Cinnamon Bay Campground, a budget lodging option in Virgin Islands National Park

Cinnamon Bay, St. John, USVINiece Elizabeth arrives at Cinnamon Bay Campground

We love, love, love the US Virgin Islands National Park in St. John. However, unlike at most national parks, budget lodging in the USVI is pretty hard to find. There is one spot, however, that is comparatively quite budget friendly. In fact, if you’re much more intrepid than we are, it’s quite cheap.

Cinnamon Bay Campground is a lovely spot right on the beach that has cement block cottages, permanent canvas tents, and bare spot campsites for those who want to bring their own camping gear (the aforementioned intrepid travelers). Prices range from $163/night for cottage #10 (which is right on the beach) in high season to $37 for a bare campsite. Prices for cottages and canvas tents drop dramatically in the off season.

All accommodation types have access to shared bathrooms with cool water showers. Cottages have electric lights, a propane stove, and an ice chest (ice is available at the camp store). They also provide bed linens, towels, and cookware/dishes. The canvas tents have everything the cottages do except electricity. Bare sites have only a picnic table and charcoal grill.

One of the great joys of staying at Cinnamon Bay Campground is that you’re already at the beach! There are not a lot of beachfront accommodations on St. John, and certainly no beachfront budget options. Cinnamon Bay isn’t the best snorkeling spot on St. John, but you can certainly see lots of fish right off the beach there, and there’s some submerged plane wreckage that’s pretty cool to see just between Cinnamon Bay and Little Cinnamon Bay — an easy snorkel. Most of the time the water is flat calm there, but when the waves on St. John do kick up, there’s no better place to play.

We’ve stayed at Cinnamon Bay twice, with our two nieces on their 13th birthday trips, and both times we have opted for the cottages. We wanted a little more protection from the bugs, and it’s nice to have lights at night for playing games and things. Our cottages had plenty of room for four twin beds and a table with four chairs inside, plus there was a picnic table outside. The first time we went it was high season, so we were in one of the less expensive cottages — just a one minute walk to the water. The second time it was summer, so we splurged for cottage #10. We could see the water from our cottage. Amazing! Two of the cottage walls are cement and two are screen, so it’s like you’re outdoors at night, with all the sounds of the chirping insects. It’s one of our favorite lullabies.

Cinnamon Bay, St. John, USVIThe view from Cottage #10.

There are some sand fleas or no see-ums or something that are pesky if you’re out on the sand at night, but otherwise, we had no trouble with bugs or critters. We did follow the advice of another traveler and sprinkled Gold Bond medicated powder in our beds because the bugs apparently don’t like the smell of it. We have no idea if it helps, but we figure it can’t hurt.

This is definitely not a four star resort, so if you need a pool, fluffy towels, your own bathroom, or a place that’s sand-free, this isn’t the spot for you. But it’s definitely more of a “national park experience” than staying at a hotel, it’s right on the beach (which is why we go to the USVI), and it’s much easier on the pocketbook. Since just getting to the island is expensive and since food is also expensive, even if you shop for your own groceries, staying at Cinnamon Bay Campground makes a trip to this magical place more affordable, and we’re always in favor of that!

Have a budget accommodation tip for a popular destination? Share it in the comments, and enjoy your next national park adventure, whether it’s for a week or a weekend!

Cinnamon Bay, St. John, USVI Luv your National Parks!

5 thoughts on “Cinnamon Bay Campground, a budget lodging option in Virgin Islands National Park

  1. Is there a guide on how to plan the trip to get from Texas to the park? I know you can’t fly to the island and need to take a ferry or puddle jumper. I am having a hard time finding resources

    • Cori,

      Good to hear from you! The airport on St. Thomas (STT) is the gateway to the islands of St. Thomas and St. John as well as to Virgin Islands National Park (on St. John). From the airport, taxis take you to one of the ferry docks: downtown Charlotte Amalie or Red Hook on the east end of the island. The ferry crossing from downtown takes longer (~45 minutes) and runs less frequently, but the ferry crossing from Red Hook is quick (~20 minutes) and runs hourly. We like the convenience of the Red Hook schedule. The This Week publication is a great resource.

      Once you’re on St. John, an informal but thorough network of open-air taxis circle the island, focusing on the north shore beaches and Cruz Bay ferry dock. You can also rent a jeep (~$75/day), but we much prefer the taxis, as driving on the left in a car with the steering wheel on the left (and on those hills!) can be less than relaxing. The taxis provide door-to-door service and tremendous views: ask your driver to stop at the various vistas for photo ops (be sure to tip accordingly). Taxi prices are fixed by route, which makes budgeting easier.

      Unfortunately Hurricane Irma just caused quite a bit of devastation in the USVI, so be sure to contact the National Park Service or the tourism bureau before planning a trip. As of today (9/12/17), the VI government is requesting the postponement of all tourist travel to STT and STJ. Keep an eye on things, though, because your tourist dollars will be needed more than ever once the islands are again ready for visitors. We’ll be back. Positive is how we live!

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