We have been dreaming of coming back to St. John for 4 years. The first and last time we were there, both boys were really sick with bronchitis and ear infections and the whole trip was a bit of a disaster. But we knew the island was amazing, and we had to come back under better circumstances to really experience all it has to offer.
We actually ended up booking the same VRBO we booked 4 years ago, but moved up to the mid level property by the pool, and when we extended our trip 3 more days we were the first guests to get to stay in the brand new top level property (the top floor completely blew away during Maria!). Rendezvous was a great spot for our family and a perfect location close to Chocolate Hole and just a short drive into Cruz Bay.
We started and ended our trip on Trunk Bay.
It was the perfect place to introduce the kids to open water snorkeling (they had only practiced in our pool at home) with an underwater trail they could follow and lots of tropical fish just a short swim off shore. It is still one of my favorite spots for snorkeling. The beach is also long and wide so a great spot to let your kids/family spread out…and it has one of the most beautiful overlooks on the entire island that I could not get enough of.
We explored a different beach almost everyday, but Maho Bay still topped out at #1 for us. We hit this beach three times and it just never got old. Endless sea turtles as soon as you step into the water, no waves making it the perfect spot for an SUP, which our kids also could not get enough of, and lots of stingray and colorful fish. I saw a nurse shark and barracuda last time we were here, but this time it was really all about the turtles. I also loved watching all the gorgeous catamarans, sailboats and yachts come in and out of the Bay, and the boys loved paddle boarding around them to get a closer look 👀.
We got to spend one of our days at Maho with family I haven’t seen since our wedding, 14 years ago, and our boys immediately latched on to my 2nd cousins and had the best time playing spikeball and paddle boarding all day. We also got to check out their amazing view over Coral Bay from the house they had rented in Upper Carolina…dreamy 🙌🏼…on our way to Miss Lucy’s for dinner. Don’t worry, more about food and where to eat is coming. 😋
We ventured over to Coral Bay 3 separate days, and among our stops was Haulover Bay and Salt Pond Bay. We only got in a drive-by of Haulover the last time we were here because both kids were asleep on my shoulders in the car, so this time we went for an all day adventure. Haulover Bay was a sea glass heaven for our little hunter and gatherers. The beach was pretty rocky and not the soft white sand of the other beaches, but the boys loved it and spent hours collecting endless sea glass. Haulover Bay is on a super narrow section of land and has a beach on either side of the road. After we got our fill of sea glass, we walked a short trail over on the left side for the absolute best snorkeling in St. John that we have found. This side of the Bay has huge beautiful coral formations and a million tropical fish. It is pretty remote, close to the East End of the island, and we had it all to ourselves. 🙌🏼
We had to squeeze in Salt Pond and got there with enough time for more snorkeling and to watch the sunset. Salt Pond has a long, rocky trail to get to the beach but it’s so worth it…gorgeous beach!
Hawksnest Beach was also a great beach and super easy to get to with the parking lot just steps from the water. It offered lots of shade and room for the kids to explore up and down the beach. This day was a bit of a blur to me because we had just found out that morning we were having another boy, so I literally cried on the beach all day (yes, people were staring) and probably missed out on some good snorkeling…but that’s for another blog post.
I remembered Cinnamon Bay was not my favorite from years ago just because I remember it being really windy, but in the spirit of exploring we had to give it another shot. It was pretty sad to see how much destruction the storms had done to this area and it’s campground…lots of evidence of what the island went through and how far it’s come overall. We ended up getting rained on off and on, but the boys and I found a cool little cave hideout on our beach walk and although still not my favorite of all the beaches in St. John, it was another day in paradise.💙
Francis Bay was another beach we didn’t get to our first time around, so it was another place we wanted to explore on this trip. Just a little ways past our beloved Maho Bay and supposedly a very ‘quiet, uncrowded’ beach from what we had read…we pulled up and it was packed 😂. It was still great though, and the kids spent another day on the SUP searching for sea turtles and sting rays. I snorkeled over a barracuda the size of Crew, no joke! He just stared at me eerily, and I spent the rest of the day on the SUP with the boys, but we loved this beach and also saw lots of stingrays here!
Now for the food…
The owner of our VRBO had recommended the Tap & Still, and we ended up eating there 3 times because the burgers and fries were delish and cheap and the people watching from the open air bar was some of the best on the island. The kids loved it…and I do love some good people watching. 👀
We also had pizza from Cafe Roma (great take out spot when we got in late our first night), and located just below that a delicious dinner one night at The Longboard…not the most kid friendly spot, but yummy gourmet style cantina tacos and bowls.🌮
We got back over to the Coral Bay side (about a 45 minute drive) for dinner twice. One night for Skinny Legs, which is a fun spot for burgers and sandwiches, and also has a great backyard play area for kids…I even discovered Crew is actually really good at hula hooping…and again for Miss Lucy’s, which had a yummy paella for dinner. We heard Miss Lucy’s was really great for lunch and Sunday Brunch, so that will be on our list next trip too. Both Skinny Legs and Miss Lucy’s were super kid friendly, so I highly recommend both if you have kids that can’t sit still like ours.😬
Banana Deck back in Cruz Bay made it on our dinner list two nights in a row…I was really just craving their greek salad, but Adam loved their Mahi sandwich and the boys found their favorite chicken tender meal on the island. You can walk right down to the waterfront after dinner, and the boys did more sea glass hunting in the moonlight and had the best time playing tag with a group of local kids their ages.💜
We had a hard time leaving the beach on our last full day, so instead of showering for a nice last dinner, we ended up going straight from the beach in our swim suits to dinner at Greengos…a casual Mexican sports bar in downtown Cruz Bay…it was a perfect spot to watch the sunset over the bay, and their Nachos appetizer was to die for.😋
We all hope it’s not another 4 years before we can get back to this magical island, and next time we may even have to add a boat island hopping day in the mix. Until next time, St. John! 🐠💙🐢✌🏼