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Insider’s Guide to St. John: Unveiling the Gems of the U.S. Virgin Islands

Welcome to the beautiful island of St. John, nestled in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In this insider’s guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the hidden gems, must-visit attractions, and practical tips for making the most of your time on this enchanting Caribbean island. Whether you’re seeking pristine beaches, vibrant culture, or eco-adventures, St. John has something for everyone. So, let’s dive in and explore the secrets that await you in this tropical paradise.

Getting to St. John

Before embarking on your St. John adventure, it’s essential to plan your journey. The most common way to reach the island is by flying into Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas. From there, you can take a taxi to Red Hook or Charlotte Amalie ferry terminals and catch a ferry to St. John. If your timing is right, the Crown Bay ferry is a great way to get from the airport to St. John. Alternatively, private boat charters offer direct transfers from St. Thomas. Make sure to check ferry schedules in advance to coordinate your travel seamlessly.

Choosing Accommodations 

St. John offers a range of accommodations to suit different preferences and budgets. For an immersive experience, consider renting a villa or vacation home, which are plentiful across the island. These options provide privacy, stunning views, and the freedom to explore at your own pace. Alternatively, boutique hotels, resorts, and guesthouses offer comfortable stays with various amenities, including pools, restaurants, and beach access. Cruz Bay, the island’s main town, is a convenient location for accessing amenities and transportation options.

Exploring Beaches 

St. John is renowned for its pristine beaches, and exploring them is a must-do during your visit. Trunk Bay, with its crystal-clear waters and underwater snorkeling trail, is often hailed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. Maho Bay, Francis Bay, and Cinnamon Bay are also popular choices, each offering unique features and tranquil settings. For a secluded experience, venture off the beaten path to Gibney Beach or Salt Pond Bay, where you can enjoy serene stretches of sand and turquoise waters.

Delving into Nature 

St. John boasts incredible natural beauty and abundant wildlife. The Virgin Islands National Park covers two-thirds of the island, offering countless opportunities for exploration. Hiking trails like the Reef Bay Trail and Ram Head Trail take you through lush forests, offering glimpses of historic ruins, scenic overlooks, and diverse flora and fauna. Don’t miss the chance to discover hidden waterfalls, explore ancient petroglyphs, and spot native birds like the bananaquit and the green-throated carib.


a view of a body of water with a mountain in the background

You never know what breathtaking view awaits when hiking in St. John!


Immersing in Local Culture 

To truly experience St. John, take time to immerse yourself in the local culture. Visit the Elaine Ione Sprauve Library and Museum in Cruz Bay to learn about the island’s history, indigenous people, and cultural heritage. Explore the vibrant art scene at galleries like Bajo el Sol and the Sloop Jones Studio. Attend local festivals and events, such as the St. John Festival, where you can witness traditional music, dance, and the lively Carnival parade. Engage with locals, savor traditional cuisine, and embrace the warm hospitality that defines the island.

Dining and Nightlife

St. John offers an array of dining options that cater to various tastes. Indulge in fresh seafood dishes at waterfront restaurants like La Tapa and The Terrace. For a taste of local cuisine, head to local favorites like Uncle Joe’s BBQ, Roti King or Headed East Bar and Grill. Don’t forget to try the famous “painkiller” cocktail, a delightful blend of rum, coconut, pineapple, and orange juice that is a beloved island specialty.

When the sun sets, St. John comes alive with its vibrant nightlife. The island offers a range of bars and beachfront lounges where you can enjoy live music, sip tropical cocktails, and dance the night away. Woody’s, located in Cruz Bay, is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike, offering a laid-back atmosphere and refreshing libations. The Beach Bar, located on Cruz Bay Beach, offers stunning sunset views and a lively ambiance. For a more intimate experience, visit the Quiet Mon Pub, known for its cozy atmosphere and friendly staff.


a sunset over a body of water

The sun sets over Cruz Bay.


Eco-Adventures and Water Activities 

St. John’s commitment to preserving its natural resources makes it an ideal destination for eco-adventures and water activities. Snorkeling enthusiasts will find themselves in paradise, with vibrant coral reefs and abundant marine life surrounding the island. Trunk Bay, Waterlemon Cay, and Honeymoon Beach are popular snorkeling spots, allowing you to explore the underwater world up close. Kayaking and paddleboarding are also fantastic ways to discover hidden coves, mangrove forests, and secluded beaches. For the more adventurous, hiking trails, like the Lind Point Trail, lead to picturesque viewpoints and pristine swimming holes.

Practical Tips and Etiquette 

To make the most of your time in St. John, keep these practical tips in mind. The official currency is the U.S. dollar, and most businesses accept major credit cards. English is the primary language spoken, making communication easy for visitors. Remember to apply sunscreen generously and stay hydrated, as the Caribbean sun can be intense. Respect the natural environment by adhering to “leave no trace” principles and supporting eco-friendly initiatives. When interacting with locals, it’s customary to greet them with a friendly “good morning” or “good afternoon.” Lastly, embrace the island’s laid-back pace and savor the moments of relaxation and tranquility.

In conclusion, St. John is a true Caribbean gem, offering breathtaking beaches, rich cultural experiences, and boundless natural beauty. By following this insider’s guide, you’ll have a roadmap to uncovering the island’s hidden treasures. From exploring secluded beaches to immersing yourself in the local culture and embracing sustainable travel, St. John promises a memorable and enchanting getaway. So pack your bags, embark on an adventure, and let the magic of St. John captivate your senses.