Visitors discover Cruz Bay’s character

CRUZ BAY, U.S. Virgin Islands — Toronto natives Cathy and John Fletcher have left a chilly fall in Canada and entered tropical paradise.  Fresh off of their Caribbean cruise ship in nearby St. Thomas, the two strolled hand-in-hand, eagerly exploring a small— yet bustling— village. They indulged in boutique shopping and even found their favorite restaurant for Caribbean cuisine.

In only a matter of hours, the Fletchers are officially fans of Cruz Bay.

Nestled at the base of St. John’s mountainous terrain, Cruz Bay is abundant in culture and character.  With its quaint boutiques and unique, innovative restaurants, the town is a “must see” for those in search of a relaxing rendezvous in the Caribbean.

The view of Cruz Bay from the Red Hook Ferry terminal dock (Photo by Kendall Sale).

The view from Cruz Bay can only be described as breathtaking.  Looking out into the glistening, turquoise ocean, mounds of sand and lush tropical forests can be seen peeking out from beneath the water.  Visitors find themselves in a true paradise.

Pastel-colored wooden shacks offering smoothies and various other refreshments line the narrow, winding streets of Cruz Bay.  Locals hanging out on benches and barstools offer passersby friendly nods and greetings. This picturesque town with a welcoming, carefree attitude is an ideal vacation spot that visitors will love to explore.

Prices in Cruz Bay seem a bit higher than on the mainland, but because there is no sales tax in St. John expenses more or less equal out. Savvy shoppers might even find a sale or two in the numerous boutiques around town.

A boutique called St. John Editions is the perfect spot to shop for women interested in high-end vacation wear.  The store offers top designer names such as Susana Monaco, Lilly Pulitzer, Kate Spade, Seven for All Mankind, and many more.

Cashier Liz Eaton has worked at St. John Editions for over two years.

“We carry of lot of high end brands that most stores can’t,” Eaton said.  “Many people come and shop here off of cruise ships, and many are people with places here that come back a few times a year.”

The entrance of St. John Editions highlights some of its colorful clothing (Photo by Kendall Sale).

Eaton also adds that St. John Editions has other stores located in Martha’s Vineyard, Vermont and Rhode Island.

For travelers on a budget, Cruz Bay Clothing Company is the ideal place to shop for vacation necessities.  Clothing for men, women and children all range between $20 and $60.  At moderate prices comparable to those in the mainland U.S., this boutique carries not only swimsuits and resort wear, but also sunscreen, disposable cameras and other items for travelers.

One of St. John’s true treasures is jewelry store Into the Blue. The one-of-a-kind jewelry store was started independently by locals Jennifer Cutshaw and Osa Notting. Inspired by the natural beauty of St. John, Cutshaw and Notting design all of the jewelry their line offers. The logo featured on many of their pieces is the petroglyph, an ancient carving that can be found on St. John’s Reef Bay Trail.

“The people who shop here are mostly tourists.  They’re always saying how much they love the island and how beautiful it is,” said cashier Kina Brown.  “They love the ‘islandy’ look of Jennifer and Osa’s jewelry and think it’s a great way to remember their trip here.”

Jackie Olwack, a South Carolina native on her 27th, yes, 27th, trip to St. John, stops by Into the Blue every time she visits the island.

“It’s unique, dramatic, and every time I wear it somebody just has to comment about it,” said Olwack of Into the Blue’s merchandise.  “It has the best jewelry on the island…actually the best jewelry on St. John and St. Thomas combined!”

After a long day of shopping, visitors will likely work up an appetite.  St. John offers a variety of original restaurants for a unique dining experience.

Shela Liburd getting ready for lunch hour at the casual Shela’s Pot in Cruz Bay (Photo by Kendall Sale).

Russ Kerr, who works at the Cruz Bay Visitor Information Center, always recommends Shela’s Pot to hungry tourists.

“She’s a real famous local girl.  Everybody knows her,” said Kerr.  “Her meat loaf is this big!” he added, holding his hands almost a foot apart.

Shela Liburd, 57, has been serving up island cuisine in Cruz Bay for the past 29 years.  She cooks out of a small wooden shack with plastic tables set up outside, but locals and tourists alike still flock to choose from more than 20 home cooked main dishes and six side dishes.

“Shela’s is fabulous!  We took her curried chicken to go, and the two of us couldn’t finish it!” said Fletcher.

Some of Shela’s most popular dishes include her stir fried lobster and shrimp and her famous sweet potato stuffing.

“All her food is fresh and home cooked.  You just can’t take a trip to Cruz Bay without stopping by Shela’s,” said Kerr.

Kerr also suggests Cruz Bay favorite Morgan’s Mango for traditional Caribbean cuisine.  Its menu features Caribbean fare from Cuba, the Bahamas, Haiti, Puerto Rico and more.  The restaurant refers to themselves as, “a melting pot of ethnic and classic cuisines.”

Visitors climb stairs amid ferns and other tropical plants to reach the deck entrance of Morgan’s Mango restaurant (Photo by Kendall Sale).

Morgan’s Mango not only offers a variety of island foods, but also aims to provide patrons with a true cultural experience. The idea behind the restaurant is to reflect island life and provide customers with a relaxed, sensory experience.

This goal is certainly met with the restaurant’s spectacular venue.  Its cabana-styled deck is complete with tropical plants, an ocean view, and even a live musical entertainment to give customers a taste of the island lifestyle.

The Balcony on Cruz Bay is yet another famous restaurant among locals and visitors.  True to its name, the restaurant’s seating area is on a balcony overlooking the ocean.

Scott Penney, The Balcony’s manager, describes the restaurant’s menu as “new American fusion.”

“We take the best parts of everything brought to the country and make it our own,” Penney said.

According to Penney, the restaurant’s most popular dish is the stuffed fillet: an eight ounce grilled beef tenderloin stuffed with goat cheese and Portobello mushrooms, smothered in a Jack Daniel’s oyster cream sauce.

“Our customers always leave satisfied,” said Penney.  “Not to mention that we have the best view in all of Cruz Bay—it’s 20 feet higher than any restaurant in town!”

After experiencing the boutiques and restaurants Cruz Bay has to offer, vacationers will no doubt want to kick back at the beach.  Trunk Bay, St. John’s most famous beach, is located only about one mile north of Cruz Bay.

The Balcony on Cruz Bay offers fusion style dining (Photo by Kendall Sale).

An integral attraction of the Virgin Islands National Park, Trunk Bay provides visitors with numerous amenities.  From the snack bar to the gift shop and even a snorkel gear rental station, this beach offers every necessity for a day at the beach.

Perhaps the most intriguing feature of Trunk Bay is its underwater nature trail.  After renting snorkel gear, beachgoers are free to explore the coral reefs and unique underwater life of St. John.  Signs posted on rocks underwater guide snorkelers, providing information about the reef life and fish that they are viewing along the way.

Alberto Samuel has been a lifeguard at Trunk Bay for eight years.  “Tourists visit this beach from all over the world—Europe, the U.S. and even China!” Samuel said.

“People come here for the mixture of natural beauty and amenities,” he added.  “It’s a very natural and beautiful beach—God’s creation.”

Whether you’re buying one-of-a-kind gems at Into the Blue, feasting on Shela’s famous island fare, or exploring Trunk Bay’s underwater nature trail, you can undoubtedly find your niche in Cruz Bay.

Trunk Bay, not far from Cruz Bay’s shops and restaurants, offers a stunning beach (Photo by Kendall Sale).

Completely immersed in island life and culture, the opportunity for new and exciting experiences is all around.  After a visit to this charming town in the heart of tropical paradise, you simply won’t want to leave.


If You Go

St. John Editions
Located in Mongoose Junction, directly across from the Virgin Islands National Park Visitor Center and headquarters.

Cruz Bay Clothing Company
Located in Wharfside Village, to the left of the ferry dock.

Into the Blue
Located in Wharfside Village, to the left of the ferry dock.

Shela’s Pot
Located across from the Red Hook Ferry dock.

Morgan’s Mango
Located in Mongoose Junction, directly across from the Virgin Island National Park Visitor Center and headquarters.

The Balcony on Cruz Bay
340-774 8470
Located in Wharfside Village, to the left of the ferry dock.

Comments are Closed