TRAVEL JOURNAL | ST. JOHN US AND BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

This post may contain affiliate links. I only recommend products that I love. All opinions are 100% my own.

Hi friends!  I’ve so been looking forward to sharing this trip with all of you! There’s nothing like a tropical getaway to rejuvenate the soul!  My husband Jamie and I traveled to St. John U.S. Virgin Islands for a week.  It had been awhile since we had taken a trip just the two of us and we were really looking forward to relaxing and discovering new territory.

First, let me just say how amazed we were to find so many businesses open after the islands were hit by the hurricanes Maria and Irma last September.  Our original vacation rental had been booked previously with another home but unfortunately, the damages left by the hurricanes were too big to duct tape (so to speak) and they were having major issues getting supplies.  Not only were many homes left with such damages some of them were even still out of power and clean/filtered water. When we found out the news we were very bummed to hear it but totally understood considering all they had been through.  We contemplated either postponing our trip or going somewhere else for vacation for a few weeks until we finally decided to find another place of stay on St. John and proceed with the trip.  When it all came down to it, we both really wanted to explore there.  This trip was a part of our bucket list and we weren’t ready to give that up just yet.  Honestly, it couldn’t have been more perfect timing considering how badly their economy needed it after the hurricanes came through.  Many homeowners/vacation rentals and businesses were just picking themselves back up after the devastation and were left with a seriously hurt tourist season which was even more reason for us to go.  We started doing some research and making a few calls and finally found a place we could call home away from home for the week.

Vacation rental St. John USVI

WHERE WE STAYED:

We were able to book the coolest little two-story guest house that set on a cliff overlooking the water listed by HomeAway.  The top half was a living room, kitchen, and dining room area with a screened in porch to enjoy cocktails at sunset.  The second half (the downstairs) was a large brick deck perfect for catching some rays.  As you walk further down the deck, there were sliding glass doors that opened to the bedroom.  The view here also overlooked the ocean and cliffs where we would watch paddle boards, kayaks, and sailboats gliding in the nearby distance.  It was absolutely breathtaking!  You can check it out for yourself here if you’re interested in booking.  Also, the owners were very sweet and helpful providing us with lots of information on the island and it’s activities, etc.  They even had written directions on how to get back to our place from the downtown area Cruz Bay area.  And though we stayed in their guest house you wouldn’t have known they were next door unless you needed them of course!

WHERE WE ATE:

These are the places that I can personally recommend going to for a bite while you’re visiting.  

St. John:

Cooper Island:

Cooper Island Beach Club– We ate here for lunch but they do not have that menu listed on their website.  I am assuming that it changes daily depending on what’s fresh and in season.  It was very good, but I will say they do not like any changes to be made to their options so don’t be picky and try something new! 

Jost Van Dyke:

Hendo’s Hideout– We had lunch here one day too.  Good food, great service.

I wish I would have taken photos of some of the amazing food we ate, but let me be completely honest after a full day of swimming/snorkeling and day drinking we were starving for a meal so as soon as they hit the table we were attacking our plates like wild animals haha!  Something I need to work on for future trips I guess…

WHERE WE VISITED | THINGS TO DO:

National Parks:

We wanted to go to The Baths in Virgin Gorda, BVI because it was something that we had found on a Google search and it immediately became a must-see on our bucket list.  It definitely did not disappoint!  The granite boulders formed up to 40 feet in diameter!  It is a beautiful trail of natural wonders that I will never forget!

Also, there are several beaches that we visited that are National Parks!

The Baths of Virgin Gorda

Unfortunately, time began to grow short and we were unable to go to any of the other National Parks but there are tons to check out all over the islands!

 

Shopping:

There was one area near the Cruz Bay docks that had several little shops scattered about.  Mostly tourist attraction and souvenir shops. 

straw hat and bag

Mongoose Junction served as a type of mall where several shops and restaurants were found.  Big Planet, a large surf shop was one of our favorite stops to shop while we were there.

Snorkeling:

On the first day, we decided to drive around and explore Cruz Bay, St. John and the surrounding areas.  There are several bays that neighbor each other.  We stopped and snorkeled at Trunk Bay for a bit and decided to check out some of the others.  We drove as far as Maho Bay and decided we were starving so instead of stopping, we turned around.  Looking back I do wish we would have gone to Maho Bay because apparently there are lots of sea turtles there which we didn’t get to see on this trip.  

Cruises and Private Charters:

The second day we had booked a cruise charter with the Bad Kitty.  This was a group excursion that took us to Foxy’s and the Soggy Dollar Bars in Jost Van Dyke.  They served fruit and a variety of beverages.  The trip was scheduled to visit popular areas in Jost Van Dyke and snorkel. Unfortunately, the weather that day made the waters a little too rough for snorkeling so we moved onto the attractions.  The boat was clean and offered a covered area on the first deck with seating and tables.

The third day we had booked a private charter boat with Caribbean Alibi Boat Charters to take us to some of the other British Virgin Islands and do some snorkeling.  After our approval with customs, we stopped and did a little snorkeling at The Indians one of the top snorkeling areas in the BVI. It was incredible and I would highly recommend it! There was a drop off of about 60 ft. on one side of the rocks and hundreds of sea creatures waiting to be discovered.  Once we did a full circling of the rocks, we had to fight the current while swimming back to the boat.  Next stop was Cooper Island for lunch.  

After a good meal and a drink or two, we found ourselves jumping off the boat again and swimming ashore to The Baths of Virgin Gorda.  Not gonna lie here, I was really out of shape for all this swimming.  I don’t think I’ve swum that much since I was a kid, maybe not even then but I sucked it up and survived… it’s amazing what you can do when you really push yourself!

Granite Boulders in Virgin Gorda

WHAT WE LEARNED | THINGS TO KNOW:

Greeting a local by saying good morning, good afternoon, or good evening will get you a long way before approaching them with questions.  This was a bit of an eye-opener for me because I know that we rarely do this in the U.S. and it’s kind of sad that we’ve lost these manners over the years only to want quick answers so we can hustle on our way.  It really made me think about the way we treat/greet each other as humans especially when we are the ones asking for something which goes back to the old saying “treat others the way you want to be treated.”  I know when tourists in our area ask me a question without a simple hello and dart out after they receive the answer makes me feel annoyed and a little bit like a robot…

The driving is on the left side of the road and the hills are very steep!  When we arrived at the dock (you have to take a fairy to get to Cruz Bay, St. John), we walked to a jeep rental company that we had booked right down the road where our VRBO homeowner kindly greeted us and allowed us to follow her to our place of stay.  It seemed fine at first, and then came the hills!  I’m talking 45-degree angles up and down with 4 wheel drive and thank God Jamie was the one driving because it was super scary to me.  With that being said, if you are not a confident driver in these types of situations get a taxi!

Animals were everywhere!  We saw huge iguanas, donkeys, goats, and chickens crossing the roads every day.  I would assume that the livestock belonged to someone but they pretty much roamed free and did whatever they wanted.

The grocery stores are very expensive and it’s almost the same prices to go out to eat for every meal than it is to buy groceries and cook at your rental.  I would definitely recommend that you set aside a decent spending budget for your meals as this is an island and shipments of goods are costly to get.  

I would definitely recommend purchasing a GoPro if you don’t already have one if you plan on doing any snorkeling/water related excursions.  Learn how to use it before you go!  I can’t say this enough!  Jamie and I just bought one and were playing around with it for like 10 minutes thinking we knew what we were doing.  Well at some point we somehow erased half of our best snorkeling footage.  We were so sad, don’t let this happen to you!

When going to the British Virgin Islands, you must have a passport.  When docking on an island, you must be approved to come aboard and pay a fee for customs each time you visit.  The captain of your boat is usually the one who will negotiate this for you.

When renting a private charter boat as a single couple, things add up quickly!  Where we are from charter trips are all-inclusive, but not in St. John.  There is a separate fee for the boat rental, captain’s fee, and gas for the boat.  That does not include the tip, food, or the fees for customs. We had no idea how much this would add up until it was a little too late.  I would definitely recommend finding a few other couples to split it in between.  This way you are not stuck with the whole bill which can be a bit of a shock in the end.  Although it was a pricey excursion, in the long run, we are really glad we did it and the experiences we had were unforgettable.

St. John USVI

Well, guys that about sums it up for St. John!  If you already haven’t, I hope you will consider visiting St. John and the BVI it really is a beautiful place!  

Have you been there before?  I’d love to hear how your experience was in the comments below!

Cheers-  Ashley Nicole