When you think of the National Parks, coral reefs aren’t usually one of the first few things that come to mind. Mountains, rivers, plains, sure, but there are actually a number of incredible National Parks that are all about fun in the sun.
A quick ferry ride from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands National Park is one such park, dubbed “American Paradise” it features unique combinations of history, ocean and adventure that you just don’t find in many other places in the National Park System. The island itself has a fascinating history, first discovered by Christopher Columbus, it was bought by the United States from Denmark (along with a number of other islands) right at the start of World War I.
Located almost entirely on the island of St. John, the Virgin Islands National Park has over 7,000 acres of lush rainforest vegetation, hiking trails, white sandy beaches and beautiful coral reefs hidden just below the surface of the turquoise water. This gives visitors the chance to enjoy a number of different activities while spending time at the park.
Of course the main attractions of Virgin Islands National Park are in the water. For scuba and snorkel enthusiasts there is Trunk Bay, frequently named as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world by sites like National Geographic and Conde Nast Traveler. This is a very unusual Underwater Trail that follows underwater for about 300 feet featuring beautiful coral, sea life and a number of plaques that educate along the way.
There is plenty of hiking in this park as well. Virgin Islands National Park has over 20 different hiking trails, truly something for everyone. The more gentle trails feature boardwalks across some of the sandy beaches. While the more challenging trail, The Reef Bay Trail, takes you up and down steep climbs all over the island, offering incredible views as well as sights like the old sugar mill.
Beyond all of the natural beauty on the island, there is quite a bit of history as well. One of the more interesting attractions is Annaberg, which at one time was a large sugar plantation. In fact, most of the growth on St. John is actually relatively recent, as most of the island was used for growing sugar cane. Annaberg still has many of the buildings standing, and rangers can guide visitors through demonstrations there most days.
For campers who are looking to spend a few nights in paradise, there are a couple of camping options in and around Cinnamon Bay. These options range from bringing your own tent, to even small screened in cottages. It’s hard to imagine a better place to spend the night than under the starry sky next to the crashing of waves of the ocean?
Have you made the trip to the Virgin Islands National Park? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments!