In 1956 multimillionaire Laurance Rockefeller sailed around the island with friends on his yacht. Rockefeller was so enchanted that he established his own resort here (Caneel Bay) and donated 9,500 acres of rolling green hills and an underwater preserve to the federal government to be set aside as a national park that would be here for future generations to enjoy. Thanks to the efforts of Rockefeller and others, today two-thirds of the island’s surface area and the island’s shoreline waters (the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument) make up the Virgin Islands National Park (tel 340/776-6201; www.nps.gov/viis). The hundreds of coral gardens that surround St. John (some 12,708 undersea acres) are protected rigorously—any attempt to damage or remove coral is punishable with large and strictly enforced fines.
Today St. John is the most tranquil, unspoiled island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Sustainable tourism programs and eco-friendly practices keep the island clean and pristine. St. John, more than any other island in the Caribbean, works to ensure the preservation of its natural resources and ecosystems.