Because two-thirds of St. John is protected land, its main attractions are nature-based. // © U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism
St. John is one of the three prominent islands in the 50-island chain that makes up the United States Virgin Islands (USVI). Part of its appeal is that, as a United States Territory, St. John does not require U.S. passports. While the expense of securing a passport for a single traveler is not that significant, it can add up for families vacationing together. Passport requirements can also make planning a destination wedding, corporate group or incentive travel that much more complicated.
Traveling from the U.S. to St. John is a hassle-free process. There are no customs lines to deal with, the primary language is English and the currency is the U.S dollar. From the moment they arrive, visitors will have a stress-free experience in the Caribbean.
It’s important to note that there are no direct international flights to St. John, but it’s easy to make the connection. Most visitors arrive by flying into St. Thomas and then taking a taxi to Red Hook Landing, where they board a water taxi to St. John, a trip that takes roughly 20 minutes. The ferry leaves on the hour throughout the day.
If arriving by ferry, visitors disembark at the tiny town of Cruz Bay, where they will find a sprinkling of restaurants and boutiques. Coral Bay also offers a sample of the low-key nightlife that is characteristic of St. John. There are a few bars and restaurants with live music in both areas, although nightlife and shopping are not generally the island’s biggest tourist draws — in St. John, it’s all about nature. Two-thirds of the island is protected land, giving visitors the feeling of being on vacation in one huge national park.
Top Natural Sites
Virgin Islands National Park is a prime attraction. Over 40 years ago, Laurence Rockefeller donated 9,500 acres on St. John to the federal government to be designated a national park. Today, visitors can explore mile after mile of hiking trails through tropical forests. This protection extends offshore as well, and includes the Trunk Bay National Park Underwater Trail, where visitors snorkel along a 675-foot guided underwater trail. Underwater signs and markers identify coral and fish along the way.
The Annaberg Trail takes hikers through the island’s history, past the crumbling ruins of 18th-century sugar mill plantations. For wonderful views of the sea and neighboring St. Thomas and St. Croix, visitors should rent a car and drive up to Bordeaux Point. This is the highest point on the island, reaching a peak of 1,300 feet above sea level.
Hotel News Around St. John
Accommodations on the island range from luxury resorts to bed-and-breakfasts. The island’s two five-star resorts are Caneel Bay Resort and The Westin St. John Resort & Villas.
Caneel Bay Resort officially re-launched and reopened under its new name last month. The resort was previously known as Caneel Bay, A Rosewood Resort. Along with the re-launch, the property welcomes the new ZoZo's at The Sugar Mill, a restaurant that is set atop the ruins of an 18th-century sugar mill, overlooking the sea. The resort has also opened a new coffee shop and Italian gelateria and unveiled new spa treatments, including the Hot Bamboo Massage, which uses warm bamboo to massage muscles and help guests unwind. Moving forward, the resort will carry out plans to renovate all guestrooms beginning in 2014, with completion in phases over the next two to three years.
The Westin St. John is in the midst of a $50 million renovation and refurbishment that is expected to be completed in late spring 2014. The extensive renovations include upgrades to 96 pool and beachside rooms, the pool and pool deck, the beachside cafe, meeting space, the watersports area, the WestinWorkout Fitness Studio and the Westin Heavenly Spa. The schedule of renovations is on a rolling timeline to minimize disruption to the resort’s guests.