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First visit to WSJ - need advice

LJT

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My DH and I are visiting St John for the first time in February. We have a WSJ one bedroom villa reserved so assume we will be at the Hillside phase. We are planning to take the WSJ ferry from St Thomas and will rent a car on St John. We know we can save money doing this another way but we are only there 7 nights and don’t mind spending money our first time to make things as easy as possible. We are interested in sightseeing the island, snorkeling, eating great seafood and having breakfast on our balcony. What advice do my awesome Tuggers have for us? Here are a few specific questions:

What beaches are best for snorkeling?
Do those beaches rent chairs and umbrellas or do we need to bring them?
Do they have restrooms and changing facilities at the beaches?
Where to get best seafood
What are the “must sees”?

We know due to COVID everything is subject to restrictions and changes. Thanks in advance for any advice
 

alexadeparis

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Renting the car on St. John is good if you rent from a company that lets you park on their lot when you’re in town. rental chairs should be able to be obtained from the store right by the ferry, they don’t have them at the beach usually. These beaches are not very commercialized, thankfully, with the sad exception of maho bay now. Don’t expect a ton of facilities at any of the beaches, some have toilets, some don’t. Assume there will be no amenities and bring your own food / drink. Good fresh seafood can be had a lot of places, both cheap and expensive.

I suggest you look here : https://stjohn-beachguide.com/
and also here: https://www.westinstjohnownersinfo.com/helpful-st-john-links.html
 

LJT

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Renting the car on St. John is good if you rent from a company that lets you park on their lot when you’re in town. rental chairs should be able to be obtained from the store right by the ferry, they don’t have them at the beach usually. These beaches are not very commercialized, thankfully, with the sad exception of maho bay now. Don’t expect a ton of facilities at any of the beaches, some have toilets, some don’t. Assume there will be no amenities and bring your own food / drink. Good fresh seafood can be had a lot of places, both cheap and expensive.

I suggest you look here : https://stjohn-beachguide.com/
and also here: https://www.westinstjohnownersinfo.com/helpful-st-john-links.html
Thanks for the help!
 

rog2867

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The Westin boat is so much nicer but more expensive. Be advised you drive on the opposite side of the road there so it’s weird. I messed up so many times.
 
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LJT

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Any tips or advice is appreciated - we are so excited to go and don’t want to miss out on anything!
 

LisaRex

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Starfish Market is between Cruz Bay and WSJ, so you'll want to pick up groceries there.

Not much sightseeing on St. John other than the beautiful scenery. There's the ruin of a sugar plantation, but that takes all of 20 minutes. The main draw is the NP and snorkeling. Here are things we've done, but I'm not sure if any of these are feasible during the pandemic:
  1. Charter a boat for a day or half day, which is expensive but so worth it IMO.
  2. Take the USVI NP hike w a ranger. Book in advance.
  3. Day trip to The Baths, which is spectacular, but requires passports, etc.
Snorkeling
As far as the best snorkeling, much depends on the weather, currents, and your swimming ability. Our personal 3 favorite beaches are: Trunk Bay, Waterlemon, and Salt Pond.

Trunk Bay is an easy drive or shuttle ride from WSJ, has nice facilities including showers, nice flat sand and shade to sprawl on, beach rentals, and a pretty good restaurant (assuming any of these are open). Normally, Trunk Bay is hopping with cruise ship daytrippers, so enjoy it now that you get it all to yourself. The bay is protected, so very calm, and the snorkeling is decent. Entry into the water is a piece of cake. A lot of the coral has been beaten up by a thousand fins, but the bay itself is still postcard perfect.

Waterlemon Cay requires more effort, but is one of the best snorkeling spots, as long as the currents aren't too strong. This is definitely the day to wear your Teva sandals as you'll be walking a good 1/4 to 1/2 mile. Park at the Annaberg plantation and follow the oceanfront trail. Based on what we're hauling, we either stop halfway (finding a spot where we can safely enter the water to avoid long-spined sea urchins) and swim to the Cay, or keep walking to cut down on the swimming. It's a hassle to bring chairs, but you'll be glad you did. Definitely pack a lunch and extra drinks cause you'll want to stay awhile.

The area between the mainland and the Cay is where we've seen the most diverse sea life. However. We've been here when the sea is very rough, and it's not the place to be when it's windy and choppy. When there's a lot of choppiness, the visibility is poor and the current can get very dangerous. So use your common sense.

Salt Pond Bay is on the other side of the island, so it'll take awhile to get there. Beware that it's down a pretty significant hill from the parking lot, and what goes down must go back up. This is the place you'll want to bring extra water and rental chairs, as it's very arid and hot and not a very welcoming beach. Definitely bring an umbrella if you have one or extra towels that you can drape in the scrub trees to create shade if you want to hang out on the beach.

The draw here is the great snorkeling. We've seen eels, rays, and barracuda here.

But, perhaps the best part of SPB is heading to Skinny Legs in Coral Bay afterward for drinks and lunch!

Car Rental
  • Daily car rentals may seem cheaper on paper, but don't dismiss the hassle of having to fill out paperwork and waiting til they open in the morning. Posted hours of operation may also be...flexible. We normally just rent for the week and consider it the cost of enjoying ourselves.
  • If you rent a jeep, do not remove the cover as this will also earn you a fee.
  • Pack some XL trash bags or an old sheet to spread them out on the floors and trunk of your rental car to catch sand. Rental car companies charge a ridiculous fee to sweep out cars.
Other tips:
  • Definitely pack lightly, but bring quality flip-flops as you'll do a ton of walking. We pack 1 pair of high quality flip-flops and 1 pair of Teva sandals.
  • Pack band aids for blisters.
  • Pack a rash guard, as the water is still pretty chilly and you'll want the extra layer.
  • Bring plenty of singles and fives for tipping shuttle drivers, ferry staff.
  • Stock up at the airport Duty free liquor store (which is just around the corner from baggage claim) to save some money.
  • Line up early for the ferry so that you can climb to the al fresco upper level and enjoy the sunshine.
  • Put shorts and a t-shirt in your carry on so that you can change in the airport after landing.
  • We always pack a Yeti cup these days, as they're light and great for the beach/pool. Walmart's Ozark Trails brand is a great knockoff for less than $7.
  • Definitely pack a soft-sided cooler and ice pack for picnics at the beach, and throw in a variety of sandwich/snack/gallon sized baggies for picnics.
  • Definitely pack a beach bag (or better yet, use a beach bag as your carry on) to haul your towels, etc.
  • Pack an XL nylon net laundry bag to haul your snorkeling gear, as it makes rinsing off so much easier.

Hope this helps. So jealous!
 

LJT

Tug Review Crew: Rookie
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Joined
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Messages
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Location
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Starfish Market is between Cruz Bay and WSJ, so you'll want to pick up groceries there.

Not much sightseeing on St. John other than the beautiful scenery. There's the ruin of a sugar plantation, but that takes all of 20 minutes. The main draw is the NP and snorkeling. Here are things we've done, but I'm not sure if any of these are feasible during the pandemic:
  1. Charter a boat for a day or half day, which is expensive but so worth it IMO.
  2. Take the USVI NP hike w a ranger. Book in advance.
  3. Day trip to The Baths, which is spectacular, but requires passports, etc.
Snorkeling
As far as the best snorkeling, much depends on the weather, currents, and your swimming ability. Our personal 3 favorite beaches are: Trunk Bay, Waterlemon, and Salt Pond.

Trunk Bay is an easy drive or shuttle ride from WSJ, has nice facilities including showers, nice flat sand and shade to sprawl on, beach rentals, and a pretty good restaurant (assuming any of these are open). Normally, Trunk Bay is hopping with cruise ship daytrippers, so enjoy it now that you get it all to yourself. The bay is protected, so very calm, and the snorkeling is decent. Entry into the water is a piece of cake. A lot of the coral has been beaten up by a thousand fins, but the bay itself is still postcard perfect.

Waterlemon Cay requires more effort, but is one of the best snorkeling spots, as long as the currents aren't too strong. This is definitely the day to wear your Teva sandals as you'll be walking a good 1/4 to 1/2 mile. Park at the Annaberg plantation and follow the oceanfront trail. Based on what we're hauling, we either stop halfway (finding a spot where we can safely enter the water to avoid long-spined sea urchins) and swim to the Cay, or keep walking to cut down on the swimming. It's a hassle to bring chairs, but you'll be glad you did. Definitely pack a lunch and extra drinks cause you'll want to stay awhile.

The area between the mainland and the Cay is where we've seen the most diverse sea life. However. We've been here when the sea is very rough, and it's not the place to be when it's windy and choppy. When there's a lot of choppiness, the visibility is poor and the current can get very dangerous. So use your common sense.

Salt Pond Bay is on the other side of the island, so it'll take awhile to get there. Beware that it's down a pretty significant hill from the parking lot, and what goes down must go back up. This is the place you'll want to bring extra water and rental chairs, as it's very arid and hot and not a very welcoming beach. Definitely bring an umbrella if you have one or extra towels that you can drape in the scrub trees to create shade if you want to hang out on the beach.

The draw here is the great snorkeling. We've seen eels, rays, and barracuda here.

But, perhaps the best part of SPB is heading to Skinny Legs in Coral Bay afterward for drinks and lunch!

Car Rental
  • Daily car rentals may seem cheaper on paper, but don't dismiss the hassle of having to fill out paperwork and waiting til they open in the morning. Posted hours of operation may also be...flexible. We normally just rent for the week and consider it the cost of enjoying ourselves.
  • If you rent a jeep, do not remove the cover as this will also earn you a fee.
  • Pack some XL trash bags or an old sheet to spread them out on the floors and trunk of your rental car to catch sand. Rental car companies charge a ridiculous fee to sweep out cars.
Other tips:
  • Definitely pack lightly, but bring quality flip-flops as you'll do a ton of walking. We pack 1 pair of high quality flip-flops and 1 pair of Teva sandals.
  • Pack band aids for blisters.
  • Pack a rash guard, as the water is still pretty chilly and you'll want the extra layer.
  • Bring plenty of singles and fives for tipping shuttle drivers, ferry staff.
  • Stock up at the airport Duty free liquor store (which is just around the corner from baggage claim) to save some money.
  • Line up early for the ferry so that you can climb to the al fresco upper level and enjoy the sunshine.
  • Put shorts and a t-shirt in your carry on so that you can change in the airport after landing.
  • We always pack a Yeti cup these days, as they're light and great for the beach/pool. Walmart's Ozark Trails brand is a great knockoff for less than $7.
  • Definitely pack a soft-sided cooler and ice pack for picnics at the beach, and throw in a variety of sandwich/snack/gallon sized baggies for picnics.
  • Definitely pack a beach bag (or better yet, use a beach bag as your carry on) to haul your towels, etc.
  • Pack an XL nylon net laundry bag to haul your snorkeling gear, as it makes rinsing off so much easier.

Hope this helps. So jealous!
LisaRex thank you so much for your detailed tips and advice! This is just what I was hoping for. We are so accustomed to Hawaii and the ease of everything there, we wanted to be prepared for a more challenging environment and not miss out on the beauty! We are so excited as we haven’t been able to get a reservation here for all the years we have owned and know that Covid is probably the only reason we get a chance this time so don’t want to miss it! Thanks for your help!
 

okwiater

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WKV 2B Plat+ (x2)
WSJ 3B Plat+ (VGV/BV)
WLR 2B Plat+ Oceanside
SMV 2B Plat+
Sheraton Flex (x2)
Note, the NP tours with a ranger aren’t available at the moment, and you can’t visit the Baths due to covid. US citizens have actually been imprisoned in the BVI for weeks for the crime of accidentally tacking their sailboat too close to the wrong island. I don’t plan on visiting again anytime soon, even after they reopen.
 
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