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St. John (U.S.V.I.) (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of St. John (U.S.V.I.)

Less is more on St. John. It's the smallest, quietest, least populated and most secluded of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, where even the residents of neighboring St. Thomas and St. Croix come to get away from it all.

About St. John (U.S.V.I.)


Pro

Island is two-thirds national park, with quiet beaches, hiking trails, snorkel spots and shops

Con

Most cruise lines call in nearby St. Thomas; only a few come directly to St. John

Bottom Line

St. John offers something for everyone without the crowds of other Caribbean islands


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That's not to say there aren't plenty of tourist-friendly beaches (all are open to the public) and frosty blender drinks. Shore excursions run the gamut from snorkeling to eco-hikes. And there's shopping, of course, though truth be told local handicrafts hold their own against mass-produced duty-free goods -- St. John's tranquility has transformed it into an artists' community of sorts, and several have stores in town.

But much of the development is confined to Cruz Bay, St. John's only real town. Otherwise, St. John's unspoiled beauty is its main draw -- the Virgin Islands National Park makes up two-thirds of the island. (The Rockefeller family donated the land in 1956.) Nestled within the park are Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay, each offering active pursuits in pristine waters. Sailing, snorkeling and diving are top attractions, though kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and scuba are increasingly popular.

Though the island is only about nine miles long, it takes about an hour to drive from Cruz Bay to the east end along winding roads. St. John rewards those who explore on foot; the island is networked with the national park hiking trails that lead to historical sites and hidden coves. If your ship is docked in St. Thomas, your day spent here will feel like a break from the madding crowds -- and you'll want to return again and again.

Good to Know

Hurricane Irma passed over the Virgin Islands in September 2017 and destroyed a huge chunk of the national park in St. John. Before planning to hike or embark on any activity along a beach or in the wilderness, be sure to check with the National Park Service on what's open and safe. Some restaurants and beach concessions are still working to come back, a year later.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The U.S. dollar is used throughout the Virgin Islands, including St. John, but foreign currency can be exchanged at major banks; an ATM is located in First Bank, two blocks north of the ferry dock.

Language

Locals speak English, often with a Creole accent.

Shopping

Cruz Bay is full of upscale boutiques, most of which are one of a kind. At the atmospheric, stone-walled Mongoose Junction (to the left of the ferry dock), don't miss Bougainvillea Boutique for chic bathing suits, linen fashions and straw hats. Bamboula, which sells everything from bed linens to keepsakes from all over the world, is St. John's most eclectic shop. Also check out Donald Schnell Pottery for hand-blown glass, kaleidoscopes and wind chimes, and Sea Leathers for belts and accessories made out of fish skin.

Adjacent to Margarita's (across from the dock) is St. John Editions, which has fabulous fashions including Lilly Pulitzer, Koko and Flax. Dreams and Dragonflies, at Wharfside, features local art, funky jewelry and hand-painted clothing. Verace is an exquisite jewelry boutique with distinctive, handmade pieces by artists from around the world. Out of the way but worth the half-block stroll is Pink Papaya (in the Lemon Tree Mall), an artsy shop specializing in boldly colored Caribbean handicrafts.

Support the continued preservation of St. John by buying a box of made-in-the-islands Bush Tea at the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park store in Mongoose Junction.