If you are a history buff or outdoor enthusiast, the Reef Bay Beach is for you! Reef Bay is home to one of the most famous hiking trails on Saint John, the Reef Bay Trail. The Reef Bay beach is only accessible by hiking or boat. There is lots to see and do as Reef Bay is known for its historical Danish Plantation Ruins near the beach, as well as the iconic Petroglyphs carved in the rocks by the pre-Columbian Taino Tribe around 900-1500 AD and continue to hold mysteries of their origins today. The beach is very isolated on the South Shore in the VI National Park and is another natural wonder lined with mangroves and scrubs.
The beach is most commonly accessed by hiking the Reef Bay Trail down from the trailhead along Centerline Road located approximately 5 miles outside of Cruz Bay. You can even take the VItran bus or Safari taxi here if you do not have your own transportation as parking is limited along the road. Reef Bay can be reached by boat with at least two mooring balls nearby in the Bay. Many tourists prefer to hike down the trail and explore, enjoy the beach, and then have a Boat Charter pick them up so they do not have to hike back up the trail. Nothing like a great hike, being picked up by a Boat Charter, enjoying snorkeling, cocktails, food and music along with the breeze, island vibes, and the spectacular views of the Virgin Islands all in one day!
The 2.2 mile trail begins with a beautiful stone stairway which leads you into a tropical forest. The trail is about 800-900 ft. in elevation. You should allow yourself several hours to complete the hike. The earlier you start your day the better as the sun can take its toll the later it gets. The unspoiled views you see during the hike make every step worth it. Information along the way is located on plaques for you to learn about native plant species such as the locust, sandbox, kapok, mammee apple, mango, and bay rum trees. You may see wildlife such as lots of deer, hermit crabs, mongoose, birds and more. Many find the trail quite strenuous so take your time and have water saved for the hour long hike back up to Centerline Road. Hiking boots or closed toed shoes are necessary as the path can be slippery. Guided hikes are available.
Near the bottom of the Reef Bay Trail on the left side of the path you can explore the well-preserved Sugar Mill Ruins as your imagination runs wild of what life must have been like when the Mill was in operation. This Mill was the longest operating sugar factory on Saint John in the 20th Century and utilized the newest technology.
Further along, there is the Petroglyph Spur Trail, a .22 mile trail on the right leading to the Petroglyphs, one of Saint John’s most valued historical treasures and used as an icon for jewelry and artistry alike. The carvings are located near a small Waterfall, and depending upon the time of year and the amount of rain the island has received, the Waterfall could be running or dry.
After you’ve had a taste of some Saint John history, you can head to the beach. Pack a blanket, lunch, and snorkeling gear and your set. There is nothing like jumping in the water after a hike down the trail, floating and cooling off in your own little piece of tranquil paradise. If there’s a boat charter waiting for you, even better!
Check out saintjohnboatcharters.com for a boat day your way!