Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Caribbean Islands
Reload this Page >

Some questions for first time, whirlwind trip to St. Thomas/St. John

Some questions for first time, whirlwind trip to St. Thomas/St. John

Jul 4th, 2007, 10:27 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 1,265
Some questions for first time, whirlwind trip to St. Thomas/St. John

Hello everyone,

I recently snapped up a great airfare deal to St. Thomas for a 3 day weekend in mid-August. This will be a girl's weekend trip, and none of us have been to the Caribbean before. In 3 days we realize we will barely be able to scratch the surface, but we'd much rather go for a short time, than not go at all!

We are still trying to work out most of the details and could use some advice.

We are mainly interested in gorgeous beaches, snorkeling, and soaking in the natural beauty of the area. Shopping will not be a major focus for this trip. We enjoy good food, but don't want to pay an arm and a leg.

We are currently considering the Best Western Emerald Beach, but would welcome alternative ideas in a comprable price range.

Here is the tentative game plan:

Friday Aug 17: Arrive around 1:30, check in to the hotel and look for an island overview tour of some sort?

This may be our best chance to visit Magens Bay (we know it can be crowded, but we would like to see it).

Saturday Aug 18: Day trip to St. John for snorkeling and checking out the national park.

There are many beaches to choose from. We could use some suggestions of where to go since we'll only have one day.

Sunday Aug 19: Spend the morning close to the hotel (Lindbergh Bay area) and then head to the airport for 2:00 p.m. flight home.

We are not sure yet how to arrange transportation. We know taxis are expensive, but aren't sure if a car would be a hassle. What's the traffic/parking situation like in August?

Last but not least, if we do the day trip to St. John, how do we handle the camera situation at the beach for when we want to snorkel? Will we be forced to always leave one person with our stuff?

Thanks so much for reading my long post and for any suggestions anyone has to offer!
cmerrell is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 12:31 PM
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 1,477
I don't know what the snorkeling is like at BWEB, but Secret Harbour Resort, www.secretharbourvi.com has excellent snorkeling at their own beach, and is only a few min. from the Red Hook ferry to St. John. There are spectacular views from the hills above Charlotte Amalie, but Magens Bay is not known for snorkeling. Staying at a place like Secret Harbour will enable you to snorkel the day you get in, as well as Sunday morning before you leave. Your stay is very short. That is a way to maximize your beach experience. St. John is magical! All day Saturday will give you a National Park tour and some of the most gorgeous beaches on earth. Trunk Bay is the most visited and has a marked underwater snorkeling trail. Hawksnest Beach is quieter, but fine wade-in snorkeling. You could even stop for lunch at Caneel Bay Resort, where their open air restaurant is right on one of their 7 tree-shaded white sand beaches with wade-in snorkeling. All of those are within a few minutes of each other on the north shore.
xkenx is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 12:51 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 872
We just got back from a 2 week vacation to the USVI and BVI (trip report is forthcoming). We stayed at the Marriott on St. Thomas, on points.

We visited Magen's, Coki, Secret Harbour, and Sapphire beaches while on St. Thomas. We thought Sapphire had the most beautiful water because of all its shades of blue. We also liked Secret Harbour... plus the restaurant (Blue Moon Cafe) there was really good. Coki was fun with the various food vendors, etc. but parking is difficult there (we went in the late afternoon so to avoid the crowds). We visited Magens also on a late afternoon... we thought it was just OK, but maybe that was because of the time we went.

The beaches on St. John are fabulous. We visited Hawksnest, Cinnamon, Trunk, and Francis. Trunk was the most beautiful with wonderful white, soft sand. Both Trunk and Cinnamon have showers.

I just did a search on cruisecal.com. It looks like there are no cruiseships in port at St. Thomas on 8/17... so there probably won't be any crowds at Magen's that day. If you go to Magen's make sure you eat at Indigo... very good (but get reservations).

Also, FYI... there is 1 ship in port each day on both the 18th and 19th (7 a.m. - 5:30 / 6:00 p.m.).

We rented a car (4WD) while on St. Thomas from Dependable Car Rental. That allowed us to be able to drive around the island and take the car over to St. John as well. Make sure you choose a rental car company that allows you to take your car over to St. John, if you decide to rent.

Let me know if you have other questions!


cawhite is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 02:09 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 704
Hi, I'm going to jump in on this thread if you don't mind.

I am going to St Thomas in a couple of weeks on a cruise and I have been there before on a cruise so I don't want to go to Magen's Bay again.

I want to go to St John's Trunk beach.

Can someone tell me how do I get from the pier in St Thomas to Trunk?
Dondiega is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 03:44 PM
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 1,477
Taxi to Red Hook, ferry to St. John, taxi to Trunk.
xkenx is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 08:30 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 4,132
I wanted to know about going to Trunk Beach from a cruise in a few weeks too, so thanks for the info.

Is Trunk Beach the best place to go for a part of one day on St. John's?
can you rent snorkel equipment at Trunk Beach and, if so, how much does it cost?
should we plan the entire day to go there and snorkel or can we do it in half a day?

kwren is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 04:38 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 125
Hi cmerrel,

Friday would be an excellent day to hit Magens. It is the one day of the week when there are usually no cruise ships in and the beach is barely crowded.

Schultz is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 05:35 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 13

Have to jump in and second the suggestion to change your reservation to Secret Harbour, if possible.

If snorkeling is one of your top priorities - Secret Harbour is your best bet.

We have stayed at both Best Western Emerald Beach & Secret Harbour. Best Western is much less expensive & was a great beachfront hotel with a really nice beach - but, for your short stay - Secret Harbour would give you much more.

Plus, with it being a few of you girls together - that would make splitting the cost of more expensive accomodations less painful. The rooms are suites, most are beachfront & absolutely gorgeous!

As the other poster mentioned, fantastic snorkeling at Secret Harbour, great restaurant & bar, beautiful beach & EASY access to the Red Hook ferry that will take you over to St. John - which you DEFINITELY need to take in.

Also, great point that was already made - you can get in some last minute snorkeling & swimming on your date of departure, right out your front door.

FYI: On our first trip to the USVI's we took a day trip to St. John and started out with a "taxi tour" in like open-aired truck/buses. I think the tour might have lasted about 2 hours. Anyway, it was a great way to see the island of St. John.

But, if you had to choose one beach - I guess it would have to be Trunk - gorgeous white sand & okay snorkeling (not as good as Secret Harbour). Cinnamon Bay beach is fun for playing in the surf. Not that great for snorkeling unless you want to swim out quite a ways to a little island. But, a gorgeous beach. We also love Francis - great beach & very good snorkeling. One of our FAVORITE St. John beaches is Honeymoon. GREAT fairly secluded beach with fantastic snorkling. But, you would take a walk in from Caneel & that might eat up too much time from your day.

In my opinion, if I only had a few short days - I would not go to Magens. Again, would suggest that you see if you can get into Secret Harbour - that way you have an absolutely fantastic place that meets all your needs and you can really just "chill" and not need to "run around" every day!

Whatever you choose - you will have a most amazing time!

Congratulations on snapping up those tickets!! I am sure that you will find out that it is one of the best decisions you have ever made!
SuefromMA is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 08:26 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 1,265
Thanks for the terrific input everyone! I really appreciate the assistance.

I will defintely look into Secret Harbor and see if we feel we can swing it financially. It sounds like a great option for us and I've seen plenty of other positive references to it here on this forum.

Thanks for the cruisecal link, cawhite. I knew there were websites where you could find the cruise ship info, but hadn't tried to hunt them down yet. Thanks also for the rental car info. Did you find it pretty easy to get around by car?

The taxi tour of St. John sounds like an excellent idea, Sue. I'm assuming there are similar tours available for St. Thomas if we had time that first afternoon?

Any suggestions about what to do for the day on St. John with our cameras, $$, and clothing? Will we need to take turns babysitting the valuables while the other 2 swim/snorkel? Any secure locker rentals available? Also, kwren asked a good question about renting snorkel equipment. I would think places like Secret Harbor and Trunk Bay would have rentals available?

I'm getting really excited for this little weekend adventure! Thanks again to all for answering my post!

cmerrell is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 02:43 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,503
You can rent snorkle gear on Trunk Bay. I didn't notice the cost. We don't take anything of great value on the beach but have left our "stuff" for short periods while we have gone swimming or walking the beach. We have in the past asked people nearby to "keep an eye" if you know what I mean, on our belongings. Someone would have to be fairly gusty to walk up and steal your stuff on Trunk. I have read of people using zip locks and then burying cameras etc in the sand. Trunk Bay also rents beach chairs.
brenandg is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 05:56 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 872
cmerrell - We thought getting around the island was easy enough once we learned to "stay left", since they drive on the left side of the road.

If you take a camera with an underwater housing, you won't have to worry about the camera on the beach! You can also buy one of those necklaces with a plastic holder on it (can't remember what they are called) that hold money and credit cards into the water, as well. I used one of those once when we were on St. John and we were snorkeling far away from the beach.
cawhite is offline  
Jul 6th, 2007, 01:19 PM
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 48
Ditto for the waterproof wallets. That worked really well for us - we actually used that as our wallet above water too! We felt comfortable leaving our camera with our things on all the STJ beaches we visited.
gechter is offline  
Jul 7th, 2007, 02:16 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 207
The book "St. John Beach Guide" is a great reference with colored pictures of St. John Beaches with directions and best entry spots for snorkelog. It is avaiable at Amazon.com.

You also may want to visit the vinow website to check cruise ship arrivals. Trunk Bay Beach can be crowded when many ships are in. In August that should not be much of a problem. Have fun.
Dianebridles is offline  
Jul 7th, 2007, 05:58 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 4,132
Thanks Diane

I checked the cruise ship arrivals and we are the only one there that day! Of course, if all other 3000 passengers decide to go over...

We are going to get an early start, so thanks for the heads up.
kwren is offline  
Jul 7th, 2007, 07:43 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 1,265
xkenx, cawhite, Schultz, SuefromMA, brenandg, gechter, Dianebridles: You guys are terrific, thanks for your help!

I like the waterproof wallet idea. I'll definitely check in to that!

I've toyed with the idea of an underwater housing for my camera, but have to admit that I'm rather nervous about water leakage that would ruin my equipment. I know that some people have had great success with these housings, but I have also read a few horror stories. I'll have to mull it over a bit more...

I did read on one website at that Trunk does have some lockers available, so perhaps that is also a viable option for short-term storage of valuables. I hate to be overly paranoid, but also don't want to be too carefree regarding my stuff.

kwren, sounds like you'll be there before I will. Have a terrific time on your cruise!

If anyone thinks of any other useful tidbits, please pass them along. All are appreciated!
cmerrell is offline  
Jul 7th, 2007, 08:47 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 872
Here's a tidbit that I have heard from several sources:

It's a good idea, if you take the car barge to St. John, to buy a one-way ticket, then buy another one-way ticket on your return... particularly if you're planning on taking the last ferry of the day back. That way you don't have to use the same ferry company. It's a little more expensive that way, however.

When we were there last month, we went over to St. John twice via the car ferry. We opted to buy the round-trip and were fine... but we had a back-up plan of leaving the car on St. John overnight in Slimman's Parking Lot and taking the passenger ferry back, which leaves much later (and coming back for the car the following day).

For the car barge, you pay a $3 fee (some type of port fee / tax) at the booth when you drive into the parking lot... then pay the ferry operator the ferry fee on the way over to St. John.

Hope this helps!
cawhite is offline  
Jul 7th, 2007, 09:09 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 4,132
thanks cmerrell! And you enjoy your girl's weekend! From what I read here, it will all be awesome We're ready with our info now, aren't we?!
kwren is offline  
Jul 8th, 2007, 05:03 AM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 39
I hope you have settled on other accomadations besides the emerald beach. I just returned from 3 nights at Caneel and stayed 1 night at emerald beach due to an early morning flight. The beach is fair. Snorkeling is bad, romm was dirty, not many food options. I found no need for a car in St. John. Taxi ride to trunck 10.00. They rent snorkel gear, have food and showers available. The best inexpesive food we had in cruz bay was at the fish trap close to the ferry docks.
rxtennis is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 06:55 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 3
does anyone remember the chair rental fees at trunk bay? and lockers? and snorkal equipment? And do they have bathrooms?
sld323 is offline  
Jul 13th, 2007, 01:35 PM
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 48
Trunk Bay has bathrooms & showers. I don't have answers about the fees but you could contact the park and ask. http://www.nps.gov/viis/contacts.htm
gechter is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 08:58 AM.