Land, Sea and Sky: Explore St. John's Natural Bounty

Visitors flock to St. John primarily for one thing: the great outdoors. Whether that means lying on the beach, hiking, snorkeling, or horseback riding, it's all there for the taking.

Beaches are the most popular outdoor attraction, and Trunk Bay on the North Shore tops the list of favorites. This well-loved beach can get a little busy in winter though, so if you want a more quiet beach experience head to Salt Pond Bay on the far southern tip of the island.

The waters around St. John are best explored by boat or kayak, with companies like Arawak Expeditions or Wet Woody's. Arawak offers guided kayak tours of the coves and reefs, while Wet Woody's specializes in festive offshore "booze cruises."

Those who prefer to stay on dry land can explore the many trails of the Virgin Islands National Park, such as the Reef Bay Trail, which descends from the top of the island, through plantation ruins, all the way to the sea. If you'd rather let someone else do the work, try a 2-hour horseback ride at Carolina Corral, where you'll be treated to panoramic views of distant islands.

If you need a break from the great outdoors, spend a half a day wandering the quaint streets of Cruz Bay. Pop in and out of the boutiques, or treat yourself to a gourmet dinner at one of the many fine restaurants. Just up the hill at the Elaine Ione Sprauve Library, a range of exhibits illustrate the culture and history of St. John.

No visit to St. John is complete without a day trip on the water with some snorkeling, bar hopping, and chillin'. Which is where Wet Woody's comes in. This private boat charter company, which is affiliated with the famous Woody's Seafood Saloon...  Read More

Carolina Corral

Carolina Corral offers one to one-and-a-half hour horseback rides through the hills overlooking the sea. To the north you'll get beautiful views of Tortola, to the east you'll peer over Hurricane Hill, and to the west you'll get a panoramic view...  Read More

Elaine Ione Sprauve Library & Museum
Photo courtesy of Karen Elowitt

St John is home to a thriving public library, located on the old Enighed Estate. Constructed in 1757 as a plantation great house, it fell into disrepair before being restored to its former glory in 1980. In addition to book loans, periodicals,...  Read More

Salt Pond Bay Beach
Photo courtesy of Karen Elowitt

This isolated beach on the southern tip of the island is popular with St. John locals and intrepid tourists willing to make the trek. It's a great place to just spend a lazy day sunning and snorkeling in the shallow, calm water. The beach itself...  Read More

Full and half-day guided kayak excursions are Arawak's specialty. This small family-owned business offers expert-guided tours of the stunning North Shore waters or the Coral Reef National Monument in Hurricane Hole, which include stops for lunch...  Read More

This Danish Colonial plantation was built in 1721 and produced sugar, rum and molasses. Today it's a museum where you can learn about all phases of plantation life and sugar production. You can tour the old slave quarters, factory, and windmill...  Read More

Reef Bay Trail
Photo courtesy of Karen Elowitt

This popular hike can be undertaken on your own (with the help of a park service map), or you can join a guided tour led by a park service ranger. The distance is 2.5 miles each way; the trail is mostly shaded by jungle vegetation but is quite...  Read More

Trunk Bay Beach
Photo courtesy of Karen Elowitt

Trunk Bay is sort of the Holy Grail of St. John beaches, offering a wide expanse of pristine white sand and azure water marked by a small offshore cay. The gentle surf and reefs around the island make it a great spot for beginning snorkelers,...  Read More

Cruz Bay
Photo courtesy of Karen Elowitt

This lovely little town, known locally as "Love City," is the heart of St John. The streets are lined with shops, restaurants, and bars, which are all within easy walking distance of each other. You can easily spend an afternoon lazily wandering...  Read More

Virgin Islands National Park
Photo courtesy of Dr. Caroline Rogers

The Virgin Islands National Park is St John's largest and most popular attraction. It covers 3/5 of St John's landmass and includes 12,624 land and marine acres that encompass pristine beaches, coral reefs, hiking trails, wild donkeys and 800...  Read More


Meet Karen Elowitt

Karen worked for several years as a newspaper reporter and copy editor before becoming a travel writer. She worked for renowned  travel expert Peter Greenberg before going freelance, and now...  More About Karen