A Pause in Saint John

A Pause in Saint John

 

Need to really really get away even when you’re already in Saint Thomas? Consider a day trip to Saint John.

 

 

Beginning with a 7am taxi pickup from our lodgings in Charlotte Amalie, we arrived at Red Hook’s Ferry Terminal at 7:30am.

 

 

Because the ferry was a bit delayed due to the higher volume of people getting on this morning, we were able to buy our tickets quickly online via a QR code they displayed on a sign by the queue and catch one of the hourly ferries at 7:30am. The fare costs $8.15 per person.

 

 

The whole ferry ride takes 20 minutes.

 

 

We arrived at 7:50am into the main town of Cruz Bay on Saint John.

 

 

From there the differences from its sister island of Saint Thomas was palpable: tinier, less bustling, more relaxed, and more nature.

 

 

After having a quick breakfast at Cruz Bay Landing, we got picked up by Spencer of Island Buddy on a last minute booking for their 3 hour tour of St. John.

 

 

Definitely don’t miss the following sights —

 

Trunk Bay:

 

 

Caneel Beach:

 

 

Cinnamon Bay:

 

 

If you got a great guide as we did, you can also feel like getting a private beach all to yourself to swim in. This was at Lameshur Beach:

 

 

It’s snorkelin’ time!

 

 

After half an hour here, we packed up and headed out to explore one of the sugarcane plantations and ruins of old windmills back in Saint John’s colonial days:

 

 

Returning back to Cruz Bay by 12:30pm, we spent the rest of our day on Saint Johns eating and sampling one of the most bomb smoothies at Our Market Smoothies.

Once we had our fill of the slow life, we took the hourly ferry back to Saint Thomas, arriving back at Saint Thomas at 5:20pm.

 

 

And at the recommendation of a college friend, we booked 5:45pm dinner reservations at The Easterly:

 

 

Some of the best food of the trip so far:

 

Grilled Avocado with grilled corn, Jicama, baby heirloom tomatoes, pickled onion, ginger-lime vinaigrette

 

Bone Marrow with roasted wild mushrooms, carrot top remolata, seeded sourdough

 

Wahoo/Ono with Tomatoes, Onion, Jasmine Rice, and Passion Fruit Aioli

 

The return back home was uneventful.

 

 

Unlike arriving into the USVI which requires a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of travel, there is no need to retest for COVID prior to returning from the US Virgin Islands back to the United States mainland (they consider this domestic travel). Furthermore, rates have remained near to zero here for the past 2 weeks which made me comfortable knowing I was very unlikely to be bringing anything back to NYC.

 

 

And it helps to get on empty flights.

 

 

- At time of posting in Saint Johns, it was 23 °C - Humidity: 72% | Wind Speed: 21km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

 

“Croix”-ing Over Back to Saint Thomas

“Croix”-ing Over Back to Saint Thomas

 

After beginning my weekend in Saint Croix, I began my journey back to Saint Thomas with breakfast arepas at Toast Diner by the Christiansted boardwalk. Probably the only thing open for breakfast on a Sunday at Saint Croix during shoulder season.

 

 

While having breakfast, I had the pleasure of meeting locals Kelly and her son Dylan who stopped by to say hi! Both residents of Saint Croix, they reached out when they noticed on my IG stories that I was in the area.

Nice to meet you both and thanks again for the dolphin poop Dylan!

 

 

After chatting and letting them walk me over to the seaplane terminal at the end of the boardwalk, I boarded the 10:40am Seaborne Airlines seaplane to the main capital city island of Saint Thomas for $140 USD one way per person.

 

 

This was a far cry from the 2 hour ferry ride on the way to Saint Croix from Saint Thomas; we arrived at Charlotte Amalie Harbor’s Blyden Terminal 20 minutes later at 11:00am.

 

 

Walking over to our lodging at Frenchtown, we dropped off our bags and walked back over to explore the rest of the capital city of Charlotte Amalie.

 

 

For a walking tour of downtown, you can begin at the Danish built, 17th century Fort Christian:

 

 

There’s a few exhibits on the slave trade that occurred here:

 

 

Their roof is a good start to the layout of downtown:

 

 

1 block north is Frederick Evangelical Lutheran Church:

 

 

…Then from here you can climb the historic 99 Steps for historic watchtower views:

 

 

We then returned back to sea level and walked over to the second oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere:

 

 

If you enjoy viewpoints, rent a car and head out to Drake’s Seat north of Charlotte Amalie:

 

 

You can see the British Virgin Islands from here:

 

 

And even more to the north lies world famous Magens Bay Beach for white sands and water sports:

 

 

If you enjoy your beachin’ while watching planes land, there’s one right next to the airport at Brewers Bay Beach that’s great for sunsets and spotting sea turtles:

 

 

If you’re also the romantic type, grab a sunset dinner at Lanai at the Limetree Resort:

 

 

My favorite part was feeling as if I had the whole island to myself, especially at sunsets:

 

 

But true to safe pandemic travel, this was exactly what I needed: no crowds, no indoor dining, no fuss, no drama, and a seemingly secluded island with low COVID-19 rates (how about zero for at least the incubation period of the past 2-3 weeks in all 3 islands) all to myself.

 

- At time of posting in Saint Thomas, it was 26 °C - Humidity: 69% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

 

Gotta Get Away Before I “Croix” Myself To Sleep

Gotta Get Away Before I “Croix” Myself To Sleep

 

During the heydey of the pandemic, I was nominated to be one of the 100,000 Healthcare Workers to receive a pair of of roundtrip flight certificates offered by JetBlue. I almost forgot about the expiration dates, if it weren’t for a reminder in the middle of a random ER shift one day that I had less than 2 months to use them before they’d be gone for good.

 

 

Scrambling to find worthy and safe locations to travel to with my weekend off in May, I concluded that the single-digit, low % rate of COVID-19 infections in the US Virgin Islands the past month was even safer than the rapidly decreasing rates in my own hometown of a very vaccinated Manhattan (which I feel has been the safest place to be in the entire country since last April).

I feel that even if I were to stay on the mainland, there are more than plenty maskless states down south that would be better off for a post-pandemic visit instead. And if I were to travel solo and spend most of my time in COVID-19 approved properties and outdoors, I should remain safe especially as a fully vaccinated individual. Can I recharge by travel still if I do it as responsibly as possible?

 

 

So here were my first steps in re-emerging into travel in 2021:

1. Ensure that the local infection rates of both the place of origin and destination are similarly low. It’s important that wherever you’re flying from is low in terms of infection rates (aka no outbreaks or single digit prevalence), that you’ve ideally stayed there for at least 10-14 days without symptoms and tested negative for COVID-19 right before departure so you know that you haven’t carried over an infection from somewhere else. Make sure you then choose to depart into areas with low infection rates, just as is the case regarding NYC and USVI, so you maintain that “travel bubble.”

 

 

2. Clear with any local laws regarding screening. Namely, USVI has a COVID-19 specific travel portal where you have to legally (and ethically!) clear your arrival before your trip.

 

 

3. Choose a flight that would be most likely be as empty as possible — how about a flight at a nearly civilized departure time of 6:40am in the morning?

 

 

4. Minimize the layovers. The danger is less on the plane, which cycles and filters out air more often than most land-based offices, trains, and subways. Instead, there is more of a danger in older and crowded airports, which variables you can control for much less than on a plane (for as long as it flies, it filters). We landed at STT after a 3 hour direct flight at 10:00am.

 

 

Before entering arrivals, they check if you have the pre-approval QR code that lets you bypass all the health checks. If you happen to forget, you go through another line requiring testing, temperature checks and questionnaires.

 

 

Welcome to the USVI!

 

 

5. Stay outdoors: Promptly headed out into downtown for a 10 minute, $8 per person taxi ride ($2 per bag in the trunk) right outside arrivals. Private taxis to downtown cost $55.

 

 

6. After a 10 minute drive into downtown, checked in our bags and picked up ferry tickets for the QE IV Ferry at Blyden Terminal for $60 USD per person one way to Saint Croix.

 

 

Then spent the next 4 hours exploring Charlotte Amalie (about a 10-15 minute walk from the ferry terminal) and nachos at open-air The Green House Bar & Restaurant.

 

 

Make sure wherever you go, return no later than 2:45pm as the boat promptly sets out at 3:00pm. They’re strict with enforcing the mask policy here.

 

 

Enjoy the bumpy 2 hour and 20 minute ride across the sea! They provide vomit bags for every row, and even advise you that “it’s normal to vomit” on the intercom and plead that you go outside if it happens.

 

 

We docked at Gallows Bay at 5:10pm EST.

 

 

Then walking over across town towards our lodgings at Sugar Apple Bed and Breakfast, we checked ourselves in for the night without having to encounter anyone (all our check-in details were provided by text).

 

 

So far I haven’t had any suspicion of coming into contact with a superspreader event.

 

 

I also highly recommend dinner at the intimate vegan-friendly plant based Ital Paradise:

 

 

It’s also where I would have my first time drinking juice made from a cashew apple!

 

 

The next morning we set off to explore Saint Croix, the largest island of the USVI complex. Starting in the capital city of Christiansted itself . . .

 

 

. . . we then walked around the Christiansted National Historic Site, a waterfront park featuring the landmark 18th-century Fort Christiansvaern and a warehouse where Alexander Hamilton worked as an orphan before moving to New York.

 

 

We then picked up a rental car at Centerline, contemplating a drive west to Carambola Beach Resort St. Croix where a 2 hour hike begins out to the Annally Tide Pools.

If you’re less inclined for a strenuous hike, consider laying out on Rainbow Beach instead:

 

 

Nearby the beach about a 3 minute drive south lies Fort Frederik located in the “second town” of Frederiksted.

 

 

Frederiksted is also somewhat of a ghost town when we visited:

 

 

After a lunch at Polly’s at the Pier here (while casually watching a 20 something year old spend a nearly an entire hour asking someone out on a date), we returned east driving by the also currently shuttered Estate Whim Sugar Mill:

 

 

Finally driving all the way east towards Goat Hill you can reach the easternmost point of the United States of America: Point Udall.

 

 

It’s designed so that at noon, wherever this sundial of a structure points with its shadow, it’s the truth north:

 

 

Don’t miss the curiously named Very Long Baseline Array Telescope either on the way there or back.

 

 

We finally finished our long day around the island back at Christiansted with dinner at Too. Chez:

 

 

…and is that a Blockbusters?!

 

 

The next morning we took out breakfast arepas at Toast Diner by the Christiansted boardwalk.

 

 

Then during breakfast, Kelly and her son Dylan stopped by to say hi! Both residents of Saint Croix, they hollered when they noticed on my IG stories that I was in the area. Nice to meet you both and thanks again for the dolphin poop Dylan!

 

 

After chatting and having them walk me over to the seaplane terminal at the end of the boardwalk, I boarded the 10:40am Seaborne Airlines seaplane to the main capital city island of Saint Thomas for $140 USD one way per person.

 

 

- At time of posting in Saint Croix, it was 27 °C - Humidity: 65% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy