RedWeek Travel Guide: St. John

published on June 24, 2021 by

It may be the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, but every inch of St. John is filled with Caribbean culture, adventure, and cuisine. Here, you’ll find white-sand beaches, a national park that covers two-thirds of the island, some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean and a thriving restaurant scene. St. John is also uniquely shaped, with undulating mountains and countless bays to explore. Find out what you need to know about a vacation in St. John. 

The Best St. John Beaches

St. John beaches provide all the sun and sand you could hope for. But they also provide the launchpad for exciting eco-adventures. 

Trunk Bay Beach

Trunk Bay Beach is, in a word, iconic. In fact, Condé Nast Traveler magazine named it one of the top 10 beaches in the entire world. Located on the island’s scenic North Shore, the sand here is brilliantly white and the turquoise water sparkles like jewels. It’s also a snorkeling favorite — great for beginners and novices alike — thanks to the amazing Underwater Trail, which offers underwater plaques to guide you through the wonders of the reef. 

Cinnamon Bay Beach

Located in the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park, the half-mile Cinnamon Bay Beach is St. John’s longest beach, which means there’s always plenty of room to spread out upon those pristine sands. It’s a good spot for watersports, whether you’re snorkeling, windsurfing or paddle boarding (all of which is available to rent nearby). There are also food stands on the beach, making it perfect for a St. John beach blanket picnic. 

Maho Bay

St. John is home to adorable green sea turtles — and Maho Bay is the place to see them, especially in the early morning or late afternoon. While snorkeling, you might also catch a glimpse of rays here. Located within the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park, this beach is also notable for its awe-inspiring coconut palm trees, which tower above the sand, providing plenty of cool, shady spots when you need a break from the sun. The calm surf and convenient location make it a great spot for families with younger kids. 

Outdoor Adventure & Ecotourism In St. John

There’s more to the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park than just beaches, of course. Away from the shore, the outdoor adventure is unbeatable. 

Reef Bay Trail

Be forewarned: This is a strenuous hike. But for hardy outdoor adventurers, it’s more than worth it. Reef Bay Trail is a journey through St. John’s history, taking you past ancient trees, fascinating rock carvings by the island’s original inhabitants, and centuries-old sugar plantation ruins. The ultimate payoff, however, is the spectacular waterfall at the end of the trail. 

Cinnamon Bay Nature Loop and Accessible Trail

Beyond Cinnamon Bay Beach, take this easy walking trail for further immersion into St. John’s past. It’ll take you to what remains of the Cinnamon Bay Plantation, one of the first sugar plantations on the island, built way back in 1777. During your walk, take some time to enjoy the scent of the bay rum leaves and the sight of tropical birds in the branches above. 

Ranger-Guided Tours

U.S. Virgin Islands National Park rangers offer an array of guided tours that showcase the park’s natural splendor. From birdwatching to snorkeling, from yoga on the beach to lionfish safaris, these events are a great way to dive deeper into St. John’s unique ecosystem. Check the NPS’ calendar to see what activities are available during your vacation.

The Best St. John Shopping Spots

Engage in a little Caribbean retail therapy during your St. John vacation by visiting some of the island’s best shopping destinations. 

Moongoose Junction

This St. John shopping / dining destination in Cruz Bay is not your average open-air mall. Built using local stone and coral with designs inspired by the Danish plantations of the 1800s, Mongoose Junction is breathtaking to look at. Once you’ve caught your breath, though, you can browse a variety of shops selling everything from jewelry to art to wine. 

The Marketplace St. John

Also in Cruz Bay, The Marketplace St. John is home to several shops and boutiques, not to mention a handful of casual eateries. If you’re cooking at your timeshare resort kitchen, stop into Starfish Market, where you’ll find fresh produce, meats, and spirits for your St. John feast. 

St. John Spice Company

The powerful aromas of the island are in abundance at the St. John Spice Company in Cruz Bay. Here, you’ll be able to choose from the largest selection of spices, rubs, and hot sauces in the Caribbean. The shop also offers local art and prints, bath and body products, a kids’ section and much more. 

Where To Eat In St. John

St. John restaurants draw from a wide range of global influences — and take advantage of fresh, local ingredients from around the Virgin Islands. 

Lovango Rum Bar & Distillery

One of the newest additions to St. John’s cuisine scene, Lovango Rum Bar & Distillery is a stylish joint in Cruz Bay that specializes in Neapolitan-style pizza. Oh, and rum, naturally. Lovango’s boasts nearly 200 varieties of the spirit (including its own signature offerings). Take a little time to peruse the rum-centric cocktail menu, the brainchild of master mixologist Will Forsythe. 

Lovango Rum Bar & Distillery Menu

Sun Dog Café

Open-air St. John dining at its best. Sun Dog Café, located in Mongoose Junction, is a laid-back spot that prides itself on bold flavors and friendly service. Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, the menu includes plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options, including pizzas, tacos, seafood and more. And don’t miss the wide variety of tropical cocktails, such as the Geckolada, Sun Dog’s signature piña colada. 

Sun Dog Café Menu

La Tapa

Skillfully blending Mediterranean influences and local ingredients, the chefs at La Tapa have made this St. John restaurant a must-dine for both locals and visitors. The menu changes daily, so that the kitchen can take advantage of the island’s freshest ingredients. La Tapa is also great for live music — there’s a jazz band here every night. 

La Tapa Menu

St. John Timeshare Resorts

Located on the southwest coast of St. John, The Westin St. John Resort Villas put you right in the heart of Cruz Bay and offer easy access to the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park. Check out RedWeek’s rental options, which offer cheaper, by-owner rates!

The Westin St. John – Virgin Grand Villas

This is the kind of place you fall in love with at first sight, thanks to its 600-foot pool with a cascading waterfall. The spacious one-, two-, or three-bedroom villas will seal the deal. Even better: Virgin Grand Villas is a green hotel and resort, working to reduce its environmental impact and keep St. John as an unspoiled paradise. 

The Westin St. John – Bay Vista Villas

Set upon 47 beautiful acres of Cruz Bay, Bay Vista Villas allow guests to kick back next to the pool or in one of the comfortable one- or two-bedroom villa, each equipped with a dazzling bay view. 

The Westin St. John – Sunset Bay Villas

The Westin St. John’s newest development is closest to both the pool and the beach — you’ll always be just steps from both. The stylish one-, two- and three-bedroom villas will serve as an ideal home base for your St. John adventures. 

Start planning your St. John vacation with RedWeek now

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