48 Hours on St. John

A 20-minute ferry ride and a world away from the massive cruise-ship ports on St. Thomas, the emerald isle of St. John, USVI is 60-percent pristine parkland. It's also the perfect place to relax into a long weekend of Caribbean hospitality.

Photo By: Steve Simonsen

Photo By: Lauren Oster

Photo By: Steve Simonsen

Photo By: Anne Bequette

Photo By: St John Concierge Service

Photo By: Lauren Oster

Photo By: Lauren Oster

Photo By: Lauren Oster

Gallows Point Resort

Guests in the spacious loft suites at Gallows Point Resort enjoy both proximity to the bustling Cruz Bay harbor and horizon-spanning views of the Caribbean Sea. A new saltwater pool and tiers of terraces at the edge of the landscaped five-acre property are the perfect spot to join a yoga or Pilates class (held seasonally on Tuesdays and Thursdays) — or to do nothing at all.

St. John Festival

Visitors in search of 48 solid hours of island revelry would be well-advised to down a few coffees, fill a very large water bottle and head to St. John for the culmination of its yearly festival season (in early July), when revelers celebrate both the abolition of slavery in the U.S. Virgin Islands and America’s independence. A sprawling village materializes in downtown Cruz Bay, where vendors and families serve drinks and snacks like pates (deep-fried dough pockets filled with spiced meat, fish and vegetables) and johnnycakes. Local and visiting artists crowd a central stage to fill the nights — and early mornings — with soca music, and on the fourth of July, everyone (including this dancer from the Shaka Zulu troupe) floods the streets for a massive parade. For festival-worthy quaffs all year long, in turn, stop by Our Market Smoothies, a beloved local institution that blends up fresh island favorites with a kaleidoscope of tropical fruits and rums.

Ocean 362

The restaurant and third-story rooftop bar at Ocean 362 — just up the hill from downtown Cruz Bay — offers incomparable views of the stunning Caribbean sunset. Executive chef Paul Trujillo presents “island to table” modern fare punctuated with foraged greens, seasoning harvested from a nearby salt pond and catch-of-the-day offerings like spiny lobster (which Chef Paul free-dives for himself, naturally). Fair warning: While online menus offer a glimpse of what Ocean 362 is all about, its day-to-day fare is as ever-changing as St. John itself.

The Terrace

Chef Erica Miner could serve granola bars in her stunning space and still attract a crowd — The Terrace’s West-Indian-style perch on Cruz Bay is the perfect spot to take in harbor life over dinner — but as it happens, she’s made a name for herself serving exquisite French-influenced dishes (and pairing them with spectacular wines: The Terrace’s list has earned multiple nods from Wine Spectator). It’s hard to go wrong on her menus, but it’s especially easy to go right for dessert, when she pairs house-made ice cream with fingerling bananas grown behind the restaurant.

St. John Brewers

More than a decade after two mainland runaways dropped $50 on a beermaking kit, St. John Brewers — with a taproom nestled in Mongoose Junction, Cruz Bay’s picturesque shopping-and-dining courtyards — is now slaking thirsts across the island and in six U.S. states. To drink as the locals do, try the Island Hoppin’ IPA, a citrus-scented ale that pairs beautifully with the spicier side of the taproom’s extensive food menu.

Annaberg Plantation

The now-overgrown hills surrounding the 300-year-old windmill at Annaberg Plantation once played host to field after field of sugarcane. Those fields were cleared, planted, harvested and processed with slave labor, and as of the late 18th century, there were 25 sugar-producing factories on St. John; after the abolition of slavery in the Virgin Islands, plantations like Annaberg were divided into smaller farms. The site overlooking Leinster Bay and the British Virgin Islands is now open to the public, and following the trails and placards among its ruins offers an eye-opening — and sobering — island history lesson.

Cinnamon Bay Sugar Mill Ruins and Loop Trail

St. John’s longest white-sand beach is open in abbreviated form for the 2018-2019 season: While its popular campground and tourist facilities are still recovering from damages incurred in the 2017 hurricane season, the waterfront itself welcomes swimmers and sunbathers. Hikers in search of a leisurely stroll through the fragrant forest beyond the shore — and a glimpse of local wildlife — can follow the half-mile Loop Trail through the brick-and-coral ruins of a Danish sugar factory and bay rum distillery.

Trunk Bay

Two and a half miles from Cruz Bay, Trunk Bay — St. John’s most-photographed, most-visited beach — welcomes snorkelers to some of the best underwater sightseeing on the island. A small cay 30 yards from the beach provides shelter for reef denizens of all kinds, and floating buoys and plaques placed along a "trail" on the ocean floor offer information about the marine life (including stunning blue bell tunicates) and corals.