Saint John (Virgin Islands)

Saint John is the smallest, but many say the prettiest of the U.S. Virgin Islands because of its world-class beaches. Two-thirds of Saint John is Virgin Islands National Park.

Cities

There are two main communities on the island:

Understand

History

First settled by Taino natives and then by Carib natives who drove the Arawaks from the island in 1300. Discovered by Columbus on his second voyage to the "new world" and claimed for Spain. Later owned by the Danes, who sold it to the United States in 1917.

Landing pier on Saint John.

Get in

Ferries are available everyday from St. Thomas, departing from both Charlotte-Amalie and Redhook. The Redhook ferries run every hour from 6AM until 11PM, while Charlotte-Amalie only has 3 trips a day at 10AM, 1PM, and 5:30PM.

Both ferries arrive at the main ferry terminal in Cruz Bay. A taxi line is located next to the terminal, and the Vitran Bus also stops at the terminal.

Customs

It is customary to look all natives in the eyes and greet them with a "Good Morning" in the morning, "Good Afternoon" in the afternoon, and "Good Evening" after 5PM. It is considered to be respectful. It is also frowned upon by the locals for tourist to walk in public without shirts or shorts on. It is also legal to drink in public in the US Virgin Islands but no glass bottles can be brought to National Park beaches.

By plane

Fly into Saint Thomas' Cyril E King Airport (IATA: STT), and take a taxi to the nearest ferry service (see below).

By boat

Hourly ferry service from Red Hook, Saint Thomas (a 20-minute ride) is available to Cruz Bay, St. John and operates from 6:30AM, then hourly from 7AM - midnight. Ferry service from St. John to St. Thomas runs on the hour from 6AM-11PM. Less frequent ferries travel between Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas and Cruz Bay, St. John (a 45-minute ride). Ferries also run to and from Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, and Anegada (in the British Virgin Islands).

Get around

Renting a car is the best way to see all the beaches and other sites. However, be aware that the terrain is extremely hilly, and you have to drive on the left. If you rent a car, it's a good idea to request a Jeep or other four-wheel-drive vehicle. If you are vacationing near Cruz Bay then using a cab service is an option. Cabs are affordable and plentiful, especially to the north shore beaches. However, if you renting a home outside of Cruz bay or in Coral bay then renting a car is necessary.

The Vitran bus service runs from Cruz Bay over Coral Bay to Salt Pond and back every hour and is a great and affordable ($1 per person) way to cross the island, or to get to any of the numerous hiking trails that start around Centerline Road. However, this bus schedule is very unreliable and should not be a travelers only source of transportation. Hitch hiking is also prevalent on the island.

See

Do

Catherineberg Sugar Mill Ruins.

Learn

The surrounding woods and brush areas are often populated with wildlife. The park has 140 species of birds, 302 species of fish, 7 species of amphibians, 22 species of mammals and 740 species of plants. The only mammal native to St. John is the bat, and the six species are important pollinators of native plants. The island also has many other species of animals that are not native, including deer, goats, sheep, donkeys, cats, dogs, mongoose and pigs.

If you do go hiking on St. John, be cognizant of the some of the islands dangerous plants. Some of these include the Christmas bush which, similar to poison ivy, can cause a skin rash and of catch and keep which can cause serious cuts and of the rare but seriously harmful Manchineel tree.

Buy

Currency, its access, and customs considerations are basically the same as for Saint Thomas. Cruz Bay has a few merchants offering jewelry, liquor and souvenirs, but somewhat more genteel than in most cruise ports. For items that benefit from duty-free importation, prices generally rival those in Saint Thomas. (See this topic for Saint Thomas; most advice applies, though St John is seldom overrun by cruise passengers shopping.)

Island shopping ranges from walk-up drink and food shacks to a stylish, tiered, open-air galleria/mall. Most are in or within easy walking distance of the harbor, e.g., the gallery of shops at Mongoose Junction.

Eat

St. John has more than 35 places to dine, ranging from chic and expensive restaurants to funky beachside food stands. After dark the island comes alive with hotel and villa guests seeking out one of the island's cozy and romantic restaurants.

The best cheeseburger in this paradise can be found at Skinny Legs in Coral Bay. Great food, excellent harborside venue, and an excellent place for a cold beer after a busy day of snorkeling. An absolute must even if only visiting the island for a day (or even part of a day).

Budget

Mid-range

Drink

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Crime is not a major problem in St. John. You will find residential villas and locals are very friendly. The usual common-sense precautions are advised, such as locking your doors, not displaying large amounts of cash, jewelry, or cameras (especially at Waterlemon Cay on the North Side of the island) Never use your car as a safe place for your wallet while at the beach. Otherwise, your stay on St. John should be worry-free.

Go next

Take a day sail to the British Virgin Islands - Virgin Gorda, Tortola, Jost Van Dyke - with snorkeling stops along the way. Be sure you have appropriate travel documents to enter the British islands and to return to the United States.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, January 25, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.