On the southeast tip of St John a lone stretch of land reaches out like a pirate’s plank from the mainland. The sloping mass, covered with semi-arid cactus scrubland, separates the calm, turquoise waters of Saltpond Bay and the crashing open waves of Drunk Bay. At its end, 200 foot cliffs with vistas of a seemingly endless Caribbean Sea. This is Ram Head, and here is how to spend a day on it.
Start by making your way out to the Saltpond area, which is located south of Coral Bay on the 107. There is a parking lot at Saltpond, and it’s also the last stop on the Vitran public bus ($1). Saltpond Bay is a 5-10 minute walk from the parking area down a rocky, old road, and it also links to a hiking path from Concordia Eco-Resort which sits on the hillside above. On the beach at Saltpond Bay there are garbage cans (please use them!) and an outhouse (use at your own stinky peril).
Ram Head Hike
Start the day with a hike. Not only because active outdoor excursions are a good way to set the pace for a day-o-fun-in-the-sun, but also because there is very little shade on the trail and by early afternoon the Caribbean sun is brutal. The 1 mile long trail starts at the southern end of Saltpond Bay; it traverses a cobble stone beach, has several plumeria lined vistas of St. John’s southern coastline, and features a natural rock cut out in the eastward facing cliffs. But this is definitely a destination motivated trek as the hike ends at cliffs that plummet 200 feet straight down into the Caribbean Sea. No safety ropes, no barriers for your protection, just your toe at the very tip of the world.
Snorkel or nap at Salt Pond beach
After the hike head back to Saltpond Bay to enjoy some sand and surf time. If you’re tired after the hike the crescent beach is line with trees that are great for hammocks which are great for naps, or go classic beach and roll out a towel on the sand to snooze in the sun. (Just be ware when walking under the trees, there are thorns so wear shoes). If you want to cool down after the hike jump into the turquoise water of Saltpond Bay. Bring your flippers and mask and you can explore the bay where schools of blue tang, octopus and turtles are commonly seen. Some of the best snorkeling in the bay is along the southeast shoreline parallel to the beginning of the Ram Head hiking trail.
Visit the actual salt pond
When you’re done sleeping or swimming it’s time to check out the other features of this ecologically unique area. Inland 0.2 miles from the beach is a salt producing salt pond. In the dry months as water levels drop in the briny pond a white rim of salt begins to crystallize along the shores eventually building up to collectable levels. It’s a fascinating process that once, in the days before refrigeration when curing was a primary means of food preservation, was an important part of St. John sustainability; now it’s just delicious.
Build a rock jumbie on Drunk Bay
Continue past the salt pond and you’ll reach Drunk Bay, a cobblestone beach on the windward side of Ram Head. Waves are often too big for swimming, but that’s okay because the fun here is on the beach. It has becomes a tradition on Drunk Bay to use the stones and sea debris to construct rock people. In fact now there is an entire rock world blanketing Drunk Bay complete with people, pets and all manner of fantastical creatures imagined by sun soaked minds.
Shop with Ital
After you’ve hiked to the cliffs, swam in the bay, visited the salt pond and built your own rock person it’s time to head back up rocky road to the parking area. But don’t leave before visiting Ital’s Native Arts & Crafts tent just past the parking area. In addition to selling daily beach supplies like water, snacks and chair rentals Ital also sells his handmade island crafts like bird-feeders decorated with vibrant, hand painted flowers, island dolls and carved coconut shells depicting island scenes. He’s also got a line of conch shell horns ready to blow, a necessity for any Caribbean captain.
Happy hour at Concordia
End your day on Ram Head overlooking Saltpond Bay by stopping for happy hour at Concordia, an eco-resort whose name means harmony. It’s a fitting name for Cafe Concordia whose open dining area has unrestrained views of the entire Ram Head peninsula. Because of its sweeping vistas sunsets at Cafe Concordia are marvelous, and an apt way to reflect on the day’s activities. Happy hour is 4:30pm-6:00pm Thursday through Monday.