St. John, US Virgin Islands
Clear Aqua Water--Ahh, the Caribbean
With white sandy beaches, crystal clear aqua blue water and a low-key pace, the US Virgin Islands (USVI) are a great place to visit if you want to wind down, rejuvenate And have a classic beach vacation. With US citizenship, travel to the islands is easy (no passport required) and if you are on the East Coast, it's a quick trip down.
Getting There Via Puerto Rico
The airport on St. Thomas, USVI is the entry point by air for the US Virgin Islands. From there you can explore St. Thomas or take a ferry directly to St. John (and St. Croix or Water Island, both part of the USVI).
Most likely, you will need to fly through San Juan, Puerto Rico to get there and I recommend a stay of a few days in Puerto Rico before flying over to St. Thomas. San Juan, Puerto Rico is colorful, friendly and full of historically significant architecture. And, you would have a layover of some length anyway. You may as well stop and enjoy Puerto Rico. No Passport needed here either, though it's a good idea to take one with you if you can. It will make your travel connections easier and will allow you to also visit the nearby British Virgin Islands.
- Puerto Rico
Learn more about Puerto Rico before you go.
Streets of Old San Juan - Lots of Shopping!
Old San Juan Architecture
Where to Stay if You Stop on Puerto Rico
Here are two excellent options for you to consider. One is in the midst of the action in Old San Juan and one is on the beach.
- Hotel El Convento
This is an award-winning, charming hotel in the midst of Old San Juan. It is a great place to stay. I loved it!! It is not inexpensive, but nothing is on the island. A former Carmelite convent built 3 & 1/2 centuries ago, the restored El Convento
- The Caribe Hilton
The Caribe Hilton is an excellent choice if you want to be near both the airport and Old San Juan and right on the beach. It has a great set of pools in addition to an ocean beach and the open air lobby and shops invite you to stroll around. There is
View at Caribe Hilton, Puerto RIco - Where "Rum Runners" with Johnny Depp was filmed
On to St. John: Getting Around in the USVI
The airport on St. Thomas is your entry point and is located just outside of the town of Charlotte Amalie at the western end of the island.
FERRIES: If you are going to stay on the island of St. John, you will need to take a ferry from St. Thomas out of Charlotte Amalie or Red Hook. In either case, you will need to take a taxi to the ferry first.
If you are booked at the Westin St. John resort or Caneel Bay, they have their own private ferry services which you will want to book ahead of your trip. Head over to the far side of the terminal where you will find the Westin and Caneel Bay waiting and check-in areas.
There are 2 ferries on St. Thomas: one at Red Hook and another at Charlotte Amalie. They will take you back and forth between St. Thomas and St. John. Red Hook is closer to Cruz Bay, the main docking area on St John, so the ride is a bit shorter.
CAR RENTAL: While you are visiting the USVI, you may want to rent a car. Though there is plenty of transportation available by way of taxi, shuttle and bus, for as many times as you may want to go exploring, those charges can add up, especially on St. Thomas because of its size. On the smaller island of St. John there are fewer roads, but they are very narrow and winding.
TAXIS: You may not want to bother with driving yourself around as driving is done on the left side of the road and the roads can be winding and confusing, so it's a trade-off. If you do get dropped off by taxi somewhere, you can pre-pay and arrange to have them return to pick you up at a certain time. The taxis are regulated, very reliable, honest and prompt.
- Ferry Schedules
Check here for the ferry schedules. For day visits from St. Thomas to St. John, if you stay at the western end of St. Thomas, take the Charlotte Amalie Ferry. Take the Red Hook ferry if you stay at the east end of St. Thomas. The little town of Cruz
- Taxis & Rates
This is a Virgin Islands "Getting Around Guide" with info on catching a cab and the taxi rates for St. Thomas. The taxis are regulated and fares are specified for each destination. You don't have to pay the top rate, though, especially if you use the
Night Ferry - Heading From St. John to St. Thomas
A Great Travel Guidebook for the Islands
We used an earlier version of this book for our first trip to the islands and found it to be a great resource and extremely useful. I highly recommend it and there is a Kindle version, as well, if you prefer.
USVI Informational Websites
For your convenience, here are direct links to some good online resources on the US Virgin Islands.
- History of the Virgin Islands
In 1917 the US Virgin Islands became a part of the United States after it was acquired from the Danish government. Check here for more on the history of these islands.
- U. S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism
The official site of the US Virgin Islands Department of Tourism. Take a virtual tour of each island and get the latest information for hotels, activities and shopping.
- Virgin Islands Newspaper, A Pulitzer Prize Winning Newspaper
Not many people think to do so, but checking out the local paper before you travel can give you a good feel for your destination and can fill you in on upcoming events not listed elsewhere.
- Virgin Islands Geography
For all you lovers of detail, here's a geographic summary of the islands.
View From the Back of a Taxi on St John
Where to Stay on St. John
We prefer the more relaxed atmosphere and abundance of nature on St John. Here are some suggestions on where to stay.
- Westin Resort, St. John
This resort is up on a hillside in Great Cruz Bay, has a small private white sand beach, and is beautifully landscaped. Plan day trips to visit the many stunning beaches all over St. John. You can rent the privately owned villas.
- Caneel Bay Resort
Caneel Bay is a wonderful luxury resort with an extensive property, several private beaches and top-notch levels of service. It is a very natural environment with wild donkeys roaming the grounds.
- Cinnamon Bay Campground
Cinnamon Bay Campground, located in St. John National Park (which covers 2/3's of the island), offers cottages, tents, bare campsites, sea kayaks, snorkeling and sailboat rentals. This is the place to stay if you are on a budget.
Time Share Deals on St. John - Time Shares on St. John
The smallest of the Westin villas--the studios--usually rent from the Westin for between $300 and $600 a night, depending on the season and any special promotions. These are rented by the week. Use this to help you spot a good deal on an owner's rental price at the Westin.
Scott Beach - Inside Caneel Bay Resort
Asolare Restaurant - ... just outside Cruz Bay
This restaurant has the most wonderful food and stunning location on all of St. John, in my opinion. Arrive early to be seated in the best location: right on the railing overlooking the ocean. Simply an experience you won't forget.
Walkway to Asolare - Our Favorite Restaurant on St. John
- Asolare Restaurant, St. John VI
Asolare is high on a cliff overlooking the sea. In addition to the dining area, there is a sweet little bar off to the side where you can wait for your table. Click the link here for more info.
VIew From Asolare
Skinny Legs - Restaurant, Bar & Meeting Place in Coral Bay
- Skinny Legs Bar, Coral Bay, St John
Serving grilled hamburgers, hot dogs and Mahi sandwiches, Skinny Legs is an "institution" of it's own: a must-see, must-experience kind of place if you want to understand and appreciate the island of St. John.
Fabulous Guide Books for St. John
Here are 2 guidebooks for St. John that are written by locals. They are just excellent resources.
Written by a Local
Use this guide to find places you might not otherwise hear about.
How to Get Around & What You'll Find
Another local writer in the know gives you detailed, nitty gritty info on St. John.
Exploring Under the Water - Snorkeling!
This is my favorite thing to do at the islands. I love to float around in the beautiful aqua blue water and watch the fish and other animals. Its so easy, relaxing, exciting and ever-changing. On a recent trip, among many other sights, I saw a giant spotted ray, a huge sea turtle and a family of 4 medium-sized squid.
Take your own equipment. It will be much more pleasant. And, wear a t-shirt or a special cover, called a "rash guard" so your back doesn't burn. No matter how much water-proof sunscreen you put on, you will burn so easily floating there in the water.
Following are several selections to help you with snorkeling in the US Virgin Islands.
Find a Snorkel Spot
- Marine Life Around the Virgin Islands
Virgin Islands marine life including fish, sharks and reefs in the USVI. Includes photos and descriptions.
Turtle Bay Beach
Learn More About Snorkeling & What You Will See
Reviewed very highly, this book is an awesome guide for snorkelers.
Guided Water Tours - Take a Boat Tour
There are many options for boating. Here are a few. Tip: Be sure to make plans to include the BVI (British Virgin Islands) in your excursions. They are even more secluded and laid back. We love Jost Van Dyke. You WILL need to have a passport to go to the BVI.
- New Horizons
Daysails from both St. Thomas and St. John. We've gone on many great sails with them. Their all-day cruise on a sailboat includes beautiful snorkeling in 2 locations, a very good lunch and continuous frozen drinks.
The Breakaway's large, comfortable powerboat is one which can take you to the British Virgin Islands, with many stops along the way. These day excursions require a passport because you are entering British territory. Great trip.
On a Sailing Trip
Go Ahead. Treat Yourself!
Treat yourself to a relaxing, exotic vacation in the US Virgin Islands. You won't regret it. Soaking up all that sunlight, warm ocean water and laid back life-style in the middle of winter, or anytime, is a great boost for your mood.
Here is the view tableside at the Asolore restaurant on St. John.
Please share with all of us your Virgin Island suggestions, or just make a comment on this lens right here.