St. John, the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, retains a tranquil, unspoiled beauty uncommon in the Caribbean or anywhere else in the world. Settled in the early 1700s by Danish immigrants attracted to the island's potential as a sugar cane-producing colony, St. John soon blossomed into a thriving society. The ruins of the Annaberg Sugar Plantation and other smaller plantations on the island attest to the island's agricultural history.
The extensive sugar cane farming, however, did little to affect the natural beauty of St. John. Its unspoiled forests and stunning beaches attracted the attention of wealthy families such as the Rockefellers, who sought privacy and tranquility on the island. In 1956, Laurance Rockefeller was so moved by the island that he bought and donated broad expanses of land to the National Park Service to keep St. John "a thing of joy forever."
Today, two-thirds of St. John is part of the Virgin Islands National Park, featuring fascinating trails, secluded coves, and dazzling white beaches. The Reef Bay Trail takes hikers through dense forests, plantation ruins, and rock outcroppings marked by well-preserved petroglyphs. Trunk Bay, Hawksnest Bay, Cinnamon Bay, and Maho Bay are just four of the dozens of beaches. Cruz Bay, the center of activity on St. John, contains colorful shops, lively bars, and fabulous restaurants.