Although St Thomas and St John (USVI) are so close together, they each have their own, very distinct vibe. I feel like St John has more of that beach bum feel, a vibe that we really enjoy and appreciate. Visiting St John doesn’t just have to be about sitting on the beach, sipping on drinks, although please make sure you do a little of this, there are lots of family friendly activities to do here that will keep everyone busy and happy.
-Conveniently placed right near the check-in office is a wonderful little playpark. It’s nothing huge, but it is clean, partly shady, and has enough structures to give the kids some variety. It has become one of our “must-stop” spots every time we visit the island. Especially if we have just made the kids wait in line while we do our check-in, after that we feel they deserve to go run around and let loose some of that abundant energy. Bring sunscreen and hats for the kids if they decide the sunny half of the playpark is more interesting than the shaded one!
-This place is great because everyday they have happy hour, where ALL the drinks on their menu go down to only $3 each. In the Virgin Islands that is a price to get excited about! So make sure you drop in at that time of the day. And while you are sipping on a refreshing drink your little ones can rip around the beach bellow, climb the trees, and dip their toes in the water (all within view of the bar, or you can get one of the tables on the beach).
beach bars and restaurants
Enjoying happy hour drinks with one of my besties, Brittany from Windtraveler.
-Cruz bay is pretty much divided into two sections, the beach bars/shops (where you will find the above mentioned Rum Hut), and Mongoose junction. Here, instead of that beach feel, you get cute shops, restaurants, and bars in beautiful stone buildings that are overgrown with vines, palms, and plants. It feels like you are shopping in the jungle, Swiss Family Robinson style. It is also slightly cooler (temp wise) here due to the plants and shade.
A short break from the shopping.
–St John has several beautiful beaches to explore. If you are looking for close to Cruz bay there is Caneel bay beach (Honeymoon beach) which has a short 30 minute hiking trail from town directly to the beach. If you are looking for a wonderfully, regularly calm place to anchor/moor your boat with a nice, long, shaded beach to visit then Maho is the place to go. Maho is our favourite mooring field in St John. And if you are looking for complete seclusion then make your way over to Hansen beach where you will most likely only find a handful of people, either boaters or locals.
-(not Watermelon) is a cute little spot to go snorkelling. There are about 14 mooring balls here, but also access by road. You can swim out to this tiny island and snorkel all around it. The current can get a little strong, so make sure you go “with it” around the island, not against, unless you are looking for a workout. If you littles are too little to snorkel or swim all the way around, they can also hang out on the sandbar and snorkel in the vicinity. Make sure to wear water shoes as there are A LOT of sea urchins.
-Over in Coral Bay you will find the famous Skinny Legs. They have great food and drinks, nice shops to stroll through, and our favorite, a large sandy play area for kids. If you are coming with little ones make sure to grab a table down in this area, that way your kids can play to their little hearts content while you wait for your food. Make sure you bring something to clean your kids up with, because this area is quite sandy/dirty, so you may want to give them a quick wipe down before they start eating with their hands!
–St John has a ton of fun trails to hike, for every level. From easy stroll, to intense hills. You choose your pain or pleasure. With the maps that you can find online, or at the tourist information center in Cruz bay, you can go out and adventure the island on foot.
-One of the hikes on the island will bring you to a “waterfall” (It depends how much is has been raining. It was a slight trickle when we went.) where you can find petroglyphs drawn by the first inhabitants of the island. You will see they are the same design that much of the jewellery on St John is based off of. If petroglyphs aren’t your thing, some of the trails can also take you to old sugar mills, rum factories, or beautiful view points, there is something for everyone.
the beautiful hike to the petroglyphs
If you look real close you can see them.
-(hike from Salt Pond Bay on Rams Head trail): If you are the type that doesn’t like getting sand in your cracks, or shoes, then St John has another beach for you. This beach is not sandy at all, but instead is covered in stones. Strolling around here you will find many little statues and creations that past hikers have left. Why not make your own for future admirers to gaze upon.
The girls made rock statues of their grandparents.
-We were told that last season was the first time in 4 years that the salt pond had produced salt (I have not verified this statement, we just heard it from a local!). When we visited there were folks scattered all around the outer edges of the pond harvesting salt, either for personal use, or to sell. The mud in this pond is also supposed to be very good for the skin (although it is slightly stinky). Use the salt to exfoliate and the mud for a self-made spa treatment! Our girls had a blast exfoliating all our hands and feet.
-St Thomas has a floating Pizzaria, St John has a floating bar! Usually you can find Angel’s rest, and its owner Peter, over in Coral Bay. But he also makes his way around. This boat is a fun spot to hang out. You can either swim or dinghy over to it, enjoy a drink, and talk for hours with Peter about his cool lifestyle and how he built this bar (which is also his home) by himself. We celebrated my birthday aboard Angel’s rest last year, and it was an amazing night.
A full house (full of our great friends) at Angel’s rest for my birthday!
This is NOT ALLOWED, but it was my birthday! (with my partner in crime, Brittany!)
These are the spots that we have enjoyed visiting while we sailed around St John. Is there anything else we should hit up/visit? Because we know we will be back again, we love this island.
The Catherineburg ruins are GREAT for kids because they can run around inside. One of our favorite vacation memories was my 4 yo. son playing pirate there.
Check out the Friends of the National park site for their seminar programs, they have a number of low-cost hands-on programs for kids.