On September 6th, Hurricane Irma tore through the U.S. Virgin Islands, causing catastrophic destruction and killing more than 33 people across the Caribbean. The Category 5 storm brought 185 mph winds that caused untold damage and devastation to once idyllic St. John and St. Thomas. Just two weeks later, another Category 5 storm, Hurricane Maria, hit the Caribbean and caused more destruction, especially on St. Croix. Help with the USVI recovery by clicking here.
St. John is sometimes referred to as the “Beverly Hills of the Caribbean. It has become the place to travel in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s not easy to get to because there is no airport on St. John. But the capital of the Us. Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie, is only four miles away. So, St. John is easy to get to by ferry or by boat. On the island you will find gorgeous, sun-baked beaches, a national park that covers almost two-thirds of the island, coral reefs, and friendly locals. On St. John, you can stay in an eco-friendly cabin, a campground, a beautiful resort or in villas and vacation rentals that range from quaint to super luxurious. Cruz Bay is the main town on St. John., and this is where the ferry is that connects St. John to St. Thomas. St. John offers nature lovers an array of activities. One of the most popular activities of course, is going to the beach. St. John beaches are protected by the National Park Service. St. John offers rest, relaxation and an adequate amount of sporting activities. Plan the activities you would like to do most and have a great vacation! Visit the beautiful beaches of St. John here on our Lesser Antilles Beach Guide. Let our St. John travel guide lead the way for you to plan your next beach destination!
It is warm year-round on St. John. The average max temp. is 84-89°F, with August being the hottest month and Dec-Jan the coldest. The average min temp is 73°F-80°F. The average water temperature is 82°F. February to May are the driest months, October to January the wettest. It can however heavily rain any day of the year, but usually it is gone as fast as it came. Rain is actually a welcome relief from the heat. September is dead low season and many businesses are closed. Other than that, any time is good to visit. The climate is most agreeable in December through February, but these are also the most expensive months (however some good deals can be made in the 2nd half of February). If you are a surfer or like waves, you are more likely to find them from November to April. But tropical storms can generate some random big swells as well.
Getting to St. John
Whether your vacation is on St. John or you are visiting St. Thomas and want to head over to St. John for the day – you will be taking a boat to travel between the two islands. First choose your ferry, Charlotte Amalie to St. John; or Red Hook to St. John. The Charlotte Amalie ferry is closer to the Airport (about 3 miles; 10 minute drive in low traffic); and also to the Cruise Ship Docks. The Charlotte Amalie schedule has 3 departures a day. There is no terminal, the ferry picks up right off the Charlotte Amalie waterfront. The Red Hook ferry is about 10 miles from the airport, about a 35 minute drive in low traffic, and about 8-9 miles from the Cruise Ship Docks. The Red Hook ferry has departures every hour on the hour from early morning to midnight. There is a ferry terminal in Red Hook with benches and a small bar. Reservations are not required for either ferry. Visit the ferry schedules here.
Getting Around St. John
The local Vitran (tel 340/774-0165) service runs buses between Cruz Bay and Coral Bay, along Centerline Road about once an hour, costing $1 for adults and 75¢ for children.
You’ll have no trouble finding taxis to take you anywhere in St. John. Between midnight and 6:00 a.m., fares are increased by 50 percent. Taxis meet the ferries as they arrive in Cruz Bay, or you can hail one if you see one. Taxi rates are set by the island’s Taxi Association and fares are widely posted, even in taxis; check out the official fares in the free magazine “This Week” offered in most businesses. Typical fares from Cruz Bay are $8 to Trunk Bay, $9 to Cinnamon Bay, and $18 to Maho Bay. Waiting charges are $1/minimum per minute after the first 5 minutes.
St. John is a small island with many beaches and areas of interest. If you would like to explore the island at your leisure the best way to do it is by having your own mode of transportation. Many rental agencies are conveniently located in Cruz Bay, within walking distance of the ferry dock. Some agencies also have offices at the larger hotels. Average prices on rentals range from $65 to $100 a day and differ depending on time of year or season. A Jeep Wrangler will run around $70 to $80. Larger vehicles go for $80 to $100. The latter price being for a 7 passenger minivan. Special packages and discounts are available. Be sure to book early during high season!
Driving in the Virgin Islands is on the left side of the road. Vehicles are typical American cars with left side steering. U.S. driver’s licenses are valid for up to 90 days. Driver’s holding international licenses must purchase a temporary foreign driver’s permit. These can be purchased from the Virgin Islands Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Since doing this can be difficult for visitor’s they are available from car rental agencies who are allowed to pre-purchase them and have on hand to sell to visitor’s renting vehicles. They are usually $25.
Sunshine Jeep Rental – Recommended Car Rental Company
They rent clean and well maintained jeeps, offering high quality service with a smile! We offer free in town parking, free express check in and repeat customer discounts. They are located across from Dolphin Market and The Islandia Building, above the roundabout on Route 10, in Cruz Bay. For information, call them at 340-690-1SUN (1786) or visit them on the web at Sunshine Jeep Rental.
Places Not to Miss
Trunk Bay is also one of the most photographed beaches in the United States Virgin Islands. Over a quarter mile of beautiful white sand makes this the showpiece beach of the National Park Service. Enjoy the self-guided Underwater Snorkeling Trail; with underwater information about coral formations and sea life. Facilities include a snack bar/grill, souvenir shop, showers, restrooms, public telephones, and lifeguards. Please note: Trunk Bay is the only St John beach that charges an entrance fee.
Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument
Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument encompasses most of St. John, VI and Hassel Island. The monument itself is underwater and protects 22 miles of marine habitat and reef in the Virgin Islands National Park and surrounding tropical forests. Nearly 30 of the 45 known coral species exist inside the monument, which is unusual in such a condensed area, and adds to the importance of preserving this 12,708 acres of marine life. While exploring the beauty of the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument you might also encounter a large variety of threatened and endangered sea animals such as dolphins, humpback whales, hawksbill, leatherback and green sea turtles, 25 species of seabirds and hundreds of different reef fish and crustaceans. A large variety of organisms are also on display at the monument, from 30 different species of coral, a diverse group of sea sponges, algae and sea grass.
Cinnamon Bay Beach
Cinnamon Bay Beach ranks among the most beautiful and pristine beaches within the National Park. Towering palms rule majestically over a 1/2 mile of soft white sand beach. Snorkelers can explore the small cay located less than 100 yards off the shoreline. With plenty of “elbow room” and shallow water entry, Cinnamon Bay makes a great destination for families with kids. And the water sports concession will keep even the most active adults and teens busy kite boarding, paddle boarding, windsurfing, and snorkeling. Facilities include a snack shop, showers and restrooms, as well as a small souvenir shop. Cinnamon Beach has it all, enough coconut palms and sea grape trees to offer plenty of shade; and long stretches of sandy pink beach to the left and right.
Reef Bay Trail
The secrets of St. John’s tropical forests, petroglyphs, freshwater pools and sugar mill ruins come alive on the three-mile Reef Bay Trail Hike. You will also see a 40ft waterfall, various plants and animals like deer, bats, land crabs, termite nests. Look for the petroglyphs, mysterious carvings that surround a freshwater pool at the base of a 40 waterfall just off the trail. Aercheologists believe them to be sacred symbols carved by Taino Indians over 1000 years ago.
Things to Do
Virgin Islands Eco Tours
Enjoy the Best of Henley Cay and Caneel Bay Kayak, Hike & Snorkel Adventures “combined” into a 5 hour tour with a picnic lunch! Henley Cay is among St John’s most colorful snorkeling destinations. See coral gardens, schools of tropical fishes and marine life at this deserted island. Seabirds soar overhead and feed nearby. Explore the Caneel Bay Peninsula. Kayak turquoise waters, hike Turtle Point Trail and snorkel to see turtles and sting rays. For more information call 1-877-684-2441, or visit them on the web at Virgin Island Eco Tours.
Palm Tree Charters
Beaches, Bars, Snorkeling, Shopping, Island Hopping. “You Choose the Cruise” Palm Tree Charters is located in Cruz Bay on St. John in the Virgin Islands. Their private charters provide a fun, action packed day at sea exploring the Virgin Islands. They will pick you up on St. John, or Tortola, BVI. For more information call 340-642-8522, or visit them on the web at Palm Tree Charters.
Cruz Bay Water Sports
Celebrating 29 years in business, Cruz Bay Water sports has evolved into the most diversified water sports Company in the Virgin Islands. Scuba and snorkel trips offered daily as well as BVI trips to the Baths, Caves, Foxy’s, and the Soggy Dollar Bar. With two retail locations, Cruz Bay and the Westin Resort, CBW is your best source for “All Things Water sports.” For more information call 1-888-659-7537, or visit them on the web at Cruz Bay Water Sports.
Lion In Da Sun
Lion In Da Sun is a “Captained Powerboat Day Charter” business in the US Virgin Islands of St. John and St. Thomas. The days activities are completely up to you and might include island hopping in the British Islands such as Jost van Dyke, Sandy Spit, Norman Island, and Virgin Gorda among many others. You can incorporate world-class snorkeling, beaches, bars, and local lunch spots. For more information call 340-626-4783, or visit them on the web at Lion In Da Sun.
Island Roots Charters
Explore the islands both above and below the water with Island Roots Charters. They specialize in snorkeling trips and island hopping to the most popular and most secluded spots in the US and British Virgin Islands. Their team of captains can customize your day to whatever experience you’re looking for. Whether it’s above or below the sea – from sea turtles to shipwrecks, from beginner snorkelers to advanced divers, from bar hoppers to sunbathers! For more information call 340-643-5000, or visit them on the web at Island Roots Charters.
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$$ Equator Restaurant
Caneel Bay Resort’s Equator restaurant (formerly the Sugar Mill), specializes in Caribbean fusion cuisine with a modern twist. Served adjacent to an 18th century sugar mill, diners can see the grounds and the ocean from their perch in the terrace dining room. For starters, try the jerk-spiced crab cakes served with a roasted yellow pepper sauce – simply divine. The authentic Caribbean callaloo soup is another wonderful choice. Traditional entrees like grilled veal chops are available for your main course, or you can go exotic and try the pumpkin melange or tuna with lemongrass. Attire is smart-casual to dressy. Reservations are required. For more information call 340-776-6111, or visit them on the web at Equator Restaurant.
$$$ La Tapa
This stylish street-side restaurant offers a taste of Spain in the heart of Cruz Bay. The ever-changing menu includes starters such as hearty gazpacho, boquerones, and seared foie gras with grape-gewurztraminer compote. Main courses are heavy on fish and steak and include Basque-style grilled local yellowtail snapper, linguine tossed with shrimp, lobster, chanterelle mushrooms, eggplant, and paella for two. You’ll kick yourself if you miss the incomparable tarte tatin with calvados ice cream for dessert, or the chocolate truffle cake with carajillo ice cream. Naturally, there is an excellent wine list, and if you dine on a Monday, your meal will be accompanied by live jazz. For more information call 340-693-7755, or visit them on the web at La Tapa.
$$ Morgan’s Mango
This “neo-Caribbean” restaurant features a uniquely delicious seafood-heavy menu food with a West Indian- Latin twist. Dive right in with an appetizer of Anegada crab and lobster cakes, Barbados flying fish, or quesadillas with skirt steak and brie. If you still have room in your stomach try a main course such as the Haitian “voodoo” snapper roasted with Cajun spices, the mahi-mahi with Cruzan rum and mango sauce, or Poppas Pickapepper Jamaican steak. Another good bet – whether you are vegetarian or not – is the veggie platter. Black beans and fried plantains are served with fresh green salad, sweet potatoes, rice, and an ear of corn. Try the mango-banana pie for dessert, or one of the 30 frozen bar drinks. Casual to smart-casual attire. For more information call 340-693-8141, or visit them on the web at Morgan’s Mango.
$$$ Zozo’s Restaurant
Classic northern Italian cuisine is on the menu at this popular restaurant, located at Gallows Point Resort. The menu changes four or five times a year, but you can usually find staples like veal scallopini and eggplant Parmesan, plus unique creations such as Caribbean lobster fradiavolo and osso bucco with saffron rice. For starters, try the squid ink fettuccine, calamari with pesto aioli or smoked duck sausage with Gorgonzola polenta. If you have time before your meal, head upstairs to Jax Bar and enjoy one of the best sunsets in the Caribbean while you sip a cocktail or a glass of vino. Not surprisingly, the wine list is excellent and tends toward Italian, but also includes selections from around the world. Attire is smart-casual and reservations are suggested. For more information call 340-693-9200, or visit them on the web at Zozo’s Restaurant.
The name of this elegant, open-air St. John restaurant means “a leisurely passing of time without purpose.” Diners are encouraged to start with drinks as they soak in the beautiful sunset vistas over Cruz Bay. When it’s time to order, start with the excellent pork spring roll appetizer or silky prawn and coconut milk soup. For dinner, sample the sashimi tuna served on a hot plate with plum sake vinaigrette, or chicken in yellow curry sauce. But menu items change every night, so who knows what delicacies you’ll find on the menu when you’re there! Attire is smart-casual to dressy and reservations are highly recommended. Located next to the Estate Lindholm Bed and Breakfast. For more information call 340-779-4747, or visit them on the web at Asolare.
Bars & Nightlilfe
Centrally located in Cruz Bay, Umami Bar is the place for sushi, fresh seafood, and eclectic cocktails. The vibe is casual and the food and drinks fresh. One special is the Guava Mama, this cocktail is almost too beautiful to drink. Vibrant pink and made with Milagro, Campari, St. Germaine, fresh guava juice, lime juice and jalapeno syrup, the rim is spiced with dramatic black smoky jalapeno ash. Stop in for Happy Hour from 3 – 6pm and enjoy 2 for 1 cocktails everyday. For more information call 340-244-2824, or visit them on the web at Umami Bar.
Dog House Pub
With plenty of TVs and a casual, inexpensive menu the Dog House Pub in St. John is the ideal place to watch the game, dance the night away, sing karaoke, and enjoy live music. This place is fun and features American cuisine, plus it has a large selection of craft beers sure to please everyone (over 50 different beers). Stop by for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or happy hour (from 3 – 7pm everyday). For more information call 340-777-3361, or visit them on the web at Dog House Pub.
If you are looking to enjoy a fantastic cocktail with an ocean view, head to Drink, located on Cruz Bay in St. John. It’s one of the best spots on the island for sunsets, and the specialty of the house, the Bushwhackers, are not to be missed. Try the peanut butter, Nutella, or Thin Mint Bushwhackers. These delicious milkshake-like drinks are a treat after time in the sun. Drink is also known for their fabulous bar staff, mixologists that are ready to whip up whatever cocktail you desire. For more information call 407-758-6924, or visit them on the web at Drink.
The Beach Bar
As stated on their Facebook page “Toes in the sand & a drink in your hand!” The Beach Bar is a staple in St. John with outdoor games, live music, and world famous Bushwhackers and Painkillers. The Beach Bar is a great place for a night out in St. John, or a Sunday funday. The adults can drink beverages and play bag toss while the kids build sandcastles close by. You won’t want to miss out on the fun at the Beach Bar. Happy hour is 3-7pm daily. For more information call 340-777-4220, or visit them on the web at Beach Bar.
The Longboard Coastal Cantina
Sophisticated but fun, The Longboard is a new spot on St. John. Offering small plates and strong drinks, order the house special Dark & Stormy. Made with Gosling’s Black Rum, house-made ginger beer, lime and Angostura bitters. The Longboard has a sense of humor, with a note on their website stating “Chickens are island friends and part of the Cruz Bay local flavor. You may find them strutting tableside to say hello.” However, the food and drinks aren’t joking around. The Longboard has an extensive menu offering gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options as well as home-made sodas and ginger beer, and fresh squeezed juices sure to please everyone. Happy hour is 3 – 6pm daily. For more information call 340-715-2210, or visit them on the web at The Longboard.
Top St. John Hotels
This Saint John Estate Lindholm inn is located in the Virgin Islands National Park and features an outdoor pool and an on-site restaurant. All rooms are Indonesian-themed and have a private patio. A fitness center is available to all guests throughout their stay. Free luggage storage and parking are provided as well. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Estate Lindholm.
Featuring free WiFi and a barbecue, Lameshur Cottages is located in Concordia. Free private parking is available on site. Some units include a balcony and/or patio with mountains views. There is also a kitchen in some of the units equipped with a dishwasher, an oven, and a microwave. Bed linens are provided. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Lameshur Cottages.
Cruz Bay Boutique Hotel
Hotel Cruz Bay is an intimate accommodation made up of ten guest rooms and one penthouse apartment suite. The hotel was created in 2010 and extensively expanded in 2013 blending chic Miami boutique hotel decor with the more casual style of an island villa. The result is a clean, simple yet elegant venue. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Cruz Bay Boutique Hotel.
St. John Inn
St. John Inn is an affordable, small boutique hotel. It is conveniently located in Cruz Bay in a charming historic building. It is in the heart of the shopping and restaurant district. They offer unpretentious, budget accommodations with spectacular views of the sunset! All rooms have a/c, private bath, refrigerators, microwaves, coffee machines and ipod docking music stations. We also provide free Wi-Fi throughout the grounds. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit St. John Inn.
The Westin St. John Resort Villas
With ocean views and apartment-style layouts, their 226 Caribbean villas make this St. John Resort a unique home base in the Virgin Islands, offering comfort and privacy to your family or group. The Westin St. John Resort Villas has recently been nominated by Starwood’s loyalty members as the Best Island Paradise and Best Family Experience, and is a perfect location for a romantic getaway, a special event or a family retreat. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit The Westin St. John Resort Villas.