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need some advice for a 1st time trip

Salida, Colorado
5 posts
need some advice for a 1st time trip

Hi, the hubby and I are finally going to St. John for the first time on March 30-April 5-I know, not long enough, but we have to keep it budget friendly. Speaking of, we've chosen not to rent a car while staying on St. John. We're staying at the Cinnamon Bay Campground. How tough is it going to be without our own vehicle to travel around? We were thinking of doing a night out on Cruz Bay, then some hiking and snorkeling at other beaches. Any suggestions would be wonderful. Also, we want to go scuba diving and island hopping/snorkeling. Any suggestions with who to go with for budget friendly travel to scuba diving spots and other island snorkeling?

Thanks!

Texas
Level Contributor
86 posts
1 review
1. Re: need some advice for a 1st time trip

I am sure someone will post here that has stayed at Cinnamon and can give you some advice about getting around the island and I can certainly relate to wanting a budget friendly trip......but......Honestly I can't imagine not having a jeep on STJ. If you think about it it's around $75/day for a jeep which is not cheap. But if you are there for 7 days you are going to have a lot of time and there is a lot of island that you WILL want to go and, without a vehicle, that is going to be difficult. You will have fun regardless but you will have more fun and see a heckuvalot more with your own vehicle. Not to mention, if you are like everyone else who has been to STJ you will want to return. A vehicle will let you go check out other areas of the island where you may want to stay next time. Plus you would be able to go to Cruz Bay and Coral Bay and everywhere else on YOUR OWN SCHEDULE.

If I was going to save money on my trip I would do my best to do it everywhere else so I could get a jeep. But if you do decide to get a vehicle you'd better get a reservation NOW as it may already be too late. Have fun!!!

Salida, Colorado
5 posts
2. Re: need some advice for a 1st time trip

thank you so much. you're pretty convincing so i'll check into it!

Boston...
Level Contributor
36 posts
14 reviews
3. Re: need some advice for a 1st time trip

Honestly, it depends on what you want to do. We just returned last night. Stayed at Concordia. I wrote on the travel forum a long time ago that I thought we would be happy there without a jeep rental. The trip was a stretch for us, with two kids in college and a $76,000 tuition bill for them last year. $500 matters to us. Forum members replied that we needed the jeep. In the week we were there we used it to get to Concordia, we went to the north shore beaches which were closed due to swells, went to Lameshur that day instead. We used it to go to Skinny Legs for dinner. That was it. We loved Concordia and Salt Pond and we just wanted a quiet restful week. Would have been content without it. I would say rent one by the day for sightseeing, but other than that- save your $.

Salida, Colorado
5 posts
4. Re: need some advice for a 1st time trip

thank you for the advice. I was thinking of renting one for day tripping around. we wanted to go scuba diving, snorkeling and island hopping as well so I thought we would not be using a car too much. plus, the cost of renting one for a week would cost about as much as the plane ride there (we got really good flight prices).

MA
Level Contributor
747 posts
12 reviews
5. Re: need some advice for a 1st time trip

IMO, literally, "island hopping" for the short period of time that you are going to be there is going to cost you some $$$$; charters are not cheap. From Cinnamon Bay you can rent kayaks for the day and if the swells are not up you can Kayak out to Whistling Cay which is awesome snorkeling all the way around the "island"....if you are a strong swimmer. There is also the cay at Cinnamon Bay, and good snorkeling at the far end of the beach. My husband and I are in our mid 50s and we easily Kayak to WC and then Kayak over to Mary Point, snorkel there, on to Francis Bay, Maho beaches and back to Cinnamon late afternoon....it is one of our most favorite days. You could rent a jeep for two days, and one day go early to Waterlemon Cay (more "island hopping" -- it is a hike into Leinster Bay and then snorkel (which we do) or hike over to the channel to Waterlemon), snorkel there, then drive out to the Coral Bay for lunch (we have to have burgers at Skinny Legs) and explore that area....maybe with time and energy left, head to Salt Pond or Vie's (make sure that is a day that she is open -- (will make for a long, but fun day). Maybe dine at Maho Bay open air restaurant on the way back. The next day use the jeep to visit Trunk Bay early early in the day, visit Hawksnest, snorkel and swim over to Gibney and snorkel along right side of the ledge (from the beach facing the water). Back to Cinnamon, change and take the jeep into town and have a fun time. After that, you can just hop on some taxis. But, really, for the cost of charters you can explore the island with a jeep over a couple days and still island hop. I would make your plans around a jeep now! And, Trust me, you will just want to spend at least a full day if not more just at Cinnamon. Have fun!

Michigan
Level Contributor
66 posts
6. Re: need some advice for a 1st time trip

I haven't stayed at Cinammon, but have stayed at Maho without a car many times. In the daytime, there are usually a lot of open-air taxis at Cinnamon which can probably take you to the north shore beaches. Also, you can probably flag down the Maho shuttle on one of its scheduled runs. The shuttle runs along the north shore road between Maho Bay Campground and Cruz Bay and will stop at beaches if you ask. From Maho, it's $8/per person one way. It's probably a little less from Cinnamon.

If you don't mind walking up hills along the road, big Maho beach is just one big hill away, If you enjoy a challenging hike, you can hike the Cinnamon Bay trail up to Centerline Road, and flag down the somewhat unreliable bus which runs between Cruz Bay and Salt Pond Beach on the south shore, stopping in Coral Bay along the way. When I was on St. John last fall, the bus was running about every 2 hours, but occasionally missed a run mid-day.

In addition, hitchhiking is a very acceptable way to travel on St. John in the daytime, but I don't recommend hitching at night.

I do think it is a good idea to try to rent a car for a day or so to explore the island.. Without a car, there is no way you can access the east end of the island (Haulover Bay for snorkling and Vie's for island cooking). In addition, a car makes it much easier to visit Coral Bay and the rest of the south shore of the island.

Mary

Salida, Colorado
5 posts
7. Re: need some advice for a 1st time trip

thank you so much for your tips! we've decided not to rent a car for this first time and instead splurge on scuba diving trips. we found a free shuttle offered by lowkey diving in cruz bay (they do require $1 for gas) but will have to find our own way back to Cinnamon Bay. i think since we're there for such a short time (less than 1 week on STJ total) we'll be happy with our surroundings and whatever taxi and/or hitchhiking we can get. i really appreciate your advice about the trails, shuttle buses and hitchhiking. we are avid hikers from Colorado and would love to know of any more trails that you have done and can recommend. are there any that would get us to surrounding beaches from Cinnamon or if we were to get dropped off around Waterlemon then hike there? also, can we kayak around to surrounding cays? or snorkel to trunk bay? anyone??

Michigan
Level Contributor
66 posts
8. Re: need some advice for a 1st time trip

If you enjoy hiking, you will love St. John. Recommend you purchase the trail bandit map once you get to the island. Because St. John is very hilly, almost all of the hikes involve some steep uphills and downhills. The only flat hike I can think of is the Leinster Bay trail from the road to Waterlemon.

Here are some of my favorite hikes. Without a car, most take the better part of a day, so you probably will only be able to do one or two of them. The trail bandit map will give you the distances and a short description of each trail. St. John off the Beaten Path also describes many of the hikes on the island.

if you get to Waterlemon, you can hike the Johnny Horn trail into Coral Bay, and then take the bus to Cruz Bay and a taxi back to Cinnamon. As an alternative, you can take the bus to the Cinnamon Bay trailhead and hike back to Cinnamon (tell the driver to let you off at the trailhead -- otherwise the bus won't stop). You could also get to Coral Bay by taking the Brown Bay spur off Johnny Horn and then walking on the road from the end of trail into Coral Bay. There are ruins and a nice beach on the Brown Bay spur.

Another nice hike is the America Hill spur off the Cinnamon Bay Trail.

If you get to Salt Pond, you should hike the Ram's Head trail. It's one of the best hikes on the island. Recommend you do it early in the day, because there is no shade and it is a very hot hike.

If you can get a ride to the Caneel Bay Resort, you can pick up the Lind Point trail which goes to Honeymoon Beach, Solomon Beach and into Cruz Bay. You can then get a taxi back to Cinnamon Bay.

A REALLY ambitious hike (too ambitious for me) would be taking the Maria Hope trail (accessed by walking to Big Maho beach -- trailhead marked by M.H. on a wall just before the beach) up to Centerline Road, and then hiking the Reef Bay Trail which starts across the road. On this trail, you'd see petroglyphs and the ruins of a sugar cane factory, ending at a beach. This is a long, long hike (I'm guessing 7 or 8 miles rountrip from Cinnamon Bay) with a steep uphill on the return leg. An easier way to do the Reef Bay hike would be to sign up with the National Park. They have a ranger-led hike with a return to Cruz Bay by boat. That would eliminate the need to hike the 2 or so miles back uphill to Centerline Road.

If you want to check out Maho Bay Campground, you can walk to Big Maho beach and then take the short,Goat Trail at the far end of the beach. It ends near the registration desk at Maho.

Mary

Michigan
Level Contributor
66 posts
9. Re: need some advice for a 1st time trip

If you enjoy hiking, you will love St. John. Recommend you purchase the trail bandit map once you get to the island. Because St. John is very hilly, almost all of the hikes involve some steep uphills and downhills. The only flat hike I can think of is the Leinster Bay trail from the road to Waterlemon.

Here are some of my favorite hikes. Without a car, most take the better part of a day, so you probably will only be able to do one or two of them. The trail bandit map will give you the distances and a short description of each trail. St. John off the Beaten Path also describes many of the hikes on the island.

if you get to Waterlemon, you can hike the Johnny Horn trail into Coral Bay, and then take the bus to Cruz Bay and a taxi back to Cinnamon. As an alternative, you can take the bus to the Cinnamon Bay trailhead and hike back to Cinnamon (tell the driver to let you off at the trailhead -- otherwise the bus won't stop). You could also get to Coral Bay by taking the Brown Bay spur off Johnny Horn and then walking on the road from the end of trail into Coral Bay. There are ruins and a nice beach on the Brown Bay spur.

Another nice hike is the America Hill spur off the Cinnamon Bay Trail.

If you get to Salt Pond, you should hike the Ram's Head trail. It's one of the best hikes on the island. Recommend you do it early in the day, because there is no shade and it is a very hot hike.

If you can get a ride to the Caneel Bay Resort, you can pick up the Lind Point trail which goes to Honeymoon Beach, Solomon Beach and into Cruz Bay. You can then get a taxi back to Cinnamon Bay.

A REALLY ambitious hike (too ambitious for me) would be taking the Maria Hope trail (accessed by walking to Big Maho beach -- trailhead marked by M.H. on a wall just before the beach) up to Centerline Road, and then hiking the Reef Bay Trail which starts across the road. On this trail, you'd see petroglyphs and the ruins of a sugar cane factory, ending at a beach. This is a long, long hike (I'm guessing 7 or 8 miles rountrip from Cinnamon Bay) with a steep uphill on the return leg. An easier way to do the Reef Bay hike would be to sign up with the National Park. They have a ranger-led hike with a return to Cruz Bay by boat. That would eliminate the need to hike the 2 or so miles back uphill to Centerline Road.

If you want to check out Maho Bay Campground, you can walk to Big Maho beach and then take the short,Goat Trail at the far end of the beach. It ends near the registration desk at Maho.

Mary

Edited: 02 March 2011, 02:22
Westerville, Ohio
Level Contributor
177 posts
41 reviews
10. Re: need some advice for a 1st time trip

The Danish school ruins on the trail above Waterlemon are really neat - great views. But the turnoff onto the spur trail is easy to miss. Look carefully for it!