Aria Villa

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The 'Other Links' section of the ariavilla.com website contains additional links covering local information...be sure to check it out!

Beaches:

St. John has world class beaches.  It just doesn't get any better than this.  In fact, Trunk Bay has been rated as one of the top ten beaches in the world!  And it was while lying on one of those world class beaches, looking at the beautiful turquoise water, reveling in the warmth of the sun, listening to the sound of the surf and digging our toes into the white sand that we knew we had found paradise.  What did we do once that realization hit us?  We turned our week-long vacation into a 10-day land hunt and we signed the contract to buy the land on which Aria now sits as we were boarding the ferry en-route to the airport to fly back to Colorado!  Did I mention that we embarked on all of this within the first 36 hours of ever having been to St. John?!?!  Whether or not this is part of your personal game plan, the beaches on St. John are not to be missed.  But remember...you have been warned!

The following is a list of some of St. John's beaches, followed by a few comments from us.   Keep in mind that there are many more beaches than those listed here so don't be afraid to explore!

"North Shore Beaches"

Maho Bay: Located right along North Shore Road, Maho Bay is only a 5 minute drive from Aria.  A beautiful, long stretch of white sand, it is very convenient and is a real favorite of local St. Johnians.  If you are a snorkeler, check out the rocks along either end of the beach.  Maho is also a great location to see the quintessential Caribbean sunset!

Francis Bay:  This beach is a little bit out of the way and has limited parking but don't let that be a deterrent.  White sand and  gorgeous water await you! The snorkeling along the rocks can yield some fun fish sightings and don't be surprised if you happen upon sea turtles as you float along, especially if you go early in the day.  One night we were privileged to be able to release a baby sea turtle at Francis Bay that had been rescued and brought to the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife on St. Thomas.  It was an amazing moment.  Note: Francis Bay is best enjoyed before 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon as this is when the no-see-ums (pesky little bugs), if there are any, like to come out to play.

Leinster Bay:  A somewhat rocky stretch of beach, and a bit of a hike (from Annaberg), Leinster Bay can yield some very good snorkeling.  We have seen all sorts of fish and even schools of squid in and among the rocks near the shoreline.  If you continue to the end of Leinster and are a good swimmer you might consider snorkeling the water around Waterlemon Cay.  There is generally a great diversity of fish and some lovely coral formations to be found in this area.  It is known on the island as one of 'the' places for great snorkeling!

Cinnamon Bay:  Cinnamon Bay is the site of Cinnamon Bay Camps, where you will find a very nice open-air restaurant called 'The Tree Lizard,'  a small general store, showers, rest rooms and, yes, camping sites.   The amenities at Cinnamon Bay (restaurant etc.) are closed for a couple of months in the fall, but, you can always enjoy the beach.  Once again, you will find a gorgeous, long white sand beach to explore, excellent swimming and some rocky areas for the snorkelers in your midst.  Cinnamon Bay has a little more surf than most of the other beaches on St. John and can be a good location for body surfing when conditions permit...don't be surprised if you get dunked by a wave hitting the shore on some days!

Oppenheimer Bay:  When approaching Oppenheimer Beach you get the feeling that you're entering a private enclave, with a metal gate guarding the entrance.  Not to worry.  Park outside the gate and follow the path to a lovely, private tropical haven complete with soft white sand, cooling water lapping on the shore, and coconut palms overhead for shade.  Ahhh.

Trunk Bay:  This is probably the most photographed beach on St. John.  As mentioned earlier, it has been voted one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world, and deservedly so.  A long stretch of pristine white sand, classic coconut palms and perfect water in varying shades of turquoise that goes on forever, Trunk Bay is the quintessential Caribbean Beach, stunning by any standards and a sun bather's dream.  If you walk down the beach to the left you'll find a lovely area of white sand and beautiful rock outcroppings tucked away from view....the perfect spot for a photo shoot!  Trunk Bay also has an under water snorkeling trail that follows the contours of an island that is a reasonable swim from shore.  You will also find showers, changing areas, rest rooms, a snack bar and picnic pavillions for your use.  The National Park charges a use fee to access Trunk Bay during the day.    

Jumbie Bay:  A lovely cove tucked away from casual sight (down a flight of wooden stairs at the 3 mile marker from Cruz Bay on North Shore Road), Jumbie Bay has a laid back, personal atmosphere.  Nestled between two steeply sloping hills, and with views of several other islands, as well as Trunk Bay in the near distance, this is a great location to cozy up with a good book, enjoy a picnic, snorkel the rocks on either side of the bay, float on the water and generally catch up with yourself.

Hawksnest Bay:  This is the first beach you'll find along North Shore Road as you leave Cruz Bay.  The sand, views, and water are delightful.  For snorkeling fans, this is a great place to see the elk horn coral, which has been making a resurgence in the water off Hawksnest, as well as all sorts of coloful, tropical fish and a perhaps a sea turtle or two.  Hawksnest has rest rooms, changing rooms, pavillions (which can be reserved in advance for large groups throught he National Park Service), picnic tables and barbeque grills.  We love getting together with friends for barbeques at Hawksnest; it's a great way to spend a lazy day at the beach!

Honeymoon Beach:  Honeymoon Beach is accessed via the Caneel Bay Resort.  You can park in the visitor lot and walk in, following a fairly well worn trail.  This small stretch of sand is usually fairly private and has good snorkeling.  Bring along a beach chair, some cool drinks and a good book for a relaxing afternoon alternating between the sea and the the shore.

Solomon Beach: What a drop dead gorgeous beach! Solomon is long stretch of glistening white sand  with beautiful water and majestic palms waving in the warm tropical breezes and providing shady spots for happy beach-goers. It is, truly, one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen.  Solomon used to be considered the 'officially unofficial' clothing optional beach on St. John but the National Park Service has cracked down on this practice in recent years.  It is accessed by hiking in around the point from Cruz Bay or from the other direction via Caneel Bay.  Even though it is a fairly long hike, this beach will not disappoint.    


"Beaches Toward East End"

Haulover Beach - South:  This side of Haulover is nicely protected and has superior snorkling.  The beach itself serves as more of a point of departure for a snorkeler or swimmer than as a place to stretch out in the sand, but do bring a book and snuggle into the shade of the trees for some quiet time.  The last time we were at Haulover we saw all kinds of colorful fish, squid, turtles and an octopus, as well as a good variety of coral specimens!
  
Haulover Beach - North:  This is a rocky stretch of beach (across the road and a short walk through the bush from the South side) which, once again, is more of a point of departure for snorkeling than for sun bathing.  The North side of Haulover is not as protected as the South side, but excellent snorkeling is there for the having.  We saw tarpin and a nurse shark the last time we were there.

"South Shore Beaches (accessed from Coral Bay end)"

Salt Pond Bay:  Park your car in the designated parking area, grab your gear and hike down to a lovely, protected bay with a sandy white crescent of beach dotted with picnic tables.  Here you will enjoy beautiful, clear (and generally calm) water for swimming or floating as well as very good snorkeling along the rocks on either side of the bay.  

Lameshur Bay:  Lameshur Bay is a great place to spend the day.  It's a bit of a drive but once you get there you'll find a long, nicely protected, white sand beach known for its very calm, clear water that stays shallow for longer than you'll find at most other beaches on St. John.  It is like the proverbial Caribbean bathtub.  We love Lameshur for long, lazy afternoons.  There are picnic tables and barbeque grills for your use as you while away the hours in pusuit of nothing in particular.


Restaurants:

A disclaimer...  While the location of a restaurant generally stays the same on St. John, chefs and owners do change from time to time, so the following comments, though based on our most recent experiences, come without a guarantee that you will find them as described!  Still, for the most part, we find that the following thoughts have generally held true over the years that we've been priviledged to be part of the St. John community!  There are other restaurants on St. John - those listed below represent just a sampling...

Columbo's Yogurt Stand: located at the intersection of Ajax Peak Road and North Shore Road - Great smoothies and ice cream bars.

Coral Bay Restaurants:

Skinny Legs: Known for its great burgers and grill food - a sports bar and meeting place for locals - their motto is 'Same Day Service' (really!) so plan to relax...

Island Blues: Good local fare - on the water - live music some nights...

Aqua Bistro: Good, varied menu - outdoor dining, bistro atmosphere - a little bit more upscale...

Sweet Plantains: Relatively new - though we have not eaten there we have heard very good reports...

Ship Wreck Landing: Another locals' favorite - varied menu - good fish and chips - live music some nights - moderately priced...

Miss Lucy's: A high quality, tasty and creative menu - Great Sunday brunch - on the water- a bit more expensive than the average Coral Bay eatery but a very good value overall...

Mid Island Restaurants:

Chateau Bordeaux - Fabulous VIEWS - fine dining experience - on the pricey side...

Cruz Bay Restaurants:

The Fish Trap:  Seafood restaurant - check out their specials - good food at reasonable prices...

Asolare: Fine dining with a great atmosphere - we have had excellent meals here - amazing sunsets - on the pricey side but worth it for special occasions...

Morgan's Mango: Fun island fare - good food at reasonable prices..

Happy Fish - Inexpensive sushi rolls and bowls - one of our favorites - upstairs at the Market Place...

Woody's: A popular bar/restaurant for hanging out - happy hour specials - younger crowd - always busy...

Rumb Lines: Creative menu - tucked away off the beaten path - very good food - moderately priced...

Cafe Roma:  Yes, you can get good Italian food in the Caribbean - fun atmosphere - moderately priced...

The Inn at Tamarind Court: Rotating daily menu - Greek night is Monday (?) - the sampler is great!


Grocery Shopping in Coral Bay:

Lilly's Gourmet Market: Convenient to Aria - good selection - more upscale...

Love City Mini-Mart: A local institution - Caribbean shopping the way it used to be - canned goods and other staples - good place to get ice cream...

Grocery Shopping in Cruz Bay:
Dolphin Market: Good selection - 'standard' St. John prices...

Starfish Market: Biggest selection on St. John - 'standard' St. John prices...


Miscellaneous:

Most of the categories below are covered in the 'Other Links' section of this web site:
Water Sports: You can rent snorkel gear at Low Key watersports in Cruz Bay

Hikes: There are lots of hiking options - Reef Bay Trail, Ram's Head, Drunk Bay, Brown Bay - see the book Feet Fins and 4 Wheel Drive by local author, Pam Gaffin, which should be in Aria's bookcase, for detailed instructions and other suggestions...

Ferries: Red Hook to Cruz Bay, Charlotte Amalie to Cruz Bay, Cruz Bay to Red Hook and Cruz Bay to Charlotte Amalie - all usually follow a regular schedule but if you're counting on a specific ferry to get to the airport, or have some other important, time-constrained destination, do call the ferry company to make sure that the ferries are leaving on time... and to double check their schedules!

Barges: You probably won't need a barge unless you rented a car on St. Thomas and will be barging between the two islands while you're visiting - Mr. B is the fastest - two one ways might be more convenient than a round trip but do check the prices and schedule...

Snorkling: Our favorite spots include Jumbie at the far end, around the rocks, the South side of Haulover and Waterlemon Cay...

Massages: Most massage therapists on the island are very good, and some are willing to bring their table to you so you can have a massage overlooking the view on the upper deck at Aria - we have had good massages from Chris Chapman, Suki Buchalter and others.  Massages are generally higher priced than those you might have in the States, but you are on vacation...

Catering: There are several catering companies which will, for your convenience, provision Aria with food and sundries prior to your arrival - This is premium service and priced accordingly but, if you want be able to open the refrigerator and find all of your favorite foods (or as many as are available on island) ready and waiting, this might be a good choice for you...

Car Rentals: There are lots of options available - In some cases it MAY be less expensive to rent a car on St. Thomas, but some companies don't let you take the car on the barge - check before hand - and the barges do not run around the clock so you would need an airline schedule that will accomodate the barge schedule for a trip to St. John from St.Thomas (when you arrive) and a return trip to St. Thomas from St. John (when you depart) - This is not always so easy to arrange and even the best laid plans can go awry when your plane arrives late...

Sailing Charters: There are many available - you can check with Low Key Water Sports or spend some time reading the Aria Guest Books for suggestions from other guests!

Archeological Sites: It's worth going to Annaberg to see the Sugar Mill Ruins - you can also check out the petroglyphs and the historic sugar mill and steam engine on the Reef Bay Trail...

History of St. John: check out http://www.stjohnbeachguide.com/timeline.htm

Carnival on St. John: July 4th - fireworks, parade, etc... (St. Thomas Carnival has a different schedule) -

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