I wrote this post before Hurricane Irma hit St. John on September 6. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the path of the storm.
My family and I headed to St. John for a 10-day vacation at the beginning of August. I have been to St. John once and have always wanted to go back. After years of talking about it, we finally planned a trip. The best way to share the details is by answering some of the most popular questions I have received since returning.
Why St. John?
Adventure, beauty and relaxation. Virgin Islands National Park occupies the majority of St. John, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Many of the beaches are fringed by coral reefs, pure white sand and crystal clear waters. Calm bays are backed by forests whose waters are home to sea turtles, sting rays and other unique sea life. There are unlimited areas to explore by tropical forest trails leading to 18th-century sugar plantations ruins or uninhabited beaches.
How do you get to St. John?
Fly to St. Thomas international airport. Take a 30 minute taxi ride to Red Hook ferry. Take the ferry to cruz bay. Arrive in Cruz Bay, St. John.
Where to stay?
The island has two bays where most visitors stay: Cruz or Coral Bay. We chose Coral Bay about thirty minutes over the hills and windy roads. We stayed in an amazing HomeAway rental off the beaten path. The majority of St. John's visitors stay in rented villas. There are only a few small resorts that tend to be expensive. Check out HomeAway or VRBO for villa rentals ranging in price.
We spent the whole trip discovering new beaches across the island. All of them have their own charm.
Maho Bay - our favorite - guaranteed sea turtle sightings, white sands and calm waters.
Hanson Beach is on the East end of the island. It is an adventure getting there. Hanson is privately owned and welcomes guest with a $2.50 charge per visitor. We had the whole beach to ourselves, brought Corona and snorkeled all afternoon spotting many sea turtles. I would recommend this beach if you are staying in Coral Bay but it is not worth the drive from Cruz.
Trunk Bay is one of the most popular beaches on St. John. It is very beautiful but the snorkeling is overrated and sadly almost non-existent.
Dennis Beach can be found off-the-beaten path by Peace Hill. It is a 1/4 mile hike to the shore. It was an adventure finding it and getting down there but the beach is stunning.
Honeymoon Beach is near the Caneel Bay Resort. We visited this beach on the day we wanted a more traditional beach experience with a snack bar and beach rentals. Good snorkeling.
Salt Pond Bay - This area is on the southeast end of the island. It has an off-the-beaten-path feel with great hiking trails.
For a small island, it has some awesome restaurants. In Coral Bay, our favorites were Aqua Bistro and Shipwreck Landing. Both have full menu and a ton of fresh fish with creative options. In Cruz bay, we loved The Longboard for trendy seafood dishes like poke and sushi burritos, Beach Bar for cocktails on the sand and Ocean362 for an upscale dinning experience.
What else is there to do?
Hike. There are lots of trails all over the island that lead to secluded beaches and sugar mill ruins.
Charter a boat. Whether you charter a private boat like we did, through Sunshine Daydream Boat charter, or do a group charter there are plenty of boating options out of Cruz Bay. If you charter a boat, go to the BVI. We ate lunch at Pirate's Bight and snorkeled some remote locations. It was one of our favorite days.
Rent snorkel gear. We rented from Crabby's in Coral Bay but there are a lot of options on the island. Every beach offers different things to see. Having your own snorkel gear means you won't miss a thing!
Shop. There are really cute shops in Cruz Bay as well as great shopping on St. Thomas.
Hang at Beach Bar. Beach bar is right along the beach in Cruz bay. It is awesome of beach cocktails, playing a hand of cards and soaking in the island culture.