Published: March, 2018
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St. John, US Virgin Islands

You will most definitely leave a little piece of your heart on St. John. The second you leave, you'll be planning your next trip back!
— Laura Page
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Adult, Family, Group getaway, Solo, Beach
  • Activity level: easy
  • Ideal length of trip: A week minimum for maximum relaxation!

to & from

Getting to the Caribbean from the West Coast takes a long time, so I suggest staying a night in Miami on the way down and/or back

  • Fly into Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI (American and Delta have the most direct flights through Miami or Atlanta)
  • Take a taxi from the STT Airport to the ferry dock in downtown Charlotte Amalie or Red Hook.
  • Charlotte Amalie ferry dock is a shorter taxi ride from the airport, but is a longer ferry ride (45 minutes). Red Hook is a longer taxi ride, but a shorter ferry ride (20 minutes) to Cruz Bay, St. John. Check ferry schedules online!
  • If your flight lands late at night (as most West Coast flights do) stay in a hotel for the night in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas and catch the ferry in the morning to St. John

Where to Stay

The most happening part of the island is Cruz Bay with lots of darling shops and restaurants/bars, and the sleepier part of the island is Coral Bay. There are vacation rentals (big homes or smaller apartments) all over the island to suit your needs

  • Caneel Bay Resort (reopening in late 2018 post Hurricane Irma) is an iconic family resort which lies in a 170-acre peninsula in the Virgin Islands National Park, and boasts seven picturesque white sand beaches with wild roaming donkeys!
  • Coco Vida is a secluded and cute 1 bedroom getaway in Fish Bay, just 10 minutes from Cruz Bay
  • If you stay on St.Thomas, I recommend checking out The Ritz Carlton

Where to Eat and Drink

Drink a Painkiller at Joe’s Rum Hut on Cruz Bay beach with your toes in the sand and watch the sunset over St. Thomas in the distance. Try the Lobster Sliders and Filthy Mermaid cocktail at Umami Bar in Cruz Bay! After dinner stroll down the street to St. John Scoops for daily made ice cream. They have unique kid and adult-flavor ice cream (Painkiller or Stoli Creamsicle anyone?) in homemade waffle cones. Yum!

  • Morgan's Mango in Cruz Bay: Caribbean seafood fusion. I HIGHLY suggest you go for lobster night (Tuesdays and Saturdays)
  • The Longboard in Cruz Bay: fresh island eats and fun cocktails
  • Extra Virgin Bistro in Cruz Bay: yummy romantic Italian seafood spot
  • Joe's Rum Hut on Cruz Bay: this is by far the best place to put your toes in the sand, a tropical drink in your hand and watch the sunset! Trust me, you'll come back every night.
  • St. John Scoops in Cruz Bay: you cannot skip this place with it's creamy homemade ice cream and fresh waffle cones. An island favorite!
  • Umami Bar in Cruz Bay: creative and fresh sushi and cocktails. Double check to make sure this re-opened after the hurricane. It was set to re-open in 2018.
  • Aqua Bistro in Coral Bay: seaside restaurant and bar on the quiet side of the island

What to Do

There’s a lot of beach hopping to be done of St. John! The island is fairly small and very easy to navigate. You can rent a car to get around or take an open-aired taxi anywhere you need to go, which are plentiful and easy to catch in downtown Cruz Bay.

  • Trunk Bay Beach: famous and most photographed white sand beach in the VI. Enjoy the self-guided underwater snorkeling trail
  • Francis Bay Beach: chill white sand beach, good sun, shade, excellent swimming and snorkeling
  • Cinnamon Bay Beach: rent paddle boards and kayaks at main entrance or go way to left for a picturesque beach area
  • Salt Pond: moderate hike to protected cove in Coral Bay. Shallow water access makes this a great beach for swimming
  • Best snorkeling on island can be found at: Jumbie Beach, rocks in middle of Salt Pond, Haulover Bay (east end of island, right side along shoreline). Rent snorkel gear in downtown Cruz Bay
  • If you like to scuba dive try Low Key Watersports. They are a reputable local dive shop and will take great care of you. They will know which spots are best for conditions
  • Take a break from the sun and do some shopping in downtown Cruz Bay at Mongoose Junction shopping area

inside scoop

  • Hire "Sunshine Daydream" and Captain Rob for a day of adventure on the water! Explore the area around St. John and anchor to have pizza delivered from the floating Pizzaria called Pizza Pi. Or venture out to nearby British Virgin Islands!
  • Visit Trunk Bay Beach after 4pm when all the tourists leave
  • Take a short hike to Annaberg Sugar Plantation ruins and see some island history and beautiful views
  • Drive out to Coral Bay for lunch at Aqua Bistro and swimming and snorkeling at Salt Pond Beach
  • Missing your furry friend from home? Volunteer at the St. John Animal Care Center. Walk a dog around town or take him to the beach for a playdate to get him out of the shelter for the day!

What to Pack

more...

St. John is a U.S. territory so they use the same currency we do, as well as speak English. It’s a VERY easy and safe Caribbean Island to visit! Great for a couples getaway, but also super family friendly, if you’d like to bring the kids. The water is so warm and clear, everyone loves swimming on St. John!

Want to know more? Check out Nicole Rowles’ guide here. 

St. John, US Virgin Islands - Suggestions from the Oliver Community

  • Diana Beam Says

    After reading your post, a couple of important notes, I doubt we will see Caneel Resort open any time soon (or in our lifetime!). NO DOGS ARE ALLOWED on any of the national Park Beachs (which are most beaches on St. John).

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Published: October, 2018
Book this trip

St. John, US Virgin Islands

Trunk Bay, with its silky soft sand and calm, turquoise waters, is the most breathtaking beach I have ever been to.
— Nichole Rowles
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Family, Beach
  • Activity level: easy
  • Ideal length of trip: 5 days

to & from

Fly into the St. Thomas Airport. Then take a taxi to the ferry terminal in Red Hook, which is about a 30-minute ride. The ferry to St. John leaves hourly.

Where to Stay

St. John was devastated by back-to-back Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, but the island is once again ready for visitors! The two major resorts, Caneel Bay and the Westin, were still closed in summer 2018, but the Westin hopes to reopen in January 2019. We recommend renting a villa through one of the island’s vacation rental companies. You will be met at the ferry in Cruz Bay, escorted to the villa and given a tour of the property. We have had good experiences with Catered To Vacation Homes and with Destination St. John. Choose a villa with easy access to Cruz Bay where the vast majority of the island’s restaurants and shops are located. Alternatively, Gallows Point Resort in Cruz Bay is open.

Where to Eat and Drink

St. John is the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, and just about everything on St. John comes via St. Thomas. It is not always easy to find a crisp salad on the island, and while there are some good restaurants, the food is mostly casual.

  • The Longboard - Ceviches, gourmet tacos, and poke bowls.
  • North Shore Deli - Good sandwiches and breakfast pastries. Located in Mongoose Junction right by the park's entrance, North Shore Deli provides an easy stop to pick up some take out items before heading to the beaches for the day.
  • Greengos -- Greengos has locations in St. Thomas and Puerto Rico, too. HUGE tequila selection!
  • The Tap Room - Offers hand-crafted beers brewed on the island, and the pub menu, including the pizza, is good, too.
  • La Tapa -- A more upscale option. Recommend sharing a bunch of the smaller plates.
  • Skinny Legs -- Famous in Coral Bay. Popular bar and burger joint. Cash or PayPal only. Closes early.  

What to Do

St. John is nearly two-thirds national park. The joy of visiting this small island is renting a JEEP and driving through the lush park and snorkeling at the different white sand beaches. Some of the reef was damaged by the recent hurricanes, but we still saw plenty of sea life, including sting rays, turtles, reef tip sharks, tarpon, cuttlefish, and more. Some of our favorite beaches on St. John include:

  • Maho Bay. The grassy sea bottom practically guarantees that you'll see sea turtles.
  • Trunk Bay. This is the crown jewel of St. John, and the one beach that offers restrooms, showers, on-site snorkeling gear rentals, picnic tables, etc. There is a snorkeling trail, marked by three buoys, that provides underwater plaques with information about the coral and reef fish. Some of the signs have become difficult to read, and one was missing altogether, but Trunk Bay remains a good snorkeling spot.
  • Salt Pond Bay. Driving to Salt Pond will take you to the eastern side of the island, which was hit hardest by the hurricanes. You'll gain a greater appreciation for the island's recovery efforts by driving to this quieter part of the island -- and likely come upon some wild donkeys along the way. Salt Pond Bay offers a protected cove and good snorkeling.
  • Leinster Bay and Watermelon Cay Beach. Park at Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins and walk 15 minutes along a pebbly trail to enter the water close to Watermelon Cay. Great coral here, and many snorkelers report spotting harmless nurse sharks and rays. Swim counter clockwise around the cay in order to be safe with the current.

inside scoop

While cruise ships don’t stop in St. John, some that dock in St. Thomas bring tourists over to snorkel at Trunk Bay. The secret to enjoying this beautiful beach is getting there early in the morning and beating the crowds.

skip it

The national park’s visitor center in Cruz Bay is a big building, but there is hardly anything in it! Get a map of the park from one of the snorkeling shops or retailers and skip the visitor’s center.

What to Pack

Bring bug spray! Lots of mosquitoes, particularly at dinnertime.
Bring a portable sun shade if you can fit it in your bag. Many of the beaches lost palm trees and shade plants in the 2017 hurricanes.

more...

Thanks to support from Michael Bloomberg and Kenny Chesney, St. John has made a remarkable recovery. The vast majority of restaurants and shops were open when we visited in summer 2018, and we had no issues with cel service or WiFi. Having said that, St. John is a quiet place. Go to enjoy its raw beauty and beaches. But even we were ready to leave at the end of the week.

Looking for more intelligence on this slice of heaven? Find Laura Page’s family guide to St. John’s Island here. 

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