Virgin Islands National Park

History of Virgin Islands National Park

In 1956, Laurence Rockefeller donated 5000 acres of beautiful St. John Island to the federal government, making the coveted land the 29th National Park of the United States and preserving it for generations to come. Since Mr. Rockefeller’s generous donation to the country, more than twice that amount of acreage, both on land and under water, is now protected by the Virgin Islands National Park. For more information about the history of St. John and the VI National Park, check out the St. John Historical Society (stjohnhistoricalsociety.org) and Friends of VI National Park websites (friendsvinp.org).

vi national park sign

Protected Land

Nearly two-thirds of St. John Island and all of nearby Hassle Island is governed by the Virgin Islands National Park, covering 7,200 acres of land, including the pristine white sand beaches and epic historical landscapes. The park also preserves 5600 acres of submerged land surrounding the island, particularly the delicate coral reefs and other living organisms so critical to the health of the entire Caribbean sea. Discerning travelers at TripAdvisor rate St. John Island number one for its outstanding beaches.

Virgin Island National Park Rainforest

Relaxing on a tropical beach not your thing? Get walking, trotting or running on more than two dozen well-maintained hiking trails all over the mountainous terrain of park land. Hikers will find themselves exploring old roads and plantations on seaside and cliffside trails through tropical rain forests, semi-arid scrublands and salt ponds.

With more than 800 species of plants and 50 species of tropical birds, it is a nature lover’s paradise. “Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints” and “when in the water, stand only on sand” are two critical rules the Virgin Islands National Park would like every visitor to follow.

Ancient Ruins

The Virgin Islands National Park contains ancient ruins from the 18th and 19th centuries and petroglyphs carved by island natives hundreds of years ago. Some prehistoric sites within the park are said to date back to as early as 840 BC!

Annaberg, Reef Bay, Peace Hill, Caneel Bay, Frances Bay, Catherineberg, and Cinnamon Bay on St. John Island all have historical ruins managed by the VI National Park that you can tour. Sugar mills, wind mills, living quarters, school houses and more will ignite your brain and the life of an island native long ago.

Volunteer

Grateful for the beautiful land of the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John island? You can help support the park by volunteering, making a donation, purchasing a book from the Visitor’s Center in Cruz Bay (books make great gifts!), or joining the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park.

Make a donation to the park and designate exactly where you want the money to go. According to the National Park website, your check will be deposited in a government account and the full amount will be spent as you intended. To donate, simply stop in or mail a check to the park’s Visitor’s Center. Online donations can also be made through the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park website, and can also be designated to a specific program or project.

The VI National Park also holds some fun events during the year, so consider participating in a guided tour or entering a race. There is the Friends Paddle the Park Race, the Annual Beach-to-Beach Swim and the popular Friends Gala, as well as weekly guided tours and bird watching discoveries by knowledgeable park personnel.