Island Hopping Guide: St. Thomas To St. John

From a beach chair beneath the swaying palm trees at Margaritaville Vacation Club by Wyndham - St. Thomas, you can see the island of St. John in the distance, across three miles of shimmering crystal-clear waters. Full of natural attractions and picture-perfect pristine beaches, St. John is a piece of paradise that offers opportunities for snorkeling, hiking, and exploring historical sites and is definitely worthy of a day trip. 

How To Get To St. John From St. Thomas

St. John is accessible only by boat, so unless you choose to charter a private vessel, the ferry is the most convenient and cost-effective option. Head to the Red Hook ferry dock where the St. John ferry departs for Cruz Bay daily. Bring cash to purchase your tickets at the dock ($8.15 per person, one-way) and then enjoy a quick, 20-minute ride. From the Cruz Bay dock, either grab a rental car that you’ve pre-arranged through a local rental company (four-wheel drive is recommended for navigating the island’s rocky terrain) or flag down a bright, open air taxi.

Best Things To Do On St. John

Of the three islands that make up the U.S. Virgin Islands chain, St. John is smaller, less developed, and the winner when it comes to natural beauty. With acres of lush forest, historic sugar mill plantation ruins, stretches of untouched shoreline, and coral reefs teeming with tropical fish, the island offers travelers an abundance of opportunities for adventures on land as well as in the water. 

Cruz Bay is a bustling port town with shops, dive centers, and a handful of beach bars and local eateries. For a bite to eat, check out The Longboard, a hip, airy, surf-inspired spot serving poke bowls, ceviche, sushi rolls and gourmet tacos. For beachfront dining, head to High Tide, an open-air bar and grill with live music and a menu filled with Caribbean classics — like conch fritters and calamari — alongside burgers and wings.

Two-thirds of the island is made up of the Virgin Islands National Park, a 7,000-acre treasure composed of beautiful beaches, breathtaking lookout points, scenic trails, historic sites, and coral reefs.

Often ranked one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and part of Virgin Islands National Park, Trunk Bay is St. John’s most popular beach — and for good reason. The 650-foot-long Underwater Trail, a self-guided snorkeling trail, offers the chance to see the coral, fish, and sea turtles that call the reef home, and underwater informational underwater plaques provide insight and guide you along the way.

For a combination of hiking and history at Virgin Islands National Park, set out on the Reef Bay Trail, a moderately strenuous out-and-back hike that leads to an unspoiled stretch of shoreline. Along the way, discover sugar plantation ruins, lush forest, and ancient rock carvings created by Arawak Indians, which can all be found along the trail. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes for the hike and pack plenty of water and a lunch for a picnic at the beach. The roundtrip journey from the trailhead to the beach and back is about six miles and should take three hours or so each way.

Before hopping on a ferry back to St. Thomas, stop by The Beach Bar for a “toes in the sand, drink in your hand” vibe just 100 yards down the beach from the ferry dock. Try the Beach Bar Painkiller, their famous take on the Virgin Islands’ signature drink.

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