The Caribbean – Part 3

St. John – Red Hook Ferry

Riding the ferry to St. John, we saw numerous nearby islands, floating on the Caribbean Sea. It was a quick 20-minute ride. As we departed the ferry terminal in St. John, we were quickly surrounded by taxi drivers. We dove through the group and swam out the other side. Our ride was waiting for us. The lady who hosted our bed and breakfast met us in the cute little park opposite the ferry terminal. Since we had no rental car, we decided to try the taxis for a day or two. Our hostess said her house was about a mile and a half from Cruz Bay.

“That’s not very far.” I told my husband. “Let’s just walk to Cruz Bay in the morning and get a taxi from there to the beach.” Our hostess smiled and said, “Well, it is a difficult walk,” and she gave us phone numbers for several taxis. She drove us around Cruz Bay in a quick tour and then headed up the hill, then around some crazy corners, then down a hill, then up a very steep hill, then down some more hills, more crazy corners, then up, and up again, then waaaay up. That last hill was incredible—I never thought any vehicle could make it up that hill!

My husband looked at me and said, “I am not walking to Cruz Bay!” We climbed out of the car, grabbed our bags and headed into the house. It was a beautiful view straight through her living room, out the sliding glass doors, and out over the Caribbean Sea. Tropical greens and blues spread out before us as far as the eye could see. Our room was upstairs with its own balcony looking out over Rendezvous Bay across the sea and even out to St. Croix, over 40 miles away! We simply stood in awe. The room was beautiful, extremely clean and private. Check her out on Airbnb. It’s called Hawk’s Rest, Cruz Bay, St. John USVI. She went out of her way to make sure we had everything we needed.

The view from our balcony at Hawk’s Rest.

The next morning, she gave us a ride into Cruz Bay where we bought some sandwiches and easily grabbed a taxi headed out to the beaches. The taxi was an open-air Safari taxi. It was fun riding along looking out over the bays and islands, not worrying about keeping my eyes on the road. As the wind was up, we chose to start on Maho Bay. The waves were up, but not too much. We dove right in and swam to our hearts content. We did try to snorkel, but the waves had stirred up the sand so there was no visibility. Instead we built sand castles, stretched out in the sun, ate our delicious sandwiches and swam to our hearts content.

When we were ready to head back to our room, we stepped out onto the road behind the beach and looked around like we were lost. What if no taxi ever comes again? Before we had all the sand brushed off our feet and our shoes back on, a taxi came to our rescue. The following day we spent some time shopping in Cruz Bay and had a delightful strawberry and banana smoothie! Cruz Bay is quaint and delightful during the day. In the evenings, everyone has music blasting and the bars are overflowing with people having a great time. When Friday came, I announced it was time to rent a Jeep tomorrow and drive ourselves. Our hostess mentioned that most car rental companies are closed on Saturday, so we headed down immediately and found a Jeep available at the first place we stopped.

I have driven on the left side of the road before so no problems there. But those hills! Sharp corners with extra steep switchbacks make blind driving very interesting. Yet no problems occurred. The speed limit is usually 20 mph and everyone is kind and willing to wait their turn. We spent a few more days swimming and snorkeling, investigating all the beaches in turn.

Our favorite place to eat turned out to be the Sun Dog Café at the Mongoose Junction. Their Shrimp Vera Cruz was excellent! My husband said the Stuffed French Toast was the best food he had ever eaten. The mango and cream cheese stuffing literally explode in your mouth!

Sun Dog Café

The Jeep had to stay on St. John so we turned it in and headed back to St. Thomas. Our final Airbnb recommended a car rental company so we put in a call. Yes, they had a car and yes, they gave us a confirmation number…

The Caribbean – Part 1

We just returned from our yearly get-away-from-the-cold trip. This year our trip was to the soft, warm sands and turquoise-blue water of The United States Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. John. This once in a life-time trip was courtesy of an airline voucher we received in exchange for giving up our seats a year ago on an over-booked flight. Free airfare! Where would you like to go? Not a doubt in our minds.

The flight took us to Houston (raining), then Puerto Rico, then finally to St. Thomas. I was mesmerized by the tropical ocean, so many shades of blues spreading out in all directions!

A major surprise for me was Puerto Rico. Through an occasional news story, I have only heard about Puerto Rico’s poverty — how destitute they are. Unfortunately, I have never delved deeper than surface knowledge about the people nor the land. Flying in to San Juan, I saw a beautiful city with palm trees, blue ocean, beaches, tall hotels and office buildings. It reminded me Honolulu. Why have I not heard about the beauty? I asked myself.

Yes, I did see a number of houses that still had blue tarps spread across their roofs. I recalled scenes on T.V. from the two 2017 hurricanes Irma and Marie. Bridges and roads were ruined, cutting off whole communities. Electricity was out throughout the entire island. Exhausted people stood in long lines to receive food and clean water.

But still… Why have I not heard about the beauty?

I began reading what I could find about being a tourist on Puerto Rico. They have amazing beaches, surfing around the whole island, hiking through the mountains, and beautiful gardens. They also have a rich culture and a complex history. And the food! Mouth watering pictures floated before me.


Picture courtesy of: crazyjamie.wordpress.com. Crazy Jamie has many delicious 
recipes on her website. Check them out!

I can’t wait to visit Puerto Rico someday!

Then we were on to St. Thomas. We had done our homework on St. Thomas: beaches, restaurants, shopping, museums, driving, taxis, ferries, all of it. Yet I was not prepared for the physical size of the island. Very small! Thirteen miles long and four miles wide. As we dropped out of the sky I scanned the numerous other islands as well and got a sense of what thirteen miles by four miles really means. I am accustomed to living in Montana, Big Sky country with lots of wide-open spaces. Yet this tiny island was surrounded by picturesque beaches, green hills and sailboats galore.

I had reserved a car at the airport and we were excited to get to our first hotel. I stepped up to the rental car counter and the lady said, “No cars. They are all gone. Come back tomorrow at 1:30 and I will get you a car.” I stood there confused for a second then handed her my confirmation number. The line of tourists behind me were frozen just as I was. So the lady explained. “No cars. They are all gone. Come back tomorrow at 1:30 and I will get you a car.”

The taxi men were hovering.

By the time we were loaded up and headed down the road it was dark. The taxi zipped in and out of busy traffic and zoomed up and down and around the crazy corners that make up the road system of St. Thomas. I looked at my husband and said, “I sure am glad there was no car for us!”

The taxi van was full of young people from the States. They repeatedly told the taxi driver that he was not going the right way. They said they knew of a shorter road. A quick check of the map the next day showed that the taxi man had indeed taken the shortest route. The patient taxi man had been kind, but I was embarrassed. Those of us from the States are guests on their island and in their towns and in their taxis. Guests should show hosts the respect they deserve, not be demanding and act as if they know it all.

Nevertheless, our room was beautiful and the bed was very comfortable. We woke in the morning and immediately opened the curtains to look outside for a peek. A sparkling swimming pool lined with palm trees, lounge chairs and umbrellas greeted us. The sun shone over everything. Behind the pool was a bluer than blue bay, sailboats lazily bobbing at their moors. We slid open the balcony door and warm tropical air enveloped us. “We are not in Montana anymore Toto,” my husband grinned.

Have you ever been to the USVI? Share your thoughts and/or web page.