When you consider Caribbean vacations, chances are visiting a U.S. National Park isn't the first activity you think of –– but that's just what you can do on your next cruise. At Virgin Islands National Park in St. John, you can take a walk through history, hike some of the most breathtaking scenery on the islands, and explore the various salt ponds, mangroves, and coral reefs.
Learn the History of the Park
It wouldn't be a national park without history. Virgin Islands National Park has plenty of it. An archaeology program at Virgin Islands National Park explores the human habitation here, dating back to around 1000 BC. This small island has been the home to African and Caribbean cultures, as well as European colonial leaders, at different times through the centuries. You can learn about everything from the earliest inhabitants to the underground railway and emancipation in the 19th and early 20th centuries. You'll also learn about the establishment of the Virgin Islands National Park and the Coral Reef National Monument in more recent years.
Hike through a Diverse Landscape
The Virgin Islands National Park encompasses more than 7,000 acres of beautiful valleys, hills, and beaches. Explore the diverse natural landscape of the park by hiking one the 20 different trails, which range from accessible boardwalks to more rugged options, such as the steep Reef Bay Trail.
Along the trails, you can walk through some of the park's historic ruins. You'll also be able to navigate through salt ponds for bird viewing, or hike your way down from the old sugar mill to the beach.
Explore the Natural Ecosystems
Since more than 40 percent of the Virgin Islands National Park is actually underwater, snorkeling is a popular activity for visitors. The park area consists of seagrass beds, patch reefs, mangrove shorelines, and many other ecosystems for you to explore.
Stop by the visitor center for the most current information on snorkeling. You'll have the opportunity to observe spectacular coral and fish at Salomon Bay, Hawksnest Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Brown Bay, Waterlemon Cay, and Trunk Bay — which even has an underwater snorkeling trail marked with informative signs that offer facts and illustrations.
Get There Easily
It's easy to get to Virgin Islands National Park on the island of St. John. When your cruise ship docks at the pier in St. Thomas, you'll find a ferry that can take you over to the island. It's a short and scenic 30-minute ride.
While on St. Thomas, you can take advantage of an excursion to St. John to experience many of the natural wonders the island has to offer. This trip includes a hike just over a mile through the Virgin Islands National Park, during which you can explore the beaches, plant life, and history.
Ready to make Virgin Islands National Park a part of your Caribbean vacations? Book your cruise now.