St John © anoldent
The smallest of the islands, two thirds of St John
consists of a national park, a peaceful and largely unspoilt
paradise for nature lovers that offers pristine forests, secluded
white beaches, hidden coves, reefs, and miles of hiking trails.
Danish immigrants were the first settlers and became
extensive producers of sugarcane. Today the abandoned 18th-century
plantations scattered about the island provide a reminder of a
once-thriving agricultural industry. A walk around the ruins of the
Annaberg Sugar Plantation, for example, offers a historical glimpse
of St John with magnificent views of the British Virgin
In 1956, the beauty of the island grabbed the
attention of the wealthy Laurence Rockefeller who bought a large
piece of land to preserve its pristine wilderness and donated it to
the government as a national park.
Today, the Virgin Island National Park offers
numerous guided or independent hiking trails into the interior with
stunning views from the ridges. There's a variety of flora and
fauna, including wild cats, hummingbirds, and iguanas.
Of the dozens of beaches, the most popular is Trunk
Bay. It is one of the world's most photographed spots, offering
swimming and excellent marine life in the protected reefs. There is
also an underwater snorkelling trail with signs identifying the
types of coral and its inhabitants.
The centre of activity on St John is Cruz Bay, a
small town offering speciality shopping, lively bars, and delicious
cuisine, as well as jeep rental services and dive centres. There is
limited accommodation on the island.