A Travellerspoint blog

Gallows Point - St John, USVI

A Fine Resort in Cruz Bay

semi-overcast 77 °F

After weeks of cold weather here on the Gulf Coast where most of us don't consider winter a real season, we caved to the cold and targeted St John, USVI as the destination of choice for a February trip. The decision on lodging was not nearly as easy as the choice of destination. We considered villas all over the island, several charming small inns or a quaint bed and breakfast, but every time we looked at Gallows Point, our heart knew that was the place we wanted to stay. So, we booked Harbor View Upper Unit 11D.

When we saw the resort from the ferry at sunset on the evening of our arrival, we suspected we had made a wise choice.

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A short time later the guys on the ferry tossed lines to the guys on the dock and the "Caribe" came to a stop. We stepped off the boat and got our 2nd free rum sample of the day from a very nice lady while our suitcases were being unloaded from the ferry. Before we left the dock, we had sampled all 3 flavors of the Cruzan Rum that were being offered. By the time we began walking past the vividly colored buildings fronting Cruz Bay, the last rays of light were gone. Thankfully, at the bottom of a steep hill just outside The Beach Bar, the Gallows Point Open Taxi coasted by and the driver heard our screams for a ride up the hill. We boarded the taxi for the 500 foot ride up the hill.

There were minimal formalities at the front desk. A nice young man grabbed our two suitcases and lead us down the landscaped path to Unit 11D. Before the key entered the door handle and the door opened, we were quite sure we had selected the right resort for our 5 night stay on St John. Once the door opened, we were surprised and delighted at how nice the unit looked and how spacious it was. Even though it was dark by this point, I wanted to snap a handful of pics before the place got that lived in look. This is what we saw on the night of our arrival.

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After the photo session, all four big doors in the living area were flung open to reveal a simply amazing view of the boats on the harbor, the activities at the bars & grills along the waterfront. The breezes filled the room and covered our bodies with that feeling of being on the waterfront in the tropics. It was very nice. An added bonus is the distant sound of music coming from several of these establishments. Twice per hour there was the distinctive sound of a ferry arriving or departing.

We opened the louvers on all the other windows and doors and had no problem whatsoever sleeping without A/C. We did shut the place down when we went to bed all the other nights just because it felt nice to sleep in the A/C after long days of sun, sand and saltwater enhanced by rum drinks.

We awakened fairly to the sound of ferry boats and bright rays of tropical sun. We stumbled down the stairs front the loft bedroom and became absolutely certain that we had made the right choice in booking a harbor view upper room at Gallows Point. We must have repeated several times each day: "This place is awesome" or "Look at that View". Here is the unit by day.

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The second full day on St John, we were bound for the Lind Point Trail which is the trail that leads to Solomon and Honeymoon Beaches. The rental jeep
exited Cruz Bay and began to climb a steep hill and off to the left, Gallows Point appeared prominently on the point. These photos show just how excellent Gallows location is and just how nice it is sitting on this point.

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On the third full day, we toured the entire grounds before setting out for another busy day. Hopefully all the building numbers that I quote in the text that follows are accurate. Suffice it to say that every single unit has a wonderful view of the water and that all the grounds are manicured to perfection.

The next few pictures were taken from the main path that runs in front of the all buildings. The resort is pretty compact actually. You can walk from the furthest spot on one end to the other end in about 3-5 minutes.

Left to right Building 12, 13, 14

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Left to Right, Building 15, 10, 11

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Left to Right, Buildings 9, 15, 10

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Near the Pool, out on the point is a swing under a gazebo ... view is Cruz Bay to the right and St Thomas to the left.7P1030345.jpg_DSC1120.jpg

From the same spot, looking back toward the pool, the buildings in the center of this photo are (L to R) building 9, 8, 7. Building 9 is closest to the pool and that is building 3 (I think) sticking out on the point in the distance in the far right of the photo.

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This photo was taken in back (water side) of building 5 looking back toward the pool.

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These two photos were taken in the back (water side) of building 3 looking back toward the pool.

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This photo was taken in back (water side) of building 5 looking toward the big point where building 3 is perched.

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The next two pictures are of the pool. We didn't even dip a toe in the water. Even worse than that, though, we did not return to the resort early enough any of the days to watch the incredible sunsets from the hot tub ... first thing on the list for next time.

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A few steps below the pool is a large deck with quite a few lounge chairs for the sun worshipers in your group. Each morning there were a few people out here sipping coffee.

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When we researched Gallows Point, we read several times that the snorkeling was excellent right from the rocky beach at the resort. Gallows Point has an excellent setup to get into the water for swimming and snorkeling. I sure do not have a good explanation for why we did not even attempt to snorkel right here. That is 2nd on the list for next time. The snorkeling put in area ...

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The next two pictures show how nicely landscaped Gallows Point is. If this scene don't put you in the mood to head for St John, you better check for a heartbeat.

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Honestly, this place was lacking nothing. This is the very tidy area for grilling. There were two very new looking high-end Weber grills ... full set of BBQ tools hanging from each grill, freshly painted and sturdy picnic table and a couple more tables under a gazebo nearby. This is the total setup for grilled meals or for picnicking in paradise.

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All along the waterfront behind the oceanfront buildings, there are neat little areas carved into the lush vegetation where you can chill out while the waves lap at the shore just a few feet away.

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More regrets ... we did not dine at ZoZo's on site nor did we have any cocktails at the bar on the upper floor. This establishment has what is probably one of the best views on the island. Every evening it was humming with activity. Next time, for sure we will eat and drink at Zo Zo's.

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These 2 images show the open-air lobby. I loved the dark woods ... so quintessentially Caribbean.

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For anyone that might be a little concerned about a place where you leave all the doors and windows open, the resident iguana keep the riff-raff out.

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So, for anyone considering a trip to St John and a stay at Gallows Point, stop your research, pick up the phone and book your flight and your room. It is so awesome. It won't take long to recover from the dent in your pocketbook, but you won't soon forget your vacation. For us, it was difficult to board the ferry after 5 nights here and watch the place disappear from view as we crossed the channel bound for Red Hook.

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Posted by eightylbs 11:00 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged beaches sea water ocean resort Comments (1)

On to the Other Side (Day 5 - St John, USVI)

Of St John That Is

semi-overcast 78 °F

In St John, Cruz Bay is town and the Coral Bay area is called the other side. We passed through Coral Bay -- stopping at Skinny Legs -- two days ago enroute to The East End.

After getting another late start at 11:00 AM due to too much blogging we were further delayed by a few dumb asses blocking the road.

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At the "triangle" in Coral Bay we turned right and proceeded 3.6 miles to the trailhead that leads to Salt Pond Beach, Drunk Bay, Blue Cobblestone Beach and Ram's Head Trail. The sign in the parking lot at the trailhead said Salt Pond 0.3 miles ... being all downhill we made it there in 7 minutes.

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Another sign at the edge of the Salt Pond Beach said Ram's Head 0.9 miles (1 hour hike time). We had been forewarned in numerous publications that this hike is hot and dry ... we were prepared carrying 1 gal. of H2O. Here is the beginning of the trail.

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It really was hot and dry with no wind which made it hotter. It seems that the high mountain blocks the rain and the wind and leaves only heat. Big cactus grow on this side of the island. This trail is very scenic. After only about 20 minutes of hiking the broad Blue Cobblestone Beach came into view. After a brief descent we were standing on the beach.

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We got our first experience of the beach art that prior hikers have created with the rocks and coral on select St John beaches.
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This is the view from the Blue Cobblestone Beach looking back toward Coral Bay side.
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One of the most talked about portions of the Ram's Head Trail is what has been called the Wind Tunnel. It is sort of a large crack, or low spot, in the mountain and the trade winds come blasting through. Spoiler Alert: notice black clouds in background.

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Just behind you while standing in the wind tunnel is this rather out of place looking field of dry grass and cacti.

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We got caught in a pretty decent downpour while making the final ascent onto Ram's Head. This turned out to be a real adventure. It served to cool us down, but cost us 15 minutes waiting for the skies to clear enough to take photos. We got a great pic of the waves crashing against the chin of the Ram 200 feet below.

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A nice couple took our picture standing in the wind tunnel with waves crashing upon the rocks far below us.

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On the return trip to Salt Pond, we rounded a bend and everything looked very vivid in the bright afternoon sun. This is the Salt Pond Bay shoreline.

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We then took the spur trail 0.2 miles along the mangrove pond to Drunk Bay. Here is the view looking toward the ocean and another view back over the mangrove pond.

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We read about Drunk Bay 100 times, but nothing really prepares you for what you see when you get there. See, almost all of the St John beaches are quite calm, and pretty. Some are purely wonderful. All the publications state DO NOT swim and snorkel at Drunk Bay. Here is why ... it's rough and rocky.

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Another thing that makes Drunk Bay very unique is an incredible collection of art that has been crafted from all of the odd things that have washed up on this rocky beach. The creations are only limited by the creativeness of the artist that created them.

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This particular piece of art is sort of PG-13 rated. I think that people have been slipping this guy some Viagra. I guess some folks prefer sheep.

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Since neither of us are artist, we did not add to the fine art collection at Drunk Bay, we simply returned along the spur trail back to Salt Pond Beach and decided not to go snorkeling. The reports from the on-hand snorklers were that Salt Pond Bay provided excellent snorkeling. We wanted to get back into Cruz Bay early this evening to see a band at The Beach Bar. We continued out Salt Pond Road or Lameshur Road or whatever is is called beyond Salt Pond. Our odomoter read mile 3.6 and the end of the road is at 5.8, so we went for it.

We have read over and over that the dirt road portion that leads to Big and Little Lameshur Bay is recommended for 4 WD only and most rental car companies do not want their vehicles down this road. For me, that means we gotta go check this out ... that is what we did. It was the worst road we drove on in all of St John, but it still wasn't all that bad. Yes, there are a couple incredibly steep parts and insane hairpin turns. Yes, there are deep ruts and sharp rocks sticking up. Yes, I bet it would be 3 times worse in wet conditions. But we made it to the end and back and we saw both Lameshur Bays & Beaches in the process. Big Lameshur is another Blue Cobblestone Beach and Little Lameshur is a beuatiful, quaint, secluded white-sand beach.

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On the way back out of there we snapped a couple ground-level pictures from the "other side" of Coral Bay. Most pictures of Coral Bay come from high above at Bordeaux Moutain where you see the bay dotted with hundred's of sailboat. Here it is from sea-level.

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Although Michelle really wanted to use the rest of the afternoon to see more beaches, hike more trails, snorkel more reefs and get back to the condo at dark like we had done the previous three days, I had grilled her that we had to get back early to go see Inner Visions at The Beach Bar ... for 4:00 PM. So we arrived back at the condo for 4:40. Even though we were late, the band was later. They were unloading their equipment when we passed The Beach Bar.

We used the time wisely ... by popping the cork on some champagne and feasting on crackers and cheese.

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Somewhere around 5:10 the unmistakeable rhythms of a reggea band traveled on the trade winds to greet my ears ... quickly bringing a smile to my face. We vacated the condo, trekked down the hill and selected a prime spot at the bar directly in front of the band. The sign in the doorway said Happy Hour 4-7 - $4 Painkillers. We flagged down one of the overworked bartenders and shouted 2 painkillers please.

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We are not very big fans or rum to begin with, but it does seem to go very well with the conditions on St John. I am sad to report that the painkillers lasted no longer than 5 minutes. We discussed what to order next and the concensus was to get something we had not tried yet, so we called out for 2 Bushwackers.

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We were getting a message from our stomach that plenty tropical drinks without any food is a big no-no, so we looked over the menu and opted for the crab dip. It was suprisingly good ... pretty tangy like it would have been made by an authentic cajun.

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Sometime while I was still working on my Bushwacker, Michelle's cup ran dry prompting her to order a rum punch. That was her first big mistake of the evening. She drained the rum punch and began to get that look like, yee-haw ain't we having fun. By this time, all I could think was, damn this is gotta be one of the best reggae groups I have ever heard. So good, we aquired two of their CD's during the intermission. Half-way through the second set we ordered another round of painfillers and we both started to get that yee-haw look.

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As you readers have probably already figured out, we had consumed too many rum-based products. That did not stop us from ordering one final drink ... a rum punch. The next morning we vowed not to drink so much rum next time we come to St John.

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Things were a little out of hand by now, and even though the band was still playing we decided it best to head back up the hill to Gallows Point. We were unable to accomplish that without an out-of-body experience. Michelle was intrigued by a gentleman who goes by the nickname of "The Ghost From Jost"

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This guy claimed to be traveling with the band. He also claimed to be a poet and began to recite several of his finest works just for us. I sensed that he was clued into the dumbfounded looks on our face, because he grabbed a folder and produced written copies of his special brand of poetry, at least one of which was also PG-13 rated.

We finally stumbled up the hill sort of shell-shocked from our encounter with Mr Ghost.

Posted by eightylbs 10:59 Archived in US Virgin Islands Comments (0)

Leinster Trail & Water Lemon Cay (Day 4 - St John, USVI)

More trails and snorkeling adventures

sunny 82 °F

Today started much like the previous day awakened early by the rumble of ferry boats and other signs of activity on Cruz Bay. I whipped up eggs, over easy, maple breakfast sausage links and some rolls ... add in a hot cup of coffee and you have breakfast fit for a St John traveler.

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After breakfast I got a little too deep into blogging and forgot that there was a beautiful island to be explored. Michelle picked up the laptop and cracked me over the head with it as a reminder ... so off we went at about 10:30. Always unable to resist an empty pullout along a scenic road, we grabbed and empty parking spot a Hawksnest Beach, which had been very full every other time we passed. It is a very pretty beach and Gibney Beach is just passed the rocks at the far right end.

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Here I am wishing I could stay a little longer because it is so awesome.

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And this is the view off to the left of Caneel-Hawknest where the folks are burning up the serious cash to sit on that beach.

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After leaving Hawksnest we made it all the way to the Leinster Bay Trail, which is at the end of the Northshore Road without any additional stops. It was only 11:50 and there was even a little parking spot that had been reserved for us. Here is the start of the 0.8 mile one-way trail. This trail has a high scenic value as it follows the pristine bay the entire route. The trail is level and easy.

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These dudes pulled up in the parking lot at the same time as us. They appeared to be experienced locals because they had so much packed into their jeep and kayaks. They put in and began the paddle to Waterlemon Cay.

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At about the midway point of the trail this outrageously massive sailboat came into view and I spit out my famous catchphrase ... how can these people afford this stuff.
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We got over the fact that some people just got it going on and continued down the trail until we reached Leinster Beach ... another small but very lovely beach with gin-clear waters and no wave action whatsoever and the great little sea grape trees for the shade seekers.
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You have to continue beyond the beach and scramble along some rocks for another 0.2 miles to get to the best put-in spot for the shortest snorkel out to Water Lemon Cay. Being almost at pro status snorkelers, we had the gear on in a flash and we were kicking our way toward the cay 500 feet away. It took no time before the underwater world presented itself in all it's glory.

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We neared the close end of Waterlemon and began our counterclockwise swim around the cay. The reef really shallows out at this point and the variety of coral formations, undersea vegetation and fish is terrific.

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We rounded the cay and began the swim back to shore pausing to look at Waterlemon from the sea.

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Continuing the route back to shore we saw a big, brightly colored starfish
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A really big fish hiding close to some coral and a really nice looking yellowtail snapper swimming through an undersea garden.
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Next was a snapper that was probably 10-15 pounds only a few feet from us showing no fear at all.
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There are plenty parrotfish of all sizes and color schemes on the reefs here in Coral Bay, but this was one of the best & biggest that we saw.
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We also spotted several barracuda, but this fella was the biggest ... maybe 3 feet long.
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We made it back to shore and decided that this Snorkeling expedition was just ever so slightly better than yesterday's route over the fringe reef between Solomon and Honeymoon. We packed our gear and began to head back the scenic trail to the jeep when someone pulled up driving my next boat.
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We made it back to the jeep without drooling about any other boats and took the short walk to the ruins of the Annaberg Sugar Plantation. Don't underestimate early real estate developers ... check out the view these folks had.
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Danish settlers built this place about 300 years ago and operated it to make sugar and rum using slave labor for about 150 years. Here what the place looked like, complete with windmill on top of the hill to generate power, the boiling room with a huge cast iron cistern.
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The last stop of the days began about 4:30 at the Francis Beach Walking Trail where more ruins are at the start of the 0.3 mile walk.
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Check this thing out ... you see these all over the island from 1 foot round to 6 foot or more. This one is about 3-4 feet 'round. It is a termite nest.
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We made it to Francis Beach and put the snorkeling gear on just as another rainstorm arrived. The snorkeling over the grass beds was a little murky and we did not see any turtles. There was some large jacks or mackeral and some snapper. The excellent snorkeling is over the rocky shore at the far right end of Francis Beach where we plenty small colorful fish. Not many pictures of this because the camera battery used up all of it's life already.
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Once again we arrived back at Gallows around 6:15. There was only one choice for dinner: filet. Ain't that rough. Thinking I only had minutes of daylight left, I rushed to the grilling area with a flashlight and preheated one of the brand new looking Weber Grills complete with grilling tools, picnic benches and all. Once it got dark, I found that there was a secret switch for flood lights ... you just can't beat this place. The steaks were the best meal yet.
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To be continued ....

Posted by eightylbs 05:00 Archived in US Virgin Islands Comments (2)

Swim With The Fishes (Day 3 - St John USVI)

And Live to Tell About It

sunny 79 °F

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. We're talking about a different kind of swimming with the fishes. Today featured several hours below sea level with mask, snorkel and fins. Great conditions on terrific snorkeling locations meant seeing way more varieties of fish that most folks even know exist.

We got out of the room quite early, zipped through the eerily empty streets of Cruz Bay and made the first stop of the day 5 minutes out of town at the Cruz Bay overlook ... Gallows Point is at the far right of the picture.
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Five minutes after that we took one of the four prime parking spots at the Lind Point Trailhead. This rather steep trail will take you to Solomon and Honeymoon beaches. When we arrived at Solomon it was 10:00 AM and there were only two other couples there. A nice couple from New Jersey was nice enough to offer to photograph us. The pic even came out nice ...
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Solomon is a great little beach with powdery soft sand and brilliant, warm blue water.
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Some of the beach-goers were happy enough to pass the day under the shade of the coconut palms or sea grape trees, but others told tales of the undersea world of the fringe reef between Solomon Beach and Honeymoon Beach. We slipped on snorkel, mask, fins and stumbled our way into the water.
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Here is a large sample of what we saw as we snorkeled around the fringe reef that separates Solomon Beach from Honeymoon Beach ...

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Surprisingly, we did not drown and we were not sucked out to sea and we arrived safely on the shores of Honeymoon Beach where we briefly took in the lovely sites ...

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Having graduated from beginner to amateur snorkeler, we easily made it from Honeymoon back to Solomon. After resting for a while on this wonderful beach ... now dotted with 10-12 couples ... we packed our gear for the hike back up the Lind Trail, ready to continue the day's journey. The only problem was there was an iguana blocking the way.
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The journey away from Cruz Bay along the northshore road is so pretty we could not resist stopping at every scenic overlook that was not clogged with taxis loaded with tourist. First was the Caneel Beach Overlook. Caneel is the the place where you need to be a participant in Dad's trust fund, some type of high-paid criminal or have saved up for 5 years to stay here, because a basic motel room is about $800 and the prices escalate to around $2500/night for the most wonderful rooms available.

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After that we pulled in at the Trunk Bay overlook. Trunk Bay is probably the most famous of the Northshore Beaches. It is truly beautiful ... worthy of us staying long enough to eat a sandwich and drink a beer while on of St John's famous brief rainshowers passed over.

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Next overlook is of Maho Bay, where Big Maho (by the road), Little Maho (below the campsites) and Francis Beach are all calling out for you to come down from the mountain and stay awhile. There are so many boats tied off to the mooring bouys in the bay and one is nicer than the next. We have seen motoryachts and sailboats that are at least 100 foot and valued at somewhere in the millions.

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We heard Maho Beach calling the loudest, so that is where we decided to spend the rest of the day. After descending the mountain, as you exit a hairpin turn, there is a tunnel of coconut palms that we really make you want to stop.

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So we setup on Big Maho and prepared to do some more snorkeling. The water of Maho Bay did not even have a ripple on it and the water was shallow and warm.

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After snorkeling and another rainshower, the weather turned to perfection with deep blue skies and the sun putting out an oh-so-right temperature. We had 3 more cold beers in the ice chest, one nice cigar and we sat there wondering how it could get any better. It turns out it was about to get worse because a Park Ranger pulled up and put his blue lights on, got out and walked toward us. Conversation went like this: PR "Are you guys on vacation"? Michelle: "Yes sir"! PR: "Get all glass bottle off the beach." Both of us: "Thank you, sir."

What a buzzkiller!!

We made it back to Gallows Point without running off these crazy roads. We peeked in the fridge to spot 2 possibilities for dinner: hamburger or filet. We decided on hamburger and Pinot Noir. Since we were hungry and we could not foresee and opportunity to eat any leftover burgers, we made two 8 ounce burgers and we topped them pepperjack cheese and sauteed red peppers and portabella mushrooms. You guesses right, they were totally out of this world awesome and we only gained 1 pound.

No pics, because the camera batteries went dead.

Posted by eightylbs 05:29 Archived in US Virgin Islands Comments (1)

At the End of the Rainbow (Day 2 - St John, USVI)

Paradise Found

sunny 80 °F

The first full day on St John was a busy one. As fate would have it, the day ended with a spectacular rainbow.
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The day started early with a walk to through Cruz Bay to pick up the rental jeep. The first stop with the rental car was Starfish Market for groceries. We spoke to several people who convinced us it was the closest thing to a real grocery. We stepped through the door forewarned and prepared for sticker shock. Nothing can properly prepare one for shrimp selling for about $22/pound, beef tenderloin for $24/pound, lean ground beef and chicken breast for $6.09/pound. As hard as it was to do, we pulled the trigger on a box of Ritz crackers for $6. On the good side, it is nice to have a store that offers pretty much everything anyone might want to buy to prepare excellent meals. Just up the credit limit on the VISA before you leave home.

Once we returned from the grocery, it was late and we were hungry. The view over Cruz Bay was terrific and we lingered for while sipping coffee and taking it all in.
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We left the room around noon with no real plan, but quickly decided to drive to the farthest point away from Gallow's Point ... beyond Coral Bay to the East End of St. John. Not far out of town we detoured down a very rough side road to the ruins of a Sugar Plantation.
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The journey to the east end resumed and after a steep climb, we arrived at the top of Bourdeaux Mountain where the views are fantastic.
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Next stop ... Skinny Legs in Coral Bay. The little place has a great atmosphere and you can not resist the smell of the big plump, burgers grilling. That is exactly what we did. We got the burger, cooked medium, with pepper jack cheese and mango chutney. It was finger linkin' good. A rum punch put us on island time.
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It's only a couple miles from Coral Bay to the end of the road at the East End, which is oddly enough the southernmost point on St John. We only saw a few rental jeeps during the couple hours that it took us to drive out and back and we enjoyed having the place to ourselves. There is a beautiful view around every turn here on St John.
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We also passed Vie's Snack Shop along the way but couldn't bring ourselves to consume any more food and drink at that point.
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We exited the east end, climbed out of Coral Bay and took Centerline Road to it's intersection with Northshore Road and then took the fork toward the Northshore beaches. We checked out the Leinster Bay Trailhead and then stopped at Francis Bay. It was about 5:00 PM by this point and it seemed that it had been pretty crowded. Francis Bay Beach is one of the longest, widest beaches on St John. It was beautiful. There were hundreds of sailboat and yachts anchored in the nearby cove. Fish were jumping everywhere and pelicans were diving for an evening meal.
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Our next stop along North Shore Road was at Jumbie Beach. This beach is tiny ... maybe 500 feet long, but it has great views across toward Trunk Bay. We were intrigued by the "rock art" that beach-goers had created from things lying on the beach
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The rain clouds that produced the incredible rainbow, ran us off the beach and we went directly back to the condo where we prepared a wonderful meal with our expensive groceries.
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Posted by eightylbs 17:42 Archived in US Virgin Islands Comments (3)

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