Choose Your Own Adventure: A Day in Cruz Bay

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Sun-kissed shores, swaying palm trees, and the promise of an unforgettable island adventure await you in Cruz Bay, St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Accessible only by boat from the island of St. Thomas, this Caribbean gem is a traveler’s paradise, beckoning with its vibrant culture, pristine beaches, and abundant natural wonders. Whether you’re seeking a laid-back day of relaxation or an adventure-filled escape, Cruz Bay has it all.

From sunrise to sunset, here are some ideas on how to craft the picture-perfect day around Cruz Bay.

Where to Stay

If you’re planning to stay overnight on St. John rather than ferry back to St. Thomas, the island has many accommodations. The Grande Bay Resort is a popular spot if you’re looking for the red-carpet treatment, offering studio-style rooms or expansive suites with stunning views of Cruz Bay. For a budget-friendly option, the Cruz Bay Boutique Hotel offers affordable villa-style suites and free breakfast.

Morning

Start the day with a hearty breakfast. Just a short walk from the ferry dock, Sun Dog Café serves up bottomless mimosas and classic dishes like eggs benedict with courtyard seating. For food with a view, head to Cruz Bay Landing for breakfast tacos as you watch the boats moored in the marina.

After breakfast, it’s time to explore Mongoose Junction for some morning retail therapy. Considered Cruz Bay’s main shopping hub, this area is identified by its cobblestone pathways, lush tropical trees and stone buildings. Home to various stores and restaurants, you’ll find everything from jewelry and local artwork to beach clothing, souvenir shops and craft breweries. Stop by Bajo El Sol Gallery – an art gallery, bookstore, café and cocktail bar. Check out Island Fancy for knickknacks and tropical gifts, such as island guides and collections of local jams. Or, browse the handcrafted jewelry at Vibe Collection.

Next, take a detour to Virgin Islands National Park for a dose of history with a trip to the Annaberg Plantation, just a 20-minute drive from Cruz Bay. Here you’ll find the remnants of the island’s Danish colonial past as you hike trails that weave through a series of stone ruins, from the 1805 windmill to what’s left of the slave quarters, animal mill and sugar factory.

The windmill ruin in Annaberg Sugar Plantation in the Virgin Islands National Park.

If you want to stay closer to town, check out the Catherineberg Estate Ruins off Centerline Road. Here you will find what remains of an 18th-century sugar and rum factory, from the windmill to the factory, horse mill and stable.

Afternoon

Return to Cruz Bay for lunch and hit up The Longboard for their early happy hour. Order a Painkiller – Cruzan Rum with pineapple and coconut – and dine on poke bowls featuring locally caught fish. Another great lunch spot is High Tide Bar & Seafood Grill. Chow down on fish and chips or mahi sandwiches, and for a sweet treat, try the mango passionfruit cheesecake.

Salomon Beach on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Next, why not spend the remainder of the afternoon at the beach? For a more secluded beach day, check out Salomon Beach for its powdery white sand, crystal clear waters and shady palm trees. You’ll have to hike the Lind Point Trail to get there – it’s only a mile from the Virgin Islands National Park’s Visitor Center. Another sandy shore to soak up the sun on is Honeymoon Beach. This is a popular swimming spot, and you’ll find a watersports rental shack here too. Rent a paddleboard or kayak for adventures on the water. Don’t skip the chance to go snorkeling. The beach is home to a patch of reef that features colorful corals, tropical fish, turtles and manta rays.

Evening 

There’s no better way to kick off the night than on a sunset cruise with Cruz Bay Watersports. Departing from The Westin Resort, this 1.5-hour experience will take you onto a luxury sailing catamaran that glides across  Pillsbury Sound. Enjoy a selection of hors d’oeuvres, an open bar, and cocktails.

A sunset cruise in the Caribbean.

Back on land, an elegant three-course tasting menu awaits at Extra Virgin Bistro, one of Cruz Bay’s popular fine dining restaurants (be sure to book your reservation at least 30 days in advance). Known for serving locally grown produce and freshly caught seafood, you’ll dine on crispy calamari with sweety drop peppers and braised beef short rib with polenta cakes.

Wrap the day with live music and cocktails at The Beach Bar. A variety of local bands play every night, from rock groups to bluegrass. And you can dance the night away right on the surf as the island beats meet the cool Caribbean breeze.

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