When you imagine paradise, what comes to mind? I guess that is a loaded question as what paradise is is truly in the eye of the beholder. For us paradise is no schedule, no work-related nonsense, nature, great food, and even greater people. While we have found many of paradises in Yosemite, the Redwoods, and Holbox Island, nothing compared to what we found on St. John USVI. We were well into our journey to visit every national park in the US when we started planning the 2021 trip to St. John. Camping and hiking have always been enjoyable past times for us but this time we were searching for something different. We craved the ability to relax in the sun without calculating how many miles we needed to beat our longest hike and that led us to Virgin Islands National Park. It led us to paradise, which is always better when shared with friends and we are grateful be blessed with the best travel buddies in Nick and McKayla.
Flying into the US Virgin Islands is a trip and more than just literally! Suddenly you see a tiny island below amongst a sea of blue and it appears that you are going to skid right off the top of it until you hear the wheels hit pavement. You knew you were in for a vacation when you were greeted with an island band and fresh fruity rum drinks right off the plane. There is no airport on St. John so visiting requires a flight to neighboring St. Thomas and then a ferry ride over to home for the next week.
Once we landed, we tested out the Jeep Wrangler on the mountains of the island, yes that is right mountains! Even for experienced country road drivers, the roads were no joke. Tight hairpin turns on the side of the cliff on a road truly only wide enough for one car. But the view. From every window in the jeep, you were gifted with something out of movie. The car ferry takes you to Cruz Bay, which is the busier part of the island, and we were staying in Coral Bay, which was about a 40-minute drive across the island. Larry and Vanessa had one of the most beautiful Airbnb we had ever stayed in! We had a huge kitchen, wet room shower, an outdoor shower, bedrooms that open to a wraparound deck, and a pool that we shared with the first-floor unit.
Every day after that was a different adventure and all we had to decide which beach we were visiting that day. Day one took us to Trunk Bay, which is arguably the most photographed beach in the Virgins Islands. Other than a study aboard trip to Barbados in college, I had never seen water so blue that you could see for what seemed miles underneath. While at Trunk, we met who we later called the Boston Biker Crew, which consisted of two couples from Boston who had frequented the island regularly and Steve, a St. Thomas/Northern California resident. While we didn’t see Steve again on St. John, we saw the Boston Biker Crew around the island for the rest of our trip.
Day 2 and day 6 took us to Maho Bay Beach, which was our personal favorite! Up until that point, we had only seen sea turtles on the discovery channel and now we had our chance to swim with them! Sea turtles are some of the most beautiful sea creatures with the geometric pattern on their shells that are make each one unique. Maho Bay Beach also introduced us to the famous Pain Killer, which is island is known for and consists of dark rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, cream of coconut and ground nutmeg. Who knows how many of these were consumed over the course of the week as no one was really counting!
No trip to St. John is complete without a snorkel and sailing excursion on Kekoa also known as the Brave One. Her story starts out in 2006 when brothers Ryan and Jamison began construction on the 50′ catamaran in South Carolina. She was lost at sea 300 miles off the coast after she had to be abandoned when she started to take on water during her maidan voyage. Eventually, she found her way back home where she was fixed up and launched to her current home in the Caribbean. In 2017, she was nearly (completely) destroyed by Hurricane Irma and Marie, but brothers Ryan and Jamison weren’t ready to give up yet. She was rebuilt yet again, and we were honored to have been able to sail on her. Their dedication and love for shipbuilding can be seen on every inch of Kekoa. Eight hours on this boat just isn’t enough!
The rest of the days on our trip took us to two other beaches, including Hawksnest Beach and Cinnamon Bay Beach. Each beach day include painkillers, snorkeling, and laying in the sun until our bodies couldn’t take it anymore. Every day was a new beach, new people, and new adventure. No vacation would be complete without mentioning the food! Since we were on an island, we overindulged in all the seafood we could handle. From lobster rolls, conk fritters, mahi-mahi sandwiches, and homemade fish tacos, we had it all! When we needed a break from all the seafood, we visited Skinny Legs, which is world famous for their ¼ lb beef patties with about every fixing you could think of. Don’t get us wrong the burgers were fantastic but the key lime pie was out of this world.
Like all trips to paradise, it had to come to an end. We would have stayed for forever but the bank account and the pets left at home would not have liked that! St. John provided us a shining light in a world so dark from the coronavirus pandemic. While we still wore our masks and social distanced, life seemed normal for the first time in over a year. We left a bit of our hearts back in St. John and are looking for the day to return to leave just a little bit more.
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