You've made it to the island - your long awaited vacation in the American Paradise is about to begin. You're standing on the ferry dock or sitting on your balcony admiring the view. Now what?
St. John is not large, not too developed, not very populous, and not very sophisticated. If your idea of a dream vacation features glitzy nightlife, tons of shopping, noisy casinos and lots of people - you are on the wrong island.
However, if you have arrived on St. John in search of natural beauty, friendly people, a vibrant community, and a pristine environment - then you are in exactly the right place.
Why? Because St. John is unique. It has a distinctly different history than St. Thomas, St. Croix or Tortola. There are subtle reasons for this - cultural, tribal, geographic, and agricultural reasons. St. Johnians have always taken pride in their well-deserved reputation for being fiercely independent, self-sufficient, and community-minded. What other tiny tropic island would refer to its only town as 'Love City'?
Another reason St. John is so unique is because of the National Park. Over half the island falls within its protective boundaries. No other island in the Caribbean has expended so much money, time, talent, careful thought, and hard labor to ward off the corrosive influence of modern man.
You say you want beaches? There are 39 of them - big ones, little ones, crowded ones, and lonely ones. There are beaches for sunbathing, beaches for beachcombing, and beaches for snorkeling. We've got sandy bays, rocky bays, mangrove bays and even salt ponds. There are beaches that are only two steps from your car, and beaches that you can only get to by hiking a long way. A few of our beaches have shops, snack bars and facilities - but most are splendidly undeveloped and natural.
No matter how idealized your expectations of the 'perfect tropical beach' may be - we've got a beach which will meet or exceed them. Guaranteed.
Hiking? St. John has ten minute and all day trails, easy trails and rather hard trails - and trails to historic ruins, isolated beaches, and salt ponds teeming with birds. There are over 20 miles of trails just in the park alone.
As for historic sites, there are ruins of five windmills on the island, old sugar cane factories, plantation Great Houses, mysterious petroglyphs, and even the landmarks of one of the most important slave insurrections in the world.
St. John roads snake alongside some of the most spectacular beaches in the world, and regularly offer breathtaking views of both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Taxis are available to take you to some of the more popular beaches and the bus can take you across the island, but the best way to fully explore St. John is by rental jeep. There are many curve-by-curve 'jeep tours' within this book, and one of them is just right for you, whether you're able to spend an active day or a leisurely month exploring the island.
We do, of course, have nightlife and shopping - and we certainly know how to party. Cruz Bay has a wide variety of shops, restaurants and bars but you don't need a guidebook for that - just wander around town and enjoy.
OK, now where are the beaches, the ruins, the protected forests and the trails? What should you do if you've only got one day? How can you get around the island? That's what this book is for - to tell you what's out there, how to get to it, how to find it and how to enjoy it