Blue green water bordered by rocks and white sand
Cinnamon Bay

The 2 reasons that I cruise

There are 2 reasons that I book cruise vacations. The first is to visit my daughter, who is both an entertainment director and a performer on cruise ships. Her contracts vary in location, which is my second reason for “climbing aboard”. I savor exploring the world and engaging in outdoor adventures, where possible. Our recent MSC Seashore cruise itinerary included a port stop in St. Thomas in the Caribbean. Although I had never been to St. Thomas and would have liked to explore the island, I had limited time for one adventure. The neighboring island, St. John, is home to one of the U.S. National Parks. Since I am working to visit them all, it was an easy decision to spend the day hiking and swimming on the smallest of the 3 Virgin Islands.

A view from above: blue-green bay
From America Hill: a view of Maho and Francis Bays

While planning our St. John adventure, I envisioned a morning hike to a mountain-top view and an afternoon beach walk and swim. I needed an itinerary that worked within the time constraints of the port stop. Considerations included the availability of transportation to our destination and back to the ship, as well as safety and cost. Our port time was also shorter than other guests, as we needed to be back to the ship in time for our daughter’s late afternoon rehearsal.

I researched blogs, YouTube videos and the National Parks website, narrowing my options to a few locations. The final decision was based on the suggestion of my daughter-in-law’s father who completes contract work on St John several months each year. As a part-time “local” on the island, he singled out Cinnamon Bay as a quiet beach and nice hiking area easily reached by taxi.

White beach, blue green ocean, blue sky, white clouds, green mountain
Cinnamon Bay beach, St. John

A short story: It’s a small world

We were the only people on the Cinnamon Bay beach until a mother and son arrived, walking past us to a distant rocky outcropping.  For all intents and purposes, we had the beach and the water to ourselves.

As I swam near the rocky point, the boy who was also swimming, declared that he was on vacation from North Carolina.  I replied that I am from Pennsylvania.  He excitedly announced that his mom grew up in PA, sharing her home town name.  

Drum roll … that town is my town!  

Mom and I chatted, laughed and moved on to our respective sections of the beach.

Life is funny.  2 women, from the same home town, the only guests on a beach on St. John, could have been anywhere in the Caribbean Sea that day.  But we both chose the same location.  

Solitary man walking on a white beach, blue green ocean
Alone on Cinnamon Bay Beach

A storified itinerary

5:45 am – Sunrise from the top deck, which has nothing to do with the excursion, but was the best way to kick off each new day. Bonus: watching the ship dock at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.

6:45 am – Breakfast at the buffet where we filled up water bottles and packed fruit into our day bags.

7:30 am – Departure from the ship: we were the first in line at 7:20 am. We accidentally turned left off the ship, trying to find where our pre-arranged driver was parked. After a walk around the long block, we found the Safari Bus directly in front of the ship exit ramp.

7:54 am – We boarded the bus and enjoyed the 20 minute drive to Redhook Bay, on the eastern side of the island.

8:25 am – Tickets purchased, we boarded the Ferry to Cruz Bay, St. John. The Ferry departed promptly at 8:30 am

8:52 am – We exited the Ferry and walked past the “Welcome to St. John” sign.

8:57 am – Beckoned by a taxi driver, we climbed into a Safari Bus headed for Cinnamon Bay. The driver made one stop along the way, dropping off a family at Trunk Bay.

9:13 am – Arrival at Cinnamon Bay: restroom break, photos by the signs, gasps of wonder as we stepped onto the beach.

9:33 am – Our hike began at the Sugar Factory ruins, then proceeded uphill to the America Hill ruins.

9:58 am – Photos, silliness and a water break at the overlook.

10:45 am – We dropped our things on the empty beach and ran into the crystal clear water.

12:30 pm – Boarded a Safari Bus taxi from the Cinnamon Bay parking lot and were shuttled directly to Cruz Bay.

12:47 am – Purchased grandkid postcards from a little shop and stamps at the US Post Office. Addressed the cards, added XXXOOOs and dropped them into the mailbox en route to the ferry.

1:00 pm – Our return trip to St. Thomas commenced.

1:25 pm – Joanel, our morning driver, picked us up and deposited us safely at the Havensight Mall (port) by 1:50 pm

2:15 pm – We were back aboard the ship, early for the 3:30 pm ship departure

brown bird perched on a rock
Pearly-eyed Thrasher

How we got to St John island

Taxi from the port to Red Hook Ferry

We prearranged a taxi. My daughter-in-law’s father (there’s got to be an easier way to describe him) suggested Joanel’s Taxi Service. Joanel was fantastic and I highly recommend him. We felt safe and got to and from our excursion in a timely manner. Joanne’s Taxi Service: Taxi 1122 1(340)201-5836.

He did not charge us as a courtesy to my daughter-in-law, therefore I am unsure of his fees. We gave him $100 for graciously taking such good care of us.

There were plenty of other taxis in the parking area near the ship, so travel throughout the island is easily accessible.

a couple posing with a taxi driver and his Safari Bus
Joanel, his taxi, my son and daughter-in-law

Red Hook Ferry

The Ferry leaves both Red Hook and Cruz Bay every hour on the hour, despite what the website says. The signage at both ports shared the hourly schedule, as did the various staff members at the ticket booth and on the Ferry.

Ferry to and from Red Hook, St. Thomas and Cruz Bay, St John

We purchased round-trip tickets to make it faster to board on the return trip. There was not a price savings. Adult tickets were $8.15 each way ($16.30 round-trip).

White ferry boat at a dock
Red Hook Ferry Port, St. Thomas

Taxi from Cruz Bay to Cinnamon Bay

We easily found a taxi (Safari Bus) as we exited the Ferry. The taxis charge a flat fee per person. Our fee from Cruz Bay to Cinnamon Bay was $7 per person. Interestingly enough, the fee with a different driver on the return trip was $8 per person, but he didn’t make any stops to pick up or drop off others.

Couple laughing during a ride in a blue bus
St. John safari-style taxi bus

Virgin Islands National Park

Cinnamon Bay signage to the beach, restrooms and hiking
Cinnamon Bay

We packed our National Parks Annual Pass, and didn’t need it. The Virgin Island Park has no entrance fee, but some of the beach areas do.

Not surprising, the park has beautiful sea views, tropical trees and plants, birds, amphibians and other animals. What was quite unexpected, was the many ruins from an unfortunate period of history. During the 1700’s the Danish occupied St. John, developed over 100 plantations and enslaved more than 2,500 African people. Plantations, factories and slave quarter ruins remain in the park.

Learn more about the Virgin Islands National Park:


Cinnamon Bay Trail to America Hill

Sugar Factory ruins
Ruins of a brick building
America Hill ruins at the top of Cinnamon Bay Trail
Hike difficulty classifications (link) 
Route typeOut and back
Trail difficulty level
Easy
Geographic locationSt. John, Virgin Islands
Trailhead parking optionsParking lot at Cinnamon Bay Campground entrance
Trail amenitiesTrailhead: restrooms, gift shop, restaurant, campground
Elevation - trailhead89'
Elevation - highest peak537'
Elevation gain443'
Total mileage1.56 miles
Water sourcesWater at the campground
HighlightsWell maintained trail; views of Maho and Peter bays; mansion and sugar factory ruins at the start and peak of the trail.
Peter Bay

Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, my soul.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them —
he remains faithful forever.”

Psalm 146:1,6 NIV
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God-loving, healthy lifestyle enthusiast, mother, grandmother, animal obsessed and married to my best friend. Life is good!

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