St. John First Timer Questions

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Dec 6th, 2005, 06:04 PM
  #1
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St. John First Timer Questions

First visit to St. John. Mom and 16 year old daughter traveling together. Is it safe? How far is the Westin hotel from town? Is it easy and safe to get to town and back? Any other hotel suggestions. Thanks for the info.
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Dec 6th, 2005, 07:05 PM
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Just outside of town... Easy commute with an independent taxi or the Westin shuttles. I think it is very safe..Just don't beat a west indian at dominoes or dice for a couple of hundred bucks and you will be fine..
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Dec 6th, 2005, 07:10 PM
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sanddollar63: Yes, St. John is relatively safe compared to just about anywhere in the Caribbean. It's a fairly small island and Cruz Bay is a small town you can walk across in about 5-10 minutes. The Westin is beautiful and about a 3 minute taxi ride from town. You can't really walk into town not due to distance but because the roads are very hilly and there isn't a space for pedestrians in certain parts. There's only one other resort type hotel, Caneel Bay, which is very famous and pricey but your 16 year old might find it a bit old-fashioned read: geared towards older folks. If you think you might be able to do without the big hotel services, two smaller inns Estate Lindholm and Garden by the Sea are very nice. Otherwise, it's mostly lower end, more affordable fare which if you're considering the Westin, might be roughing it a bit too much. You might consider nicer rentals such as Gallows Point which is very nice collection of condominium type units with a pool and lovely waterviews within walking distance of Cruz Bay. I would suggest you rent a jeep a couple of days and explore the island. I tool around with my 2 year old daughter by ourselves all the time and have never felt unsafe. I assume any activities you'd be doing with your daughter will be low risk anyway, shopping, dining out, going to the beaches. There are no vendors nor anyone approaching you about drugs on St. John beaches. Have a wonderful time.
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Dec 6th, 2005, 09:44 PM
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On my first visit to St Thomas and St John, went with then just-turned 17 year old daughter--just the two of us for much of the trip-- and had a fantastic time! St John is wonderful!! We stayed at hillside townhouse type "villa" at Westin. It's an easy, quick bus ride into town--busses pull up to the main driveway frequently. Then it was $3/pp each way in a small open-air bus. You're not expected to tip, btw, for this "group" taxi , tho we, being unaware of this, did at the time.) We walked and walked in town (lots of great unique shopping, which my teenaged and me dtr enjoyed) took busses back and forth between the hotel and town. Dont' recall any sense of having to get back by a certain time from Cruz Bay (for safety's sake).
Going again in 7 months. Can hardly wait! Making trip arrangements and hearing those friendly accented voices has me goin' nuts with anticipation. Sorry for digressing--can you tell we love it ? You will too!!
One way to save a bit of your own money....If you sign up for the Westin's "vacation ownership" tour, you get $$ vouchers. We used these to buy great shoes in one of the Westin's shops , and for a delicious meal on waters edge in Cruz Bay (can't recall name). The tour of the property was fun, maybe took an hour and a half, and they are not pushy there about buying. But be careful--you just may fall in love enough with St J that you'll want to "own" a week there every year! Have a great trip!
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 07:53 AM
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CaliNurse,
We've decided on the Westin and booked a hillside studio villa. How's the walk to the beach? Can you recommend another beach on St. John for us to visit? Any info will be greatly appreciated! Thanks everyone for the info!
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 08:39 AM
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For sure visit Caneel Bay! And you can walk from there to the very lovely Honeymoon Beach (can also walk to that beach from Cruz Bay, but it's a longer walk). If you like to snorkel, there are dozens of wonderful beahces to taxi or car to: Westin can tell you all the names.
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 03:53 PM
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Once you're there and get your bearings, you'll quickly find out how to visit many of the beaches. Those along the north shore are all reached by the taxi - Hawksnest, Caneel, Cinnamon, Trunk, Waterlemon, etc. It only takes 20min or so to traverse the whole island, and the north shore road drives by all the beaches.

To reach south shore beaches, you need a jeep to reach many.

Personally, I love Hawksnest. Not crowded (read NO large groups off cruise ships), right off the road (read easy walk w/ snorkel gear & stuff).

If you have a car, chances are you'll spend one morning stopping at each of the beaches for a gander, then deciding on a favorite to return to either with the car or by taxi. With a car you can easily beach hop. With a taxi, the fares will add up quickly.
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Jan 3rd, 2006, 07:15 PM
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i would suggest reading these two books: Feet Fins & 4 Wheel Drive and St. John Off The Beaten Track..2 books w/lots of info to help you get to know this island/beaches before you arrive. you and your daughter should enjoy the Westin, it is a nice resort, great pool area, water sports and depending on the time of yr it's likely your daughter will find kids her age to befriend but this is an island to explore to really appreciate..so..get a car for at least part of your stay so the 2 of you can drive around the island and stop and go as you please. it is an adventure !! the westin is a short drive to Cruz Bay so taxi's are fine for such but to get anywhere else it's so much easier to have your own wheels/ as getting to Coral Bay. my favorite beaches are..Hawksnest,Gibney,Francis,Maho,all never crowded and beautiful!!! bet when you leave st john you'll be planning your return on the flight home. we did on our 1st trip and we keep coming back for 10 yrs now !! i'll be back 4/2......counting the days !!! have a great trip !!
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Jan 5th, 2006, 12:30 AM
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Sanddollar, you and your daughter will have a great time!!
There are two hillside areas with studio accomodations at Westin: one above the main area (by the hotel lobby and above the big pool) one in the "villas" area across the road (which I'm thinking is the one you meant?). If the ones across the road, the walk to the Westin's beach area is maybe ten minutes total on a Caribbean paced walk, downhill and across the road (more laike a country lane). On the way back, uphill, you can easily catch or call for one of Westin's golf cart shuttles.
Those hilllside villa buildings across the road have their own pool areas between buildings, for a bit more quiet than at the bigger main pool. Check there about outdoor movies at the pool.
You're going to love Cruz Bay with your daughter. Lots of neat and unique shops, a lovely small town for strolling, bayside casual reataurants. You can easily get a "taxi " ( a small open air bus) back to the Westin--maybe a ten minute ride from Cruz Bay?--and once it pulls up to the main entrance, if you're tired , there are those golf carts ready to take you back.
The villa will be great as they have washer/dryer (poack light!) and all the modern kitchen stuff, so you can cook in if desired. There's a good deli an easy walk from the hotel, just next to it (can't think of its name--it's less $$ than the deli on the Westin property, which is good but expensive).
Re: beaches, was going to recommend the book that Tess53 did--it's by Gerald Singer--"StJ Off the Beaten Track" as well as all the other recommendations from Fodorites, most of whom have been more than the one time I've gone so far. We too LOVED Hawksnest Beach, and it's not far from the Westin--maybe 2 to 3 miles max???--on the road toward Caneel Bay and Trunk Bay. You cna take a cab there--Westin desk will have info.
Again, I suggest, IF you have time, doing a "vacation ownership" tour --verty laid back, but (hope they are still doing this) a private breakfast with the sale person, and a nice -sized voucher for spending at Westin's clothes shops, or restaurant.
From the Westin St John water sports desk, you can rent equipment, and book boat trips. You can even rent a little motorized dinghy and have a bit of an adventure.
When are you going, if I may ask?
Sounds like Mom and daughter are off to a wonderful and HAPPY New Year indeed!!!!
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Jan 5th, 2006, 07:53 AM
  #10
 
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There are a lot of great beaches to explore. My wife and I like to hike, so we tried to check out some of the remote beaches. By the way, the Westin has a brochure they can give you that shows the various beaches along with descriptions of each. Overall, we've enjoyed the following ones:
Hawksnest Bay
Trunk Bay(only when no cruises are visiting St. Thomas)
Cinnamon Bay (also, there is a parking area east of there from which you can hike to Francis Bay - quiet and great snorkelling there).
Salt Pond Bay (has a nice hike to Ram Head for awesome views).

We enjoyed renting a jeep because it gave us the freedom to explore at our own pace. There is a Jeep rental place onsite at the Westin.

FYI - I am thinking of renting my week this year at the Westin....so if anyone's interested, please e-mail me at [email protected]. Hope this info helps.
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Jan 5th, 2006, 08:47 AM
  #11
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Thanks to everyone for all the info! We are so excited about exploring the beaches of St. John. We will be traveling in February. CaliNurse--thanks so much for all the tips! Can't wait to get there!
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Jan 6th, 2006, 09:51 PM
  #12
 
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Sanddollar, if you have the time,energy, and inclination when you return, please post a trip reort. Even a small one would be great for fellow Fodors folks. I'll be back in July and am curious about your finds/recommendations/impressions.
BTW, one pre-trip source of info on some of the shops in Cruz Bay is the St John Spice newsletter. Their web site is stjohnspice.com.
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Feb 5th, 2006, 08:13 AM
  #13
 
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Another BUMP up!
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