St. John is the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands (the others are St. Thomas and St. Croix). 2/3 of the island is a National Park, making St. John a desired destination for nature lovers and people wanting to get away from it all (for a few days or permanently). Almost every list of best Caribbean beaches includes at least one St. John entry (usually Trunk Bay).
St. John can only be reached by the sea. That is part of the charm. Most visitors fly into St. Thomas and take a ferry. You can also take longer ferry rides from the British Virgin Islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, or Jost Van Dyke.
Renting a car is almost a necessity. The most popular vehicle rental on the island is a jeep. Fun, too. Car rentals can sell out during popular times, as I found out from experience. Lucky for me someone knew someone that rented their own vehicle. Whew. Here is a listing of St. John car rental firms. St. John has plenty of taxis and a reliable bus service (great deal for $1). More info here.
There are three large hotel properties on St. John: Caneel Bay, Gallows Point, and Westin. There are two wonderful eco-resorts: Maho Bay and Concordia. Here is a complete listing of St. John accommodations.
Many visitors choose to rent a vacation home when visiting St. John. Vacation homes are cost-effective for four or more persons. This prior blog post has some great tips and explanations. I have used Villas Caribe two times and was very happy. First was for my honeymoon and second was for a family vacation. The second rental was down a very bumpy dirt road (see, jeep!), had a private pool and hot tub, four master bedrooms, two kitchens, great views and privacy, and resident iguanas–all for less than a room at Caneel Bay.
Restaurants are a little more expensive on St. John than typical tourist destinations. Plan on spending $100 per meal for 4 persons. Cruz Bay is St. John’s main commercial area and most restaurants are here. One exception is Skinny Legs in Coral Bay, a place for burgers and getting your TV sports fix. You can certainly save money by stocking up with groceries and having some meals at your vacation rental. In fact, many residents and visitors bring coolers on the ferry packed with meats and other goods from St. Thomas or elsewhere. There are also some street vendors, including a BBQ stand in Cruz Bay (good!) and Ms. Vie’s past Coral Bay (great food and a private beach).
Have you been to St. John or want to go? Share responses by leaving a comment or contacting me directly by email (CharlesMcCool -at- gmail -dot- com).
© 2011, Charles McCool