Virgin Islands Overview

Virgin Islands National Park, a tropical paradise located on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, encompasses an enchanting blend of sea, shore, and land. With over 60% of the island protected within the park’s boundaries, plus an additional 5,650 underwater acres (22.87 square kilometers), the park covers a total area of approximately 14,950 acres (60.47 square kilometers). Established in 1956 through the philanthropic efforts of Laurence Rockefeller, who donated the land to the U.S. government, the park is a sanctuary for diverse ecosystems, historic sites, and breathtaking landscapes.

The park’s lush terrain features rolling hills, valleys, and mountains, with the highest point being Bordeaux Mountain. Its diverse ecosystems range from tropical rainforests to mangrove forests and seagrass beds, supporting a wide variety of plant and animal life. The park’s shores are lined with pristine white sandy beaches, including the world-renowned Trunk Bay, known for its crystal-clear waters and underwater snorkeling trail.

Virgin Islands National Park is also rich in cultural and historical significance, with numerous archaeological sites and ruins that tell the stories of the island’s indigenous people, colonial past, and plantation era. Visitors can explore the remnants of Danish and British sugar plantations, ancient petroglyphs carved by the Taino people, and the Annaberg Sugar Plantation ruins.

The park offers a range of recreational activities, from hiking and bird watching on land to snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking in its protected waters. The underwater world is particularly captivating, with vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life, providing an unparalleled snorkeling and diving experience.

Virgin Islands National Park is not just a destination for outdoor enthusiasts; it’s a place of natural beauty and tranquility that invites visitors to relax, explore, and connect with the rich cultural heritage and stunning landscapes of the Caribbean.

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Park Map
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Virgin Islands National Park Highlights


Virgin Islands National Park, a tropical paradise spanning over half of Saint John Island, is a sanctuary for marine and terrestrial wildlife, where visitors can immerse themselves in the vibrant ecosystems of coral reefs, mangrove forests, and tropical rainforests, discovering the unique species that inhabit this lush Caribbean landscape.

Green Sea Turtle Gracefully navigating the park’s clear waters, green sea turtles are a common sight, especially when they come ashore to nest on sandy beaches.

Mangrove Cuckoo Hidden among the mangrove forests, the mangrove cuckoo is known for its elusive nature and distinctive call, blending into the verdant backdrop of the park.

Brown Pelican Soaring above the coast and diving into the sea, brown pelicans are iconic to the park’s seascapes, offering dramatic displays of their fishing prowess.

Virgin Islands Boa The rare Virgin Islands boa, a non-venomous snake, resides in the park’s forests, contributing to the ecological balance by preying on small birds and rodents.

Hermit Crab Covering the beaches and trails, hermit crabs are seen in a variety of colorful shells, a fascinating example of recycling in the natural world.

Hawksbill Turtle The critically endangered hawksbill turtle frequents the park’s coral reefs, its presence a reminder of the fragility and beauty of marine ecosystems.

Bananaquit Flitting among the flowers, the bananaquit, with its striking yellow breast, is a vibrant presence, feeding on nectar and symbolizing the island’s tropical allure.

Leatherback Turtle The largest of all sea turtles, leatherbacks occasionally visit the park’s beaches to nest, their massive size awe-inspiring to lucky observers.

Frigatebird With their impressive wingspan, frigatebirds glide high above the park, masters of the air, rarely touching the water yet expertly snatching fish from the surface.

Iguana Basking on warm rocks and branches, iguanas are a common sight, their prehistoric appearance adding to the exotic allure of Virgin Islands National Park.

Virgin Islands National Park’s diverse wildlife, from the majestic green sea turtle to the colorful bananaquit, invites visitors to explore and appreciate the rich biodiversity of this Caribbean jewel, a vibrant testament to nature’s splendor in a tropical setting.

Virgin Islands National Park Pictures

Engaging Virgin Islands National Park

Explore the vibrant underwater world of Virgin Islands National Park by snorkeling in its crystal-clear Caribbean waters. Discover colorful coral reefs, tropical fish, and other marine life as you glide through the warm ocean currents. Popular snorkeling spots include Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay, and Maho Bay, where you can snorkel right from the beach and encounter a diverse array of marine species.

Lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails to explore the park’s lush tropical forests, scenic overlooks, and historic ruins. Virgin Islands National Park offers a variety of hiking trails, ranging from easy nature walks to more challenging treks. Discover hidden waterfalls, ancient petroglyphs, and panoramic vistas of the Caribbean Sea as you immerse yourself in the natural beauty of St. John.

Unwind and soak up the sun on the park’s beautiful beaches, including Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay, and Hawksnest Bay. Spread out a towel on the soft white sand, take a refreshing dip in the turquoise waters, or simply lounge under the shade of a palm tree and enjoy the serene surroundings. With its idyllic beaches and tranquil atmosphere, Virgin Islands National Park is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate.

Paddle along the park’s pristine coastline and explore hidden coves, mangrove forests, and secluded beaches on a kayaking adventure. Rent a kayak or join a guided tour to explore the park’s coastal waters and discover its diverse marine ecosystems up close. Keep an eye out for sea turtles, rays, and other marine life as you glide through the warm Caribbean waters, immersing yourself in the natural beauty of St. John.

Virgin Islands National Park Trails

Reef Bay Trail

Rating: Moderate to Strenuous

Distance and Elevation Gain: 4.9 miles round trip with an elevation gain of about 937 feet (286 meters) on the return

Description: This trail takes hikers through a lush tropical forest to the historic ruins of sugar plantations and down to the beautiful Reef Bay. Along the way, you can see petroglyphs carved by the Taino people. The trail ends at a secluded beach, often requiring a boat pickup due to the steep return hike.

Ram Head Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 2.3 miles round trip with an elevation gain of about 200 feet (61 meters)

Description: This trail offers dramatic coastal views as it winds its way to Ram Head, a rocky bluff overlooking the sea. The path passes through cactus scrublands and offers panoramic views of the Caribbean. The hike is especially popular at sunrise or sunset for its breathtaking views.

Cinnamon Bay Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 1.1 miles one way with an elevation gain of about 500 feet (152 meters)

Description: Starting from Cinnamon Bay, this trail climbs up through a lush, tropical forest filled with ruins of historic sugar plantations. Hikers can explore the remnants of the island’s colonial past while enjoying the diverse flora and fauna of the park. The trail offers a moderate hike with both historical and natural interests.

Annaberg Plantation Loop

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: 0.5 miles loop with minimal elevation gain

Description: This easy, self-guided loop trail takes visitors through the ruins of the 18th-century Annaberg Sugar Plantation. Interpretive signs provide insights into the history of sugar production and the lives of the enslaved people who worked here. The trail offers stunning views of the bay and surrounding islands.

Salt Pond Bay Trail to Drunk Bay

Rating: Easy to Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 1.0 mile round trip with minimal elevation gain

Description: This trail starts at the Salt Pond Bay parking area and leads to the serene Salt Pond Bay Beach before continuing to Drunk Bay. The trail offers a unique landscape of salt ponds and coral rubble art at Drunk Bay, created by visitors using natural materials. It’s known for its tranquility and the opportunity to spot wildlife like sea turtles.


1. What is the Virgin Islands National Park known for?

Virgin Islands National Park, located on the island of St. John in the United States Virgin Islands, is known for its stunning natural beauty, pristine beaches, and vibrant coral reefs. Established in 1956, the park encompasses over 7,000 acres of land and nearly 5,000 acres of submerged lands, protecting a diverse range of ecosystems both on land and underwater.

One of the main attractions of Virgin Islands National Park is its beautiful beaches, including Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay, and Maho Bay, which offer visitors opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing in crystal-clear Caribbean waters. The park’s lush tropical forests are also home to a variety of wildlife, including iguanas, hermit crabs, and numerous bird species, making it a popular destination for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers.

In addition to its natural beauty, Virgin Islands National Park has a rich cultural history, with archaeological sites and ruins dating back over a thousand years, including pre-Columbian petroglyphs and colonial-era sugar plantations. Visitors to the park can explore these historic sites and learn about the island’s indigenous Taino people and its colonial past through interpretive exhibits and ranger-led programs.

Overall, Virgin Islands National Park offers visitors a chance to experience the beauty and tranquility of the Caribbean while learning about the rich natural and cultural heritage of St. John.

  • All Trails, Best Trails in Virgin Islands National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Britannica, Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Britannica, Virgin Islands National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • National Geographic, Complete National Parks of the United States, National Geographic Publishing, Washington DC.
  • National Geographic, Guide to the National Parks of the United States, National Geographic Society, 2003.
  • National Geographic, National Parks of North America, Canada-United States-Mexico, National Geographic Society, 1995.
  • National Park Service, Virgin Islands,, retrieved April 2024.