Virgin Islands National Park: Sunset at Ram Head

To close out our first full day at Virgin Islands National Park, and to raise a toast to Saint Patrick’s Day [2022], we hiked to the southeastern most point on St. John, the sheer-cliffed peninsula of Ram Head. The hike to Ram Head is splendid, and it was a highlight of our first visit to the National Park. But first we had our first dip into the Caribbean Sea of the trip, an afternoon swim at Saltpond Bay.

We arrived back at Concordia a little after 2pm from our excursion into Cruz Bay. And we immediately began collecting our things for the beach, including renting snorkeling gear (at least for those of us who hadn’t brought our own). We checked time of sunset. It would be right around 6:30. So that gave us plenty of time for a swim and relaxing on the beach before hiking out to Ram Head.

One of the nicest things about Concordia is that it is connected to the National Park beach at Saltpond Bay by a short (fifteen-minute) walking trail that winds through the forest, past a freshwater pond and the remnant ruins of Estate Concordia before entering the National Park above the beach.

We cautiously skirted some feral donkeys on our way down the the beach.

Once down to the water, we didn’t waste any time getting into the warm Caribbean.

I was excited to try out the protective case for my iPhone for underwater photography, but I realized that I’d forgotten my snorkel, mask, and fins. So I headed back up the hill to get them.

Hermit Crab

Yellow Rope Sponge

It was well worth going all the way up to the eco-tent. Even though there isn’t much coral in the swimming area of Saltpond Bay, it was still thrilling to capture my first underwater images.

Netted Barrel Sponge

Barrel Sponge

Josh was my snorkeling buddy. He and I were easily the best swimmers in our group and the most adventurous explorers.

Blade Fire Coral

Sea Urchins and Brain Coral

Blade Fire Coral

Sea Urchins and Branching Fire Coral

Blue Parrotfish

Four-Eye Butterflyfish

Much of the sea floor at the edges of Saltpond Bay appeared to have the remnants of long-gone reefs.

It was fun to see the tents of Concordia arrayed across the hill from the water.

At 5pm, we went back up to the eco-tent to gather our things for a sunset/moonrise picnic out at Ram Head.

Ram Hill

We packed up apples, cheese, salami, prosciutto, and a baguette.

At 5:45, we set out.

Pipe Organ Cactus

Concordia Great House Ruins

Concordia Great House Ruins

Saltpond Bay

Things were quieting down at the beach at Saltpond Bay, although a small wedding party from one of the moored sailboats in the bay was sitting at a picnic table.

From the far end of the beach, the trail to Ram Head is one mile one way.

Salt Pond

It skirts the brackish Salt Pond before climbing a low ridge on the western side of the peninsula.

Brown Anole

Turk’s Cap Cactus

Booby Rock

St. John and St. Thomas

Ram Head

After the ridge, the trail spills out onto a blue cobblestone beach. There was one sailboat moored off this beach. And a dog and its human riding a motorized paddleboard.

Someone had fashioned a peace sign out of white coral offset against the blue stones.

The sun was fast setting over St. Thomas to the west.

At the far end of the beach, a sign indicated where the trail continued up the ridge.

Booby Rock

Pipe Organ Cactus


Turk’s Cap Cacti

Here the forest gave way to a dry slope of grasses, cacti, and low shrubs.

Even though it was not a particularly windy day, the windward (eastern) side of the peninsula was battered by insistent waves while the leeward (western) side was tranquil.

Turk’s Cap Cacti

Sea Grapes

Ram Hill

Ram Hill with Concordia in the distance

We arrived at the top just after 6:30, and just after sunset, which meant we had the spot all to ourselves in the softening light.

Hermit Crab

Well, all to ourselves save for the Hermit Crabs.

Image: Sean M. Santos

We were all so happy. It had been a great hike to a magical spot.

Green-Throated Carib Hummingbird and Turk’s Cap Cacti

Image: Sean M. Santos

Facing due south, St. Croix was somewhere out there beyond the horizon. Then continuing on across the Caribbean, the next piece of land was mainland Venezuela.

Image: Sean M. Santos

Image: Sean M. Santos

Jimmy took his evening call with his boyfriend from the top of Ram Head.

Then the moon appeared from behind the low clouds to the east.

Image: Sean M. Santos

We sat and had our charcuterie picnic.

Image: Nick Baker

Magnificent Frigatebird

In the dusky light, we could make out a couple Magnificent Frigatebirds soaring overhead.

St. Thomas

Hermit Crab

As it grew darker, we realized that the Hermit Crabs were moving in, surrounding us and preparing to battle us for our picnic leftovers.

So we decided it was time to head back. We gathered up all of our picnic items, careful to leave no crumbs nor trace that we’d been there.

Unfortunately, the headlamp we’d brought for Jimmy didn’t work. So on the way down, we kept in a tight formation with him in the middle so he could see from our lamps.

As we hiked, Jimmy led us in singing a sea chanty, “Soon May the Wellerman Come,” and we kept time with our feet.

Back at our eco-tent, we changed into bathing suits and hung out in the pool by moonlight for a while. Jimmy started going on about “Mother Moon! Mother Moon!” which became a recurring theme on our trip.

Later we hung out playing a question and answer game Sean had brought.

After the others went to sleep, I stayed up for a while listening to music on my headphones on the balcony and enjoying the night breeze.

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