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New St. John Visitor Information - 2006

First time visitors to St. John always have an enormous number of questions. The answer to most of them is “Relax!” When you stay in a villa on St. John the hardest thing you have to do is decide whether to get out of the pool to get another drink. 

This short guide is focused on answering the questions necessary to get you relaxed about your St. John vacation and keeping you relaxed while you are on the island. We do not cover villa or car rental, that’s another exercise. We continue to visit every year (or more!) and bring new friends. There are a lot of questions and many of the answers from messages boards and other non-verified sources come across to us as whacky, obsessive, and frequently wrong. So, here we go adding to the confusion. We address:

This write-up was inspired by the inevitable questions that friends and family come up with every year. If you find anything that is incorrect send me a note. If you disagree with some of my opinions, write up your own version and I’ll link to you in the Spot the Loony category. You can even send a note if you like what I’ve done. But, first and foremost, this is for our friends and family (openings are available!).

Packing

We pack as little as possible for our St. John trips. If you run out or forget something there are plenty of places to pick something up. Prices run from the same to 20% more than prices at home. The highest prices are on the most perishable items. The items below are what we bring. If you have special needs or fetishes by all means accommodate them. We carry all of our bags on the plane. If the TSA is still restricting lotions and gels we’ll probably check all of our luggage.

 Provided by the villa – don’t pack

  • Washer/Dryer
  • Beach towels
  • Bath towels
  • Ice chest
  • Beach chairs (usually – check with your rental agency)

Pragmatic packing – Individual adult/older child

  • Wear long pants, Teva sandals/walking shoes, light jacket on plane
    • We wear pants that zip off into shorts as one of our pair of shorts to pack
    • Tevas with socks are plenty warm, no second pair of shoes needed
    • Unless you are going bushwacking through the dry areas with lots of cactus, hiking boots are not needed
  • 2 sets of snorkel gear per snorkel bag – carry-on
    • Fins
    • Mask
    • Snorkel
    • Water shoes
    • Defogger solution
  • Knapsack – carry-on
    • Passport
    • Wallet
      • Driver’s License
      • Credit Card
      • ATM Card
      • Cash - $500
    • Bathing suit
    • 2 pairs shorts
    • 3 t-shirts
    • 2 button up “nice” shirts – tropical wear
    • 5 sets underwear
    • Toiletries
      • Shampoo
      • Conditioner
      • Soap
      • Toothbrush
      • Toothpaste
      • Dental Floss
      • Comb/brush
      • Bandaids
      • First aid cream
      • Bottle opener
      • Corkscrew
    • Sunscreen
      • Coppertone Spectra SPF 50 for Ana’s face
      • Coppertone Sport SPF 30 for the kids
      • Coppertone Sport SPF 15 for Rick
      • Dark tanning oil SPF 4 for Christine
    • Sunglasses
    • Hat – everyone needs a hat, it is bloody hot
    • Books
      • St. John: Feet, Fins and Four Wheel Drive by Pam Gaffin
      • St. John Off the Beaten Track – Gerald Singer
      • National Geographic – Virgin Islands National Park Map
      • National Park maps from www.nps.gov
      • Trail Bandit map
      • Buttermilk pancake recipe
    • Rick’s extras
      • Water stone for sharpening house knives
      • Ground coffee – the good stuff
      • Kan Kooler – keeping those cold while floating in the ocean
      • Stash of zip lock bags
      • Mobile phone and battery charger
      • Camera and battery charger
      • CDs
      • MP3 player with patch cord

Kid factor – Little people need more infrastructure

  • Passport
  • Authorization to travel with single parent (if both parents are not traveling with a child) – not strictly required and we never get asked for them
  • Car seat
  • Flotation – some big people like this too
  • Game boy
  • Diapers/swimmies – you can buy most brands at Starfish Market
  • Books
  • Toys
  • Comfort blanket/item

Getting to St. John from St. Thomas

Landing in St. Thomas you are greeted with a little bit of controlled chaos. Once you walk the 200 feet from you airplane through the security gate you are greeted with the Cruzan Rum welcome stand. Take a rum punch and a deep breath – you are in the Caribbean. Keep walking to your left and you will come to the luggage claim area. The snack bar there has cold Red Stripes, Pain Killers and snacks. It’s going to take about 20 minutes for all of the luggage to come out. Relax, have a Red Stripe. Bathrooms are next to the snack bar. Take this time to call your villa company and let them know you landed. They will meet you at the ferry dock in Cruz Bay, St. John. 

Taxi cabs are directly adjacent to the luggage claim area. Wait until you have all of your baggage and people together. Find the dispatcher and tell him how many people you have. Your destination is the St. John Ferry. There are two St. John Ferries – Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook. We prefer Charlotte Amalie. It’s a longer ride and can be a little rough, but its fun. We end up taking the Red Hook ferry half the time because it runs more often. The cab driver will know which one to take you to. 

Charlotte Amalie Ferry

  • Leaving Charlotte Amalie - 9AM, 11AM, 1PM, 2PM, 3PM, 4PM, 5:30PM
  • Leaving Cruz Bay – 7:15AM, 9:15AM, 11:15AM, 1:15PM, 2:15PM, 3:30PM

Red Hook Ferry – every hour on the hour 

As you ride across the sound on the ferry take a look at St. John ahead of you. Cruz Bay is straight ahead. Great Cruz Bay, Chocolate Hole and Hart Bay are to the right counter-clockwise around the island. To the left is Soloman, Honeymoon and the Caneel Bay resort bays followed by Hawksnest, Jumbie, Trunk, Cinnamon and Big Maho bays down the North Shore Road.

Attitude and Island time

Embracing island time is key to enjoying your vacation. There is a particular attitude in the Virgin Islands that is embodied in Island Time. You’re going to get off the plane and be pretty hyper for the next day or so. Remember that you are in a different world now. There are two important things to remember: 

  • “Good Day” – when you walk in to a store, go to a bar or restaurant or interact with someone you greet them. No “hello” or “how are you,” just “Good Day,” “Good Evening” or “Good Morning.” It’s the local custom – if you don’t do it you may be ignored by the person you are trying to talk to.
  • “Island Time” – things move slower in the islands. Generally the West Indians (black-skinned locals) will move at a pace that seems reasonable to them. “Soon come” means have another drink and whatever you’re waiting for will be there soon.
  • “Limin’” – the act of relaxing with a drink in your hand. You are not doing nothin’, you are actively Limin’.

Where things are in Cruz Bay and the South Shore

The island is divided between Cruz Bay, South Shore, North Shore, Annaberg, Coral Bay, East End, and Rams Head. There are really only two roads on the island – the North Shore Road and Centerline Road. Everyone uses road names; the route numbers that you see on maps are something the Federal folks draw on maps. 

The best map of the island is the National Geographic Virgin Islands National Park map. It is a professionally produced topographic map that’s very useful if you are looking to do back country hiking. Otherwise, the free downloadable National Park maps are great.

http://www.nps.gov/applications/hafe/hfc/carto-detail.cfm?Alpha=VIIS#

Cruz Bay – as the ferry pulls into the Cruz Bay ferry dock you will see St. John’s downtown. You can walk across it in 5 minutes. You are not going to find a map of Cruz Bay, it’s too small.

  • From the ferry dock looking right you are going to see beach front restaurants, bars and shops called Wharfside Village. The last spot to the right is the Beach Bar with great drinks and good snacks. The golden retriever from the dive shop next door will stop by for a french fry. There are spots to sit in the shade or on the beach. I usually park the gang here while I get the rental car.
     
  • Your rental agent will meet you at the ferry dock and walk with you to the rental car company. To get to Conrad Sutton’s you walk down the ferry dock and take right down the first street. If you see a street sign, it will be marked Strand Street. Turn left at the stop sign (the Beach Bar is on your right) and walk past the Fish Trap Restaurant to Conrad Sutton’s on your left. It will look like a shack with some clean rental jeeps parked behind it. Saturday is busy time, so say “Good Day” to Mr. Sutton, Mrs. Sutton and their daughter and fill out your paper work. All of the drivers will need to sign the paper work in order to drive. But, you can stop back by after you pick up your luggage if you need to. You’ll be driving by no matter what.
     
  • Once you get your car you’ll pull out of Mr. Sutton’s lot to the left (it’s a one-way street). At the stop sign notice some important land marks to your right
    • 1st Bank with ATM on the corner to the right
    • Scotia Bank next to 1st Bank
    • Across the street catty corner you’ll see Woody’s Seafood Saloon. You can’t miss it, there will be people in the street drinking happy hour beers
    • Connections on your left

  • Continue straight through the stop sign (don’t turn right, you’ll miss the ferry dock and have to come around again) and make a left at the next stop sign. Landmarks:
    • US Post Office on your left
    • Uncle Joe’s BBQ across the street to your right
    • On the right is a South American bar with Soca music blaring, cheap beers!
       
  • Continue down the road to the left and look for the ferry dock. Load your gear up, pick up your people and follow your villa rental agent to the villa. You’ll drive the way you walked to Conrad Sutton’s and make a right at the bank. Watch for the partiers at Woody’s happy hour. Next door is La Tapa downstairs and Quiet Mon Pub upstairs. Further up is the Front Yard bar (good late night music and a younger crowd), the police station, the public school on the right and the Texaco gas station. Going straight up the hill will take you to Centerline Hill. Across the street from the Texaco station is Dolphin Market and the Drug Store. We’re going to the villas, so take a right at the Texaco station, where South Shore Road starts.

The South Shore – The South Shore stretches from Great Cruz Bay to Reef Bay. It’s about a 1/10th of the islands shore, most of the rental housing and none of the post card beaches. It’s a great location because it sees great sunsets, is close to Cruz Bay and its amenities and only a 15 minute drive to the amazing North Shore beaches. I’ll talk you from the Texaco, past Starfish Market, Pine Peace, the Westin and Chocolate Hole.

  • From the Texaco you’ll pass The Inn at Tamarind Court on your left. This is a place that Christine and I stay occasionally. They have a nice courtyard with a bar that serves strong and cheap rum drinks.
     
  • Down the hill towards the public works at Enighed Pond you’ll pass the new commercial barge dock on the right and the Starfish Market on the left.
     
  • Continue down the road past another gas station and up breakneck hill. You'll pass the Pine Peace Market on your left. Do NOT follow cars up breakneck hill. Some cars need more than one try to make it up. Ask Rick about the dump truck wheelie on this hill.
     
  • Over breakneck hill you are looking down on Great Cruz Bay. The Westin is on the beach here. The Garvins are staying up the hill on the left about 800 feet up in Virgin Grand Estates.
     
  • Past the Westin and up the next hill you will see some large dumpsters on the left. This is where you’ll have to haul your own trash. Over the next hill is Chocolate Hole on your right. Le Lapin is on the hill to the left of Chocolate Hole and Dolphin Run a little bit further down Bovocoap Point on the saddle between Hart Bay and Devers Bay. Both of these houses look to be down Chocolate Hole East Road.
     
  • There’s a swimmable beach at Chocolate Hole Bay beach with some parking.
     
  • Continuing on past Chocolate Hole East Road you’ll come to Gift Hill Road on your left. This is a steep switch back road that you can take to Centerline Road, bypassing Cruz Bay.

Rams Head – Looking down the south shore from your villa you will see two major peninsulas - Ditleff Point is the first and Rams Head is in the distance. You can drive out the South Shore Road to the Fish Bay Road and get to Ditleff Point. It is privately owned but development has not yet started. Further down Fish Bay Road you can get all the way to Reef Bay where you will run out of road. While you can see Rams Head, it is actually the farthest point on the island driving-wise. 

Groceries & Booze

There are three main grocery stores in Cruz Bay with Starfish Market being the largest by far. Starfish Market is the size of a neighborhood grocery with everything you might need. They are very well stocked, have ready made foods, seafood, meat department, deli department and take credit cards. Dolphin Market is across the street from the Texaco next to the drug store. Pine Peace Market is right before breakneck hill and has very good prices on staples – this is where I buy dried beans and such. Don’t buy more milk than you can use in 3 days – it goes sour fast on the island. Never put limes in your refrigerator, they will turn bad very quickly – on the counter is the way to go. 

We usually do a big shopping trip the first day we get on the island. Since we cook most of our meals in, the grocery bill is big, but smaller than two dinners out for 8. We’ll get everyone together before we leave and give everyone a chance to tweak the shopping list. Everyone pitches money into a grocery kitty for the week. One or two people head to the grocery store once we get checked in to the villa. One or two more stops during the week covers all of the groceries. We keep the kitty money and all receipts in an envelope and settle the tabs at the end of the trip.

Grocery & Liquor Shopping List 

I like to buy the first big beer and liquor order from Mixology Warehouse - (340)714-5985. They have a website and email address, but it’s best to stick to telephone orders with these folks. I’ll place an order a week ahead and have them have it ready for pickup the day we get there. Mixology is near The Lumberyard. If you take a left at the Texaco you’ll see them on the right in the blue building with parking out front. We stock up on Cruzan, Mount Gay and Goslings Rum, Vodka for Bloody Marys, Champagne for Mimosas and plenty of beer in cans for the beach. 

St. John Ice is in The Lumberyard proper and has great prices on block and cube ice. 

Mobile Phones and Long Distance

Mobile phone coverage depends on your provider and your location. In general, GSM providers have the best coverage. That means Cingular and T-Mobile (roaming on Cingular). Sprint advertises coverage as well. Verizon has no coverage. Cingular has a cool roaming calculator that tells you what coverage you have on each leg of a trip given the location and your device. My BlackBerry 8700 has voice and data (damn) coverage in the VI. Verizon phones will occasionally successfully roam to a BVI-base service that charges exhorbitant roaming fees.

Generally, mobile phones will only work if you have clear line of site to St. Thomas. If your villa is on the South Shore or Coral Bay you may not get signal there, even if your mobile phone works great in Cruz Bay or on a North Shore Beach. When we stayed in Villa Caribe in 2005 on the South Shore we had to stand at the West end of the deck to get a signal.

Long distance is easy. Your villa will have a telephone that can receive calls and make local calls. You can pickup a $5 phone card at the grocery store that will last for about 75 minutes of calls to the US.

Villa

So, how do these villa things work? Your rental company will meet you at the ferry dock and guide you to your villa. Villas have names, not addresses that anyone could actually find. Make certain that you pay attention to the route you take out to your villa. The driveways up to villas tend to be steep and exciting. Pay careful attention to wet conditions; these roads get very slippery when they are wet. Your rental agent will walk you through the house and show you things you need to know. It’s best to write out your questions for the rental agent ahead of time, since there will be a lot going on and it’s easy to forget the important stuff. 

Villas provide everything you need to enjoy the house – linens, bath towels, beach towels, washer/dryer, fully equipped kitchen and a gas grill. If you need a crib or any special gear its best to have the villa rental company make the arrangements. If there are any problems give them a call and they will respond briskly. I bring a sharpening stone to put an edge on the knives, which are usually quite dull. You will have a working telephone at the villa that you can use for local calls. Connections and Starfish Market sell long distance phone cards. GSM phones (Cingular, T-Mobile) generally work well where there is line of site to St. Thomas. Verizon and Nextel subscribers are generally out of luck. 

What’s unusual about a villa on St. John?

  • Cistern: The biggest item is that all of the water for the villa comes from a cistern. This is water collected off the roof that goes into a big cement tank. An electric pump pushes the water through a filter and then into the houses plumbing. Electricity tends to go off once or twice a visit for a couple of hours. When you lose power do not run the water! If the pump loses its prime you’ll need to go through an elaborate ritual in order to get the water running again. We drink cheap filtered water available by the gallon at the grocery store. We start with 8 gallons and go through it fast.
     
  • Swimming Pool: Having a swimming pool is pretty cool. Make certain you know where the pump room is in case you need to reset a breaker after a power outage. There are usually about 40 more light switches than makes sense. Have the rental agent show you how to turn the exterior lights on and off. If you have a hot tub, check out the cover and see how to take it on and off as well as secure it. If you have small people make certain you know how to secure the doors outside to the pool.
     
  • Where’s the beach?: It’s right down there. On St. John you place the house of the view and then select on of the 52 beaches to drive to.
     
  • Enormous Glass Doors: When we went to St. John the first time in 1997 Elizabeth was almost 6. She took a good running start and ran head first into an enormous sliding glass door, which rang like a bell. She has a lump on her forehead in those pictures.
     
  • Eastern exposure: If you have an Eastern exposure that sun is going to come up over Rams Head at about 5:45AM. Consider this when assigning rooms.
     
  • Western exposure: Sunsets are a really good reason to gather for drinks and look for the green flash when the sun goes below the horizon.
     
  • Night skies: There’s almost no light pollution. You will see more stars than anywhere else and one or two shooting stars per night.
     
  • Wild life: The ki-kwi of frogs gets pretty loud at night. Iguanas are about. Bats will skim over your pool for a drink of water. Banaquits will come by and eat sugar out of a bowl if you leave it out for them.
     
  • Biting bugs: If there is no wind, the no-see-ums come out at dawn and dusk on the beaches. Houses on the hills need not worry. Mosquitoes are generally about when there is no breeze, but they are not as bad as Virginia in August.

A typical day on St. John

It’s a vacation – Relax! You can do anything you want, but this is a model day for us:

  • First person up makes coffee
     
  • Step out onto the pool deck and be amazed that you are here
     
  • Make some Bloody Marys and Mimosas to enjoy while you make breakfast
     
  • Kids in the pool before breakfast
     
  • Eat breakfast on the pool deck in your bathing suit
     
  • Pack lunch and drinks in the ice chest, alcohol allowed on the beaches, but no glass!!
     
  • Head out to the beach at around 9:30. Up Gift Hill Road for the Francis Bay, Big Maho Bay, East End and out toward Salt Pond and Lameshur Bays. Down North Shore Road for Hawksnest, Jumbie, Trunk and Cinnamon Bays. Most beaches are 15 minutes away
     
  • Enjoy the beach and snorkeling as long as you can stand it, but leave before the no-see-ums come out
  • Back at the house by 4 or 5 for happy hour and sunset celebration
     
  • Dinner at the villa or at a restaurant
     
  • Kids to bed and drinks under the stars or pop down the hill to some live music at the Beach Bar or Front Yard, body shots on the bar at Woody’s.

Driving on St. John

Yes, you drive on the left. It takes about 30 seconds to get used to. This is much easier than driving in England. The speed limit on the island is 20 MPH, the driver sits on the left side and Conrad Sutton has nice stickers on the wind shield that say “We still drive on the left.” Watch out for idiot tourists on the North Shore Road. Maggie had a guy whip around a curve on the wrong side on our 1997 trip. 

The roads are steep, windy and slippery. Use 4WD when the roads are wet. Turn it off when the roads are dry or you’ll use that gas up fast. When you go around a sharp turn or there’s any kind of blind spot beep your horn first. 

If you have any kind of problem or “mash up” (car accident), let your car rental company know right away, even if it’s a small scratch. Honesty is the most important thing to the island people. We had a problem with a broken light one year and we were not charged because we let them know right away. 

The rest of the island

St. John is 8 miles long and has two roads. Drive down both of them and check out the sites. It’s a long 8 miles because you dip into so many coves on the North Shore Road. On the Centerline Road you go across the ridgeline that is the backbone of the island. There’s a lot to see and it’s a good idea to do a circumnavigation early in the trip. It should take all of an hour. 

North Shore – Runs from Cruz Bay to Big Maho Bay. These are the picture post card beaches with a pull-off at every view. On a sunny day stop and take those pictures. Expect to see lots of cruise ship loaded jitneys on this road. The North Shore Road takes a long climb up the mountain towards Centerline Road starting at Big Maho Bay. You’ll see signs for Annaberg and Francis Bay, Cruz Bay and Coral Bay. 

Annaberg and Francis Bay – From Centerline Road and North Shore Road you can take the road to Annaberg and Francis Bay. Francis Bay is a beautiful long sandy beach. Maho Bay Campground is off of the Francis Bay Road. Maho Bay campground is rustic, but serves an extremely good breakfast. Annaberg is a restored sugar plantation with park rangers providing interpretation. You can walk from the Annaberg parking lot about 1 ½ miles on a flat trail to Leinster Bay with its awesome snorkeling 

Coral Bay – St. John’s second city; Callabash Boom is the third, uhhh, wide spot in the Salt Pond Bay Road. Coral Bay is funkier and more laid back than Cruz Bay. There are a bunch of great lunch spots, horseback riding stables, dinghy rentals and the roads to East End and Salt Pond Bays. 

East End – when Coral Bay is not remote enough for you, bear left at the Coral Bay intersection, drive past Skinny Legs and keep on going. The ride out to East End follows a narrow ridge with great views of the BVIs, Tortola and Jost Van Dyke. Vie’s Snack Shack it out that way on Hansen Bay. She’s open Tuesday-Saturday. Her family has a very nice beach with some of the best snorkeling on the island. But, it’s hot! 

Salt Pond and Lameshur Bays – Bear right at the Coral Bay intersection and drive through the Clam Dip for 3 or so miles and you’ll see a big parking lot at Salt Pond Bay. If you keep driving you’ll run out of paved road at the Lameshur Bay Road. 

Favorite beaches

Check out www.stjohnbeachguide.com for a definitive list of beaches. There are 52 beaches on the island. Some of the best are the easiest to get to. When one side of the island has surf, the other side will be clear. Even if the surf is not dangerous it will churn up the water and make snorkeling a problem. Our favorites are:

  • Easy access – Rick and Christine’s favorites
     
    • Francis Bay– drive up access, big sandy beach, toilets, fair snorkeling close, good snorkeling a swim. Generally calm, even when there is a North swell.
       
    • Big Maho Bay– drive up access, big sand beach, good snorkeling close. Generally calm, even when there is a North swell.
       
    • Hawksnest Bay - drive up access, big sandy beach, toilets, fair snorkeling close, good night snorkeling
       
    • Jumbie Bay– only 4 parking spots, stairs to the beach, good snorkeling with small sandy beach
       
    • Little Lameshur– as far from Cruz Bay as you can go down an unpaved road, but the park service put in toilets, grills and parking is next to the beach. Faces South so no North swell!
       
    • Hansen Bay– right near Vie’s snack shack. You pay a small per person fee on this privately owned beach. Some Coral to the left of the beach, awesome coral around the point to the right, Pelican rock 200 yards out has great coral as well. Very calm water and close to parking, great learn to snorkel spot. In Coral Bay, so no North swell.
       
  • Best Snorkeling
     
    • Leinster Bay & Waterlemon Cay– the guide books gush over this one because of the variety, best first thing in the morning. It is a hike down a narrowing trail, but worth it.
       
    • Devers Bay/Chocolate Hole Bay – the point between these two bays is deep and impressive with some large fish, nurse sharks, groupers, etc. It’s a 15 minute swim out
       
    • Hart Bay– if the surf is down this is a great snorkel. Though I’ve tried, I have not been able to get in since 1997
       
  • Big and sometimes crowded
     
    • Trunk Bay– the big picture post card beach with the underwater snorkeling trail that gets mobbed by cruise ship day trips
       
    • Cinnamon Bay– not so crowded, but a good walk from the parking lot. It has nice facilities with toilets and showers. The T’ree Frogs restaurant has nice lunches and there is a camp store with provisions.
       
  • Worth visiting
     
    • Salt Pond Bay– hot climb down a 300 ft. hard trail and a hotter climb back up, but a nice spot with some good snorkeling. The Rams Head hike is a great early morning exercise with a swim in the bay afterwards
       
    • Haulover Bay– on the East End Road, the narrowest part of the island, cobblestone beach with lots of hermit crabs on the trail to the North side
       
    • Great Cruz Bay– at the Westin resort, this man made beach is a groomed sandy spot. There’s a beach bar that’s pretty quiet and big hotel amenities.

Special activities

Some folks need more distraction than beaches, snorkeling, eating and drinking. I don’t quite understand them, but here it goes. 

Day sails – think of it as an extended mobile snorkeling trip. There is a variety of half day, full day, sunset and BVI sails. The BVI sails go to some very fun islands like Jost Van Dyke, but you have to deal with customs and immigration. Connections, Maho Bay Campground, the Westin Hotel, Cruz Bay Watersports (also scuba) do booking. There are some nice half day power boat excursions with a focus on snorkeling that you can book through these folks as well:

Dinghy Rental – You can rent a dinghy with a decent engine for a half day (~$75) or full day ($125) to hop beaches and snorkel the outlying keys.

Horseback riding – This is an Elizabeth favorite. The stable is in Coral Bay and they have a big variety of horses, mainly rescued horses. Elizabeth loves Houdini

Fishing – Deep sea fishing is 3 miles from the dock, rather than 65 miles like back home. It’s normal to catch mahi mahi, tuna, mackerel and wahoo. Sometimes marlin and sailfish are taken. Rates are usually around $500 for a half day including captain, mate, bait, tackle, ice, beer, drinks and fuel.

Favorite restaurants and bars

We tend to eat lunch out a lot more than dinner. This has everything to do with the happy hour/sunset/limin’ time attitude.

  • Skinny Legs in Coral Bay – awesome burgers, mahi mahi sandwich and a funky environment. Elizabeth and Ana love this place and beg to go more than once. A great spot for lunch if you are at Francis or Big Maho, horseback riding, or out Salt Pond Bay way.
     
  • Island Blues in Coral Bay – more variety than Skinny Legs with a fryer, so they have French Fries. A nice spot with good service and fun locals at the bar.
     
  • Sweet Plantain’s in Coral Bay – we’ve never been there, but the reviews are good.
     
  • Shipwreck Landing – the most remote restaurant out towards Salt Pond Bay. Very good seafood and a great environment. If Donna is still working the bar, she is a Maryland native.
     
  • Maho Bay Campground– great breakfast, Ana’s favorite pancakes.
     
  • JJ’s Texas Coast Café in Cruz Bay – tex mex with a good breakfast and inexpensive lunch and dinner.
     
  • Chilly Willy’s in the Lumberyard – great breakfast. Only breakfast.
     
  • Uncle Joe’s BBQ in Cruz Bay – great takeout ribs and chicken with peas and rice. If you are looking for a good dinner to take back to the house this is highly recommended. It usually takes about 45 minutes for them to get your order together. Have a beer and take a walk – open alcohol is legal in the VI!
     
  • The Fish Trap in Cruz Bay – good reputation, family owned, fresh fish.
     
  • The Lime Inn in Cruz Bay – all you can eat shrimp on Wednesday packs them in. Good seafood and steaks.
     
  • Tage in Cruz Bay – we’ve never tried it, but the reviews are good
     
  • Zozo’s at Gallows Point – nice, but expensive. Does not do large groups well.
     
  • La Tapa next to Woody’s – our favorite. Fine dining, great wine list, and garlic w/olive oil pasta that the kids love.

Favorite bars – bars on St. John are very casual. You get a drink, you hang around. If you have a glass rather than a plastic cup (rare) and you’re ready to go to the next bar, ask for a to-go cup. Open alcohol is legal in the VI, walk down the street and drink that beer with pride. Most of the restaurants that we mention have a bar as well. You can pretty much pick the bar by your mood.

  • The Beach Bar– sitting outdoors watching the ferry come and go while a beach dog begs for a French fry. Michelle there knows Christine and I well enough that she gets out the Mount Gay Rum when she sees us coming. The beach and water are right there.
     
  • Woody’s– Calmer during the day, happy hour kicks things up, and at night not all of the clothes stay on. Twin brother’s Chad and Todd run the place. The ladies that serve the drinks are great and attentive, even when the crowd overflows the sidewalk into the street. They have a to-go window. This is Elizabeth and Ana’s favorite spot for strawberry daiquiris (Hold the rum! Hold the rum! She’s not old enough). Famous happy hour from 3-5 with $1 domestic and $2 import beers.
     
  • The Quiet Mon– Rastafarian Irish bar. Good beers and a nice perch above the street. Open late, lunch only.
     
  • The Front Yard – Good local music with lots of space. Open late, younger crowd, lots of Jaegermeister.
     
  • Morgan’s Mango – Foofoo drinks half price marguerita’s Thursday nights. Not as friendly as it used to be.
     
  • Zozo’s bar – worth mentioning because of the view and the elegant setting. It sits atop the restaurant and showcases the St. Thomas view. Great tasting martinis that run to $12.

Information resources

  • Maps
  • Message Boards – ask any question, you’ll get answers that might even be right!!

 

 
 
  Copyright © 2006 Rick Garvin