Reef Bay Trail
Reef Bay Trail
4.5
About
This 2.2-mile hiking trail is one of the best on St. John: descend through a shady, moist forest and a dry forest, through visible remains of four sugar mills, pass by pre-Columbian petroglyphs, and end at a beautiful, pristine beach.
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  • Andrew M
    7,541 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Enjoyable hike with historic attractions
    The Reef bay trail head is located on Centerline Road, a 5 mile drive from the Ferry pier in Cruz bay. A taxi to the trail head is $14, and if you do this hike in the week, the VITRAN stops at the trailhead. The start of the trail is at an entrance in a stone wall, and down a few steps. There are storyboards along the trail which describe the trail history, plants and animals in the park. The old stone drainage gutters are an interesting view on the trail, as they still are necessary today to ensure the stability of the trail. After walking for half a mile (20 minutes) the first ruins will be seen. The Jossie Gut Estate was famous for it's natural water system with sluice gates and dam. These remains may be inspected before approaching the factory ruins. After passing this area, be on the lookout for deer, which occasionally cross the path in front of you. The next ruins, about 10 minutes away, is Par Force Village, which is the ruins of a single house. Another 10 minutes of walking will take you to a trail on the right known as Petroglyph Trail. At the end of this trail is a small pool in front of a waterfall. There is Taino rock art on the stones next to the pool which makes for great photos. After returning to the main trail, a short distance away is the Lameshur trail on the left. This trail leads to the Reef Bay Great House and Par Force Estate ruins. After returning to the main trail, you can continue south to the Reef Bay Factory. In this section of the trail, there are many hermit crabs, so care should be taken not to step on shells. Eventually the trail will become more sandy near to the end, and you will pass the entrance to the L'Esperance trail on the right. The Reef Bay factory is one of the best examples of a sugar mill in the Caribbean. The Reef Bay beach is a good area to relax after a long hike. If you are adventurous, take the L'Esperance trail to Genti Bay beach. I continued my hike up the L'Esperance trail instead of walking back up the Reef Bay trail. The L'Esperance trail is less steep than the Reef Bay trail, and there are ruins of the Sieban Estate and L'Esperance estate that may be visited on the hike. Ensure that you are wearing good footwear as the trail can be slippery in a few places.
    Visited September 2023
    Travelled solo
    Written October 19, 2023
  • roadwarrierMD
    Cary, North Carolina215 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Worth doing-moderate, interesting hike
    This is a scenic hike down from the Centerline road to the beach, with interesting ruins along the way, and a short detour over to very interesting petroglyphs. Hard to tell from reviews how hard it is and how long it takes, so here's my take-its a moderate hike-easy on the way down, steeper on the way back (duh, of course!) . It took us (we're in our late 60s, but used to hiking) about 90 minutes to go down (which included 0.5 mile over/back to the petroglyphs), and about 60 min to go back. Nothing very challenging excepting climbing up/over some rocks to get close to the petroglyphs. Well worth doing if you like to hike and explore ruins. Bring water.
    Visited January 2024
    Travelled as a couple
    Written February 2, 2024
  • travelgirl3781
    Boston, Massachusetts121 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Amazing for many many reasons !
    First off, this is one of my favorite hikes. My husband, adult daughter and I consider this hike a highlight of our 4th Saint John Trip. We are a “fit family” and hike, walk and do various forms of exercise on a regular basis. This is a great work out. We did take the petroglyph path as well and ended at Reef Bay Beach. We all wore sturdy hiking sandals with good traction which I highly suggest. There had been downpours the night before and some of the path is both rocky and slippery from fallen leaves after a rain. Hiking Sandals and clothes to swim in offer a great reward to wade into the beautiful water for a swim after the hike down. We started our hike at 8 AM ;this time allowed for a cooler hike with hardly any people and had us avoiding the mid day heat and sun on the journey back which in parts can be steep and a little challenging ; pack water with electrolytes. You will sweat with the Caribbean heat although much of the hike is shaded. Our favorite parts of the hike were the beautiful tropical plants and animal sightings. We saw about 5 deer on our hike, mongoose, various types of lizards and of course land crabs ( watch your step as they are EVERYWHERE). We were hoping to see a wild boar, but not this time. The sugar plantation ruins are marked by educational plaques offering some education into some important history of the Island as you hike. The Water fall was a trickle but still impressive in its height and we had no trouble finding the petroglyphs. If you attempt this hike and aren’t in a decent level of fitness and have not replaced fluids and electrolytes sufficiently,the hike back may be very challenging. Beware.
    Visited May 2024
    Travelled with family
    Written June 1, 2024
These reviews are the subjective opinion of Tripadvisor members and not of TripAdvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Susan K
9 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2022
We hiked the Reef Bay Trail on our first day on the island, in the rain. The trail mostly goes through the trees, so we were largely protected from the intermittent drizzle. The petroglyphs were easy to see and worth the short spur trail (0.22 miles each way, per the sign). The ruins are largely intact and have informational signs. The beach is small and rocky, but very picturesque. And deserted. I didn't think the uphill portion of the hike was as bad as others have described, but I'm used to hiking in the mountains of Colorado, and there's way more oxygen at sea level! It opened up and POURED as we were hiking up the last 1/2 mile or so, which eliminated the challenge of the heat. Despite being the queen of flip-flops, I recommend real shoes for this trail. I wore my keens, which were perfect. Definitely a must-do on St. John.
Written February 14, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Laura M
Nokomis, FL2 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2020 • Family
We really did not do our homework on this one! The hike is amazing with views of the mountains, ruins and lots of wild life. My husband, 18 year old daughter and myself started around 1:30 in the afternoon. Lesson 1 -start earlier in the day. The hike back hit the hottest part of the day and areas that were in complete shade on the way down were blazing with sun on the way back. We went only as far as the petroglyphs trail. This trail was amazing and really deserves a moment to appreciate the history that you are touching. We brought two bottles of water for the three of us, which we didn’t feel the need to use until the walk back, but due to the heat and exertion of the incline back we had to ration. Lesson 2 bring more water than you think you will need. Although the trail is well kept it is treacherous. There are patches with loose gravel, wet slippery stones and dry leaves hiding other dangers, the latter resulted in me slipping, twisting my ankle and falling hard to the ground. Each of us were wearing good walking shoes- Lesson 3 do not try this hike in anything but good walking/hiking shoes. After a few minutes of rest we continued the two miles left of the hike as my ankle continued to swell and turn purple. Even without a hurt ankle though the climb back up was very tough. Concentrating on it however took my mind of my ankle until we got in the car. Summary: be prepared and enjoy.
Written July 26, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Jen F
West Haven, CT33 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2020
This is one of the best hikes we have been on. The trail has about a 24% grade at the top, which is easy to go down but more challenging to head back up. That said, it is 100% worth it to take your time and make your way down to the petroglyphs. Words cannot describe the carvings! They are amazing, and if you are lucky enough for the waterfall to be in action (rain dependent), it's even more beautiful. Take plenty of water (I had a camelbak which I drained during the round trip - 70oz total) and a snack or lunch in your pack and enjoy this hike. Hiking boots, sneakers or tevas will all work as the trail is well groomed. There are some rocky areas so take them slowly. Walking sticks are also helpful for those who don't hike often. Enjoy!
Written January 25, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Andrew M
7,541 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Sept 2023 • Solo
The Reef bay trail head is located on Centerline Road, a 5 mile drive from the Ferry pier in Cruz bay. A taxi to the trail head is $14, and if you do this hike in the week, the VITRAN stops at the trailhead. The start of the trail is at an entrance in a stone wall, and down a few steps. There are storyboards along the trail which describe the trail history, plants and animals in the park. The old stone drainage gutters are an interesting view on the trail, as they still are necessary today to ensure the stability of the trail.

After walking for half a mile (20 minutes) the first ruins will be seen. The Jossie Gut Estate was famous for it's natural water system with sluice gates and dam. These remains may be inspected before approaching the factory ruins. After passing this area, be on the lookout for deer, which occasionally cross the path in front of you. The next ruins, about 10 minutes away, is Par Force Village, which is the ruins of a single house. Another 10 minutes of walking will take you to a trail on the right known as Petroglyph Trail. At the end of this trail is a small pool in front of a waterfall. There is Taino rock art on the stones next to the pool which makes for great photos.

After returning to the main trail, a short distance away is the Lameshur trail on the left. This trail leads to the Reef Bay Great House and Par Force Estate ruins. After returning to the main trail, you can continue south to the Reef Bay Factory. In this section of the trail, there are many hermit crabs, so care should be taken not to step on shells. Eventually the trail will become more sandy near to the end, and you will pass the entrance to the L'Esperance trail on the right. The Reef Bay factory is one of the best examples of a sugar mill in the Caribbean. The Reef Bay beach is a good area to relax after a long hike. If you are adventurous, take the L'Esperance trail to Genti Bay beach.

I continued my hike up the L'Esperance trail instead of walking back up the Reef Bay trail. The L'Esperance trail is less steep than the Reef Bay trail, and there are ruins of the Sieban Estate and L'Esperance estate that may be visited on the hike. Ensure that you are wearing good footwear as the trail can be slippery in a few places.
Written October 19, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Kimmy S
14 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2021 • Friends
Loved this trail, absolutely beautiful. Bring lots of water!! Pretty steep downhill at the start of the trail, which means its rough coming back up. The petroglyphs are fun to look at...unfortunately there was a dead deer nearby the day we were there. (We did see lots of living deer too which was fun) I loved reading all the trail signs with the fun history facts. The Sugar Mill ruins were fun to look at. The beach down at Reef Bay is not great, very shallow and rocky, with lots sea grass and maybe coral? Don't really know what it was, but I didn't want to step on it. But, I did have a great time climbing on the large rocks at the waters edge at the end of the trail. 100% would do this hike again.
Written June 3, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

elib_travels
Israel942 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2020
Great hike . Good idea to take walking sticks especially for the walk up or at least the last half hour . Most of the time you are in the shade and sometimes it rains which was actually fun, The beach itself was nothing to write home about but if you walk up a bit there is a mangrove swamp which was special. Definitely take the side trail near the bottom and see the petroglyphs and keep a look out for the lizards and crabs . Don't let the hype about the difficulty put you off . Just keep some cold beers in the car and you have something to look forward to . We decided not to do the guided tour since we like to take things at our own pace.
Written March 16, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Lori M
United States11 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2022
We loved this trail! Some peek a boo views of ocean from the trail until you get down to the beach. Loved seeing the sugar mill ruins and all the different trees and plants. The walk back up is a good workout. This trail reminded us of some of the trails we have done and loved in Hawaii.
We took the passenger ferry over then got on the $1 vitran bus and had them drop us off at mile marker 5. Then after hike waited for them to pass by again and flagged them down. We are used to elevation and we hike a lot so we were able to this round trip in less than 3 hours, but others may need an extra hour. Make sure to take water! Enjoy!
Written March 31, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Dan F
Needham, MA8 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2020
Group included mix of experienced and not so experienced hikers, all adults. Trail was well marked. Recent rain made a few spots muddy but only a bit slippery that required a little caution. The hike was also a good break from beach and the walking around Cruz Bay.
Written January 22, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Angela C
Toledo, OH27 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Sept 2020 • Couples
We decided to take this hike and we didn’t realize the hike back was going to be extremely hard. Just bring a ton of water, a swim suit, and something to snack on plus bug spray. We seen a lot of different plants, trees, animals and insects. The waterfall didn’t have much water but we seen the petroglyphs which was cool.
Written September 29, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

rdcrx
Lake Placid, NY191 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2021
I am a hiker in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, therefore I am familiar with steep, difficult trails. I found the Reef Bay trail very enjoyable, however it is not a walk in the woods and quite steep at sections. The ruins at Reef Bay are very interesting to see, along with the Reef Bay house and the petroglyphs. If you are an experienced hiker, go for it. If you are not and not in the best physical shape, I would suggest skipping this trail. There are many more trails on St. John that are less difficult. If you still want to hike this trail, I may suggest descending the Reef Bay trail, and returning on the L'Esperance or Lamshure trail. Happy hiking.
Written June 18, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Reef Bay Trail - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024)

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