If you want to spend your precious vacation time off soaking up the sun on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, St. John would fit the bill very nicely. However, this diminutive Caribbean jewel is also packed with places to discover and adventures to be had for those who are interested in a more active vacation experience.
You may think that you would soon run out of things to do on an island that covers an area of only 12,500 acres, but nothing is further from the truth. You can explore St. John on foot, on horseback or in a rented Jeep, and you take to the waters around the island in a kayak, a sailboat or on a luxury yacht. Once your day is done, you can spend the evening enjoying a gourmet meal under the stars or enjoy quelbe music at a lively local bar.
The Best Time to Visit St. John, USVI
The common caveats you may have heard about visiting the Caribbean do not really apply to St. John. Some Caribbean islands are unbearably hot at certain times of the year and miserably wet at others, but visitors to St. John enjoy temperatures in the 70s and 80s no matter when they visit.
The island receives most of its rainfall in September, October and November, but rain usually falls in short bursts in the early morning or late evening. If you are planning to swim or snorkel in the waters around St. John, you will be happy to hear that the sea will be warm and inviting whenever you come.
Tourists are often warned to avoid Caribbean islands during the high season because of overcrowding and poor service, but this is another thing that you don’t have to worry about on St. John. Most of the island is taken up by a breathtaking national park and its resorts lean toward the small and intimate, which means that visitors to the island can relax in peace and quiet, even at peak times. The best time to visit St. John is whenever you can get some time off, and the best places to stay during your visit are our luxury vacation rentals, villas and condos.
Our Top 10 Best Things to Do in St. John, USVI
- Enjoy a day at the beach: Every St. John vacation should include at least one beach day. Trunk Bay is the island’s most famous beach, and arguably the world’s most beautiful. On the other hand, there are many, many others. Whatever beach you pick, you should devote a few hours to exploring the coral reefs you will find just offshore. A snorkel is all you will need to see a dizzying array of marine and plant life, and kayaks or other watercraft can be rented at many beaches. Trunk Bay even has an underwater snorkeling trail.
- Go on a horseback adventure: St. John is one of the few Caribbean islands where visitors can go out and explore on horseback. The Carolina Corral has been offering horse and donkey riding tours on St. John for almost 30 years, and their trails run the gamut from daytime nature rides to moonlight beach excursions. They even have a petting zoo. You don’t need any riding experience, and kids as young as 8 can take part. This is a perfect choice for visitors who want to enjoy St. John’s natural beauty without working up a sweat. Prices are $75 for kids and $85 for adults.
- Take a kayak tour: Rent a kayak from Reef2Peak and you can spend half a day or an entire day exploring St. John from the water. You can even arrange to have the kayaks dropped off at your holiday accommodations. While you can just take off and explore on your own, you may see more if you take one of the guided or unguided tours on offer. Bring plenty of water and snacks along, and avoid the unprotected water in the middle of Coral bay if you are a beginner as it is sometimes a little choppy.
- Enjoy a night of quelbe music: Just like Mexican corridos, quelbe songs tell a story – sometimes sad and sometimes happy. This is the official music of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and you can hear it being performed by scratch bands in many of St. John’s most popular bars and lounges. If you are really lucky, you may catch a Ten Sleepless Nights performance. A night of quelbe offers you the chance to immerse yourself in island culture, and it is one of the many ways that St. John provides an alternative to the typical tourist experience.
- Visit the Virgin Islands National Park: The Virgin Islands National Park covers almost 60 percent of St. John, and it is the perfect place to enjoy the island’s diverse flora and wildlife and soak up its rich history. There are several trails to choose from that provide everything from a casual stroll to a hike up a mountain, and you can expect to come across native carvings and abandoned sugar mills as well as cacti, trees, waterfalls and all manner of creatures. The national park is also home to the Annaberg Historic District where you can learn what St. John used to be like in a partially restored windmill and sugar factory.
- Savor the local cuisine: You certainly won’t have a shortage of dining options on St. John. Cruz Bay is home to most of the island’s restaurants, and they offer French, Italian and American cuisine as well as Caribbean delicacies like spiny lobster, conch and fungi. You can choose to push the boat out and enjoy a gourmet meal in a restaurant that would not be out of place in Monte Carlo or Beverly Hills, or you can enjoy some local flavor in shorts and sandals. One thing nearly all of St. John’s restaurants have in common is amazing moonlit water views.
- Go on a shopping spree: Cruz Bay is also where you will find Mongoose Junction, which is the island’s main shopping area. While you will be able to purchase the same kind of duty-free luxury goods that are on offer in other parts of the Caribbean, you will also be able to buy clothing, artwork and jewelry from local artists and artisans that you will not find anywhere else. Other shopping destinations on the island include Wharfside Village, The Marketplace and Cocoloba Shops, and all of them have great bars and restaurants, as well as amazing stores.
- Go island hopping: St. John is a great starting point for touring other nearby Caribbean islands. You can either charter a boat or join a tour, and there are several options available, ranging from romantic sailboats to powerful catamarans, to luxury yachts. A day spent exploring the Virgin Islands by boat will probably be the highlight of your vacation, but remember to bring your passport if you plan to visit British islands like Virgin Gorda, Anegada or Tortola.
- Go scuba diving: The waters around St. John attract scuba divers from around the world, and there is no reason that you cannot join them. Low Key Watersports has been helping visitors to enjoy the wonders of St. John’s waters for three decades, and they allow you to take dive training online so you can strap on a tank and take to the water as soon as you arrive.
- Enjoy the lifestyle you deserve: While there is a lot to see and do in St. John, you may just want to take a day or two just enjoying your luxury vacation accommodation. Put your feet up or relax by the pool, and allow yourself to be captivated by the peace and beauty of this island paradise.