T&C Travel Guide: St John, U.S. Virgin Islands

T&C Travel Guide: St John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Everything you need for an idyllic stay on the hidden gem of the USVIs.

The last year has made us all appreciate travel more. With so much of the world locked down and so many of us trapped at home for the sake and safety of our health and our loved ones, the wanderlust has only grown. And while we’ve certainly missed the globetrotting and exotic locales, it has also reminded us that we don’t need to fly halfway across the worls to experience scene-stealingly gorgeous and unique destinations. In fact, some of those places are right in our own proverbial back yard—like the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The islands, which were originally home to the Arawak and Carib peoples and later purchased by the U.S. from the Dutch in 1917, are an unincorporated territory of the United States just to the southeast of Puerto Rico and are made up of three dominate islands: St Croix, St Thomas, and St John.

While St Croix and St Thomas are the islands’ population and industrial centers, St John remains the hidden gem of the USVI. That’s thanks in no small part to Laurance Rockefeller (son of John D. Rockefeller), who in 1956 donated more than 5,000 acres (close to two-thirds of the island’s land mass) to the National Park Service, preserving the island’s natural beauty. Nicknamed “Love City”, the laid-back island is home to just over 4,000 people as well as some of the most exceptional, unspoiled beaches anywhere in the world, and thanks to its status as a U.S. territory, you don’t even need a passport to get there.

Here's everything you need to know to plan a decadent escape to St John.

Here's everything you need to know to plan a decadent escape to St John.

When to Go

The island’s high season starts in December and runs through March; while St John is never bustling, you can expect restaurant and accommodation reservations to be more scarce, and for prices to peak during this period. If you’re shopping for a deal, late spring and early summer are the times to plan your trip—though they’re some of the island’s hottest months, it’s still rare to see the temperatures climb over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Like much of the Caribbean, local businesses and rentals largely shut down from August through October for hurricane season.

Where to Stay

Formerly the island’s premiere hotel, Caneel Bay (stationed on the former Rockefeller family getaway) shut down in the wake of the damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and has yet to reopen, however there are still plenty of options on the island.

Gallows Point

Gallows Point is the largest hotel on St John now, with views over the neighboring cays as well as the harbor. It’s also conveniently located in the island’s main town, Cruz Bay, making it an easy walk of just a few minutes to some of the island’s finest restaurants and shopping, making it ideal for those who don’t want to rent a car.

The Westin St. John Resort Villas

Though it no longer operates as a hotel, in recent years the opulent The Westin has converted to offer time-shares. Nestled on Great Cruz Bay (not to be confused it Cruz Bay) it’s one of the few accommodations on the island that includes direct beach access and also includes a number of resort amenities like a spa and fitness center as well as sports courts.

Vacation Home Rentals

By far the most popular and luxurious option for accommodations on the island, St John is rife with magnificent vacation rentals. For those coming with a group, the gated communities of Peter Bay (both Upper Peter Bay and Lower Peter Bay) on the north shore of the island offer a plethora of palatial, often Mediterranean-inspired homes with beautiful views of the British Virgin Islands and are minutes away from some of the island’s most popular beaches, including the famous Trunk Bay.

If you want to feel on top of the world, head to southwest where there are horizon views galore in the Chocolate Hole and Rendezvous Bay areas (houses like Finisterre, Kismet, and Villa Cin Cin are some of the premiere spots).

To experience a real “private island” feel, there are a few rare spots tucked away mid-island, like Solenborg and Hawksview Estate, on a neighborless stretch of land overlooking Denis Bay and Hawksnest Beach that has been know to attract celebrities, but if you’d rather soak in relaxed, old school island vibes, aim for Coral Bay, the island’s other (smaller) population center on the far east end where you’ll feel like a local.

Cruz Bay, St. John’s population center and main town. MARK MEREDITH GETTY IMAGES

Where to Eat

Note: Don’t let the proximity to the ocean fool you—unlike some beach towns, entering a shop or restaurant without at least cover-up is considered rather gauche, so plan ahead for your culinary outings post-beach.

Extra Vigin Bistro

“Italian” may not be the first thing that leaps to mind when you think of the Caribbean, but you won’t want to miss this local- and seasonally-focused spot (for more oceanic flare, try their sister restaurant 1864) The pastas, including the fan-favorite Wild Mushroom Pappardelle, are particular stand-outs, as are hearty salads and lavish entrees like Double Cut Pork Chops. Their signature martini is not to be missed.


An icon of the St. John culinary scene, Zozo’s’ locale on the waterfront at Caneel Bay (the only part of the resort currently operating) makes it a glorious spot to take in a romantic sunset dinner.

Morgan's Mango

For island flavors, this seafood-focused restaurant brings together a pan-Caribbean sensibility, borrowing tastes from Latin, African, and European traditions for a white tablecloth taste of modern Caribbean cooking.

The Longboard

The menu of craft cocktails, sushi, poke bowls, and creative tacos, at this evenings-only spot in the heart of Cruz Bay wouldn’t look out of place in any buzzy shoreside town (indeed, they’re opening a second outpost in Charleston) and makes it a refreshing spot to hang out for happy hour or casually sophisticated dinner.


New about St.John


Cruz Bay Parking

A conslidated list of all the best parking spots in downtown Cruz Bay, St John USVI


Cruz Bay Parking 1

A conslidated list of all the best parking spots in downtown Cruz Bay, St John USVI