Camping & hiking on St.John US Virgin Is.

5:34 p.m. on April 24, 2008 (EDT)
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There is one public and one private campground on St. Johns USVI. Anyone pitch a tent at either of these sites? Seeking info about your experiences regarding camping, hiking, available sources for food, water, fuel and anything else that's relevant to camping out on St.Johns.

2:50 p.m. on April 28, 2008 (EDT)
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The trails on St. John are mostly short out-and backs, and it can be difficult to hook up any loops without some potentially dangerous road walks. The best trail map is "The Trail Bandit's Guide to the Hiking Trails of St. John, V.I.", which includes many trails and old roads which aren't shown on the official park service maps. Many of the trails are old plantation roads that have been re-opened by the Trail Bandit himself (a.k.a. Bob Garrison of Henniker, NH). You can order the map or view it for free on the Trail Bandit's web site at http://www.trailbandit.org/

I wish I'd known about this map before we went to St. John this winter. Luckily someone (maybe the Trail Bandit himself?) left a copy under the windshield wiper of our rental car while it was parked at the Reef Bay trailhead. Unfortunately that was also our last day of hiking on the island, so we weren't able to take full advantage.

We didn't camp when we were there, but I have several friends who have returned to camp on the island numerous times. However, I don't recall whether they stayed at Cinnamon or Maho, although I think bare campsites are only available at Cinnamon. In any case, the options will be more limited in a couple years. The Maho Bay campground is on private land and its lease ends in 2012, at which point the area will probably be developed for houses or a resort. More info here: http://www.virginislandsdailynews.com/index.pl/article_home?id=17621493

5:59 p.m. on April 29, 2008 (EDT)
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Dave, thanks for the links.

How many days at a moderate to easy level would it take to hike most of the trails?

Wondering if there is a ferry from San Juan, Puerto Rico to St Thomas USVI. Right now the flights to St. Thomas for this autumn are real expensive. Figuring maybe to SanJuan, then couple ferry rides to St. Johns.

3:14 p.m. on May 2, 2008 (EDT)
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I spent several weeks around New Years '06 on St. John and the BVI's. At the time there was a ferry to St. Thomas from Puerto Rico, that docked in Charlotte Amalie on St. T, however if I remember correctly it is was a fairly long ferry (weather permitting, 2-4 hours). I suggest you take an inter-island flight to St. Thomas, or better yet save yourself the time and money and fly directly to St. T, most flight on the eastern seaboard can connect you pretty easily, (and the cheapest route) through Charlotte, NC. From St. Thomas you need to take a taxi over to Charlotte-Amalie and catch the ferry over to St. John which docks at Cruz Bay (the ferry is pretty simple to catch, and costs something like $5) it operates pretty close to the times posted (unlike other businesses that operate on "island time"). You can catch a taxi to wherever from there ($10-12 to the other side of the island).
As far as accomodations, someone who posted is correct there are two campgrounds, one at Maho (the private one) and the national parks operator at Cinnamon Bay. I stayed a Cinnamon Bay, and they have more than just primative sites, we stayed in a canvas/screen tent on a wood deck with cots and cooking supplies etc. (side note, BRING A FLASH LIGHT/headlamp if you are going out in the evening, or even if you think you are getting back around twilight...when the sun goes down it gets DARK, we got very very lost on the trail to our tent one night and literally had our hands out in front of us for 30 minutes feeling for our tent... and the trails are rocky, so that isn't fun in pitch dark) The anole lizards come in the tent, but they are harmless, tarantulas don't come out until dark and they won't come in the tent, same for the hermit crabs they can't get up on the deck. Mongoose and iguanas tend to not go that far up the hillside, rather hang out close to the shores and in open areas with good sunning spots. BTW, the canvas tents/decks are worth the extra comfort... the ground is rocky, and sleeping on a bare site would be tough even with a sleeping pad.
Maho, I learned is very nice. The people I met that were there tended to go back as opposed to returning to Cinnamon, but if you are on a tight budget as we were Cinnamon is plenty nice. Maho was more for families. Cinnamon Bay has a little camp store to pick up essentials, but my suggestion is to walk up the hill from the dock where the ferry lets you off, there are 3 grocery stores within 4 blocks that have considerably cheaper groceries (for essentials like rum, bottled water, plantains, PB, whatever). The nice part about the canvas tent sites is they provide pots and pans so you can cook meals at your site... saving a lot of money...A LOT. Don't try to camp off the grid, in a hammock or on the beach or whatever, there is a lot of private land, a few shady characters on the island, and since the island is pretty small and EVERYONE knows EVERYONE, someone will hear about where you are squating and come rip you off. Don't worry though the island is really safe compared to neighboring ones like in the BVI's... too many Rasta's.
As far as hiking goes, there are a lot of trails, and some of the terrain is very steep and challenging especially in the middle of the island, it is like climbing wet stairs. Try not to walk on the roads or for very long (you will see why) they are really narrow, and the truck/taxis won't see you around a bend... which every road is continuously bending. You should be able to hike every trail on the island in a week to a week and a half, if that is your goal, but you will need to catch taxis back at the end of the day... also easy, just prearrange it with a taxi driver each day... he'll come get you... eventually.
If you want to see turtles, make sure you go to Leinster bay/Watermelon bay (despite what anyone tells you)... almost a guarantee to see turtles there, there are grass beds the like to peck around in, you will see them pock their heads out of the water on occassion.
You can't go wrong in St. John, the place is great, local, and not touristy like St. Thomas. If you want a beer, go see St. John's Brewer's, they make a half decent pale ale... well atleast it's cold... seriously it is pretty good. Make sure you try to meet Kevin, he is one of the brewers and a really cool guy for conversation and to drink a beer with.
Enjoy your trip. Pura vida- Mateo
PS pass on any travel knowledge you pick up when you get back, travel-karma always comes around

9:45 p.m. on May 2, 2008 (EDT)
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Competivefingerpainter, thanks for the info regarding your experience on St.John.

It sounds like you used taxi service vs. car/scooter rental. Is it a problem parking at the various "trailheads"? If +$10/fare are typical for taxi and probably needing a taxi at least twice daily car/scooter rental may be a reasonable option. Any memories of rental rates? . Trying weight the costs, convience of car/scooter rental vs. taxi service. Based on the Cinnamon Bay Campground map there is taxi stand area and a parking lot (assumed for campers?).

Outside of StJohn Brewers any other recommendations for drinks and food. Food plans are basically to eat breakfast at camp, bag/trail or street vendor for lunch and preferably the simple local places for supper most nights.

I'm a newbie hammock camper. Needed to replace the tent. The Hennesey Hammocks for solo trips on paper looks to be a better option than my old bivy/tarp routine. So I upgraded to a hammock and said no to a new tent. Only problem would be the need of couple properly spaced trees. Any idea if would be possible to hang a hammock at any of the bare-sites at Cinnamon Bay? Nice to know that the bare-sites are rough/rocky. No hammock then the tent/cottages are the option to go with. Found out that Cinnamon Bay Campgrounds are closed during the month of September. Right now plans are for either Big Island Hawaii or St. John in late Oct, - early Nov.

9:13 a.m. on May 5, 2008 (EDT)
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I think at the time it was $7 from the dock in Cruz Bay to Cinnamon Bay by taxi. If you are cool with driving switchback turns, with little to no guardrails... go ahead and rent a vehicle. I suggest though catching the taxis, they are pretty reliable, you meet more people for inside tips, and if you are only catching 2 rides a day you probably are only going to spend $20 with tips each day on transportation. The jeep rentals on the island cost $50-70 per day, plus gas, and the driving is HAIRY, the locals know the roads, leave it to them. Plus at some point you are going to stay on the beach the entire day, and you will waste the money on a rental... just a suggestion though. I love my hennessey, but when I was there (mid winter) it cooled down at night, and got a little breezy... and you probably know that a cool night in a hammock means a stiff back in the morning. As far as trees go...if I remember correctly the lower part of the camp was where the bare sites were, and they had trees with a little more open room, could be hit or miss for a hammock though further up the hill where the tent/cottages were the bush got thicker.
As far as food, the street vendors are pretty good. There is a shack across the street from the docks for the ferry to the BVI's (I think for the ferry to Jost Van Dyke) that has a decent fish and chips (of all things) and cold beers. I remember a place called Iguanas being good, but they have short hours, like only 5pm-8pm or something like that. There is a nice seafood rest up in the center of the tourist area, (it is painted completely white) that is pretty OK, run by some ex-mainlanders, that caters to tourists and has tourist prices, but good for a nice meal, and to watch NFL.
Anyway, enjoy... may want to consider that Oct-Nov is hurricane season for us on or in the Atlantic/Carib... if you have to make reservations for accomodations, flights, etc. travel insurance might not be a bad idea, or go in Dec you should be safe by then.

December 7, 2019
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