Overlook of Trunk Bay St. John, USVI. This is one of the most popular beaches on St. John Island with is crystal clear water and large white sand beach.
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Ultimate Guide to Travel Basics for St. John USVI

Is St. John worth visiting?

Since 2010, our family has made it a tradition to visit St. John every two years. Each trip reveals something new for us to enjoy. The island is a hub of varied activities — we can hike through the National Park, explore the sea life while snorkeling or diving in the clear waters, or unwind on the soft, white beaches. The local cuisine is also a highlight, offering everything from upscale dining experiences to laid-back beachside eats.

If you’re considering a trip to St. John, USVI, we highly recommend it. From gorgeous beaches and stunning national parks to unique local cuisine and friendly hospitality, there’s something for everyone to enjoy on this enchanting Island. So pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in paradise.

Travel Basics to St. John USVI

Are you planning a trip to St. John, USVI? You’re in for a treat! This stunning Island boasts many breathtaking trails and beaches, making it a nature lover’s dream come true.

Do you know that over 60% of St. John’s is part of the National Park Service? From fine-dining restaurants to laid-back beach bars, there’s something for everyone on this charming Island.

So, when packing your bags, leave those heels at home, and don’t forget to bring your favorite hiking shoes and snorkel gear. It’s time to embrace Island living at its finest!

On St. John U.S.V.I. you will see wild donkeys.  They are a fixture of the island. When driving on the Island beware of the donkeys hanging out on the side of the road.

How to Get to St. John, USVI

To travel to St. John, you will first fly into St. Thomas (STT airport code) from the mainland US. Then, you will take a ferry from St. Thomas to St. John.

Unfortunately, there isn’t an airport on St. John Island. However, several ferries run from St. Thomas to St. John daily, including a car ferry if you choose to rent your car on St. Thomas.

We took the ferry from Red Hook, St. Thomas, to Cruz Bay, St. John, because it offered the times we wanted to travel. It was easy to buy tickets in person or online. Remember to also pay for your luggage. It is a common mistake and will hold up your boarding. Visit Inter Island Boat Services and St. John Ticketing are available to buy online.

There are ferries from Crown Bay in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, to Cruz Bay, St. John, if that location on St. Thomas is more convenient for your travels.

When traveling from Cruz Bay (St. John) to Crown Bay (Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas), the ferry dock is only 5 minutes from the St. Thomas airport. The ferry runs fewer times, but if it works with your schedule, this is the fastest way to get to and from the airport.

St. John USVI Car Rental

Jeeps are St John, USVI’s most popular car rentals since many roads require 4-wheel drive. However, larger 4-wheel-drive vehicles are also available if you need increased capacity.

For convenience, we rent from O’Conner Car Rental. O’Conner Car Rental was easy to pick up and drop off, as they have facilities at our hotel, Westin Resort & Villas, St John USVI.

In St. John, you won’t find traditional Corporate car rental companies such as Budget, Hertz, or Enterprise. Instead, you will find locally-owned rental companies. The following are recommended companies for renting on St. John.

  • O’Connor Car rental
  • Cruz Bay Car rental
  • St. John car rental
  • Conrad Cars
  • Courtesy Car & Jeep  Rental

The one disadvantage of renting a car on St. John is that if you are going to be there for several weeks and want to visit St. Thomas for shopping, St. John car rentals are not allowed on the ferry to St. Thomas.

Another option is renting a car on St. Thomas and taking the ferry to St. John. This eliminates taking a taxi from St. Thomas airport to the ferry terminal and vice versa on departure—a Virgin Island port fee of $3/car or small SUV and $4 for a truck. The car ferry costs $50 one way or $65 roundtrip. 3 companies offer car ferry/car barge services with various departure times.

A disadvantage of renting a car on St. Thomas for St. John travel is that there may not be assistance if you encounter a problem. Verify that information before renting a car on St. Thomas. There are major car rental companies on St. Thomas.

Line of Jeeps in multiple colors at the Windmall Bar on St. John USVI.

Driving on St. John USVI

Please note that rental cars on either St. John or St. Thomas will be American cars, but in the Virgin Islands, drivers drive on the left-hand side of the road. There are many winding curves with blind spots on the island, so drivers should be confident when driving on the left-hand side of the road.

Don’t get upset over a honk; they are quite liberal about honking when communicating with other drivers. Pull over to the side for locals or safari trucks to pass. With steep and curvy roads, it is hard to speed; take your time.

Should I rent a car on St. John?

Yes! Walking around St. John is not an alternative if you stay outside the heart of Cruz Bay. It is dangerous to walk along the roads. There are very few areas with sidewalks and many blind curves. Jacob’s Ladder is a steep climb and is not recommended, especially at night.

To experience the most of St. John, a car rental is the easiest mode of transportation.

Taxis are available but can be expensive when trying to explore St. John.

Having a car allows you to explore the island independently. Getting a taxi to areas outside of Cruz Bay is often hard. Although there are taxi stands at Trunk & Cinnamon, there is more to explore than those two beaches on St. John.

St. John car rental tips

  • Book early for availability and lower costs.
  • Rent a vehicle with four-wheel drive for the steep, winding roads. Jeeps are a popular option on the Island.
  • Know what your insurance coverage is for car rentals.
  • Cars rented on St. John cannot be brought to St. Thomas by ferry.
  • Driving on beaches is not allowed on St. John.
  • If your license is not from the United States, you must obtain an International Driver’s Permit, which costs $30.
  • If you aren’t planning to explore every vacation day, consider renting a car for a few days. Plan your excursions accordingly.
  • There is a bus on St. John. It goes from the Cruz Bay ferry dock to Coral Bay. The schedule changes often, and it can easily get off schedule. If you are patient, this mode of transportation might be good for you.

Cruz Bay vs. Coral Bay

There isn’t a wrong answer here. Since you have already chosen to visit St. John, you are winning. Both of these areas offer different experiences, it depends on what you are looking for in a beach vacation.

Cruz Bay

Cruz Bay has a few hotels on the island. It also offers a “downtown” feeling with shops, bars, and restaurants. The area is small. It is very walkable in the “downtown area” and can be done within 15 minutes.

The white sandy beaches that St. John is known for, such as Hawksnest, Trunk Bay, and Cinnamon, are nearby.

Its proximity to restaurants, the ferry, and some of the best sandy beaches has attracted us. However, it is far from several of the island’s best snorkeling spots and not as remote as Coral Bay.

Coral Bay

Coral Bay is more remote, which is a con and a pro. Driving around the area gives gorgeous sweeping ocean views of the USVI and BVI. Lodging options are either a bed and breakfast or a villa rental. There are also great eating spots like Lime Out, Miss Lucy’s, and Rhumb Lines.

If you want even a slower pace, this side of the island is for you.

Where we stay on St. John, USVI.

We enjoyed our vacation at the Westin Resort Villas in Cruz Bay. Our villa is a cozy two-bedroom, three-bath loft accommodating up to 8 guests.

One of our favorite things about this location is exploring the various Cruz Bay restaurants, not to mention the easy accessibility to the North Shore beaches. And if you’re looking to venture out, plenty of taxis are readily available.

Fun fact: Did you know that the Westin St. John Villas are the largest resort on St. John? That’s right!

After enduring hurricanes Maria and Irma, the resort recently underwent 18 months of renovations. It’s back to its original splendor, boasting breathtakingly beautiful grounds.

Interested in booking a stay at the St. John Westin yourself? Check out Booking.com to learn more!

Other St. John USVI hotels

Many lodging options exist on St. John Island. Grand Bay Resort and Gallows Point are both viable options, as are a handful of small inns and cozy bed and breakfasts.

If you’re looking for a rental home or villa, VRBO offers hundreds of options.

Interestingly, there are no all-inclusive resorts on the Island, which gives St. John a unique edge. Additionally, if camping is your thing, Cinnamon Bay Resort and Campground offers a lovely opportunity to experience the great outdoors.

For even more hotel options on St. John and nearby St. Thomas, we recommend checking out Booking.com to find the perfect fit for your Island stay.

Rate sheet for the Safari Taxi truck Westin to the various places on the island if you don't rent a car.

Getting around St. John, USVI

Once on the Island, taxis can easily get into the downtown area of Cruz Bay and take you to various places. However, we wanted flexibility and rented a car to explore during the day. Plus, the cost of the taxi/safari truck adds up quickly at $7/person each way.

In the evening, we use taxis to dine in Cruz Bay since parking is limited downtown. Taxis from the Westin St. John to downtown Cruz Bay would cost $7/person for two or more people each way and $8 for one person.

Taxi stands are located near the Cruz Bay Ferry Station, Westin St. John Villas, Trunk Bay, and Cinnamon Bay for those who prefer using taxis versus driving.

Passport requirements and visiting the BVI

Passports are not required for US citizens to visit the US Virgin Islands. However, you would miss out on a wonderful experience exploring the British Virgin Islands (BVI). The islands of Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, and Virgin Gorda are an easy day trip from St. John.

US citizens will need to have a valid passport to enjoy the BVI. There is an Inter-Island Boat Service from St. Thomas/to St. John to Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke.

Boat charters are also available for mixed groups or private charters to specific destinations. I recommend two companies for boat charters: Stormy Pirates Boat Charters and Cruz Bay Watersports. Renting a captain and boat for a private tour is also a great way to explore the BVIs and USVIs.

Some facts to know about Saint John

St. John, Virgin Island, is located at 18º20′ N 64°44’W. These coordinates and the Petroglyphs symbol are used throughout the island, which is only 20 sq miles.

St. John is nicknamed Love City. Exactly how it got its nickname is not known for certain. However, with its friendliness and small quaint feeling, it certainly holds up to it.

St. Thomas is nicknamed Rock City because it is mountainous. St. Croix has two major cities, Frederiksted and Christiansted, earning it the nickname Twin City.

Don’t be surprised to see donkeys or goats on the roads. Many animals free-roam the Island. Please watch for them on the roads and do not feed them.

There is also an abundance of iguanas and chickens. Over 60% of the Island is National Park, providing many trails to explore.

Remember to leave only footprints when visiting the National Park and beaches.

So many Iguanas on St. John, USVI

When to visit St. John and it’s weather

The best time to visit is January through May, with average temperatures ranging from 82°F (27.8°C) to 84°F (28.9°C) and a low of 73°F (22.8°C) and 70°F (21.1°C). The weather is mild with less rain, but as a con, it’s the busiest time to visit. Airfare and lodging are the most expensive at this time.

Our annual visits to St. John are timed for the transition between April and May, when the days are balmy, often feeling warmer than the typical 84°F due to the humidity.

This period is less crowded with tourists, lending a more relaxed atmosphere. The local servers are more conversational, often sharing their plans for the upcoming off-season, which adds a personal touch to the island’s hospitality.

The summer peak temperature in St. John ranges from 86°F (30°C) to 88°F (31.1°C). Hurricane season is from July until October, but the highest risk for a hurricane is in August and September.

If traveling during these months, be advised that many local restaurants and activities close. Historically, this is when the local staff go on vacation themselves—plan for dining and activities in advance.

November and December (excluding the Holidays) are considered the shoulder season. Restaurants and tours are starting to reopen. The weather is mild, and fewer people visit before the Holidays.

Our Trusted Resources

Booking.com: for booking accommodations

Fare Drop: for finding the best airfare deals.

Viator or Get Your Guide: for all my activities

Discover Cars: for car rentals

Airalo: for eSIM card

Trainline: for booking train tickets

Vuori & prAna: great sources for travel clothes

Columbia: great clothes and accessories for outdoor adventures.

International Drivers Permit: for getting your IDP

Travelex: for Travel Insurance

Tips for preparing for your trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands

  • St. John is a US territory. Therefore, they use the same outlet style and voltage as the US. They also use the US dollar. Bring cash to pay for safari taxis and tipping.
  • St. John is a very casual island. There are several great fine dining options, but a nice pair of shorts for men and a sundress for women is suitable. Sandals are the norm. Leave those heels at home! You will look out of the place, and most sidewalks are uneven or stone.
  • Pack light. In addition to going through the airport, you must take the ferry from St. Thomas to St. John. The terrain of St. John is mostly hills, so once you get to your destination, you may have to carry your bags uphill.
  • Use beach etiquette. No loud music at the beach. If you want to listen to music, use headphones. Be courteous about where you set up your shade. Don’t block others’ views; set up in the back.
  • There are no umbrellas at the beach. Umbrellas are restricted because of turtle nests. Consider using a shade like the Neso Beach Tent.
  • Drones are not allowed in the Virgin Island National Park. With 2/3 of the part of the National Parks, it’s best to leave it at home.

Top 5 places to eat on the island of St. John

  1. La Tapa
  2. Morgan’s Mango
  3. Woody’s Seafood and Saloon
  4. The Shambles
  5. The Windmill Bar at Sunset

Top 5 activities to do on St. John

  1. Snorkling & Diving: It is the reason why we visited St. John in 2010 and have been coming back since. We discover new places to snorkel, every visit.
  2. Hiking: There are so many trails for every level of hikers.
  3. Island Hopping: Another activity that made us fall in love with St. John was its short proximity to other gorgeous islands. We love visiting the BVIs.
  4. Relaxing on the beach: After a morning of hiking or snorkeling, there is nothing more relaxing than grabbing a cooler and heading to the white sandy beaches of St. John.
  5. Listening to live music: There’s nothing better than going to the Beach Bar, Lovango Rum & Bar, or Cruz Bay Landing to listen to music while drinking a cold beer or Painkiller.

How to stay safe on St. John USVI

St. John is one of the safest places we have ever traveled to. As usual, take the same precautions you would anywhere.

  • Don’t leave valuables in your car, especially Insight.
  • Watch your drink at a bar.
  • Don’t walk alone late at night, especially on side streets or deserted beaches.
  • Only a set amount of cash and one credit card. Leave the rest secure at your lodging.
  • Don’t leave with someone you have just met.
  • Don’t wear valuables or bring valuables to the beach.
  • Don’t swim, snorkel, or dive alone.

Use caution when entering the ocean. Look for jellyfish, sea urchins, and fire coral.

Beware of strong currents, rip tides, and boats; know your swimming limitations.

When hiking, know the dangerous plants of the region. We recently learned about the most dangerous tree, the Manchineal. There are several on the islands of St. Thomas and St. John. Don’t touch it, sit under it, or eat its fruit. Don’t eat any fruit that you do not recognize.

Wear bug spray and sunscreen (reef-safe, of course). I got bit often this past trip (May 2024), whether at the beach, hiking, or dinner.

Purchase Travel Insurance

Purchasing travel insurance with the risk of hurricanes, as well as the recent pandemic, is wise. Although we didn’t have travel insurance for the Irma/Maria Hurricanes, we were far enough out of our reservation to cancel.

We had planned to visit in May 2020 after the hurricanes. However, we have learned from experience that anything can happen.

Also, remember that you are visiting an island, and major health services might be far away. Make sure to have travel insurance if you need to be taken to Puerto Rico or the mainland.

Final Thoughts on Travel Basics of St. John, USVI

So, there you have it – the St. John, USVI travel guide! Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned veteran, remembering the essentials is always helpful.

St. John has something for everyone, from the stunning beaches to the vibrant culture. Pack plenty of sunscreens, grab a map, and explore this Caribbean paradise. Bon voyage!

FAQ Travel Basics for St. John USVI

Is St. John a Virgin Island?

The Virgin Islands consist of St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Croix. St. John is the smallest of the three. It is an island of paradise with its pristine white beaches and the Virgin Islands National Park.

How do I get to St. Thomas?

Most major airlines serve Cyril E. King Airport (STT) on St. Thomas. Some airlines and cities offer direct flights, although it is more common to have a layover in Miami, FL, or San Juan, PR.

Do I need a passport to visit the US Virgin Islands

United States citizens do not need a passport to visit the US Virgin Islands. They became a US territory in 1927.

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  1. I’ve never heard about St John before reading this article! Lovely reading about your tips for first-time visitors for this spot. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I have not heard about St John usvi, but thanks for pointing to this lovely island. It is great to hear that the island has recuperated from the destruction during Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. The beaches and parks make it an attraction for tourists. Thanks for information about how to get around and whether visas are required. 🙂

    1. It is great for diving. Orginially when we chose to visit in 2010, it was to dive with two other couples. It’s a water sports and hiking haven.

  3. St. John looks amazing! I’ve been to St. Croix and wasn’t impressed and ended up wishing we would’ve went to St. John instead. Really want to see the national park here!

    1. St. John is wonderful. I wuold give the Virgin Islands another chance and visit St. John. What makes it unique is the National Park covering so much of the land and also beaches. It’s heaven!

  4. Oooh staying at Coral Bay and zooming around in a brightly coloured jeep sounds like great fun! St Johns looks like an amazing for your holidays every 2 years!

    p.s. out of interest, how to umbrella affect turtles? Are they worried jabbing the umbrella into the sand might disturb the nests?q

  5. I didn’t know much about St. John before reading your post, but now I think I’ll have to plan a visit! It looks so beautiful. And your information about renting a car is especially helpful. Thanks for such an informative post 🙂

  6. That makes me happy that the USVIs have banned sunscreens that aren’t reef safe. I loved the waters around St. John. We didn’t rent a car, instead used the buses, which were confusing with the taxis. A car rental would have been better!

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