Virgin Islands National Park
Located: Maine - Established: February 26, 1919
Important Notice: Much of the park was heavily damaged during the 2017 hurricane season. Please check the park's website for information about access to the park.
The Park: During World War One, the United States purchased the islands of St. John, St. Croix, St. Thomas and over 50 other islands in the Caribbean from Denmark for $25 million to keep them out of the hands of Germany.
In 1956, conservationist Lawrence Rockefeller donated more than 5000 acres on the island of St. John to the US to become the country’s 29th National Park. Six years later, 5,650 underwater acres were added to the park’s domain.
The park covers over half of the island of St John and about 95% of Hassel Island, which is located on the western edge of St. Thomas’s harbor. The park includes over 100 historic sites that collectively represent some of the most undisturbed and comprehensive Caribbean landscapes and artifacts.
Getting there: There are no airports on the island of St. John so to get to this park, you will fly to Thomas Cyril E. King Airport (code STT). From there, you will need to either rent a car or hire a taxi to take you to the Ferry Depot at the east end of the island. From the Ferry Depot, you will hop either a vehicle ferry or passenger ferry to get to Virgin Islands National Park!
Once on the island there are only two main roads and if you have rented a car...be sure to drive on the left side of the road!
When to go: The park is open year round. Summer months bring on more rain and lighter winds and can experience tropical storms and hurricanes. During the winter months you are much more likely to experience stronger winds and less rainfall than during the summer.
What to do: Most visitors head to the beaches when visiting this park. Trunk Bay (pictured above) is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is also the only beach on St. John that charges an admission for access.
This park has some of the most incredible opportunities for snorkeling and diving and features an underwater snorkeling trail just off the shore of Trunk Bay. The Trail features underwater plaques that provide information on the fishes and coral reefs.
Coral and coral reefs are very fragile and require very specific conditions to stay healthy so please keep from stepping on them!
Hiking in Paradise: In addition to water activities, hiking is one of the more popular activities on the island. There are 20 established hiking trails available offering hikes both short and long and for all levels of hiking abilities. Reef Bay Trail is considered one of the more difficult trails; however, you’ll be treated to fantastic views and island petroglyphs as well!
Where to stay: Camping within Virgin Islands NP offers a unique experience. The Cinnamon Bay Campground offers bare tent campsites available for those who prefer to pack their own gear...or you can rent a tent complete with cots, bedding, cooking and eating equipment!
As for lodging within the park, the Campground offers a number of 15’ x 15’ cottages with awe-inspiring views of the beach. In addition, the Caneel Bay Resort with 166 rooms and four restaurants offers visitors an upscale, yet pricey lodging experience. There are several lodging options in the town of Cruz Bay.
"Tent Camping" at the Concordia Eco-Resort is how we began our 58th park visit. Excellent opportunity for a unique vacation experience. Sadly, the hurricanes of 2017 severely damaged this resort. We hope for all future trekkers that the Concordia Eco-Resort comes back to life!
Memorable moments: Hiking out to the end of Ram Head Trail and getting caught in a sudden downpour. Discovering the "rock art" long Drunk Bay Beach. Exploring the Sugar Mill ruins. Driving on the wrong side of the road!
Trivia: Although the Virgin Islands are a territory of the United States, it is the only place under US jurisdiction where driving a car on the island requires you to drive on the left side of the road!
Banner: St. John coastline looking across to the British Virgin Islands (BVI)
Experience these Check List:
- Stop by the Visitor Center at Cruz Bay
- Rent a Jeep and tour the Island
- Take the self guided Snorkel Tour at Trunk Bay
- Enjoy a bus tour of the island
- Trek the Cinnamon Bay Trail
- Hike down to Reef Bay Sugar Mill Ruins (Strenuous)
- Take the Petroglyph Trail to the Petroglyphs