This Document was written by your ancestors - those whose soggy footprints you will
shortly be slogging through as you trudge to the bathhouse to dislodge the ubiquitous
granules of sand that have imbued your life. So when your clothes become
independent, sustainable biomes of mold you can page through this undoubtedly now
soggy document to discover a mixture of water and bleach will allow you to wrestle
your garments from the fungi’s grasp.
Discounting the facetious commentary, St. John can be a difficult place to live. Contrary
to all your friends’ beliefs and notions there are NOT hourly pina colada breaks, and
your job description does NOT include sun tanning. However, there are plenty of
opportunities and perks to living on St. John. This document is meant to help you
experience all the windsurfing, sailing, surfing, hiking, snorkelling, skim boarding, beach
volleyball, kayaking, and archaeology that is St. John, and just maybe allow you to adapt
to an electricity free, cockroach infested, Coleman stovetop dinner environment.
This document is not meant to intimidate or scare, but to give you a realistic idea of
what to expect as an intern with the National Park Service in the Virgin Islands. Enjoy!
-Eric Vane –
Table of Contents
1. Cinnamon Bay/ Camping
a. What to Know/Bring
b. Camping Conditions
d. Tents/ Tarps
e. The Lab
g. Why Does it get Dark at 5:30 and What do I do for the next Five
2. The Internship
a. Your Job
b. The Truck
c. The Lab
d. At the Offices
3. Cruz Bay
a. Grocery Stores
4. Coral Bay
a. Grocery Stores
5. Free Time!
b. Water Activities
The Cinnamon Bay campground lies on the North shore of St. John and is in a jungle
type environment. A couple of the major pluses of this location are that you wake up
about a hundred yards from the ocean every morning, it is one of the largest and nicest
beaches on St. John, there is a store, restaurant, and a surf shack. The Friends of the
National Park have provided the intern program with large platform tents, cots, and
Coleman stoves for your convenience. Anything else you so desire to have down here
must be brought by you. There is no electricity in the tents, the nearest area one can
get cell phone service is about a mile away, and there is no internet. The following list
includes some of the items we have found helpful, if not essential, for life in at
A. What to Know/Bring
You will be flying in to Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas (STT). Take the arrival time into
consideration when booking your flight. You run the risk of getting stuck on St. Thomas
for the night if you arrive too late, which may be an unpleasant situation. An intern will
pick you up at the ferry dock if you come in at a reasonable time. The best time frame
for your flight to arrive is on a weekday between 2 and 7pm, since everyone works until
5pm. It is also better to arrive earlier in order to get oriented with the campground and
get unpacked. Also keep in mind that while you may want to arrive on a weekend or
federal holiday, the likelihood that anyone will want to pick you up is virtually nil.
After your flight arrives and you’ve collected your luggage, you will need to take a taxi
from the airport to the ferry. The taxis run on a flat rate and often wait until they are
full before departing, so calculate in another thirty minutes or so for taxi travelling time.
The ferry from Charlotte Amalie to Cruz Bay only runs a few times a day and takes about
40 minutes ($12 per person/$2 per bag), therefore, you’ll likely need to take the taxi to
Red Hook ($15 with luggage). The ferry from Red Hook leaves every hour on the hour
until midnight and takes 15-20 minutes ($6 per person/$2 per bag). In the event that
you need to take a taxi to Cinnamon Bay, it will take around 20 minutes ($9 per person,
$7 if there are two or more in your party).
Shipped items often take a very long time to arrive on the island. It is recommended
that you ship items priority status and well in advance. Necessary items should be
brought with you and not sent by mail.
Your bank isn’t going to be located on St. John. The banks on island include First Bank,
Scotiabank, and Virgin Islands Community Bank. In order to make things easier when
you arrive, take care of banking related issues before you leave. You will be allotted
time during work hours to take checks to the local bank (First Bank) where they will cash
them if you present two forms of identification. You may also want to bring a passport
in case you plan to visit the British Virgin Islands.
Cinnamon Bay is where cell phone service goes to die, so don’t expect to receive cell
service near the campground. AT&T service comes in at many points on the island, but
it’s advisable to have roaming turned off so you don’t pick up service from the BVIs,
which costs a fortune. If you have Verizon, it may seem like you have service, but it is
actually roaming from the BVIs and costs an astronomical amount. DO NOT expect to
use your Verizon service down here. Despite what their customer service workers tell
you over the phone, they are wrong, and they have over and over again misinformed
interns that wound up with very large bills in the end. It is best to get your service
turned off and purchase a Go Phone (around $15) from AT&T before coming down.
Other service available is Sprint and a local service called Choice.
Due to the nature of our work, we encounter things in the environment that many
people have allergic reactions to such as Bees and Wasps, Spiders, Poison Ivy like
vegetation and Peanut Butter. So if you are allergic to food/insects/medications it is
very important to notify Ken and bring an epipen if necessary. Also remember to fill and
bring an adequate amount of the prescription medications you are taking and let others
know if they are for a serious condition.
Anything other than dry goods should be brought in your checked luggage; even peanut
butter has been confiscated by the TSA.
Few things you bring will be more valuable than a good headlamp at Cinnamon Bay. I
do put emphasis on the headlamp and not just any old flashlight. A headlamp will allow
you to do such things with your hands such as: cooking, opening the lab, carrying
objects of importance, swatting cockroaches (as well as a myriad variety of bugs), and
give you the appearance of a savvy outdoorsman/woman. Once you have obtained said
headlamp keep it on you at all times! Failure to do so will award you the opportunity to
grope for half-an-hour in the dark jungle in search of your tent (this has occurred
multiple times to interns… not fun).
I would recommend bringing cheap sheets and a fleece blanket. Bedding is not
provided (aside from cots), and sleeping bags tend to mildew and smell (from first hand
experience). Pillows are a tricky question because they are very convenient, but also
mildew and mold very quickly. If you can find traveller/camping pillows made of
synthetic material it will make your nights more comfortable, and they last longer. If all
else fails there is the towel that conveniently rolls into pillow form or pillowcase stuffed
Towels, snorkel gear, swimsuits. I recommend multiple towels, one for showers and
one for the ocean. A snorkel mask is surprisingly useful and is free to use once you are
on the island. It will also come in handy when you are snorkelling for artifacts, or
looking for wrecks on the boat with Ken. Finally, and obviously, a swimsuit is very useful
to have when one wants to do things such as surf, swim, snorkel, sail etc.
Bring at least one pair of pants as well as a long-sleeved-shirt. I know it is the Caribbean
and it is hot, but the plants here have a penchant for being poisonous and having
thorns. I would recommend as much synthetic light weight clothing as you can possibly
get your hands on (nylon, polyester etc) because it dries quickly. Synthetic pants that
convert into shorts are always a nice option. In addition, a pair of hiking boots as well as
some solidly constructed sandals will be very helpful.
Books will rank among your best friends down here, and there is no large well-stocked
bookstore. Be sure to bring down a few good books which will last a couple weeks.
A watch or travel clock works fine. Your mom isn’t here to wake you up and I doubt
your fellow interns will appreciate having to rouse you every morning.
You can bring an assortment of electronics, which can be stored in the NPS offices or at
the Cinnamon Bay lab. Many interns bring their laptops, I Pods, cell phones, etc. Just
know the humid environment can be rough on more sensitive electronics.
B. Camping Conditions
If you grew up in the type of family that took many “Out West” trips during which you
squeezed brothers, sisters, parents and the family pet into a nylon tent you will be right
at home. If you have never set foot onto a campground do not despair, you can still
Conditions here are rustic at best. You will be housed in large (4 person) platform tent
with a cot. There is plenty of room for two persons to comfortably live and store all of
their stuff in these tents. The cots themselves are fairly large and comfortable. If you
are someone who enjoys the creature comforts (think princess and the pea), bring an air
mattress. Two-burner Coleman Stoves are provided, along with propane to fuel them.
There is also an assortment of pots, pans, utensils, and plates.
Living at Cinnamon can be enjoyable but lonely. The interns are very dependent on
each other for a social life. The majority of the campers are young families or older
couples who have been coming to Cinnamon Bay for years. Many of these people can
be fun to interact with and a few of them traditionally stay for a month or longer.
However, they are very temporary and transient, and chances of lasting friendships with
these people are little to nil. I would recommend talking to as many of these people as
possible if just for the fact that they will be leaving soon, but not all their stuff will be
leaving with them. An inventory of items I have acquired from departing campers in
two months: inflatable two person kayak, air mattress, bottle of wine, bottle of rum,
beer, cooler full of food, Christmas ornament, two t-shirts, five towels, a job offer in
Alaska, and lots of odd interactions. You can only get these things though if you talk
with the tourists.
There is a store and a restaurant at Cinnamon Bay that offer a small selection of food,
cigarettes, rum, beer, and cards. Needless to say it is no Wal-Mart; most necessities are
accessible but are overpriced. I recommend making the trek to Maho Campgrounds,
which is a little over a mile to the East on the North Shore road. They give 40%
discounts to NPS employees and have a larger selection of food, as well as a much
better restaurant. In addition, the staff lives at Maho and are typically college-aged
kids, who if you befriend, will offer a much needed reprieve from Cinnamon Bay.
As one friend related to me, ‘think of the cockroaches as the annoying friend you can’t
get rid of, they (the cockroaches) don’t bite you, they just clumsily fly around bumping
You will not be able to get away from the bugs down here. The biggest perpetrators are
gnats/no-seeums, sand fleas, mosquitoes, and of course the cockroaches. In addition
there is an assortment of more hostile critters which you will want to avoid. These
include scorpions (they are not poisonous, and feel like a bee sting if you are the hapless
victim), poisonous centipedes and acid spiders. It is important to keep your cooler
closed at all times, and leave it open for the shortest amount of time possible otherwise
a variety of arthropods will soon be co-habitating your cooler along with your food. So a
primary rule is no food in tents-period.
D. Tents and Tarps
The best way to stop mold and mildew is to not get wet in the first place, and this is
feasible via your tarp. The tarps are provided by the Friends of the National Park and
they will either already be set up over your tent or it will be your adventure trying to
erect it. I suggest an “A Frame” style construction with a rope running down the center
of the tarp holding it aloft otherwise the rain will pool and rip your tarp down. Another
important factor is the positioning of the tarp. If your tent is on a slanting platform (no
matter how slight) you need to cover the platform area uphill from your tent. If you
don’t cover this area the rain will trickle down the platform and under your tent
resulting in puddles forming in the bottom of your tent.
E. The Lab
The Archaeology lab is located at Cinnamon Bay right on the beach. It is the oldest
standing structure on St. John dating to 1680 and functioned as the great house for
Danish plantation owners. As you will soon see not too much has changed since then.
There is however electricity including lights and outlets. At night it functions as a sort of
lighthouse, sucking the interns in by its florescent glow to read, write, or use the
computer. The lab must be locked at all times when no one is there and no food or
drink except water is allowed.
As mentioned earlier, interns have access to a Coleman two burner stove. The real trick
is making it back to the campground in time to cook before the sun sets and one has to
cook in the dark. The cuisine varies greatly from intern to intern, but a common thread
seems to be rice and beans supplemented by Easy Mac and Hormel Chile. Due to the
fact there is no refrigeration most food items have to be non-perishable or eaten within
a few days of being purchased. This means canned food, dehydrated meals, and instant
meals are a hot commodity.
G. Why Does it get Dark at 5:30 and What do I do for the Next five Hours??
This will vary depending on the time of year you do your internship with the National
Park Service, but if you arrive or are staying between November and February you will
notice it gets dark very early. As our tents lack electrical outlets, and sitting alone in a
dark tent listening to jungle noises gets old quickly, one inevitably begins to
contemplate what to do with so much free time. Everyone has their own method of
dealing with this issue but there are several activities which seem to pervade.
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of reading happens. This can be for personal pleasure or to
expand one’s knowledge of the archaeology of St. John. Both the Cinnamon Bay Lab
and the restaurant at Cinnamon Bay have electricity and so much of the intern’s
activities revolve around these two epicentres of luminance. Some other examples of
activities interns have pursued include writing a novel, teaching oneself a language, and
giving PowerPoint presentations at Maho. The NPS has a long history with Maho and
archaeology interns have given presentations on and off for the last decade. The
presentation has already been created and in exchange you get a free meal (not cooked
on a Coleman stove) from the Maho restaurant. If you want to get out of Cinnamon
Bay, Cruz Bay has plenty of restaurants, bars, and a casino for amusement.
A. The Job
There are two ways to approach this internship. The first way is to go into it with the
intension of simply gaining archaeological experience. The second way is to discuss a
project goal with Ken whether it be pure interest or as a thesis topic.
Regardless of your decision you will probably do a variety of archaeological related
activities you probably didn’t expect to experience coming into the internship. These
activities vary from lab work including cataloguing and analyzing artifacts, washing
artifacts or scanning excavation photographs. The fieldwork here is varied as well and
includes working with historic as well as prehistoric sites. Work with historic sites
includes measuring and mapping existing ruins, which have not yet been documented,
conducting surface collections of these sites, and excavating. Prehistoric fieldwork
primarily consists of excavations. If one is intent on writing reports Ken is open to
working with interns and allowing them to write-up reports.
B. The Truck
The NPS occasionally provides the interns with a jeep to use during the week to travel to
and from the office and to run certain errands. It can only be parked on NPS land, which
in Cruz Bay limits you to the Visitor Center parking lot. The truck can be driven into
town after work from the Biosphere if interns need to go shopping after work. Interns
are also allowed to drive to Maho and park in the Maho parking lot in order to do
laundry or present the archaeology PowerPoint talks. Interns are not allowed to drink
before driving NPS vehicles. Because interns do not have access to a vehicle over the
weekend interns are responsible for hitchhiking or taking a taxi into the office on
Monday morning and to get out to Cinnamon Bay on Friday night.
C. The Lab
The lab is where much of the work takes place. There are just a few general guidelines
to the lab. The first is that interns should not leave too many of their personal items in
the lab because it leads to excess clutter and the lab should be kept organized. Ken likes
to present a clean and welcoming environment for visitors. NO Food - it attracts rats
and insects. Get to know your lab, you will be using it a lot and it makes work go a lot
more smoothly if you know where the various supplies and equipment are located. You
will be expected to engage the public at the lab, so read up on all the history and
D. The Biosphere/ Offices
Substantially less work is done at the Biosphere, but this increases in the summer when
there are few tourists at Cinnamon Bay. However, the Biosphere is already a crowded
office and it is easy to get underfoot with all the people meandering around.
Cruz Bay is the major town on the island and where you will find the majority of your
needs from gambling to shopping.
A. Grocery Stores and Pharmacy and the Clinic
There are three major grocery stores located in Cruz Bay: Dolphin Market, Starfish
Market, and Pine Peace. Dolphin Market is the closest to the Visitor Center where you
have to park the NPS vehicle and is therefore the easiest to access. In terms of cost and
stock it stands between Starfish and Pine Piece. You will be able to find all your basic
necessities from fresh fruit to beans, rice, and lunch items. To get to Dolphin Market,
walk up Centerline Road until you reach the roundabout. Dolphin Market will lie on the
left side of the road if you are walking uphill.
Starfish is located in Market Place, which is a mini-mall. The Pharmacy, Chelsa Drugs, is
located on the second floor. Starfish is the largest of the three grocery stores and has
the greatest variety of things… it is also the most expensive. If you need specialty items
go to Starfish, but I would recommend against conducting the majority of your shopping
there. Marketplace is the three-story structure that can be reached by taking the right
fork off of the roundabout. You should pass a Church on your right within a hundred
feet of leaving the roundabout.
Finally there is Pine Peace. If you continue past Market Place you will pass a gas station
and about a hundred yards later you will see Pine Peace tucked away in the corner. It is
the smallest grocery store but its shelves are crammed full of food. It is the cheapest
place to shop, but it is also the farthest away. If you are willing to make the hike (about
half a mile from the Visitor Center) you will be rewarded by a bounty of canned food,
instant dinners, and all sorts of cheap accoutrements.
The clinic is located on Centerline road about a mile from Cruz Bay.
This is by no means a complete list, but it will get you started on a Friday night.
Located across the street from the First National Bank, Woody’s is a favourite of country
singer Kenny Chesney who owns property throughout St. John. The main draw to
Woody’s, which is otherwise just another small, crowded, sweaty bar, is that from 3-
6pm Coors and well drinks are a dollar. It also serves a variety of sea food and good
Next door to Woody’s and above La Tapa is the ubiquitous Irish Pub… with a Caribbean
flair. The main draw here is a great balcony from which you can people watch. They
also have free darts and a cheap menu.
Located across the street from Wharfside, this dive is a favourite among locals and tourists
alike. Larry’s is a place to be careful because of their ‘pour your own’ policy. This means
you pay for a drink and they hand you a plastic cup with ice and the bottles of liquor you
have requested. In addition, Larry’s has darts, pool, and video gambling, along with a food
grill called The G Spot.
The Beach Bar
In the Wharfside complex, just down the beach from the ferry, is the Beach Bar. This
establishment frequently has live music and one of the best seats in town for watching the
sunset over St. Thomas with a drink in your hand. Happy hour from 4-6pm includes $2
dollar domestics and Heineken, and four-dollar well drinks. It also serves relatively
inexpensive food and their burgers are reputed to be delicious.
The Tap Room
It’s here you can get free internet access. This bar, located in Mongoose Junction, is pricey
but is the only bar that brews its own beer on island.
The Banana Deck
This is a great restaurant and an excellent place to relax and get away from the hubbub of
Other bars worth mentioning, but not frequented by myself, are Morgan’s Mango, Crazy
Crackers, and Caps (mostly locals only). No doubt I have left a few bars out, but I’ll allow
that to be your adventure.
There are as many restaurants as bars in Cruz Bay, which all serve delicious food. Just know
you will most likely pay at least ten dollars for a meal. My personal experience has led me
through a variety of the cheaper dives, so this list will be biased toward the inexpensive.
The G Spot
Located in Larry’s this place is cheap and has great bar food, which ranges from tacos to
hotdogs to pulled pork sandwiches and Philly cheese steak. Their pulled pork is the most
popular item on the menu and is cooked for a full 24 hours before being served. I also
recommend the grilled cheese sandwich with a fried egg on top.
Ronnie’s is a pizzeria that is located near Dolphin Market. The pizza is on the expensive
side, but after a couple weeks in the jungle it won’t matter.
Located between Mongoose junction and the main section of Cruz Bay, Margarita Phil’s is
an expensive Mexican restaurant. The food is delicious, and the fish tacos are amazing, but
wait until a relative comes down who can pay for it, you’re going to drop at least twenty
bucks on this meal.
As mentioned earlier the Beach Bar serves food that is relatively cheap and their burgers
are supposed to be really good.
If you like sushi this is the only show in town. Happy Fish is located in Marketplace on the
second floor and serves excellent sushi, which is on the expensive side.
Deli Grotto is in Mongoose junction under the Tap Room and is an excellent place to get
sandwiches and coffee. The sandwiches are going to be around eight dollars, but it is
definitely worth the cost.
Joe’s BBQ and Shelly’s Pot
Lots of food and cheap.
Really good pizza.
Cheapest burgers in town.
Good, spicy food but fairly upscale.
Coral Bay lies in the armpit of St. John with land jutting to the South and East around the
bay. Although this was the initial site of Danish colonization it is much smaller than Cruz
Bay and consists of a few restaurants, bars, and one grocery store. It is much harder to
reach from Cinnamon Bay because you have to reach Centerline Road (a one mile hike),
and hitch in. During my time on St. John I rarely made the journey, but it can be a fun place
and a welcome relief from the “packed” streets of Cruz Bay.
A. Grocery Stores
There is only one show in town, the Love City Market, this little convenience store is
smaller than Pine Peace, but offers a fairly large variety of items. The prices are decent, but
not worth the journey for the sole purpose of doing grocery shopping.
Originally famous for its burgers, this bar/restaurant has turned into a full-blown party
locale at night with live bands and a sand floor dance area. Skinny Legs usually holds some
kind of party on holidays and is particularly well-known for its Halloween celebrations and
Lying South on 107, Island Blues is right on Coral Bay and known for its live… Blues. Island
Blues also serves decent food.
Reputed to have good food, I have never had the opportunity to go, but everyone who has
been has good things to say… go for it.
There is an assortment of roadside stands on 107 just South of Centerline Road, which are
worth looking into, including a bar-b-q, taco and hotdog stand, and others that come and
As you will soon find out, St. John is an expensive place to live. A key component of our
free time activities revolve around cost and discovering activities that are affordable. If you
are not concerned about expenditures, than there are many more activities that you can
pursue. That being said there are still many things you can do while being conscientious of
There are a wide variety of hikes you can do around the island (and they’re free!).
Although there is only a total of about thirty miles of trails, they are broken up and
scattered around the island in a manner that will keep you busy for a few weekends.
Some of my favorite hikes throughout the island include Ram’s Head and Cabrite Horn,
which are both on the South side of the island. The Reef Bay Trail is a must as a significant
number of tourists will ask you where it is and the significance of the Petroglyphs that lie
on a side trail off the Reef Bay Trail. Another good trail is Les Esperanza, which begins
West of the Reef Bay Trail on Centerline Road and intersects with the Reef Bay Trail at its
Southern extremity. This trail has a couple of good Danish plantation ruins that are less
travelled and have not been restored, so I recommend investigating.
B. Water Activities
As you may have guessed, St. John is home to a myriad of water activities that you would
be an idiot not to take advantage of it.
The very first thing Ken Wild asked me was if I had bought a snorkel mask. I found this
rather odd until I arrived at Cinnamon Bay and looked out over the pristine, azure waters
and saw the schools of exotic, flamboyantly colored fish. A snorkel mask and fins will take
you farther for less money than any other item you could possibly buy before coming down
here… I would say it’s more important than underwear.
I am from the mid-west so I was hell-bent on learning to surf, and to surf as much as
possible, whenever possible. Cinnamon is subject to winter swells, which come through
about once or twice a week between the months of December and March. The surf shack
at Cinnamon rents out boards, but many of the workers there will be more than happy to
give you a long term rental on one that will be more affordable.
If you are interested in learning how to SCUBA dive this is your best opportunity to do so.
First off the waters surrounding the U.S Virgin Islands have some of the best coral and fish
you will find in the world. The water is warm and the currents are weak… what are you
waiting for? Ask around, you might be able to get a local discount and save a couple
Fairly pricy but a lot of fun. Again, look around the island and talk to people who may be
willing to sell for cheap. If you go to Connections, which is kitty corner to the First National
Bank, they have postings of boats, scooters, and cars for sale.
Kayaking has exploded in popularity during the last few years and this is definitely evident
on St. John. There is a lot of exploring you can do with a kayak around the island and on
the myriad of small cays near St. John. The Cinnamon Bay surf rental has kayaks for rent, or
if you plan on being in St. John for an extended period, it may be worth purchasing a used
kayak, which is relatively reasonable.
There are countless other water activities for you to explore. I have just named a couple
that I enjoyed while on St. John. The worst thing you can do while down here is to become
complacent and resigned to the tents at Cinnamon Bay. Get out and explore the island and
you will be much happier while on the island.
Bring along whatever you need to make yourself more comfortable, but make sure these
items are among your belongings. They are necessary for you to perform your work to the
best of your ability.
Cash for travel/food
Two forms of identification