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Friday, November 11, 2016

The Must-Do Excursion in St. Thomas

The must-do excursion in St. Thomas? Going to St. John.

St. John, sister island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, is probably one of the most-photographed places in the Caribbean. For good reason. It’s flat-out gorgeous.

Yet, it’s surprisingly under the radar, though the Mamas and the Papas found themselves there. During their very early (and broke) days, they camped on the island until they wore out their welcome and ended up back in St. Thomas.

Kicking up some spray
The cruise lines run excursions to the island, ferrying you over in a 20ish-minute ride along the St. Thomas coastline, past massive mansions peering down from their hillside perch.

Ours was an invigorating ride, as we sat on benches on the narrow ferry deck, hovering over our cameras as the boat kicked up some spray.

There was narration, but we would’ve got more out of the PA system in a Manhattan subway station.

The road up and around
In Cruz Bay, St. John’s compact little harbor, the blue water sparkled in the sun. A few shops and cafes lined the street along the water, but they’d have to wait. Our open air van was ready for us.

From there, we climbed and climbed, winding round and round, along an impossibly narrow road, white-knuckled from our vise-like grip on the handle bars.

And then paradise
The van pulled over four or five times, each overlook more stupendous than the next. Like a theater curtain going up, the tropical brush would open up to nearly empty pristine beaches, un-built up, unspoiled, nature in the raw. 

Paradise along the road.
But Trunk Bay is where I gasped. 

The horseshoe-shaped beach, with its unblemished sand and gently flowing water, fringed by foliage—all against a panorama of ocean dotted by islands and small sailboats—was just too much beauty to absorb. See what we saw in this brief video clip.

The magnificent Trunk Bay.
Chic shopping to end the day
Our tour of the island ended all too soon and we found ourselves back in Cruz Bay with just enough time for a quick peek into a few of the cutesy boutiques at Mongoose Junction Shopping Center on North Shore Road. The shopping is predictably dear—you’ll find no bargains here. But it’s fun to browse just the same.
 
Bring lots of dollars to shop at Mongoose.
The last word
Laurance Rockefeller, conservationist and philanthropist, and son of John D., appreciated the uniqueness of St. John enough to buy up most of it. Then in the ‘50s, he gave it away—to the U.S. government, with the caveat that the land never be developed.

Today, it’s a National Park, which guarantees that when you finally make it there, you’ll find it just as I’ve described it.


Musing’s Top Tip: If nature calls when you get off your bus ride, behind the shops at Mongoose Junction Shopping Center is a separate building with clean bathrooms. If you can’t find it, one of the shop folks can direct you.