U.S. Virgin Islands National Park
The Virgin Islands National Park is located on the island of St. John, the smallest island of the three U.S. Virgin Islands. Almost two-thirds of the island is part of the national park which was purchased in 1956 by Laurance Rockefeller. Rockefeller fell in love with the island in the 1920’s and turned the land into a national park to preserve the beauty of the island. There are 22 preserved nature trails, many beautiful beaches, a bounty of wildlife, birds and marine life, and the park provides a safe nesting place for a variety of turtle species.
Later, in 1962, congress expanded the boundary of the Virgin Islands National Park to include 5,650 acres of submerged land to preserve the coral gardens and seascapes. The park currently implements policies and practices to protect the fragile coral reef. There was still a need to further protect the reefs from degradation so in 2001 a Presidential Proclamation established the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument and designated 12,708 acres of federally owned submerged lands to be protected. Hurricane Hole is the only area of the Monument accessible by land. The Virgin Islands Coral Reef Monument includes federal submerged lands within the three mile belt off of the island of St. John. These waters host a system of coral reefs, shoreline mangrove forests and seagrass beds.
Operating Hours and Fees
Most areas of the park remain open 24 hours a day year-round, while some park visitor centers and facilities maintain operating hours. The Cruz Bay Visitor Center is open daily 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and is a short walk from the public ferry dock. You will find exhibits, brochures, maps, books and activity schedules. The park rangers will assist you in planning your visit, hikes, historical tours, snorkeling adventures, cultural craft demonstrations and evening campground demonstrations. Cruz Bay Visitor Center telephone number is 340-776-6201, ext. 238. Park areas include three beaches and a campground with picnic areas which are wheelchair accessible.
There is no entrance fee to enter the Virgin Islands National Park. However there is a same-day user fee collected at Trunk Bay: adults $4 and children under 16 are free. Trunk Bay is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The area is known for its 225-yard-long Underwater Trail of reef. The facilities at Trunk Bay include a bathhouse, snack bar, souvenir shop and snorkel gear rentals. Lifeguards are on duty daily and the facilities close at 4:00 p.m. A special use permit of $50 is required for all organized activities that include ten or more people. A permit is required for weddings and any other special events regardless of the number participating. In addition to the special use permit there is a cost recovery deposit of $150 for groups of fifty people or more. The cost recovery fee is $100 for groups of ten to fifty people. The fee is refundable after grounds inspection and removal of trash when event is over. Picnic pavilions and grills are available for all activities. Note: Permits for wedding ceremonies at any location within the park are required at $25 each.
Cinnamon Bay has a water sports center that rents snorkel gear and windsurfing equipment. You can arrange day sailing and scuba divinglessons. You will also find a campground with bare tent sites, prepared sites and cottages adjacent to the beach. There is also a camp store. Campground closes at 10:00 p.m. to unregistered guests. Call 340-776-6330 or 800-539-9998 for camping reservations. Hawksnest Beach has changing rooms, picnic tables, grills and restrooms. It is the closest beach from Cruz Bay. The restroom facilities do not close, but amplified music is not allowed and there is a 10:00 p.m. noise curfew. A special use permit of $25 is required for all organized activities that include ten or more people. A permit is required for weddings and any other special events regardless of the number participating and there is a limit of 50 people for any permitted activity at Hawksnest. In addition to the special use permit there is a cost recovery deposit of $100. The fee is refundable after grounds inspection and removal of trash when event is over. For overnight anchoring or mooring between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. there is a $15 self-registration fee. Overnight fees must be paid prior to spending the night. Overnight stays are limited to 30 nights in a calendar year and no more consecutive nights in one bay. You will find payment stations at Cruz Bay Finger Pier, Caneel Bay Watersports Shop, Hawksnest Bay, Maho Bay Camp, Leinster Bay, Saltpond Bay and Great Lameshur Bay.
Safety in the National Park
Since there is so much to see and do in the Virgin Islands National Park the National Park Service has put together a list of safety tips to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable visit.
- Think left while driving! Tradition, practicality and the law demand it. Use caution and drive defensively on our steep winding roads. The law also requires you to buckle up for your safety.
- Never swim or snorkel alone, and know your limitation. Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Large shore-breaking waves can be dangerous – avoid body surfing, and respect beach closure advisories.
- Do not climb on walls of historic ruins when hiking and exploring. The walls are unstable and bodily injuries may occur. In addition, avoid hiking in the mid-day heat and bring plenty of water.
- Coral and other sea life may be dangerous to you, and you to it. Some coral is sharp and could inflict lacerations. Human touch and anchors easily damage coral. Even standing on dead coral, rocks and other reef surfaces may hinder new reef growth. Remember: “If it’s not sand, don’t stand!”
- Do not eat unknown fruits or touch unknown plants. Some plants, such as the Manchineel tree are poisonous.
Boating in the National Park
Please see the National Park Service’s information on boating in the National Park waters if you are visiting by boat or operating your own vessel. You will find information on mooring, anchoring, fishing and laws and policies that are specific to the Virgin Islands National Park. If you are visiting by boat please familiarize yourself with the boater information, policies, and regulations.
National Park Contact Info
Virgin Islands National Park 1300 Cruz Bay Creek St. John, VI 00830
Visitor Information (340) 776-6201 (ext. 238) Fax (340) 775-9592