Contributor: Josefa Abdelnour
Dates of Travel: February 2017
Accommodations: The Westin Saint John Resort Villas
I fell instantly in love with the dramatic water landscape of Saint John. The U.S. Virgin Islands are peaks of dormant volcanoes protruding through clear, turquoise water. I understand now why these islands are such a popular sailing destination. The peaks create hilly islands, protected bays, and secluded beaches. While Saint John, Saint Thomas, and Saint Croix make up the three main residential islands, there are an additional fifty smaller islands and cays dotting the waters making them ideal for exploration via sailboat.
Getting there involves flying into Saint Thomas and ferrying over to Saint John. As a result, the island really feels off the beaten path. You can also arrive in Saint John by cruise ship, but it receives the fewest cruise ships of the three main islands.
If you are staying at one of only four resorts on Saint John, it is still easy to get around without renting a car. There is a regular flow of taxis from the resorts to the beaches of which there are fourty-four to be exact. If you do decide to rent a car, be sure to drive on the left side of the road. Due to regional influence from the nearby British Virgin Islands, they still drive on the left side in the U.S. Virgin Islands, even though it is a U.S. territory and a former territory of Denmark.
We stayed at The Westin Saint John Resort Villas where there was no shortage of family friendly activities including sand art, water trampolines, tennis lessons, water sports, and hair braiding, and when you need some adult time, you can send your kids off to The Westin Family Kids Club. Golf carts are readily available to shuttle you around the sprawling resort. Be sure to catch the sunset over Great Cruz Bay.
We took a taxi tour around the island and drove through the Virgin Islands National Park. The majority of Saint John is a 7,000 acre national park of lush forest, sandy beaches, coral reefs, and hiking trails. We hiked around the Annaberg Plantation which are now the ruins of a former sugar plantation.
The pace on Saint John is relaxed and friendly. Chickens roam freely. Drivers are slow. People make eye contact and wave, even in Cruz Bay, the main town on the island with a population of 2,743 people. My husband and I were chatting up a sale’s clerk at Made in St. John while perusing the fantastic graphics on their apparel. She explained, “People don’t angry honk here. They don’t lay on the horn all angry like back home.” For the tastiest meal we had on the island, be sure to sample Rhumb Lines. It combines the flavors of the Caribbean with that of the Pacific Rim cuisines.