Popular St. John (U.S.V.I.) Shore Excursions
Island Tour An island overview offers the gorgeous vistas of the north side, which is mostly national park and highly undeveloped. Although rates are standardized, speak to the driver and agree to your total rate (for you or your group) before boarding the taxi. For two hours, the price for one passenger is about $50; if there are two people or more, the cost is $25 per person.
Annaberg Sugar Mills Ruins: Visit this partially restored sugar plantation dating to the 18th century where slaves harvested sugarcane and molasses was boiled. A trail leads through the factory ruins, slave quarters, windmills and other remains. Cultural demonstrations are offered on select days, though after Hurricane Irma, the schedule might differ. There used to be a gardener on site to explain the importance of agriculture to the Virgin Islands, and a baker to demonstrate using a Dutch oven the traditional way to make "dumb bread" -- a rich, round loaf that takes its name from the "dum" style of baking that traveled to the Caribbean from India. (You might have seen it elsewhere in the Caribbean as "bake.") The building with the oven was destroyed during the 2017 hurricanes, though the grounds are still unbelievably scenic.
Beaches & Snorkeling: While everyone has a favorite, keep in mind that only Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay have rental facilities and restrooms. Within Cruz Bay, there are numerous outfitters offering excursions to snorkeling spots on the island or even over to the British Virgin Islands.
Hiking: Many trails are available within the national park. Peace Hill is a short, 10-minute mild climb that rewards with views and the stony monuments of former sugar mills. For something a bit longer, take the 2.2-mile, round-trip Lind Point trail from the Visitors Center in Cruz Bay to Honeymoon Beach. Cinnamon Bay also has a trail into the forest that follows an old Danish plantation road.The National Park Service sometimes offers a 5.5-hour guided Reef Bay Hike; a downhill trek, it passes through a piece of the park's rainforest along with ruins of the Reef Bay Plantation and petroglyphs on the rocks at the bottom of the trail. There, you can cool off with a swim in Lameshur Bay before hopping on the NPS boat for the return trip to Cruz Bay. The tour typically starts at 9:15 a.m. and is only available Mondays and Thursdays; the trip leaves from the Visitor Center at Cruz Bay. (Because space is limited, reservations are required; call 340-779-8700 at least two weeks in advance for all of the activities available in the Virgin Islands National Park, and to check what's open.)
Most Popular Beach: Trunk Bay is justifiably popular with cruise daytrippers, as it has the most up-to-date facilities on the island. It's perfect for a few hours of snorkeling (for beginners) and beach-bumming; equipment can be rented here and there is an underwater trail. The onsite snack shop was destroyed in the 2017 storms, so bring your own snacks in. There is an admission fee for adults (temporarily waived after Hurricane Irma, still in effect as of September 2018); children 16 and younger are free.
Best for Active Types: Cinnamon Bay, another National Park Service beach, has a restaurant and onsite shack renting snorkel gear, boogie boards, stand-up paddleboards, windsurfing gear and kayaks. (It's the only National Park campground on the island, as well.) Cinnamon Bay is typically less crowded than Trunk Bay, which makes it a good alternative to get away from the masses. Note: Not all services might be in effect post-Irma.
Best for Beach Bums: Hawksnest is a local's hangout; there's nothing there but sand, surf and a gorgeous beach. Stop at Starfish Market located in the Marketplace and pack a lunch with drinks; there are picnic tables and a restroom. Francis Beach, farther north, is also a spot where you'll need to bring in your own equipment. The calm water here makes it a popular spot for private sailboats to dock.
Best for Hiking: Solomon Beach is accessible via the same hiking trail that takes you to Honeymoon Beach and is reputed to have some of the best snorkeling on the island. Once popular with naturists, it seems to attract a more mainstream crowd now. The part of the trail that goes down to the beach is rocky, so wear closed-toe shoes. There are no facilities.
Best Secluded Beach: Salt Pond Bay on the east end of the island (you'll need to rent a Jeep and make sure you have plenty of time to get back to your ship) has a comfortable beach and, as an added attraction, a terrific hiking trail called the Ram Head.