plenty of hiking opportunities on St. John, but it’s undeniable that the best spot to go on one of the St. John hikes is the Virgin Islands National Park. Of course, it’s hard to miss the National Park as it makes up 2/3 of the island!
If we focus solely on hiking, you’ll be joining in on one of the island’s top recreational activities. There are more than 20 trails to choose from, and each one provides a look at some of St. John’s unique history. From historic ruins to lovely salt ponds, St. John has basically got it all. You’ll be able to take in some St. John scenic routes as you wind your way through the park. The best part, though? You can expect to run into some areas where you’ll be the only person around!
3. Visit the mysterious Petroglyphs
You’ll want to see this next wonder after catching your fill of St. John nature. Somewhere in the past, ancient people lived on St. John and left behind one monumental clue—petroglyphs. A series of mysterious faces were carved in the blue basalt rock. Perhaps most exciting, though, is Reef Bay Valley’s spring-fed pool. It is filled with crystal clear water, showing off a 20-foot panorama of faces. Even better is the fact that these faces can be seen year-round.
It is believed that Taino artists carved these petroglyphs. This ancient culture is believed to have been on St. John between 900 CE and 1500 CE. The petroglyphs themselves, meanwhile, date from 1020 CE to 1500 CE. They have an air of mystery to them that you simply can’t get on the more developed parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
4. Spend time alone at Honeymoon Beach
You know the drill; you’re on a tourist island, so there will be people everywhere, right? Not necessarily! In fact, if you set aside a day to visit Honeymoon Beach, the odds are high that you can carve out some alone time. That’s because Honeymoon Beach is one of the island’s most remote beach locations. While there may be other people there, everyone who wants to find privacy can usually do so without a problem.
Even with how remote this beach is, you can still rent lounge chairs, snorkeling gear, and a cabana. Plus, there’s a restaurant and bar that are closely located. It’s like having the best of both worlds—you’ll have the amenities of a big-time beach without the massive crowds!
5. Enjoy an unparalleled view of the night sky
Most people take in the sights by day, then return to their hotel room in the evening. Sadly, this also means that most people miss out on one of the most gorgeous things you can see on the island. Stargazing from St. John will show you stars you can only dream of back in the United States. Plus, there are some stargazing spots that don’t suffer from light pollution.
Areas to watch the stars from include Cinnamon Bay Beach, Coral Bay, and from the top of Peace Hill. Even if you can’t get to one of these spots, the stars are visible from anywhere on the island, so just look up! USVI beauty has never looked better.
6. Check out Annaberg Sugar Plantation
If history is your jam, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to see these 18th-century ruins. At that time, there were 25 different sugar factories in St. John. Of course, sugar wasn’t the only thing being made at Annaberg Plantation. Rum and molasses were also made here.
Sadly, the plantation—along with everything planted there—was run by slave labor. After slavery was abolished, the land was split into many smaller farms. At one point, there was still evidence of 16 slave cabins. Today, though, they’ve mostly fallen apart. There is a placard that indicates where they once stood, however.
7. Continue learning about history at Peace Hill Sugar Mill
Annaberg Sugar Plantation is the best spot to see how sugar was made, but Peace Hill Sugar Mill has a gorgeous view of the sea. It also happens to be at the end of one of the easiest walking trails on the entire island. It’ll only take you a few minutes to access Peace Hill, but once you do, you’ll want to stay to take several photographs of the unfettered beauty all around you.
Areas to photograph from Peace Hill include:
- Hawksnest Bay
- Jost Van Dyke
- Trunk Bay
- North Shore of St. John
Don’t forget that this is also one of the best spots to go stargazing on the entire island!
8. Explore the arduous Reef Bay Trail
Reef Bay Trail will undoubtedly lead you to a lot of natural beauty, but it will definitely test how good of a hiker you are. There is one area that has a 900-foot elevation that will really make you feel the burn. We don’t recommend this spot to beginners or people who have physical difficulties such as a weak heart or bad knees. If you can do it, though, you’ll never forget it!
Allow yourself at least two to four hours to tackle the Reef Bay Trail, and don’t plan any strenuous activities for the rest of the day. You’ll be able to see:
- Oldest and tallest trees on the island
- Danish sugar plantation ruins
- Stone walls from cattle grazing
The backcountry you’ll encounter is steep, and it’s also rocky and uneven in some areas. It will also surprise you, as some spots can be slippery, even if they’re not wet. Make sure you wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes, and be sure to take mosquito repellent and a hat.
St. John provides the very best in beauty
As you can see, when it comes to natural beauty, St. John has got the other U.S. Virgin Islands beat! It’s not an island that you can simply stroll around, however. Instead, you’ll have to do some hiking if you truly want to explore this Caribbean Island. If you’re up for that, though, be sure to put these places on your must-see list:
- Maho Bay and the sea turtles
- Virgin Islands National Park
- Cinnamon Bay Beach at night
- Annaberg Sugar Plantation
- Peace Hill Sugar Mill
- Reef Bay Trail
After the day’s scenic journey, you’ll need a place to kick back and relax. Why not stay at the best rental on St. John, Vacation VI? From pointers on where you can find the best St. John exploration opportunities to relaxing in your private pool among luxury accommodations, Vacation VI can help!