St. John, USVI Cruise Port Guide

If you’re booked on one of the many Caribbean cruises that includes St. John or St. Thomas, here’s how to spend your day in St. John. This post will help you discover the best things to do in St. John and what makes this small island so special.

There are two ways to visit to St. John when you’re on a cruise; via a ship’s tender (lifeboat) or take the ferry from St. Thomas. I’ll explain both methods in this article. 

Bright yellow Virgin Islands National Park Visitor Center on St John, USVI.

Over two million people visit St. John, USVI every year and it’s no wonder why. Tropical beaches, a rich history, and a variety of land activities are only a few reasons why this is such a popular destination.

There are only two ways to visit St. John when you’re on a cruise. Why? There aren’t any cruise ship docks in St. John. So how do you get there?

How to Get to St. John, USVI from Offshore

It’s usually only smaller cruise ships that drop anchor just offshore of St. John. Your ship will provide the transportation.

Just gather up your beach towel, water bottle, aqua shoes and make your way down to Deck 1 or 2. Then carefully step aboard a bobbing tender (life boat) that will take you into port.

If your ship has timed shore excursion tender departures, it’s best to follow your assigned time to ensure a smooth transition from ship to shore. 

How to Get to St. John from St. Thomas

If your ship docks in St. Thomas and you want to visit St. John, it’s important to know where you will dock in St. Thomas. That’s because from St. Thomas, you will need to take a ferry to St. John. 

St. Thomas has two cruise ship docks. Depending on which cruise ship you’re on, you will either dock at The West India Company Dock, a.k.a Havensight, or Crown Bay.

Both of these docks are located on the south side of St. Thomas. 

Havensight pier in St. Thomas is the larger of the two docks. Crown Bay is a bit smaller but not too far away from Havensight and from downtown.

There is a large shopping mall at both piers with many excursion booths. These booths are where you’ll be able to locate tickets for the ferry to St. John. 

The ferry departs from Red Hook, St. Thomas and is only a 10- to 20-minute taxi ride away from the cruise ports.

The ferry from Red Hook over to St. John takes about 45 minutes. You can also purchase your ferry tickets at Red Hook, too. 

Best Things to Do in St. John USVI

Start at the St. John Visitor’s Center

St. John is practically one big U.S. National Park, and contained therein lies the aptly named the Virgin Islands National Park. The Park Service office is located right at the dock. 

I suggest a brief stop at the Park Service Visitor’s Center to pick up a map. Just outside of the Visitor’s Center is the trail head that leads to various National Park beaches. 

This path takes you along a meandering tropical trail, traversing high plateaus overlooking the white sand beaches and sparkling aquamarine water.

Off-trail paths lead downhill to various beaches. My advice: bring a towel, wear walking shoes, stay on the path and bring water as there aren’t any cafes or vending machines. Facilities are limited to restrooms.

Where to Shop in St. John

Near the Visitor Center

If you don’t feel like hiking, there is always shopping. Despite the fact that it was Easter Sunday when I was there, the tourist shops adjacent to the dock area were open.

Simply turn left out from the dock, walk along the narrow sidewalk about twenty yards and you’ll come upon the shopping mall.

Nestled under a canopy of trees, if you don’t feel like shopping, is a nice place to sit and relax in the shade.

Quiet sitting area at St. John USVI Ocean Grill and mall.

Other St. John Shopping Areas

Mongoose Junction and Wharfside Landing are the two main shopping areas in St. John. Mongoose Junction is an open-air shopping center.

Here you’ll find handcrafted goods, jewelry stores, art galleries, clothing stores, restaurants, and bars. Stroll through the boutique-style shops on the island for T-shirts, Caribbean souvenirs, one-of-a-kind art pieces, and unique jewelry. 

If you’re mainly looking for souvenirs, the stores along the street side of Wharfside Landing are your best bet.

If you really want to experience as much as possible on your visit, here are my suggestions on what to do in St. John in one day. 

Go Exploring on Your Own

Once your ferry lands in St. John it’s time to explore! St. John is known for turquoise white sand beaches and lush foliage. There are tons of places to explore and great local food to taste. Continue reading for the thirteen best things to do in St. John. 

Virgin Islands National Park

You’ll find the entrance to the park right where you come ashore if you’re on the ship’s tender. Approximately 60% of St. John’s island is protected as Virgin Islands National Park. Here, there is a total of 12,624 acres of marine and land area consisting of hiking trails, pristine beaches, vegetation, and coral reefs.

There are around 22 hiking trails over 20 miles of land that you can explore. A majority of these trails are also family-friendly so feel free to bring the kids along for an adventure! 

The Reef Bay Trail is a popular but longer hike. It descends from the top of the island, through plantation ruins, all the way to the sea. You’ll also pass by old ruins and during the rainy months, you’ll see a beautiful waterfall.

The Virgin Islands National Park is being proactively protected by many different organizations. As a staple in St. John and covering a majority of the island, it is very important to maintain and protect the ecosystem and wildlife here. However, tourists are welcome to enjoy the nature and beauty of this national park.

Cruz Bay a.k.a “Love City”

Cruz Bay is the perfect first place to visit because it’s where your ferry will dock when you land. Cruz bay (Love City) is the main town of St. John. Many spend the day strolling around the quaint streets and popping in and out of the local boutiques for souvenirs. 

Admire the local street art and be sure to visit the Elaine Ione Sprauve Library. This library has a wide range of exhibits and is the ideal place to learn more about the history and culture of St. John. 

There are also many delicious restaurants in Cruz Bay that you can treat yourself to only a short walk away from the ferry dock.

After dinner, head to Wharfside Village for drinks and dancing. With everything this town has to offer, you’re sure to fall in love with Love City. 

Best Beaches in St. John

Trunk Bay Beach

Trunk Bay Beach is one of the most iconic beaches in all of St. John. This beach is located on the north side of the island. It runs about a quarter-mile long and is surrounded by turquoise foliage that has an unspoiled ecosystem.

Even if you’ve never been to St. John, you’ll recognize Trunk Bay because it is the most photographed area on the entire island, featured on most of the brochures and travel guides.

Feel free to spend the day relaxing on the pristine white sandy beach or choose to enjoy the many popular water activities including snorkeling, kayaking, and canoeing. 

You can also head over to the small island just near the shore with an underwater trail called Coral Reef Underwater Park Trail. This underwater attraction is perfect for a day of snorkeling.

You can get to Trunk Bay by bus from Cruz Bay. Be sure to get there a little early as parking can fill up quickly. Admission to the beach is $5, and it can get crowded in the afternoon. 

Maho Bay

Maho Bay is known to be one of the more popular and scenic beaches in all of the USVI. However, it is a place you can escape the crowds of Trunk Bay if you’re looking for a quieter place to relax.

Maho Beach and Maho Bay are known for its sea life. It has an abundance of sea turtles, including some endangered species. You’ll also be able to see various species of fish and maybe even a stingray! Overall, this is a great beach to go snorkeling or kayaking if you want to see some underwater life. 

At this beach, you’ll also be able to rent chairs and find a local shop to get a quick bite or drink. This beach is reachable by car and there is parking available.

Honeymoon Beach

Honeymoon Beach is close to Cruz Bay however feels much more secluded. You can get to this beach by car or bus, however many opt for the 1-mile hike on the Lind Point Trail. 

This beach is home to the few remaining palm trees left on the island after Hurricane Maria. Its crystal blue water and rocky, sandy shores make for a beautiful retreat from the town. 

Feel free to rent stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, and deck chairs. If you get hungry or thirsty, make sure you check out Bikinis or the Beach Bar & Grill for some island cocktails and great seasonal food.

Coral Bay

Coral Bay is located on the opposite side of Cruz Bay and the ferry dock. You can get to Coral Bay by car or taxi. Plan for a ride of about 20-30 minutes. 

Although it has less shopping and amenities than Cruz Bay, it is the perfect place to stay if you’re looking to get away from the crowds. 

The most popular attraction in Coral Bay is Salt Pond Beach. While Salt Pond Beach may not have the white sandy beaches you’re looking for, this area is critical to St. John’s ecosystem and is rich with history. 

Carolina Corral

If you want to spend your day hanging out with animals, then Carolina Corral is the place for you! This place is a home for domestic animals in need on the beautiful island of St. John. 

Here, you’ll be able to purchase horseback riding tours along the shoreline of Coral Bay. You’ll also be able to interact with donkeys, sheep, goats, cats, dogs, and hogs that live on the farm. 

This is a great place for families to go with their children for education and for fun!

Hurricane Hole

If you love to kayak, then Hurricane Hole is the place for you. Hurricane Hole, located close to Coral Bay, has calmer waters which are perfect for kayaking first-timers.

Don’t be surprised to see starfish, barracudas, snapper fish, and more. There are also some mangroves you can check out that are rich with coral reefs, particularly in Princess Bay. 

Waterlemon Cay

Waterlemon Cay is the best place for diving on the island. While there aren’t sandy beaches (bring your water shoes!), you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the underwater sea life of St. John.

You’ll see beautiful tropical fishes, turtles, coral reefs, and more. Because this area is so rich in marine life, you’ll want to keep an eye out for sharks! Be sure to bring a friend along for the adventure. 

Where to Eat in St. John’s

St. John is full of amazing local Caribbean flavors and restaurants with a beautiful view. A popular restaurant, Lime Out Taco Boat, is located in Coral Bay.

This floating restaurant is only accessible by boat and has some of the best tacos on the whole island. Located 100 yards offshore, you’ll see people arrive by their own boat and sit at the attached floating pontoon bar. 

But don’t despair. There is a shuttle boat at the bay that will take you there for a few dollars each way.

If you’re craving a burger, visit the popular, Skinny Legs, for the best burgers on the island. High Tide, Seafood Grill, and Aqua Bistro are favorites among locals and tourists craving something delicious.

If you’re feeling thirsty after all of this food, head over to St. John’s Brewers for some refreshing craft island beer. This brewery has been around for over twenty years and has some delicious tropical flavors you’ve got to try. 

When is the Best Time to Visit St. John USVI?

The best time or best months to visit St. John USVI is in the spring, March through June. The weather is just starting to warm up, the rainy season hasn’t arrived and flowers are everywhere.

Hurricane season actually begins June 1 and runs through November 30. However, in most years, hurricane season doesn’t go into high swing late August through October.

While you might have absolutely splendid weather in St. John during those hurricane-prone months, the likelihood of rain or storms is significantly higher. Maybe not the ideal time to visit St. John, but you never know.

December through March are wonderful, slightly cooler months to visit St. John. The temps are warming, in the 70s and 80s with a nice sea breeze to cool things down. 

A Little History of St. John USVI

St. John is one of the United States Virgin Islands located in the Caribbean Sea, measuring about nine miles long and five miles wide. St. John is conveniently situated right in the center of St. Thomas and Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

The U.S. acquired St. John island from Denmark in 1917. It wasn’t long before Americans started to hear gossip about the beautiful island. By the 1930s, the tourism boom was in full swing.

Annaberg Plantation

The Annaberg Plantation is a must-see for any history buff. As mentioned earlier, St. John used to be a Denmark territory and was farmed for sugar cane.

This particular former Danish plantation, which was used to produce sugar, molasses, and rum, now stands as a museum taking you back in the early years of the Caribbean Island’s history.

The museum’s historical trail will take you around the old factory, windmills, and slave quarters of the plantation. You’ll also be able to see a collection of ruins from the island’s rich history.

The admission fee goes directly back into preserving the plantation and the history of St. John.

Why Visit St. John USVI

If your cruise is going to St. Thomas, try to plan to visit St. John. The island’s white sandy beaches, local history and culture, amazing food, shopping, and more will make you never want to leave!

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