St John Experts :)

Feb 23rd, 2006, 08:57 PM
  #1  
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St John Experts :)

Hello everyone,

I would love your opinion on St. John. I was set on Turks and Caicos; then I thought about Anguilla or Antigua and after hearing opinions, I don't think those islands are the match for my husband and I. After getting many more opinions, someone mentioned St. John, and after looking at some pics online, I was impressed. Here are some questions I have.

Is there shallow water for off shore snorkeling, like in Turks and Caicos? I am not a strong swimmer and therefore like to snorkel right off of the beach in shallow clear water. I want to stay in a resort that I can snorkel right when I'm there (like Coral Gardens in T&C).

Is the water very clear, so I can see to the bottom?

Is Caneel Bay Resort a luxurious resort?

What is the snorkeling like on Caneel Bay?

Feasibly, what islands could I island hop to (maybe for a nice dinner), if I stayed on St. John?

Would you recommend Virgin Gorda (The Baths) for a quick visit?

What is the scuba diving like? My husband dives.

How is the weather in June?

I know I have asked a ton of questions in a number of posts, but I have learned so much already from you all, and want to make the most educated decision. This may be my last vacation for a while, as I want to start a family soon (I may even be a couple months pregnant by the time of the trip), and don't think I could afford a vacation for a while after that.

Thank you in advance for any input you can give. I really appreciate it!

jackiehammond is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 06:31 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
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If you do a search under "St John" or, better yet, under "Caneel Bay," you are likely to find answers to a number of your questions. Then, if you have more specific questions after you've looked at what's already here, folks will be happy to respond. The weather in June should be fine, by the way. It's the beginning of hurricane season-- but you're way less likely to run into trouble in June than in the 4 months that follow.
poss is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 06:38 AM
  #3  
 
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Hi Jackie -

The water on STJ is very clear and there is plenty of shallow water snorkling right off Caneel's beaches and many others on the island.

You could probably take a ferry and do dinner on St. Thomas. I'm not sure about the ferry schedules and times for Tortola or some of the other BVI's - might be better to do a day trip and eat lunch off island.

There are plenty of good restaurant options on STJ for dinners, casual and more upscale.

You can do a charter day trip to the Baths. New Horizons II, Stormy Petrel & Limnos are three companies that offer these.

I don't dive and haven't stayed at Caneel Bay so others can offer answers to those questions.

STJ is our favorite island. It's very laid back, non-commercial and has lots of opportunities for snorkling, hiking and enjoying nature. There are great restaurants but less in terms of nightlife and shopping than some other islands in the Caribbean.
tpatricco is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 06:45 AM
  #4  
 
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I am by no means an expert on the carribean. But I have been to st. johns and loved it. The snorkeling was excellent - with plenty of fish and underwater life. We even saw a few sea turtles and a baracuda (I think). I am not a strong or confident swimmer, but felt comfortable in even the deep water (the fins made it easier to swim and salt water was easy to float in). Dont just go to Trunk Bay though, there are other more secluded spots for snorkeling if you rent a car and drive around the island.
For island hopping...we went to Vigin Gorda - which was beautiful (toured the "baths"), and ther e are many little islands all around. We took a boat tour which was wonderful.
We rented a villa while there, which was private and very relaxing. We ate on our deck many nights. Caneel Bay is very elegant - and expensive! We ate dinner at the fancy restaurant, and it was excellent food. However, in my opinion too fancy-(men had to wear jackets, etc.)
steviegene is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 07:03 AM
  #5  
 
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hi jackie, snorkeling and diving around st. john is excellent. you can get to all the bvi's easily and st. thomas. need passport to return to st. j from any bvi.
would recommend the baths for a longer than quick visit. try to go with a tour of some sort so they will show you around and teach you about it. maybe for a couple hours...
weather will be hot! water will feel wonderful for hours of swimming. watch for the annual dust storms that blow over from africa. makes for even flashier sunsets than ususal. but will also make your throat a bit drier so drink more water.
tell your dh to go to www.scubamom.com for bvi diving info. this is The most fun site and has excellent info.
re your snorkel/swim ability. buy yourself a snorkel life vest. it is basically a flattened pouch that you strap on. it has a valve and if you blow into it the pouch inflates slightly and makes you completely bouyant. i use it for resting on long swims or if i need to adjust mask,etc. when you are rested you deflate it and go on. or you can just go with it blown up. does your snorkel have a baffle. if not consider one that does. its a little flap thing that keeps water from going down the top of the breather.
virginia is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 07:03 AM
  #6  
 
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Men do not have to wear jackets at Caneel-- EVER. (Some very few do anyway.) Shorts not allowed at dinner, nor sandals for men, and shirts must have collar. Other than that, it's completely informal. (There's voluminous info on Caneel on these boards. On Trip Advisor also.)
poss is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 07:11 AM
  #7  
 
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maybe things have changed, but seriously when we were there the restaurant lent all the men in our party jackets. (Also one of the men was wearing shorts and we had to go to the gift shop to buy him a pair of slacks.
steviegene is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 07:20 AM
  #8  
 
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As you'll remember, I was recommending Anguilla/St. Barts on your other thread. While I'm by no means an expert on St. John, I have stayed there three times - most recently about 3 months ago for my husband's 30th birthday trip. On our first trip to St. John (our honeymoon), we stayed at Caneel Bay. On our second trip to St. John, we stayed at the Westin. On our most recent trip to St. John, we stayed in a villa. Caneel Bay is perfect for what you are searching. There is fabulous snorkeling right off the beach in shallow clear water. Even when you are in neck deep, you can still see your toes. Caneel Bay is a luxurious resort but in a minimalist way. The rooms are nice but not Ritz Carlton nice - you won't find marble bathrooms or jacuzzi tubs. The real feature of the resort is the 7 beaches (5 of which are very private because they are not accessible by the public through the Caneel Bay resort). Our favorite beach at Caneel Bay is Scott Beach - children under the age of 12 are not allowed, and it's not uncommon to be the only people on the beach at any given time. We stayed in a premium beachfront room on Scott Beach and highly recommend it. It is easy to make day trips to neighboring islands - St. Thomas, Virgin Gorda, Tortola - from St. John. You mentioned island-hopping for a nice dinner, but you should know that St. John has really great restaurants. I can't speak to scuba diving because neither my husband nor myself scuba. Finally, I've never visited St. John in June, but it should be very nice. You won't have the threat of hurricanes, and the weather is pretty consistent year round. The ocean is like bath water, and temperatures are in the 80's. Hope this helps!
Becca is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 09:19 AM
  #9  
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hi everyone! thanks so much for your responses.

poss,

i will do a search for caneel bay. i did a search for st john prior to posting, but thought i'd get more specific responses if i made a new post. i will search more tonight. thanks!

tpatricco,

thank you so much for your post. from your post, it sounds just like what we want...non-commercialized, maybe take a hike, and good snorkeling. i really appreciate your info on the island hopping (i.e. the ferry, etc). i may have to extend my trip so that i can hop around a little more.

steviegene,

the baths sound wonderful. if i go to st john, i will definitely go there. thank you so much for your post. it provided great info! do you think a car rental is needed?

virginia,

you have been such a big help since i started my quest, and i greatly appreciate your time and info. i am going to bookmark the scuba site, so my husband can check it out. i'll also make sure i drink plenty of water; living in arizona, i am used to it. thanks for the info on the snorkel life vest and baffle. i definitely need to look into that (esp. the baffle, because i hate when water gets in my snorkel).

hi becca,

thanks for posting again! i really appreciate your detailed information on the island hopping, caneel bay and letting me know that st john has great restaurants. i was hoping caneel bay would be a little more luxurious (i.e. marble bathrooms, jaccuzzi tubs, for the $). i suppose as long as the bathub is nice, that would be be fine. it's hard for me to justify spending that much money and not getting the ritz or four seasons quality. can you tell me the difference between your premium beachfront room and a regular beachfront room? i noticed it's a $100 difference a night, but if it's worth it, i should prob. pay the difference. also, when you say there is 7 beaches, are they all within walking distance?

you guys rock...thank you so much for this info. now i am leaning toward st john with a trip to the baths.

is it expensive to island hop?



jackiehammond is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 12:03 PM
  #10  
 
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Caneel provides complimentary snorkeling flotation from the beach hut for their guests.

While many prefer and love premium beachfront, my preference is beachfront at Hawksnest Beach. (I love the privacy.) Other friends love both beachfront and ocean view at Caneel Beach because of the very calm water and closeness to the main facility. I have met avid fans of beachfront and ocean view at Turtle Bay, and also the Premium Ocean views with a hilltop view and close vacinity to Caneel, Paradise and Scott Beach. Everyone seems to have their own favorite, and all are wonderful. With seven beaches to explore most viitors snorkle at more than one beach rather than stay at the one that is closest.

Should you choose to use Caneel's private ferry (highly recommended), you would have no extra charge unlimited access to Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook at no additional charge. Guest Services could arrange day trips to The Baths and other sites.

Diving: My best dives there was with Low Key Water Sports, Cruz Bay, where we went to a sunken boat,I believe it is named The General Rogers, and some underwater swim in and out caves. Caneel has an in-house dive boat, where the number of divers is less and itis more private. The sites visited with them was not as good as Low Key, but due to differing currents and water conditions, selection is made on a daily basis, and site choices may have been 'the luck of the draw'.
Dianebridles is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 12:42 PM
  #11  
 
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I dont think a car is a MUST have, especially if you are going to stay at Caneel Bay. Caneel is very luxurious, and you might be happy just staying at their beaches. We enjoyed having a car to explore ...we like to feel like we are discovering things (even though we probably arent). St. john is very hilly and with the car we were able to wind up into the mountains for some great views/scenery as well as search out "out-of-the-way" beaches on the less inhabited side of the island.
steviegene is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 12:56 PM
  #12  
 
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The beauty of St. John snorkeling is the number of good/excellent sites on a relatively small island. None of the sites require much of a drive or walk once you reach them. If the wind disturbs a site such as North Haulover, you can easily go in just off the road at South Haulover. If the north shore is rough, try Salt Pond or Little Lameshur. There's an endless number of options.

If you elect to stay at Caneel definitely rent a car to see the rest of St. John. It's too beautiful of an island to miss.
RobertoB is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 02:20 PM
  #13  
 
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Jackie,
You will love St John.Alot of the beaches have calm,bath like water that is very clear and great for snorkeling.We enjoyed the snorkeling on Caneel bay beach..we saw turtles,stingrays,starfish and a ton of fish.

We also liked Trunk Bay (go early..it will not be as crowded),Hawksnest bay,Cinnamon Bay,Francis Bay( great snorkeling around the rocks to the left..looking at the water),Saltpond Bay and Waterlemon Cay.

I am not a strong swimmer either..so my husband and I bought some snorkeling vests so we could go out to deeper water.They were a big help especially when you get tired and want to relax for a minute.

I would suggest buying some before you go because we paid $50 each for ours at Crabby's watersports in Coral Bay on St John.You can find them at your local dive shop.

I also think that you would love Caneel Bay Resort..we did not stay there but did go to one of their beaches and the resort is very nice.

Good luck!

Christie
christiegr is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 02:52 PM
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If bathtub is impt to you, be sure to check abt Caneel. None of the rooms we've been in has a tub (shower only), but I half remember that a few do, e.g. the rooms on Little Caneel beach (those bathrooms are slightly larger). Also: we didn't like either Hawksnest or Turtle Bay rooms because they seemed kind of like "motel" rooms to us-- obviously a rather high grade motel room, but because of the top/bottom configuration, we still felt a little motel-y. We switched to single story accommodations and were happier. I believe, by the way, that that's the differnce between premium and non-premium ocean front. Scott Beach (premium) rooms are not top/bottom and are even more direclty on the beach. Many folks prefer Hawksnest, etc. (It's usually windier there by the way.)
Caneel is absolutely NOT luxurious as far as the rooms/bathrooms go (very nice linens tho). BUT: the grounds and beaches are gorgeous. That's why they're able to charge those rates-- neither the food nor the rooms are terrific (they're not awful, but it's the setting that you're paying for imo.) The snorkeling is first-rate (and probably the easiest place to snorkel we've ever been).
poss is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 07:33 PM
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you guys are seriously awesome! thanks you so much!

Dianebridles,

thank you for the info on all of the different beaches. i can't believe there are that many beaches for one resort! that is very interesting. but, being that they are small and private beaches, it makes sense. also, thanks for the info about diving. i will let my husband know. what are Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook?

steviegene,

thanks for your opinoin about renting a car. it might be a neat idea for us to rent a car for a day to explore.

RobertoB,

thanks for your post. it's good to know that there are so many good snorkeling spots! i'll have to check those out.

hi christie,

the water you desrcibe in st. john sounds just like what i prefer. thanks for the info on the snorkeling sites, especially the francis bay location. also, i am going to look at buying those snorkeling vests. i don't realy like deep water because of the lack of control (can't "run" away) and what swims in deep water (like sharks).

hi poss,

i will definitely look into the bathtub issue at caneel. it amazes me that nice resorts don't all have bathtubs. i really appreciate your descriptions of the rooms. i, too, don't like motel-like rooms in a two-story set-up, so that is good to know about the premium vs. standard set-up. are the premium beachfront rooms attached to each other? scott beach sounds really nice. i wish the bathrooms were more luxurious at caneel. that seems to be common in some of the caribbean resorts...nice beaches but not really nice bathrooms. i apprecaite your post!

thanks, again, to everyone! keep the ideas coming. i am learning so much.
jackiehammond is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 07:41 PM
  #16  
 
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I've been to St. John a number of times, and just stayed at Caneel Bay for the first time on my last trip. I agree, it's not a luxurious resort, exactly, but it's very nice, if you're visiting for sun, sand, snorkeling, and other nature-related activities. On the other hand, if you're looking for nightlife, or beaches packed with interesting people to look at and happening beachside bars, the whole island is a poor fit for you.

If you do stay at Caneel, I agree with the recommendation of the single-story beachfront rooms on Scott Beach or Caneel Beach. Much less hotel-y. My room was on Caneel Beach (sand coming right up to our steps!) The setting was beautiful, but I'll remember next time that Caneel Beach is the one where children and non-Caneel-guest visitors are allowed. During the day, there was some racket from little kids, and the small beach got rather full of the visitors, many of whom illegally used the beach chairs that we had paid for. A few of them tended to leave garbage strewn on the beach (yuck!) It wasn't a big deal since we were out and about most days, and everyone was gone by the time we returned. But it's something to think about if you're deciding between a Caneel Beach room and a more-expensive Scott Beach room, and you think you won't be in the mood for heading to other beaches during the day.

Also, if you're staying at Caneel Bay, consider bringing a clock. I love the policy of having no TVs in the rooms, and the lack of a phone was no big problem, as I had my cellphone. But I often wished I had a clock. Particularly as they're so strict about the hours at which breakfast and lunch stop being served.

The Caneel Bay "dress code" is spelled out in the little welcoming brochure. There's no dress code during the day. For dinner, men are supposed to wear long pants and real shoes. During the winter, it's a little more formal. I think men wre supposed to wear long-sleeved shirts, but I don't think jackets were required. This seemed very weird to me, as long pants aren't required anywhere else on St. John (well, maybe at the Westin somewhere, I guess). I can't remember the dress code for sure because there are lots of restaurants that I like a lot on St. John, and it seemed like a mistake to be having dinner in Caneel Bay. Just to try it out, we did dine one night at the Equator Room (in Caneel). It was, indeed, a big mistake. A nice dining space, certainly, but the food was awful and overpriced. Definitely have dinner somewhere off-campus. Even if you don't have a car, you can easily take a taxi somewhere, and there's pretty good food to be had.

I love snorkeling, and I'm also not the greatest swimmer. That will pos eno problem, at the Caneel beaches, and also elsewhere on the island. More specific beach recommendations can follow, if necessary.

I've never used a snorkel vest -- I wear a wet suit top. Not only does it increase your buoyancy a little bit, but it keeps the sun off of your back and arms, and it keeps you from getting cold. These two factors are important when you're out for a long time.

Don't worry about the weather in June.

I agree with the recommendation that you should rent a car. St. John has lots of wonderful places to see. If you stay at Caneel, they can set up a rental that you pick up and drop off right there at the resort.

I've never had much of an urge to hop to the other nearby islands. St. Thomas, which I have to pass through on my way to St. John every time, has no appeal to me whatsoever. We once boated over to the Baths at Virgin Gorda, and I have to say I was quite disappointed. An interesting thing to see, yes, but it was extremely crowded, even in June when I visited, and definitely not worth the trip unless you happen to be boating around in the neighborhood.
medhead is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 07:48 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
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The beaches are great east of Caneel Bay. On that side of the island you have a lot of very famous white sand beaches. Most are untouched thanks to the National Park.

Here is a aerial map that shows the coves and beaches.
www.cccarto.com/wmaps/virginis/index.html
mapper is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 07:53 PM
  #18  
 
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Yup, the North Coast beaches near Caneel Bay (including the ones on the hotel's property) are the pretty, white-sand ones. The South Coast beaches are generally rocky, harder to get to from the area near Caneel, and more deserted. As someone alluded to, the water at the North Coast beaches can get a little churned up and less than ideal for snorkeling, particularly in the winter. And the alternative South Coast beaches mentioned, South Haulover and Salt Pond Bay, are relatively remote if you're staying at Caneel. It could take you the better part of an hour to drive over there. But these are fine points. Some of the North Shore beaches, notably Francis Bay and especially Maho Bay, are sheltered enough to be pretty clear in just about any conditions.
medhead is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 08:38 PM
  #19  
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hi medhead,

thank you so much for your detailed post. also, thanks for the heads up about the food at caneel. i think scott beach is for me, as they kids and people taking the beach chairs (people who are not guests) would annoy me. i am not interested in nightlife or any type of bar scene. your descriptions of the beach areas are very helpful. i really appreciate your posts. thank you, again!!!

hi mapper,

thanks so much for that map!
jackiehammond is offline  
Feb 25th, 2006, 04:30 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
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jackiehammond

Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook are towns in St Thomas. Charlotte Amalie is a mecca for shopping and Red Hook is much smaller with a few shops and restaurants. St John and caneel are so beautiful, you may not want to leave it. Cruz bay is on St John, and offers boputique shops and restaurants.

I was at Caneel this past November and they hawe a new executive chef. In my opinion, the food at all restaurants were very good. You can type in my screen name on this site and find a description of each with some of the menu items that I enjoyed. An early complimentary continental breakfast is also offered. It is my understanding that all of the rooms have been refurbished. Scott beach rooms had been completed when I was there,
should you choose to use the Caneel ferry, you can take your luggage from the airport terminal directly to their boot. From there it will be in their competent hands until you find it awaiting you in your room - a great start to your vacation. You will have a great time.
Your return thanks and comments are appreciated by all who take the time to respond.
Dianebridles is offline  

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