Travel // St. John - An Island Overview

I just returned from an amazing trip to the Caribbean visiting the US Virgin Island of St. John. While I'm less than thrilled to be back in frigid NYC sitting at my desk, I am very excited to relive the trip through sharing tips, tricks and my thoughts with all of you. First, some Virgin Island basics...

St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix make up the US Virgin Islands. Charlotte Amalie, located on St. Thomas, is the capital of the USVIs. The British Virgin Islands (BVIs) are close by and Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, and Anegada are the largest islands. The region as a whole is broadly referred to as "Virgin Islands." You can easily island hop, just don't forget your passport! St. Thomas is the largest of the USVIs (Tortola is for the BVIs) and it's very commercial. St. John is much quieter and has a more relaxed feel.

About St. John: After arriving in Cruz Bay, St. John's main town and port, you'll instantly feel a difference from St. Thomas. Cruise ships can't anchor here, there's no airport, and the "downtown" takes about 15 minutes to walk across (but it's oh so charming... more on Cruz Bay later!). The island is very hilly (so pack some good shoes) and two-thirds of the land is a national park. It's truly a nature lovers paradise. There are endless hiking trails and pristine beaches to fill your days. A little tip: the beaches on St. John are pretty short, there is not a ton of sand to park yourself on. It's helpful to get to the more popular beaches early to claim a good spot.

Getting there: There is no airport on St. John, so it isn't the easiest to get to. There are a couple different options for traveling to the island, but on this trip I flew into St. Thomas and took a short ferry to Cruz Bay in St. John. There are many boat charter companies, ferries and water taxis to sail you around if you want to island hop.

Where to stay: There are two main hotels on St. John, Caneel Bay Resort and The Westin St. John. The island has a huge short term rental industry, with many (probably most) people renting villas, condos and apartments. Some great sites to check out for rental options are Home Away and VRBO. I used the company Island Abodes and recommend them for their quick replies and detailed answers to my many questions.

Car rentals: It is really beneficial to rent a car on St. John. There is a large taxi presence on the island (they're all open air!) so you definitely don't need a car, but it helps if you want to see a lot of the island. (The New York Times just named Coral Bay, a less developed area on the east end of the island, one of the top places to visit in 2016). Since St. John is so hilly you can only rent jeeps on the island. There are a lot of rental offices and the prices are all pretty consistent. Some people rent on St. Thomas and take the car ferry over for a little bit of a cheaper fare. We went sans car for most of the trip, but rented a Jeep Wrangler from Cool Breeze and I recommend them. Just remember to drive on the left side of the road in St. John!

So now you know the basics! For more info on planning a trip to St. John, check out my other posts:

The best restaurants on St. John
St. John beach recommendations
My fav outfits from the trip


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