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St. John, USVI: Dos and Don’ts

Located 4 miles from St. Thomas, St. John is the smallest of the 3 U.S. Virgin Islands. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in beauty and charm. St. John is located in the Caribbean sea and 60% of the island is made up of a national park. The sand is as soft as a cloud and the water is crystal clear. Although the beaches remain untouched, St. John has a bustling center complete with restaurants, shops, and even upscale jewelry stores. I recently got the chance to visit St. John for the first time, and I left feeling completely recharged. If you’re looking for a beach destination that is simultaneously tranquil and upbeat, I urge you to consider this island that has been nicknamed Love City by those that just can’t get enough.

What St. John lacks in size it makes up for in beauty and charm. Use these dos and don'ts to plan the perfect visit to this island paradise.

Anytime I visit a destination for the first time, I look for lessons. I think about things I wish I had done (or wish I hadn’t done), listen to the experiences of other travelers, and pay attention to the words of wisdom that locals share over and over again. During my recent trip to St. John, I discovered dos and don’ts that I am excited to share so that you can make the best of your first visit to this island paradise.

Do rent a jeep

We opted not to rent a car during our recent visit to St. John. The people who I was traveling with and I all like to have a drink (or 3) and didn’t want to worry about having to deem someone designated driver each day. Although it made sense in our heads, we did end up wishing that we had a car just to run to the grocery store or to grab take out. On top of that, although there are plenty of taxis and they aren’t very expensive, we found that it would have been easier had we rented a car to get around the island during the day and relied on taxis in the evening (when we were doing most of our drinking).

Don’t drive on the wrong side of the road

Another reason that we decided not to rent a car is because in St. John, they do drive opposite than we do in the continental U.S.. If you are planning to drive during your visit, make sure that you drive on the left.

Do charter a boat and island hop

Boat day is always my favorite day during any vacation and although chartering a boat in St. John can be pricey, it is worth every penny. If you’re trying to decide what to save on and what to splurge on during your visit to Love City, opt to splurge on a boat day. There are so many other beautiful islands around St. John, and getting to spend a little while on each of them (as well as some time snorkeling in the crystal clear waters) is part of what makes the destination so special. Jost Van Dyke was one of out favorite islands and is definitely worth a visit.

Don’t overpack

For the most part, St. John is a come as you are type of island. You’ll spend your days in swimwear and your evenings in light, flowy attire. There is no need to overpack and you can leave the majority of your jewelry, make up, and high heel shoes at home. The island is casual and everyone puts comfort first.

Do account for the time it will take to ride the ferry from and to St. Thomas when making your travel plans

There is no major airport in St. John so most travelers opt to fly into St. Thomas and take the ferry over. The ferry ride is only about 20 minutes, but getting to the ferry, purchasing tickets, and loading/unloading luggage can be quite a process. When making your travel plans, definitely account for the time this requires.

Don’t let the “hikes” scare you away from visiting the amazing beaches

I’m one of those girls who is terrified by the word “hike.” If something requires a hike, I figure that I’ll just sit it out and I almost let it keep me from visiting one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. In St. John, the word hike doesn’t always mean that you’ll be climbing a mountain and will need boots. Some of the “hikes” are merely 15 minute strolls from the nearest parking lot to the beach’s entrance and they are totally worth it!

Do take advantage of the happy hour drink specials 

Two things that I never turn down are brunch and happy hour. Although I did not have a chance to check out St. John’s brunch scene (Miss Lucy’s apparently has the best Sunday brunch on the island),  I did go to happy hour and it did not disappoint. From about 3-7pm, many spots on the island offer drink specials. From $2 off discounts to $3 U-Call-Its (where you get whatever you want for just $3), it’s a great excuse to spend the late afternoon getting a little tipsy.

Don’t miss lobster night at Morgan’s Mango

Lobster is always a good idea. If you love lobster as much as I do, lobster night at Morgan’s Mango is something you absolutely cannot miss. Every Tuesday evening this Cruz Bay establishment serves up locally caught Caribbean lobster with a special melted butter sauce and a complimentary glass of wine on the side!

Do bring your passport

A lot of people travel to the USVI because for American tourists, there is no passport required. Although you won’t need it if you’re entering the USVI from the continental U.S., you should still bring your passport. I explained why a boat day is an absolute must during any visit to St. John and many of the islands that you visit are British territories. If you don’t have your passport, the surrounding islands you’re allowed to visit is extremely limited, so definitely bring it along so that you can make the most out of your time in the area.

What’s your favorite Caribbean destination?

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