St. John Trip Report

Nov 19th, 2004, 09:02 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 43
St. John Trip Report

Trip Report St John

I was so grateful for all the other reports people had posted before our trip, so I thought I would post one of my own. We just returned from St. John last weekend.

We stayed our first night in Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas at the Hotel 1829. The rest of our week we stayed in Cruz Views, one of the condos managed by Caribbean Villas. If anyone is considering staying at either of these places, I would be happy to describe them in more detail.

St. John is truly a special place. I would recommend making one of your first stops the National Park Service office near the ferry dock. They offer a very handy guide to snorkeling sites, a good map of the island with trails and reefs marked, as well as more comprehensive guides for sale. We stopped by their office a few times during our stay and most of the rangers were very helpful, providing all sorts of information about everything from weather forecasts to nightlife. They also offer a guided hike on the Reef Bay trail twice a week, which we plan to do on our next visit.

We found the snorkeling on St. John so fascinating, that I must admit, we did not do much else during our week. Even people who are not strong swimmers can see an amazing array of fish, coral, and other sea creatures in shallow waters. All you have to do is put on a mask/snorkel and float effortlessly in the calm bays. For those who venture out to deeper waters, things gets larger in scale, and even more interesting. Windy weather can stir up the sand in the waters, and ruin a really good snorkeling spot, though. So again, you can ask the rangers for advice about the best places to snorkel during less than perfect weather.

We rented a Suzuki 4WD and enjoyed having our own transportation, and the steep rutted roads just added to the adventure. We even picked up a few people along the way (which we would never dare to do in the urban area where we live!).

We were also interested in the island's history, and found the interpretive ruins trails at Annaberg Sugar Mill and Cinnamon Bay interesting, but as I said in another post, bring the mosquito repellent! We also enjoyed a hike to Ram's Head, the southernmost tip of the island, but I'd be sure to go early, before it gets too hot, since there is not much shade on the trail.

For sampling local food, we liked Miss Lucy's, near Coral Bay, Vie's Snack Shack, on the east end of the island, and Hercules Pates in Cruz Bay. We found the $21 beachfront lunch buffet at Caneel Bay a reasonably-priced way to enjoy some of what this resort has to offer, without paying the exorbitant prices to actually stay there.

If you're looking for nice artistic souvenirs or gifts from the island, I liked the gallery Syzygy, next to Skinny Legs in Coral Bay, and Coconut Coast Studios, near the Gallows Point condominiums in Cruz Bay. There were also some nice shops in Mongoose Junction, and of course, at Caneel Bay.

Hope you enjoy your trip to St. John as much as we did!

Voyageuse is offline  
Nov 20th, 2004, 07:43 AM
  #2  
Lee
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 123
Please do comment on your hotel stays. I have seen some negative comments on each.
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Nov 20th, 2004, 02:58 PM
  #3  
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Hotel 1829

Pros: Charming, unique, historic hotel. Personalized attention typical of a small hotel. Centrally located, easy walk to the St. John ferry. Some rooms have nice views out to the harbor, or to courtyard fountains. Room refrigerators.

Cons: Reaching someone to make a reservation was difficult and somewhat disorganized. Big variation in rooms with some being truly dark and claustrophic, and others very spacious and romantic. Most rooms required some stair climbs, which was not an issue for us, but could be for some.

Cruz Views

Pros: Close to Cruz Bay, but far enough to be quiet. Nicely landscaped. Units and pool generally well-maintained. With the off-season and last-minute discounts, we felt that it was a good value. A staff member of Caribbean Villas met us upon our arrival at the ferry dock. Safes and CD/DVD players in every unit. Some units provide expansive views, while others like #8 are surrounded by greenery such as banana trees, and offer partial views, but fun bird-watching. #8 was quiet and private, and had a neat screened-in porch, in addition to the balcony, though we found the unit to be stiflingly hot in the afternoons. #3 was less private, but nicely decorated and more enjoyable for us because of the air conditioning--providing relief from the heat and insects.

Cons: Though close to town, only tried walking it one time because the hill on the way back was a killer to walk in the heat. Some units (like #8) could be easily improved by updating things like seat cushions and ineffective air conditioners. Like many St. John properties, very unforgiving cancellation policies!
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Nov 22nd, 2004, 07:57 AM
  #4  
Lee
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 123
Thanks for the report on the hotels. What car rental agency did you use? Did you reserve a car in advance of your trip?
Lee is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 08:32 AM
  #5  
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Hi Lee,

We did not reserve a jeep in advance because we were not really sure that we would need it for our whole week there. We walked down to Cruz Bay and the first two places we tried, Courtesy Car Rentals and Conrad Sutton were sold out, or only had a 4wd available for a day or two. However Varlack, next to Conrad Sutton, did have one available for the time we wanted it.

I had remembered reading someone else on this forum being pleased with Varlack, and so were we. It is the same company that runs the ferries. Our Suzuki had a few scratches and dings on it, but ran fine.

We were there in early November, which is the off season. I don't know how booked up things get during peak times.

This site was helpful in listing the agencies to choose from:
http://www.usvi.net/usvi/stjcars.html

Good luck!

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Nov 23rd, 2004, 08:13 AM
  #6  
Lee
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 123
Thanks again for the reply.
Things might be tighter during the high season. Hotel 1829 has a 3 night minimum. Guess I will be stuck with the Holiday Inn for 1 night.
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Nov 23rd, 2004, 08:23 PM
  #7  
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The Holiday Inn seemed to have a pretty central location too, and I read somewhere that they have a shuttle over to Magens Bay, which would be nice. Magens Bay Beach is in the book "1,000 Places to See Before You Die" so we had hoped to make it over there, but didn't unfortunately!
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