Attractions on St. John
Among the populated islands in the US Virgin Island chain, St. John is easily the quietest and most natural of the group. Tourists who plan trips here tend to do so with hopes of spending their days snorkeling, lazing on the beach, and maybe touring the landscape to see the local flora and fauna as well as a few historic homes. There are also a couple of casino gaming facilities to keep things interesting.
St. John is only accessible by boat which gives you an idea of how little development has occurred here. In fact, about two-thirds of the island is designated as a national park and many of the activities available to tourists center around natural living.
You’ll find several beaches to enjoy on the island. Whether you enjoy people watching, or you’d rather have more of the beach to yourself, you’re likely to find what you want. Just click on the name of the beach to read a detailed article concerning that particular stretch of sand.
Hansen Bay Beach
A location where snorkeling is an option is Hansen Bay Beach. The beautiful beach on Hansen Bay is a little slice of paradise. Located inside the harbor, the waters are calm and clear, and the sand white and warm.
Another good option for snorkelers is Cinnamon Bay. Cinnamon Bay’s beach is accessible off of Peter Bay Road. A small area for parking is available directly before the beach.
Salomon Bay Beach
Almost always deserted, this beach is hidden away within the lush confines of the national park. It’s any easy hike from either Caneel Bay or Cruz Bay.
Activities on St. John
When you aren’t enjoying time relaxing on the balcony of your luxury villa or camped out on the beach, you’ll likely find yourself drawn to the sea. A ferry travels back and forth between St. Thomas and St. John throughout the day, but the same harbor that houses the ferry terminal is also the main anchorage and departure point for yachts, fishing boats, and boats that belong to scuba diving operators. All of these activities can be , and are, done by visitors on a daily basis.
As you head inland, the verdant grounds of the national park welcome guests in for miles of hiking trails and if you have a tour guide, they will be able to share with you their knowledge of local flora and fauna. When it comes to the shopping scene, most visitors are pleasantly surprised by the quality and eclectic nature of available goods.
Diving & Snorkeling
St. John is known as the nature-orientated US Virgin Island. This eco-focus translates to some superb locations to dive. If you like to go snorkeling you’ll be pleased to know you’ll have the chance off the coast of St. John.
As you might expect, the natural waters surrounding St. John make it a great destination for shore fishing, while the warm virgin island waters make it just as good for sportfishing. In other words, St. John is a prime location no matter what kind of fishing you are wanting to do.
Sightseeing is another good way to spend some of your vacation on St. John. Area sights include 16 historic sites and various other attractions of interest to vacationers. Visitors who like being outside might enjoy the area’s waterfall and outdoor parks.
Natural Attractions & Parks
Only accessible by boat, St. John is a unique destination that has managed to keep transportation, among other things, from taking a toll on its underdeveloped landscape. Thanks to this, and other precautions, a tour of the island can include dozens of natural attractions that include everything from waterfalls to a national park.
Do you want to enjoy part of your vacation out in the fresh air? You can experience several different hiking trails and some nature preserves on and near the island.
Virgin Islands National Park
Virgin Islands National Park is a nature preserve located within central St. John. There are no designated entrances into the Virgin Islands National Park, but Route 20 from the ferry dock will take you to the Visitors Center.
Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument
Travelers hoping to find a another great natural attraction should consider visiting choices like Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument. Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument is a protected area that was set up to preserve the marine life off the coast of St. John. Specifically, this spot protects a mangrove habitat, the surrounding reef system, and Hurricane Hole.
Little Tobago – Great Tobago National Park
Great Tobago and Little Tobago are popular spots for birders because these islands are the only nesting grounds for frigate birds in the British Virgin Island chain. Divers also love the waters surrounding the islands because of the shoal, shallow reef, and sand channels.
Waterfalls and Caves
Even though most vacationers have heard about the beautiful coastline, those aren’t the only way to enjoy the natural wonders available. St. John and nearby areas multiple options, including a waterfall and a cave.
You might want to visit Petroglyph Pool Waterfall, which is located in central St. John. The only way to reach the waterfall is to hike down a couple of trails. Due to unforeseen closures and weather conditions, it is highly recommended that you stop by the Visitor’s Center and pick up a current map and talk to a Park Ranger about any urgent information.
A second place to consider is Treasure Point Caves. It is located within Norman Island, East of St. John. Legend tells that a Creque family fisherman once found a chest of gold doubloons in a cave off Norman Island as he sought shelter from a storm. Though all the treasure appears to be gone, now Treasure Point Caves are a popular spot for snorkeling.
Franklin Powell Park
Franklin Powell Park is located in downtown Cruz Bay. Located close to the ferry dock, Franklin Powell Park is a popular place for both locals and tourist to walk through and relax. You will find plenty of room to walk and some great spots where you can sit and people-watch, and a nice selection of stores and restaurants nearby that provide plenty of options for spending a relaxing few hours while waiting for your ferry, or just enjoying a tropical afternoon.
Another popular attraction in this category is Butterfly Garden. Come explore the fascinating world of butterflies at the Butterfly Garden. Located at the end of the Havensight cruise ship dock, this is a great relaxing place to visit where you see exotic species of butterflies from around the world including South America, Asia and Africa.
Coral World Ocean Park
If the idea of spending some time with interesting sea life tickles your fancy, consider visiting Coral World Ocean Park. Get up close to all the sea animals in this fully immersive and interactive aquarium-water park. Swim with sea lions, or put on high-tech diving equipment and walk beneath the surface of the water, with all the world above you.
Restaurants on St. John
The lush island of St. John is well-loved for its quiet atmosphere, but you don’t have to do without during your stay. Numerous restaurants are available throughout the island, especially in Cruz Bay. Favored dining establishments tend to be set right on the bay and feature open air dining rooms, while if you head to Coral Bay you’ll encounter a collection of casual pub-style eateries that cater to the ex-pats that call the small town home. The best thing about dining here is that most of the eateries are locally owned, so you’ll enjoy something new at every turn.
Caribbean cuisine is very easy to find on St. John. Because this kind of fare has elements borrowed from many different cultures, just about any type of diner can find something they like at Caribbean-style restaurants.
Virgin Fire is a local bar and grill located within downtown Cruz Bay. Virgin Fire serves up a menu of hearty Caribbean fare, utilizing locally sourced, fresh product whenever possible. Because of this, some items on the menu may not be available all the time.
High Tide is situated at Wharfside Village and offers a variety of specialties to enjoy, including hamburgers and seafood. High Tide offers high quality dishes in a casual setting. While lunch offers casual entrees like hamburgers and tacos, dinner has a bit higher taste of meals, including skirt steak and seared tuna. They’re located on Strand Street.
The large, eclectic menu at Aqua Bistro includes a little of everything. Whether you are in the mood for grilled steak or fish, chicken parmesan or alfredo, Mahi-Mahi or Grouper, there is sure to be something that you will enjoy.
Accommodations on St. John
Just a ferry ride away from St. Thomas, St. John attracts visitors looking for a real, true island experience. Where you stay when you arrive can serve to amplify that. Rental properties allow guests to see what living like a local entails while eco-resorts pay homage to the land and provide more rustic accommodations. Those who secure a room in a resort will be booking a dream tropical getaway which includes the ultimate in pampering.
St. John has hotel possibilities that will be suitable for just about every type of traveler. Choose from glitzy resorts, low-cost accommodations, and much more in between. Guests looking to enjoy an entertaining nightlife scene will find precisely that at a pair hotels around St. John. Read further information on each place by clicking on them.
Westin Resort, St. John
A great destination with recreation on-site is Westin Resort, St. John. Located along the white sand beaches of Great Cruz Bay, the Westin Resort, St. John is a prestigious AAA Four Diamond hotel. A stay at the resort means guests will be surrounded by lush greenery, rolling hills, and vistas of the Caribbean sea. Reach them at (340) 693-8000.
Caneel Bay Resort
One destination along the coast that travelers often enjoy is Caneel Bay Resort. Founded by Laurance Rockefeller and created within the Virgin Islands National Park, Caneel Bay embraces the natural simplicity of its unspoiled setting. Featuring seven pristine white sand beaches on a secluded 170-acre peninsula, the resort’s 166 rooms gaze upon the lush tropical gardens and the turquoise-blue Caribbean Sea. The property is located on North Shore Road.
Cruz Bay Boutique Hotel
Cruz Bay Boutique Hotel is another good choice to consider. There are 10 guest rooms and one penthouse apartment suite available at Cuz Bay Boutique. Each of the guest rooms are crisp, clean, and well-appointed yet simple in their elegance, while the apartment suite is expansive and houses everything you need for an autonomous getaway –including a full kitchen. Guests will find them at 74 King Street.
St. John Transportation
St. John, the smallest of the main islands in the U.S. Virgin Islands chain is located just four miles off the coast of St. Thomas, which is where the nearest airport is located. That’s right; St. John is only accessible by sea. Once on the island, tourists will have 19.61 square miles of land to explore, and several ways to do so.
Because you can only get to St. John by ferry or sailing your own watercraft, it takes a bit of planning and coordination to make sure your travels to the U.S. Virgin Islands line up just right. Most tourists fly or cruise into nearby St. Thomas, then take one of the numerous ferries over to St. John, while a small number will take advantage of the wonderful sailing conditions and charter a private yacht for the journey.
You need a way to get around St. John, and this island certainly has a decent selection of options. Rental cars put you in charge, taxis allow you to relax and let someone else take the wheel, while buses are a back up option if you’re feeling optimistic.
St. John does not have an airport with regular service. Instead, travelers wanting to make their way over to St. John will need to rely on Cyril E King Airport over on St. Thomas. Once on St. Thomas, it may be possible to schedule an airplane charter service to take you to St. John. However, most people will instead take a taxi to Charlotte Amalie or Red Hook, where they hop on a ferry to Cruz Bay. Cruz Bay will be most visitor’s final destination. If not, you will have no problem finding further transportation to take you all across the island.
St. John is often thought of as one big nature park, and that is not an unfair assessment. With dense forests and long coasts with hidden coves, it is an ideal place to look for secluded beaches and places to explore. Sailors will be lucky enough to find some marinas and docking areas scattered throughout the coast; especially around Cruz Bay and Coral Bay. Additionally, tourists that fly into the islands should have few problems finding charters and boating trips that will take them to some of the hidden spots – giving everyone the chance to enjoy St. John’s natural beauty from land or sea.
Although St. John does not actually have a cruise port, many Eastern Caribbean sailing itineraries include St. John on their list of stops. What typically happens is that the cruise ship will dock on St. Thomas, and transport guests to St. John for a day aboard a smaller vessel which the island can handle. Occasionally, the smaller cruise lines will anchor just off shore and shuttle passengers in. However they arrive, cruise passengers make up a decent percentage of all of the island’s tourists. Arriving in Cruz Bay like nearly every other visitor, cruise ship passengers are greeted by taxis ready to take them to whichever attractions they hope to see during their time on the island.
There is really no more convenient way to reach St. John than by ferry. Serving as a hub for much of the rest of the Virgin Islands, St. John has routes that reach St. Thomas, Tortola, and Virgin Gorda. This makes St. John a great staging ground if you are planning to explore the entire Virgin Island chain.
If you do seek to utilize the ferry system on St. John, be sure to click here and learn more about the various routes and companies that you will be dealing with.
Understanding transportation on St. John is pretty simple, making it easy for tourists to choose the appropriate means of travel for them. Sailing to the island is really your only option, be it by boat, cruise ship, or ferry, however, your options for on-island transportation are much more diverse. Take your time to go over all of the options before booking whichever option you ultimately choose to go with.