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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.)

Editor's note: Due to damage sustained from Hurricane Irma, the Port of St.John, U.S.V.I. is currently closed to cruise passengers.

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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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.

That's not to say there aren't plenty of tourist-friendly beaches (all 44 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.

Where You're Docked

Cruise ships can't dock in St. John. If your ship calls at St. John, you'll be anchored and tendered ashore to the National Park dock.

Most cruisers, though, come to St. John by passenger ferry from a cruise ship that is docked in nearby St. Thomas. There are two places on St. Thomas to catch the ferry to St. John. Red Hook is a 15-minute ride across the sound from the east end of St. Thomas to Cruz Bay; ferries leave every hour on the hour. Charlotte Amalie is a longer and usually rougher ferry ride that is more limited, schedule-wise; boats leave downtown Charlotte Amalie harbor at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., returning from Cruz Bay at 11:15 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.

Good to Know

As you would in any destination, beware of your surroundings. Don't wear expensive jewelry or flash large amounts of cash. Leave unnecessary valuables in your cabin safe.

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

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.

Best Cocktail

Bushwackers -- potent tropical drinks consisting of rum (light and dark), creme de cacao, cream of coconut, Kahlua and Bailey's Irish Cream -- are served everywhere. However, Woody's Seafood Saloon (across from First Bank, from 11 a.m.) is the classic place.