We traveled to the USVI for a pediatric emergency medicine conference in St. Thomas. We spent 3 nights on St. John prior to the conference, then 5 nights on St. Thomas. We knew our week was going to be awesome once landing in St. Thomas – we were greeted with a steel drum band and a complimentary rum shot while waiting for our bags!
St. John is a very unique and pristine island with 60% of the island preserved as US National Park land. The beaches are beautiful, though slightly over-crowded, and surrounding by hiking trails and great snorkeling. We rented a jeep on St. Thomas to get around and stayed at an Airbnb with fantastic views.
We started off early on our first morning in St John, arriving to Trunk Bay before the crowds. Trunk Bay is an iconic white sand beach on St John, providing a post-card view from the winding road above. There is a “snorkeling trail” at the beach, which we followed to find soft corals, trunk fish (for which the beach is named) and other sea creatures. We stumbled upon two orange, dancing squids in a cove nearby and observed them for a while. After our snorkeling adventure, we dried off, ate lunch, and left in time to avoid the afternoon crowds and heat.
That afternoon and evening we spent at Francis Bay, a narrow beach located north of Trunk Bay. Our friend Sarah joined us for sunset cocktails at the beach, as did the numerous no-see-ums who proceeded to eat my legs alive. The pictures were great, but I’m not sure they justified the itchy misery that followed!
The following morning I took my small-pox legs on a short hike to Water Lemon Cay for amazing snorkeling. After a short swim from Leinster Bay we reached a small island surrounded by beautiful coral. Being that this beach is a bit off the beaten path, the coral was pristine (safe from damage from tourists’ fins) and the fish were plentiful. It was some of the best snorkeling of my life! We spent the rest of the day exploring the island, relaxing, and eating yummy seafood. That evening we hiked 1.5 miles up to an overlook to watch the sunset over Leinster Bay. We were certainly rewarded for our “effort” and the sunset was spectacular.
St. Thomas is the much more developed sibling island of St. John. Still a beautiful island, but we much preferred the solitude of St. John. We attended a pediatric emergency conference at the Marriott Frenchman’s Reef and stayed at a nearby resort we found on VRBO with our friend Sarah, an NP in our section. We attended the conference in the mornings and relaxed on the beach in the afternoons. Sarah showed up my observational skills by a longshot, when she was able to see critters while snorkeling that I can’t even spot while scuba diving. Needless to say, we’ve convinced her to take up scuba!
The best decision, by far, was to do an island tour of the British Virgin Islands. Our first stop was the Baths on Virgin Gorda, an amazing formation of granite rocks that resemble slot canyons at the beach. We then had lunch at Cooper Island and snorkeled at Norman Island. Our last stop was at Jost Van Dyke where we visited the Soggy Dollar, the birthplace of a yummy drink called the “painkiller”. It was a relaxing, fun-filled day.
After 5 days on St. Thomas, we were sun-kissed but exhausted, and ready to come home to our much-missed dogs. Several days after we got back, we got our biggest snow storm of the year – 38 inches, and I found myself longing to be back in the sun. Overall we had a wonderful trip and a much-needed escape from Colorado winter.
We had a great trip exploring some of the US and British Virgin Islands. These islands are very accessible and easy to explore. We enjoyed St. John better for its undisturbed beauty and nature, but you can’t go wrong anywhere there is ample sun and beaches to enjoy.
- We recommend renting a jeep on St. Thomas and taking it over on the car barge to St. John. Make sure the company provides maintenance on St. John – some companies require you to either fix it yourself or pay to transport the car back to St. Thomas via the ferry.
- Purchase the book “St John: Feet, Fins, and Four Wheel Drive” for a great guide on snorkeling, hikes, and jeep tours.
- Search VRBO and Airbnb for good deals on lodging – we booked our resort for 1/3 the price
Rental Car: Discount Rental Car http://www.discountcar.vi/