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Island Travel Report: St John

Island Travel Report: St John

Ryan and Crystal Van Denabeele (@caribbeancastaways and formerly RumShopRyan and Castaway Crystal) have, even by our jaded standards, a dream life.  Together they run the Caribbean Castaways blog and podcast, a burgeoning portal to all things Caribbean. This husband and wife team travel throughout the region often, helping to inspire and inform people on the best the Caribbean has to offer. We know the islands pretty well, and so do they, so it's nice to get their occasional take on what makes the different islands special or different.


What makes St John a special island to visit? 
I think people have their own unique reasons why St. John is a special place to visit. For some it may be the beaches. For others it may be the beach bars or that Kenny Chesney sings about it. But for me, it's a combination of the natural beauty of the National Park, the small town community charm, the sound of the frogs at night, and the warm feeling we always get from the people. You bundle all that up and it gives you a special vibe that's hard to replicate.
We've been to dozens of Caribbean islands, but St. John keeps bringing us back. 
What’s your favourite thing to do on St John?
That's a tough one. I guess it would have to be more a routine type thing. First we wake up early and beat the heat for a hike on one of the island's many trails. Then we rest up on a quiet beach and let the cool Caribbean water turn our tired bodies into weightless marshmallows. After the beach we head into town for happy hour, an early dinner, and a Cruz Bay sunset. Then rinse and repeat. That's our favorite thing to do.
What's an “insider” tip?
We have two. Salt Pond beach is a great beach and worth the drive to the south end of the island. After your beach day there, the hike back up the hill to the parking lot will make you a bit tired and thirsty. To the left of the parking lot down the road about 100ft is a Rasta man that sells handmade items and ice cold beer and soda. Grab a beverage for the road and tell him RumShopRyan and Castaway Crystal said hi.
Tip number two would be to get the Caribbean Preferred Card. It can save you hundreds on your St. John trip or any trip around the Caribbean. You can get one here.
Best place to stay/eat /drink
Coconut Coast Villas - We love the simplicity and location. Plus walking that short trail into town each night is a super cool experience. 
Grande Bay - You can't beach the location in Cruz Bay and that view!
Villas - We always recommend people try a villa rental. You feel more like a local because you make runs to the grocery story and can relax and unwind more. Plus if you are traveling with friends and family, it's a great way for everyone to be together.
Lime Out - This floating taco boat has amazing food and there's nothing quite like eating while seated at a floating bar or tables.
Pizza Pi VI - Best Pizza we've had! Yes, you have to take a boat to Christmas Cove to get it, but that's just part of the fun!
The Longboard - There are a lot of good restaurants on St. John, but we love the casual yet modern island vibes at The Longboard. They have a great menu of island fusion dishes and they have a great happy hour.
DRINK - The best cocktail bar on St. John in our opinion and they are located right on the water in Cruz Bay. What's not to like?!
Tap Room - We always tell people to drink local when they travel. When it comes to the USVI, that's beer from St. John Brewers. Hit up their Tap Room in Mongoose Junction in Cruz Bay for some local brews.
The Beach Bar - No visit to St. John is complete without a visit to The Beach Bar. This casual open-air bar sits steps from the sand in Cruz Bay and they serve up a great Painkiller.
Where are you off to next?
That's a good question! We were going to fly into Staniel Cay in Exuma, Bahamas–but I think Covid-19 put a stop on that trip. It's actually hard to say where we are off to next because travel restrictions seem to be getting tighter with this second wave. Let's just hope this ends soon so we can all get back to traveling and enjoying the Caribbean.
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HIHO: What’s in a name.

HIHO: What’s in a name.

HIHO started in 1979 as inter-island windsurfing race through the Virgin Islands. In the 1980’s it was known as the Hook In & Hold On, and was sponsored by Johnnie Walker Scotch Whiskey.  A youthful Andy Morrell took first place in the 1986 edition, and then went on to buy the event.  With the name shortened to HIHO and a fun sun graphic logo the event was re-started in 1983 and endured for another 20-years.  Famous for a week of great windsurf racing, a yacht flotilla and legendary parties, the HIHO race was one of the biggest water sports events on the Caribbean.  And the sun graphic logo shirts evolved into today’s HIHO brand of island inspired apparel.



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Antigua Insider

Antigua Insider

We caught up with kiter extraordinaire Jake Kelsick from Antigua. He and his girlfriend Megan kitesurf and travel, and make some cool vids. We put a few questions to Jake, and these were his answers:

What’s a typical Antigua day for you two?
A typical day starts with a quick walk outside to check the weather. It's usually sunny but if it's windy that's when we get excited. On a windy day in Antigua, we will spend a good chunk of it Jabberwock beach making the most of the trade winds kiteboarding or kite foiling. Then the rest of it is usually spent editing photos & videos or coming up with content ideas for the next windy day.

Where is your favorite island hangout?
Anywhere on the west side of the island if we are doing a beach lime. The west side has a lot of nice beaches to choose from. Besides that most of the night time action happens down in the English harbor which is always a fun time.

Antigua is famous for 365 beaches- which is your favorite?
Jabberwock takes the cake again because it's my home away from home but if I had to pick another. Probably Johnson's Point or Perns Point.

Where are you traveling to next?
We plan on spending most of the windy season in Antigua which is until around June/July but we do have a trip coming up in the Bvi's in January for a little event called the Kite & Paddle festival on Anegada. Hosted by Tommy Gaunt Kitesurfing.

As an island boy Jake what’s your favorite rum?
English harbor 5-year-old is the one! Smooth and has been a staple since I was allowed to leave the house at night haha.
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Leaving Your Mark

It’s a funny thing about visiting the Caribbean but tourists like to leave some proof they were there.  The great bars of the Caribbean are adorned with license plates, business cards, intimate apparel and visitor photos.  Graffiti too, as in writing your name, some summary of the experience and the date.  Stickers, though, are by far the most popular.  At HIHO we are happily on this bandwagon and leave our mark at our favorite bars & watering holes.  Our great friends at Sticker Mule help us by making it easy to source stickers, which we tastefully affix here and there.

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San Francisco Nice

Our zest for the San Francisco Bay Area extends back to our windsurfing racing days when we spent weeks and months training & competing here. Summers in San Francisco offered plenty of wind but cool temperatures, especially compared to the balmy Virgin Islands.  It was a treat to recently return and enjoy a perfectly gorgeous San Francisco weekend.  
The weather was gorgeous so we took every advantage and clambered aboard a Newport 41 sailboat for an afternoon of cruising around the Bay. In a light seabreeze we tacked up under the Golden Gate bridge, which we think is one of the greatest structures every built by man.  We sailed under the bridge listening to the hum of traffic several hundred feet above us, then out into the widening bay between San Francisco and Marin headlands where we saw black porpoises, seals and a sea lion, and shared the splendid afternoon with other boats.  
The following day and in even better weather we took the top down on our car and drove up the coast to the Marshal Store on beautiful Tomales Bay where we sucked down delicious oysters and enjoyed a bottle of Sancerre.  On the drive home we visited a farm stand in Bolinas, then diverted off Highway1 for a ride along the Seven Sisters ridge high above Stinson beach. We took in the sunset, which was a ball of fire dipping into the cold Pacific Ocean, and then descended into Mill Valley and back onto Hwy 101 to San Francisco.
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The Island of Vis

On a winding Adriatic sailing odyssey we stumbled on Vis.  A 35 sq mile island on the Western edge of the Croatian archipelago Vis boasted a gorgeous town and a seemingly unending collection of bays & inlets. The coast was the most beautiful of all the Croatian islands with steep limestone cliffs plunging to the waters edge and then straight down allowing us to sail extremely close to the shoreline.
The Vis Harbour featured a small “old town” to the South where labyrinthian streets threaded amongst Romanesque churches and Venetian villas.  The quay was chocker-block full of charter boats and everyone enjoyed a late afternoon swim followed by dinner ashore.  Vis reminded us of an island in the BVI.  At anchor I squinted my eyes and looked above the church spires of the two and could have been in Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke.  We spent a morning anchored in the idyllic cove that featured one of the several submarine pens hollowed out of the limestone by the Yugoslavian navy.  This Cold War relic afforded awesome cliff jumping into the clear cool water.  
For meals we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Konoba Stoncica in the eponymously named bay on there Northeast corner of the island.  Tables were laid on the beach and the fresh grilled fish & vegetables were complimented by wine from the adjacent vineyard.  All the patrons were off yachts and we felt right at home.    Another cool fact about Vis is its where they filmed the sequel to Mamma Mia.  
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Marblehead: A Sailors Town

We love sailing, and we love a good sailors town.  Marblehead, Massachusetts fits the bill for us.  Offering a perfect harbour, which is chock-full of boats in the Summer. The old town spills up over the low hill to the West of the harbour.  One of the oldest colonial neighbourhoods in American, it’s dotted with fun bars, restaurants, shopping and boat yards.  
The town stretches out to the point to the East which comprises a neighborhood of newer, larger houses and several of the countries oldest yacht clubs.  The water is deep and cold, and the coastline is rocky.  Small bays are etched into the shoreline.  Marblehead offers stunning sunrises, which you can see looking East from old town, and awesome sunsets.  Take in a Summer Sunset from the verandah of Corinthian or Boston Yacht Clubs (you have to be a member or a guest of a member) and watch the sun descend over the old town dropping behind the church spires and sailboat masts.
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VI Floating Businesses

In a country comprised of so many islands, it not surprising that there are a number of floating businesses. Here are some of our favorites that should be on your radar for your next visit! 

Ocean Spa – Jost Van Dyke, BVI

Floating on the translucent water at the top of White Bay on Jost Van Dyke is the Ocean Spa.  Made entirely from material collected after hurricane Irma, the Ocean Spa offers all kinds of massages.  You can swim, dinghy or paddle over to the Ocean Spa and enjoy a relaxing massage as you sway ever so slightly with the rhythm of the sea.  More info at www.oceanspabvi.com

Willy-T – Norman Island, BVI

The mother of all floating bars, and one of the fun and wildest party destinations in the Caribbean, the famed Willy-T is bigger and better than ever.  A must-visit stop for any BVI charter and a destination for day charter boats and island residents the Willy T is relocating to their usual spot in The Bight, Norman Island.  The bar serves great drinks plus all kinds of shots.  Here’s a tip- the fidd on the Willy-T isn’t bad either.


Pizza Pi – Christmas Cove, USVI

The originator of the food boat revolution, Pizza Pi offers New York Style pizza served off of a sailboat moored in beautiful Christmas Cove on St James island, off St Thomas.  Featuring a full pizza kitchen in the back of the boat, Pizza Pi customers can order ahead and collect their meal by coming alongside or having it handed through a large window at the back of the boat.   A super-cool restaurant, and great pizza too! 


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Anegada: Where the Ocean Meets the Sky

Anegada, perched on the North East rim of the Caribbean chain, combines rugged island beauty with a laid back charm. Sparsely populated and very underdeveloped,  Anegada is a worthy addition to any visit to the BVI, and a great weekend getaway if you are a resident of the rest of the BVI. There are multiple of options for getting around including taxis, scooters and a new Mini-Moke fleet rented through the Anegada Reef Hotel. We recommend the latter, which is a modern version of a 1970’s Caribbean transportation icon. 


There is one road, which basically rings the Western half of the island.  Follow it around and hit beach bars like Cow Wreck or Big Bamboo, or divert down sandy tracks to untouched sections of the contiguous beach that circles the island like a ring of white sugar.  


Even seasoned islanders like ourselves comment on the colors. The blues and greens of the sea meld with the sky creating a kaleidoscope of aqua, turquoise and blues. One long day or a weekend in Anegada is bliss. We highly recommend this diversion!


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Fleur: A Great Summer Print

We love it when we find a good print!  (And can we say it’s not as easy as it may seem…)  Our Summer collection features a few good ones, but perhaps our favourite is the Fleur print, which brings the zest of our favorite season together with large florals and bold colors. 

Our inspiration was the rich Caribbean flora that surrounds us. We are crazy gardeners and we love orchids, monsteras and birds of paradise, all tropical plants that thrive in our Tortola garden. We’ve taken the Fleur print and made it into our best-selling linen and knit cotton dresses.

Bonus- the Fleur print is rich in reds, whites and blues making our dresses, shorts & pants great 4th of July wardrobe choices! Shop all of our Fleur women's items online today!

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Caribbean Culture: Ruben Vanterpool Tortola Mural

Caribbean Culture: Ruben Vanterpool Tortola Mural

Along a stretch of road on Tortola’s ridge of mountains there is a mural painted by local artist Ruben Vanterpool.  It’s a favorite stop for tourists, but it also catches our eye each time we drive by.  The wall is in sections which capture a aspects of the life in the islands in a bygone era before tourism and, really,  before the Virgin Islands were the destination it is now.  Sections include walking to school, baking bread, attending church, drawing water from a well, making charcoal and more.  
Ruben Vanterpool was born near where this mural was painted.  He became a teacher when teachers were both in short supply and the trade was considered a very honorable vocation.  In 1997 he entered politics as the speaker of the house, a post he held for 16-years.  Now he’s a full time artist.  Recently we ran into Mr. Vanterpool as he was doing some touch-up work on his masterpiece.  We stopped to say “hi” and admire this cultural icon.
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Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

The Painkiller Cup, our annual stand-up paddle event, features a unique format.  Each 3-person team must include at least one female paddler.  This year we had several teams with two or more women, with a team from Virginia who called themselves “We’re Having the Most Fun” comprising all women.  They nabbed 5th place overall and collected a $250 share of the $5,000 purse.  The attached photo says it all- they scooped their prize money and went right to the bar.

The annual Painkiller Cup features a 14-mile 3-person team race from Trellis Bay at the top of Tortola to White Bay, Jost Van Dyke.  The course runs the length of Tortola’s North Shore, then across to Sandy Cay and down the South side of Jost Van Dyke.  Really, you could not pick a more beautiful race course.

The best part of the Painkiller Cup is the finish party at Hendo’s Hideaway.  White Bay is a gorgeous beach and Hendo’s is a super-cool beach bar serving great food with plenty of shade so you can relax and enjoy great rum drinks.

Shop our limited edition Painkiller Cup Jersey's and Suntek Shirts online here!


About HIHO:

Inspired by life in the Caribbean HIHO makes casual & comfortable clothing including linen shirts and sweaters, beach dresses, shorts, pants and soft cotton tees.

Our HIHO clothing is based on the tropical lifestyle we love so much, and is influenced by our pristine environment and island life. Our clothing is soft, designed to be functional, colorful and comfortable in a chic island way. The casual, cool and elegant designs and our original prints are the hallmark of the HIHO brand. Shop here

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