I can hardly believe it’s been almost a month since our amazing 10 year anniversary vacation in St John on the US Virgin Islands!! Writing this post sharing all the fun things to do in St. John has made me excited to go back and relive favorites and explore more fun options on this gorgeous Caribbean island! You won’t be disappointed with your trip to St. John!
Reasons to Visit St. John, US Virgin Islands
- It’s traveling that feels international, but everyone speaks English, it’s in the U.S. borders, and you don’t need a passport.
- Sparkling, gorgeous Caribbean waters. Seriously, it was so incredibly beautiful! And we went in the middle of a drought–so with lush, green jungle too– amazing!
- For a less commercial beach vacation. There are no all inclusive swim-up-bar type places on the island. St. John is less commercial than the other US Virgin Islands and is 60% National Park. We loved that it was smaller and less “mainland” feeling.
- For outdoor adventure and relaxation. We loved that we could go for a hike and lay on a beach all on the same day! It was the perfect mix of relaxing and “doing nothing” and being active and outdoors!
Things to Do in St John
- Snorkeling — snorkeling was my favorite thing we did on St. John. Maho Bay was the best snorkeling we experienced — so many cool and fish and sea life in the reef areas and then the sea turtles. You guys, swimming with sea turtles was my dream and we saw and swam with so many! I literally almost accidentally stepped on one! We also did the underwater snorkeling trail at Trunk Bay, but the water was a bit more choppy there and there wasn’t as much sea life comparatively. We were told by a local that Lime Tree Cove is a great place to go as well, but we didn’t make it there. You definitely want to snorkel St John!
- Hiking — Hiking was Nate’s favorite thing we did on St. John. Like I mentioned earlier 60% of St. John is National Park and there are tons of trails to hike along beaches, in mountainous areas, and through 18th century plantation ruins that dot the whole landscape. My favorite hike was to Reef Bay (I loved seeing the waterfall and 600s AD monoliths) and was more jungle-ish and Nate’s was out to Rams Head which was more rocky and beach-y.
- Eating and drinking — Although St. John is small we were never disappointed in the food and we never ran out of good options to try!
- Beaching — Clearly, you can pack a cooler and lay on the beach all day!! The beaches were incredibly gorgeous and not overcrowded at all! Trunk Bay has larger showers/changing areas and many had pavilions to use if you got there early enough! There were also some tiki bars with sandwiches and drinks if you got hungry or thirsty or many of the beaches.
- Boating/kayaking/SUP (stand up paddle board) — I’m not going to lie I was nervous about boating or kayaking in the ocean so we decided not to do a rental. I think on our next trip (yes there will be a next one!) we’d like to do a kayak tour or one day boat charter.
- Driving — We rented a jeep and Nate really enjoyed driving all over the winding roads (on the left!) exploring the island. If you get carsick easily (like me) packing dramamine or a sea-band will make the winding roads more enjoyable! There were definitely some amazing views and lots of spots to pull off to enjoy them!
To see everything we packed for our trip to St. John (soo many helpful ideas for your trip!!!) check out our St John Vacation Packing List!
Places to Eat
Day 1: We arrived on the ferry later on this day and decided to explore the island a bit via Jeep and eat in Coral Bay. We had super delicious burgers and drinks at Skinny Legs in Coral Bay!
Day 2: We explored Cruz Bay shops and got a feel for the area. We had lunch of amazing sandwiches at North Shore Deli! Then we hiked to Peace Hill and Oppenheimer Beach. We changed into swimming gear and went to beautiful Trunk Bay. We ended the night at St. John’s Brewers The Tap Room, enjoying a BBQ pizza and burger.
Day 3. We packed a lunch for a beach day at Maho Bay swimming with sea turtles! We also did a short hike around a the sugar factory near Cinnamon Beach. For dinner we were wiped after our beach time so we picked up some takeout lasagna from North Shore Deli and some frozen breadsticks for an easy dinner back at our apartment.
Day 4. We did a hike to a salt pond, and explored around Annaberg plantation. Then we had lunch at Pickles in Paradise in Coral Bay. We went to a couple east end beaches during the afternoon, including a stop at Colombo’s smoothies. Then in the evening we hiked down to Honeymoon Beach to watch the sunset. We finished the day at Margarita Phils for mexican and margaritas!
Day 5. We did the underwater trail at Trunk Bay and then relocated to Maho Bay for more snorkeling and beach time. We had an early dinner at The Longboard and then hiked up to the top of Cruz Bay to watch the sunset. We finished the evening with ice cream at St. John Scoops.
Day 6. A delicious breakfast at North Shore deli kicked off our day then we went to church, Freshwater church, which met on Hawksnest Beach. It was beautiful! A quick lunch at The Tap and Still was next and it was simple, but one of our favorites! (Very affordable too!) After that we did the Ramshead hike. We were so tired when we got back we decided to revisit one of our favorite restaurants, St. John Brewers The Tap Room.
Day 7. Our last day on the island we did the Reef Bay Trail. It was my favorite bit of hiking, despite the rain. We ate lunch on the hike. We had dinner at a wonderful Italian spot, Cafe Roma.
Literally every place we ate was delicious and we still had other restaurants on our list to enjoy! You will eat well in the Virgin Islands!
Where We Stayed
We stayed in an VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) in Cruz Bay. It was not luxury, but we enjoyed having a full kitchen at our disposal. We ate breakfast at the apartment most mornings and got takeout one night for dinner as well. The biggest drawback was it didn’t have AC (which we knew when we booked) and the bed was pretty uncomfortable. So we wouldn’t stay there again, but we would definitely use a different AirBNB or VRBO or private rental!
Budget St. John Travel
Go in the off season! We went in mid to late May and the weather was warm (85 most days), the beaches were uncrowded, we never made a restaurant reservation, and the pace was perfect. The busiest times in St. John are from November – March so you can save in the off season. July-September is hurricane season which we decided to avoid.
Stay in an AirBNB or VRBO! This saved us a TON of money! Our accommodation was small, but nice enough. Compared to the hotels and resorts on island it is basically a no-brainer way to save money! Having access to a kitchen and full size refrigerator also saved us money, by being able to eat some meals at our apartment. We could have saved more money by packing lunches or eating out less, but we like to eat out and we ARE on vacation
Take advantage of free entertainment. Since St. John is such a natural Caribbean beauty take advantage of exploring it! Hiking is free! Beach time is free! (No parking charges either.) Renting snorkel gear was $30 for the two of us for the week, but besides that there was little on the island we paid for besides food and souvenirs. While we could have done a kayak or SUP or boat rental we didn’t and we still loved our time in St. John! The National Park office has good info and guides to the beaches and trails if your accommodation does not. Trunk bay was the most beautiful beach. Snorkeling was best at Maho beach. But there was no “bad beach”.
Don’t buy a lot of souvenirs. Do as I say not as I do, kids. It’s definitely an area where we could have saved more money, but sharing our experience will hopefully help you! We bought each of our kids a stuffed animal. We also bought some local loose leaf tea from St. John Spice. I got a locally made pottery coffee mug (with a sea turtle on it!). Then we also got a total of 3 shirts, 1 hat, and 1 water bottle. We could have definitely saved money by getting one item each or none at all! A cheap(er) souvenir that I think will be more meaningful is printing and framing a scenic picture we took while on vacation.
Travel with friends and split some costs! While we totally loved our romantic anniversary trip, splitting the cost of accommodation and jeep rental with another couple would reduce costs and be fun! (Provided you pick the right people!)
St John is an amazing place to vacation!! We seriously can’t wait to go back and experience the adventure and relaxation all over again! I will say, that even though there was definitely still rebuilding taking place from the most recent hurricanes, St John still has tons to offer and it was inspiring seeing the resilience of the people there! St John is such a good mix of laid back living along with all the amenities you want on a Caribbean vacation!
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