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Today is Transfer Day in the USVI: What That Means

Today is Transfer Day here in the US Virgin Islands. This event is recognized each year in March 31st, which is the date that the Danish West Indies formally ceded to the United States by Denmark in 1917. The exchange cost the United States $25 million in gold.

The following information is courtesy of the Royal Danish Consulate, which has a location on St. Thomas: 

The United States’ interest in the Virgin Islands was primarily for their strategic location, while any economic benefits were secondary. The islands represented a much needed foothold in the Caribbean for the American Navy, and later were looked toward as a base to guard the Panama Canal. American negotiations with the Danish government can be characterized as ones of strategic diplomacy. All offers of proposed purchase came on the heels of American military conflicts.

American interest in the Virgin Islands dates back to as early as the mid-1860s. At the eve of the Civil War, budding American imperialism and the need for a Caribbean naval base, prompted Secretary of State William H. Seward to begin to investigate the islands as a possible coaling station for U.S. naval and merchant vessels. On October 24, 1867, after nearly two years of extensive negotiation and a visit to the islands by Seward himself, the Danish government ratified a treaty in which Denmark would cede the islands of St. Thomas and St. John to the United States. The price was to be seven and a half million dollars in gold, provided the treaty received the consent of the islands’ population. Unfortunately, within a year, the islands were visited by a hurricane, an earthquake, a tsunami and a fire.

The tsunami was so severe that it left the steamer, the USS Monongahela, Commodore Bissel, and its crew, stranded on the Frederiksted wharf. However, for more than two years, the treaty failed to receive the ratification of the United States Congress in response to the wave of natural disasters, the imperialistic overtones of the treaty, and concerns over the possible impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.

By the end of the Spanish American War, Secretary of State John Hay expressed renewed interest in the Virgin Islands to the Danish government. Beginning on January 29, 1900, and over another two years, a new treaty was negotiated, in which the Danish government would cede the islands of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix to the United States for the sum of five million dollars. The treaty was ratified by the U.S. Congress. However, the Danes returned the thirty year-old diplomatic insult, and neither house of the Danish legislature ratified the treaty.

Subtle efforts to negotiate the purchase of the Virgin Islands by the United States continued after the failure of the Treaty of 1902. However, by 1915 American interest had become heightened by fears of the impending crisis in Europe. The General Board, headed by Admiral Dewey informed Secretary of State Robert Lansing, that the purchase of the islands would not be advantageous as the site of an American naval base in light of the recent acquisition of Puerto Rico, but that the purchase would be wise in order to deter any other power from gaining bases in the Caribbean. Dewey, felt that this tactical defense of the Panama Canal was just politically by the Monroe Doctrine and by increased German efforts to consolidate the islands through commercial, diplomatic or perhaps even military means.

In March of 1916, Secretary Lansing sent a drafted treaty to the Danish Ambassador in Copenhagen, Dr. Maurice Egan, offering twenty-five million dollars in gold coins for the islands with instructions to deliver the proposal to the Danish government. On August 14, 1916, at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City, a revised treaty was signed by Danish Minister Constantin Brun and Secretary of State Lansing. The US Senate approved the treaty on September 7, 1916 and by December 21, 1916 the Danish Rigsdag had approved the treaty as well. Finally, on January 17, 1917 the treaty ratifications were exchanged and the treaty finalized.

The official transfer of the Danish West Indies to the United States did not occur until 4:00 PM on March 31st, 1917, when a formal ceremony was held in the islands. At the State Department, a U.S. Treasury Warrant for twenty-five million dollars was given to Danish Minister Brun.

A copy of the treasury warrant was recently on display at Annaberg.

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Hiking on St. John: America Hill

If you have ever spent time at Maho Bay, you may have noticed the remains of a reddish building perched high atop the hill on the lefthand side of the bay. That building is the America Hill Great House. Today I am going to tell you about its storied past, and I will also provide directions for those of you who’d like to visit it.

It is believed that the buildings at America Hill date back to the early 1800s when Denmark ruled St. John. (The Danes controlled St. John from 1718 through 1917.) In the early 1900s, the great house was used as a small guest house for people visiting the island. It is believed that one of the last visitors at the guest house was Rafael Trujillo, the Dominican Republic dictator. It is also believed that the site was used as a headquarters for rum runners during the prohibition era. Pretty interesting stuff.

How to Get to America Hill 

The trailhead for the trail to America Hill is located beside the Cinnamon Bay Sugar Factory site on North Shore Road or Route 20 on the map. You can park in the Cinnamon Bay parking lot, or there is one parking space beside the sugar factory. The trail to America Hill is a spur trail off of the Cinnamon Bay trail, which at one point was an old Danish road that connected what is now North Shore and Centerline roads.

The trail to America Hill is only .6 miles or 1.2 miles roundtrip. You will start by talking the Cinnamon Bay trail. The trail is rather steep at the beginning, but the recent addition of stairs makes the initial climb a bit easier. After a roughly five-minute climb, you will eventually cross a gut. The spur trail to America Hill is on your lefthand side about 50 yards after the gut crossing.

After you take a left onto the America Hill spur trail, you will encounter five switchbacks before getting to the Great House. You are climbing uphill and it’s pretty hot here, so be sure to take breaks if needed and also bring plenty of water. This is definitely a sneaker or a sandal with straps hike. This is not a flip flop hike in my opinion.

When you arrive at America Hill, you will see warning signs posted by the National Park that inform visitors that the structures are dangerous. You cannot walk inside of the guest house as it is not safe. So please keep a safe distance when visiting America Hill.

It was common in the 1800s for the cookhouse, or kitchen, to be built as a separate structure. What is left of the cookhouse is located to the right of the great house. There are remnants of a cistern and a well to the left of the great house. Check out some images and video I took last week:

Looking for information on other hiking trails on St. John? Visit for details on other popular hikes.

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New Retail & Beach Rental Shop Opens in Coral Bay

Leah Hanson owns Pirate’s Cove with her husband Colin.

A great new shop opened up in Coral Bay earlier this month, and I think you’re all going to love it.

The Pirate’s Cove is a new retail and beach rental shop that sells everything from eco-friendly St. John-inspired apparel and gifts to snorkel gear and other beach rentals. The shop is owned by Leah and Colin Hanson, owners of Flyaway Charters. It’s located right on Route 10 in Coral Bay (Centerline Road), just past the fire station and across the street from Skinny Legs.

“Environmental protection, priority and preservation, and historical awareness are very important to us as individuals and also as a company,” Leah told me last Friday at Pirate’s Cove. “We saw this as an opportunity to further promote those goals and initiatives, while also meeting face-to-face with people who may be interested in learning more about the island, the ocean that surrounds us and the rich history here on St. John. You will see that in the products we chose to offer at Pirate’s Cove.”

Pirate’s Cove sells everything from eco-friendly clothing including hats and t-shirts to historical books and more. Some of their t-shirts are even screen printed on Silver Cloud, an 1899 three-masted schooner which is the oldest ship anchored in Coral Bay harbor. The shop sells a variety of reef-safe items like sunscreens and lip balms too. They also rent a variety of beach gear, including snorkel sets, Neso tents and more. Check out a few pics:

Looks great, right?

Pirate’s Cove is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (ish). It is open on the weekends by appointment only.

Click here to follow Pirate’s Cove on Facebook, and click here to follow them on Instagram.

Want to learn more about Flyaway Charters? You can visit their website at They offer a variety of cool trips, including:

  • Sail Pepper – Sail on a classic island wooden sloop
  • Fly Out to Lime Out – Check out St. John’s only floating bar
  • St. John Uncovered – Learn about St. John’s rich history while cruising around the island
  • Full or half day US trips
  • Full day trips to the British Virgin Islands

Explore STJ would like to welcome our newest advertiser Bonvi Hospitality. Bonvi Hospitality offers luxury villa rentals. Private, waterfront and ocean view homes available. Vacation and travel concierge services available too. Please visit to learn more.


Looking to take a St. John island tour?

Learn more here –> Full & half days available. Rated “Excellent” on TripAdvisor.

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Great News: Airfare is Coming Down!

Who needs a vacation? I know I do! Well I have good news for almost all of you. Airfare prices are finally coming down. They’re not super low like we saw about a year ago, but they are getting less expensive than we saw over the past few months. I am happy to see a move in the right direction. I am also happy to know that this may help you all plan your next St. John vacation.

I spent the morning pulling up airfares from numerous popular cities around the country. Unfortunately I cannot get airfare from every single airport, but you will see a good sample below. I used Google Flights Explore function, and I consistently saw that airfare is lower than average with more being more than $100 less than normal, per Google Flights.

Not familiar with Google Flights’ Explore function? It’s pretty simple to use. Go to Then click the Explore button in the left sidebar on a laptop/computer. If you’re using a cell phone or iPad, the Explore button is in the top menu. For the airfare listed below, I chose a 1-week trip in the next 6 months. Scroll to the bottom for more helpful travel info.


According to Google Flights, airfare from Atlanta is currently more than $100 cheaper than normal. It makes the most sense to fly direct on Delta, but unfortunately that is the most expensive way to go. If you don’t mind hopping on Spirit and making a quick stop in Ft. Lauderdale, you can fly roundtrip for only $214. That’s pretty incredible. Travel dates: April 17th through April 25th


You too can save some money. You can fly direct on JetBlue heading to the islands and then take Spirit with one stop heading home for only $372. I know, I don’t love Spirit either. But I love saving money, so I think I could spend a few hours on a not-so-amazing airline to save a few hundred dollars. Travel dates: April 20th through April 27th 


Are you able to stay a little longer than a week? If so, then you can fly for just $371 roundtrip. Travel dates: April 11th through April 20th


Want to fly on American for less than $500 roundtrip? Well you can! These are pretty incredible prices for Cleveland. Take advantage of these fares! Travel dates: May 1st through May 9th


You, too, are in the “how much do I want to save” category? If you fly Spirit, you can save almost $500 roundtrip. That’s money you can spend on three fancy dinners, one private sunset sail, etc. Travel dates: April 29th through May 5th

Grand Rapids, Michigan

This one is for my good friends Gena and Paul, my very first island tour guests back in 2017, who are now family friends. You can visit me for just $700 roundtrip… do it! Travel dates: April 16th through April 25th

Hartford, Connecticut 

Spirit has lost its mind on this one. JetBlue has too. So the cheapest flight from my home state of Connecticut is $543 roundtrip on American. A tip: You can also fly from BDL to SJU in Puerto Rico and then buy a separate ticket on Silver or Cape Air to save some money. I do that often. Travel dates: May 1st through May 9th 


Looking to fly nonstop? You can! The price is $720 roundtrip, which I don’t think is awful. It isn’t as cheap as I’d like, but it’s not awful either. Looking to save money? You can always hop on Spirit. Travel dates: April 29th through May 8th


Wow! This is another great one! You can fly roundtrip on American for just $486. Go and grab that airfare now! Travel dates: April 30th through May 9th. 


You can save $500 you choose Spirit over Delta when flying from Louisville. Don’t mind Spirit? You can fly for just $309 roundtrip. Travel dates: April 30th through May 8th 


I don’t know what American is thinking here. You can fly roundtrip, direct on American for $717, or you can drive a little bit up the coast and fly for just $181 roundtrip on Spirit. Travel dates: April 17th through April 25th


Google says prices are low, but they’re still pretty high in my opinion. And the best price is for peak hurricane season, which isn’t ideal. Unfortunately you are going to spend at least $800 to visit us. 🙁 Perhaps look at taking a flight to Puerto Rico’s SJU, and then book a separate ticket on Cape Air or Silver like my friends up in Connecticut do. Travel dates: August 28th through September 6th

New York

New York is always one of the cheapest markets, so if you live anywhere near there, it’s best to fly out of JFK. You can fly for under $350 roundtrip on either Delta, American or United, and all are direct. Travel dates: April 27th through May 4th


Unfortunately your best price is also in the height of hurricane season, so please buy travel insurance if you plan to visit St. John in August or September. If you choose to do so, you can fly roundtrip from Orlando for just $218 roundtrip. That’s a great price! Travel dates: August 21st through August 28th

St. Louis 

I’m not as familiar with this market, but I think under $600 roundtrip isn’t too terrible, right? Travel dates: April 18th through April 25th. 

Washington, DC

Unfortunately your travel dates also fall during prime hurricane time, but you can save some money by traveling in August. The cost is under $300 roundtrip on JetBlue. Not too shabby! But please, buy travel insurance if you are flying during this time. Travel dates: August 21st through August 30th 

Discounts: St. John is full at the moment, but it is in no way overwhelmingly busy like it was last year at this time. I have seen numerous villas and condos offering discounted rates for upcoming travel. It never hurts to ask for a last minute discount.

Looking to take a St. John island tour?

Learn more here –> Full & half days available. Rated “Excellent” on TripAdvisor.

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Another Free Lot Becomes a Paid Lot

Well folks, parking in Cruz Bay just got a tad more expensive.

The parking lot above Low Key, Drink, Lovango Rum Bar and Tropical Properties was recently converted into a paid parking lot. Prior to this happening, it was a free lot for people utilizing one of the four previously-mentioned businesses.

It’s not an attended lot. Instead you have to scan a QR code, which opens an app on your smart phone. It costs $5 an hour to park, plus a 35 cent fee. So one hour is $5.35, three hours is $15.35 and 10 hours (for those of you who may be going on a boat trip) is $50.35. You can pay for up to 24 hours, which would be $120.35.

A positive about this lot: It has the best view out of all of the parking lots on island!

Want to know where all of the free and paid parking lots are on island? Click here to check out Explore STJ’s Logistics Map. It also shows grocery stores, the pharmacy, public restrooms, dumpsters and more.

Looking to take a St. John island tour?

Learn more here –> Full & half days available. Rated “Excellent” on TripAdvisor.

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Sargassum Seaweed: Is It Affecting St. John?

Sargassum seaweed often affects Haulover north. This picture was taken late last year.

People have been emailing me quite a bit lately asking about seaweed and whether or not it’s affecting St. John. It sounds like the stateside media keeps chatting about a 5,000-mile seaweed belt that is apparently heading toward Florida. Today I am going to tell you all about sargassum – this particular type of seaweed – and how it is currently affecting St. John.

Sargassum is nothing new to the US Virgin Islands. The first time I recall really seeing it affect the island was back in 2014 when it covered Cruz Bay beach. Since then, it has come and gone. You may have noticed it when flying if you like to look outside the airplane window. It almost looks like an oil slick from above.

So what exactly is sargassum? Sargassum is a type of algae that floats in island-like masses and never attaches to the ocean floor, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This floating habitat can provide food, refuge, and breeding grounds for a variety of animals such as fish, sea turtles, marine birds, crabs, shrimp and more. Sargassum serves as a primary nursery area for a variety of commercially important fish such as mahi mahi, jacks and amberjacks.

Sargassum up close

There are a few downsides of sargassum, however. First, when it really pools on a beach, it is very difficult to swim through it. That means whichever beach it affects is somewhat closed off to swimming, etc. Also, when it dries on the beach and starts to decompose, it can be very stinky. It emits a smell that is similar to rotten eggs.

The good news? It’s really not affecting St. John at the moment. The better news: It rarely affects our North Shore beaches.

The winds here typically go from east to west. (That’s from Coral Bay to Cruz Bay.) This means that the sargassum, when we have a lot in the area, floats past our more popular beaches. I see it affect Jumbie the most, as that beach faces a more northeasterly direction. But at the moment, there is a only a tiny bit of dried, and not stinky, sargassum on that beach.

The winds typically go east to west here on St. John.

St. Thomas, unfortunately, is a different story. The beaches at Margaritaville, Sapphire and the Ritz, for example, all face east. This means that sargassum often affects those resorts. The good news there is that the staff removes it regularly, so it will not affect your vacation if you are staying over there.

So as you know, I see a great deal of the island nearly every day for my Explore STJ island tours. This is what I have seen with regard to Sargassum on some of the more popular beaches:

  • Cruz Bay: Very rarely, although we did have a strange westerly wind recently that brought some in. That is gone now.
  • Hawksnest: We get a little bit from time to time, but it is never enough to really affect the beach.
  • Jumbie: This is the beach where I see it the most. It has had so much at times that the beach has been un-swimmable. There is a small amount of dried sargassum on the beach now, but not enough to affect it.
  • Trunk Bay: We get a little bit from time to time, but it is never enough to really affect the beach.
  • Cinnamon: Honestly, I cannot recall seeing much here over the years, but I am not 100% certain about this one. So sorry all!
  • Maho & Francis: Extremely rare
  • Haulover: I rarely see it on Haulover south. I often see it at Haulover north.
  • Hansen & Saltwell Bottom: I rarely see it here. There was a small amount last week, but that has been cleaned up, and it’s gone now.
It is practically a sargassum-free week here on St. John. Picture taken on Monday.

So there you have it. Sargassum is nothing to cancel a vacation over. If things change and become more problematic, I will absolutely let you all know.

In the meantime, start looking to book your next St. John vacation. The island is quieter than normal right now, so there are deals to be had.

Looking to take a St. John island tour?

Learn more here –> Full & half days available. Rated “Excellent” on TripAdvisor.

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Tag: St. John sargassum seaweed