US VIRGIN ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK, ST. JOHN

 After a short week in Miami, we embarked upon our unexpected adventure to St. John in the Virgin Islands National Park.  After a full school day (the last hour of which we did in the parking lot of the airport so that Grace could take her math test, and which led us to being *just* on time for our flight, which would come back to bite us when we checked in at the airport), we headed into the airport with nothing but a backpack for each of us (we hadn't anticipated this trip, and didn't have any luggage in the RV, and luckily needed very little for a four-day tropical escape, so we each packed in a backpack and called it good). I told the kids that we are making sure they are very efficient and unfussy travelers! Upon arrival at the check in desk, the woman asked us if we had our COVID paperwork (we did), and also our paperwork for entry into the USVI (Um, what was she talking about?!?!). In all of our research, we hadn't come across a single thing about what we soon learned was a government website that needed to be filled out for *each* passenger.  So, we frantically started filling out on our phones.  It was LENGTHY, and I literally started stripping off layers of clothes because I was sweating so bad, knowing we were already cutting it REALLY close on our flight due to Grace's math test. After filling out our paperwork, we RAN through the airport, the kids chuckling that they felt like the family in "Home Alone," and made it to our gate just as the plane was boarding. Another crisis averted.

Leaving Lin Manual behind at the airport
Heading on our way...

Departing our plane in St. Thomas

We had an easy, 2 1/2 hr flight from Miami to St. Thomas, and arrived very late that evening, where we planned to stay close to the airport for the night, knowing we had such a late flight and the ferry to St. John wouldn't be running.  We crashed HARD, and woke up early the next morning for Kevin (our driver, and a friend of a dear friend of ours) to pick us up and drive us to Red Hook for the ferry ride to St. John.  The ferry ride was a quick 20 minutes, and we arrived in Cruz Bay, St. John, where we walked to pick up our Jeep rental for our stay. A BRIGHT GOLD JEEP.  We all swooned. We loaded into the car, knowing that it made most sense to go explore, as we knew we'd lose the kids once we checked into the hotel.  We spent the entire day exploring the Island ofhe w St. John, which immediately took our breath away.  From it's crystal clear water and gorgeous bays all the way around the island, to the amazing lizards, fish, turtles, reefs, lush foliage, hermit crabs, iguanas, and wild donkey, goat, and pig, we were smitten.  We drove all the way from Cruz Bay into the Park (60% of the Island is the National Park), stopping along our way. Our first stop was at the Annaberg Plantation, the historic ruins of a sugar mill from the  1800's, and we hiked up to a great spot there, looking across the water to the BVI's.  There were some amazing trees FILLED with butterflies...incredible!  From there, we drove toward Lamesheur Bay, stopping at several viewpoints along the way.  We arrived at our destination for the afternoon, Salt Pond Bay and Drunk Bay, where we experienced both sides of the island (the crazy dark salt water inland and the rocky coral coastal shore of Drunk Bay, and the calm, warm white sand beach of Salt Pond Bay).  We snorkeled at Salt Pond Bay, and got our first glimpses of sea turtles.  INCREDIBLE!  After a quick change in the car, we loaded up to drive back around the island, where we arrived at the Westin to check in and enjoy the sunset.  What a gogeous day in Paradise.  Dinner at the hotel was great, as was our night swim post-dinner, and we all settled in for a good night's sleep.

Our driver, Kevin, brought is teacup chihuahua for the kids to play with on the drive.  They LOVED her!


Boarding our ferry in Red Hook to Cruz Bay in St. John

Arrival in Cruz Bay
Heading out in our Jeep.  So fun!!!
Right into the park!

GORGEOUS first glimpses of the beauty of St. John.  Remarkable!



Annaberg Sugar Plantation Ruins...




Views of the BVI's across the water...











Continuing our drive around the island, stopping to see the view into Coral Bay


Wild goats
Island treasures...


Arriving at our hike to Salt Pond Bay and Drunk Bay....
Salt Pond Bay....spectacular!
The salt ponds inland there were crazy, especially juxtaposed with the clear, blue water of the bays...

Hike over to Drunk Bay
The rocky, coral covered beach at Drunk Bay was also so, so different...







Snorkeling at Salt Pond Bay.  The turtles were probably the favorite!





The most delicious smoothies on the island, recommended by our dear friend who loves St. John.  We visited multiple times during our stay!


Checking into the hotel and enjoying the gorgeous sunset.  Heaven!






Night swim before bed...



The next day, we woke up with plans to explore more of the Island and National Park.  We ventured to Maho Bay for the day, where we set up on the gorgeous, fine white sand and got ready to snorkel with the gear we rented for the day from our hotel. This place was incredible, and none of us will ever forget staring into the faces of giant sea turtles.  I will never forget the excitement of watching my children experience this and their sheer joy.  We spent the day, and several trips in the water, exploring the bay, playing in the water, enjoying the warm sun and white sand. SO GOOD.  

That afternoon, we returned to our hotel to relax and shower before dinner at the Longboard in downtown Cruz Bay.  I will never forget the calamari there - definitely the best of my life.  The food was amazing!!!

Al and Brady
Remora fish on the back of the turtle.
Grace
Hayden
Hayden
Hayden
Hayden
Hayden and Brady
B&H
Grace
Grace
Hayden
Grace

Justin and Hayden














Quinn









Back at our favorite smoothie place...



Post shower snuggles...

BEST calamari of my life!!!


  The next day, we had planned to rest and enjoy the resort for the day to give us all some downtime.  After a quick visit that morning to pick up some ear medicine for Brady (swimmer's ear, again), we hit the pool, and had a blast playing, resting in the sun, watching the giant iguanas on the edge of the pool, reading, and enjoying another gorgeous sunset on the beach in the hammocks.  Grace even won the game of "Name that Tune" poolside, and loved it!

Brady, waiting to see the doctor, as J took the ferry to pick up the medicine.  BEST TEAMWORK to get back to vacation ASAP!

Deep breath.




These iguanas were lounging on the side of the pool all day, and randomly taking dips in the pool.  The kids loved it!



Beach time...
Another gorgeous sunset...
The whole trip he kept saying that just one time he needed to get "Two pina coladas. One for each hand." so he finally made it happen!




On our final day in St. John, we packed up and checked out of our hotel, planning to explore more of the park before we departed that evening.  We ventured to Trunk Bay, where we snorkeled for the day, and did the "snorkel trail" through the reef.  The fish were gorgeous (the parrot fish were my fav), and the reef beautiful.  The kids had a blast playing the water - it's so warm that you can stay in all day and never get cold!  We stayed as long as we could (the beaches closed at 4pm that day in the park), and headed to shower at the Westin before our Ferry ride back to St. Thomas.  Watching the sun set on our ferry ride was something I will never forget.

We arrived back on St. Thomas that evening and our driver delivered us to our "very European" hotel that we'd booked for a quick stay since we'd be leaving for the airport at 5am the next morning.  This place was a trip!  We had dinner at the rooftop restaurant with the kids, where Brady tried calamari for the first time (hilarious!), and we all hit the bed for a quick and awful sleep.  Alas, all good things must come to an end!  I told the kids that our experience that night reminded me a TON of backpacking through Europe in College (LOL). We hit the road for our early flight that next morning, and arrived home in time for the kids to log on to school.  

WHAT AN AMAZING and UNEXPECTED SPONTANEOUS trip to paradise!  The kids now claim that the US Virgin Islands is their favorite National Park.  

USVI National Park Visitor Center

Trunk Bay

























Saying goodbye to our favorite Jeep!



Ferry ride back to St. Thomas as the sun set...




Our crazy hotel in St. Thomas...
Rooftop dinner.  




Up soooo early to get to the airport...
Heading back to the US

Boarding our flight
Gorgeous views of the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos on our flight home...



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