Whether St. Thomas or St. John is the best USVI island for you will depend on your personal preferences. For instance, St. Thomas is the right choice if you love the hustle and bustle of a lot of people. Meanwhile, St. John will be better for those who prefer a nice, relaxing vacation without as many people present.
Before we dive into the many differences between St. Thomas and St. John, let’s first look at what they have in common. Both are, of course, part of the USVI, and they speak English on both islands. As long as you’re a U.S. resident, you won’t need a passport to visit either one. They’re each known for their beautiful scenic beaches, and you can visit either one at any time of the year.
St. Thomas Overview
Welcome to St. Thomas! While you’re visiting, you can enjoy everything the island has to offer, including plentiful shopping opportunities. St. Thomas is definitely livelier than St. John and St. Croix. In fact, it’s arguably the liveliest island in the entire Caribbean. It also has a sophisticated, cosmopolitan vibe.
St. Thomas is the second largest of the USVI, and it boasts 32 square miles of gorgeous tropical beauty. Many people consider St. Thomas to be the best Caribbean Island due to its extensive number of tourist opportunities, including snorkeling, swimming, sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, and diving.
The population of St. Thomas is 42,261, but once the tourists are added in, there will be a whole lot more people on the island. It’s estimated that almost 2.7 million people cycle in and out of the USVI each year.
St John Overview
If seeing attractions is your thing, you’ve definitely got to head to St. John! Not only does the North Shore have beaches and overlooks, but it also has fewer people. Fortunately, it also happens to have stunning topography, which includes curvy roads and many hills.
St. John is by far the smallest USVI with only 19 square miles. The population of St. John is a mere 3,881, and 2,652 of these residents live in the Cruz Bay subdistrict. Most St. John tourism is based around Cruz Bay. However, if you’d like a more laid back, hippie-type vibe, it can be found in Coral Bay.
Snorkeling is one of the biggest attractions here. There are also several hiking opportunities too, along with historical landmarks such as Annaberg Sugar Plantation.
St. Thomas vs. St John
Now, let’s take a more in-depth look at the differences between St. Thomas and St. John.
St. Thomas has been more developed than St. John. It has been able to retain its island charm and beauty, while still offering several shopping centers and strip malls. Therefore, if you’re the type of person who loves shopping, St. Thomas activities will be the better choice.
St. John is a much simpler place. For one thing, approximately 67% of the island is made up of the Virgin Islands National Park. This means that St. John activities may make this your preferred destination if you care more about seeing wildlife and going hiking.
Having a much larger population—along with being much more developed—means that St. Thomas also has a much more robust nightlife. If you want to party, then St. Thomas is definitely calling your name!
Meanwhile, St. John has some nightlife options, too. The best area to enjoy yourself after 9 p.m. each night is on the Cruz Bay side of the island. The rest of the island basically shuts down between 8pm and 9pm, which makes St. John a better bet for people who want to get some shut eye.
When it comes to food options, St. Thomas has got you covered! Having a bigger, more popular island means that St. Thomas naturally offers more restaurant selections. Watch out, though, because it also means that several spots are nothing more than tourist traps. This means the food is expensive and typically not as good as the restaurants the locals dine in.
St. John may have fewer options than St. Thomas, but the restaurants that are there are usually top-notch! Of course, they also usually close between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., which might be too early for your personal tastes.
If you live in the U.S., it’s important to note that neither island will have the type of infrastructure you’re used to, but they’re not too bad, either.
St. Thomas’ infrastructure makes it hard not to get around without a vehicle. If you prefer not to rent a car, you can take a taxi. There’s also a public bus route, but don’t rely on it unless you have all the time in the world to wait. When it comes to health care, you can go to a clinic or Schneider Regional Medical Center. Resorts won’t have an issue supplying you with enough water but be mindful of your usage in a vacation rental. Going online is relatively simple, although the service is good, not great.
St. John’s infrastructure is also made for cars. Therefore, either rent a vehicle or take a taxi. Again, there’s also a public bus, but it’s not very reliable. Your health care needs will be taken care of at either The Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center or a clinic. However, if you need emergency care, you might be transferred to St. Thomas. You’ll be able to connect to the internet without any issues in Cruz Bay, but elsewhere on the island is spotty at best. Finally, water conservation is a big theme for St. John, so be sure not to waste any of it.
Being more developed also means that St. Thomas’ beaches are often lined with several resorts. However, if you want to find a more remote beach, it will be possible. Of course, the sheer number of people who visit St. Thomas can make it difficult to find an uncrowded beach, even in a more remote area. If you want to try to avoid St. Thomas tourism on the beach, do NOT go to Magens Bay.
St. John offers plentiful beaches, and most of them are not lined by resorts. The majority of them are part of the National Park, which means the land around them is undeveloped. This offers a more pristine experience! Head to North Shore Road to take in most of the island’s beaches.
If modern amenities are important to you, then St. Thomas will be very appealing. First off, the airport is on St. Thomas, and there are car rental facilities at the airport. Resorts are plentiful, they have larger grocery stores than St. John, and there are multiple shopping options. Additionally, it’s easy to take a water taxi to the other islands.
There are no airports on St. John, nor do any cruise ships dock there. Resorts are also less frequent, although you can book a vacation rental. You can find groceries, but don’t expect to run into a large supermarket.
Which Island is More Expensive?
St. John is slightly more expensive than St. Thomas. Both islands tend to be more expensive than most small or mid-sized U.S. cities, though.
St Thomas vs. St John Side-by side comparison
|Way more developed
|More focus on relaxing
|Fly into St. Thomas
|Fly into St. Thomas and then take a water taxi to St. John
|Lots of shopping malls/strip malls
|Smaller, boutique shops
|Perfect for people watching
|Perfect for hiking
|Nightlife that’s open long into the night
|Outside of Cruz Bay, everything shuts down by 9 p.m. (although you’ll find a few St. John beach bars open until midnight!)
|Tons of food, but some tourist traps
|Less food options, but what’s there is delicious
|More modernized infrastructure
|Less modernized, but still adequate in most cases
|Super crowded beaches
|Beaches that tend to be less crowded
|Modern convenience factor with large stores
|Less convenient, but you can still find basic needs
|Has a higher crime rate than St. John
|Has the lowest crime rate of the USVI
Which Island Reigns Supreme?
So…which island is better? That depends on you! Although many tourists will prefer to explore everything there is to do on St. Thomas, there is also something to be said for going to a more ‘out of the way’ island. Essentially, you’ll need to review your options and select the experience that best meets you and your specific needs.
If we were going to suggest an island to you, though, we would say that St. Thomas is for people who love to be around others, while St. John is more of an introvert’s paradise. St. Thomas offers more to a younger crowd due to its extensive nightlife, while St. John is better suited to people who like to be completely done for the day by 9 p.m. at the latest. That’s the truly great thing about visiting the USVI—there’s something for everyone!
Whichever island you choose, visit VacationVI to book an amazing vacation rental! With plenty of options available on both islands, VacationVI makes it simple to choose the absolute best home away from home!