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-   -   Virgin Gorda or St. John (https://www.fodors.com/community/caribbean-islands/virgin-gorda-or-st-john-752737/)

jenniemojo Dec 11th, 2007 07:28 AM

Virgin Gorda or St. John
 
After lots of research, I've narrowed our vacation destination for Feb. 2008 to Virgin Gorda and St. John, but I can't decide btwn the two! Can anyone help me compare? We are a 30 something couple and we enjoy alaid back atmosphere, a quieter slow pace, and some nice charm. We don't want to share our beaches with loads of daytrippers either, but I understand that both islands have many beaches to choose from if one is busy. We love to dine out so quality restaurant choices are important to us. Both islands seem to have lovely beaches and good snorkeling/diving, but if anyone has an opinion there, I'm happy to listen. Also, for St. John it seems as though St. Cruz is a central area with restaurants and shopping...does VG have something comparable? We also plan on doing some hiking.
Thanks!

Michaelpl Dec 11th, 2007 08:56 AM

Hiking? No comparison. St. John is for you. Much more tropical and beautiful island in my option. FYI you can easily visit the other island on a day trip Or....if you happen to spring for Caneel Bay or Little Dix Bay you can tranfer to the other property to enjoy the best of both......for a price!

beachplum Dec 11th, 2007 09:06 AM

Hard choice! My preference is Virgin Gorda because of the many choices in accomodations at various price levels with nice choices right on beaches. St. John has limited beachfront accomodations other than Caneel and a few villas. The Westin has a manmade beach and just doesn't make the grade, IMO.

Both have the laid back quiet but I think Virgin Gorda is more quiet and laid back. Much less traffic than St. John! Both islands have pretty quiet beaches but a few of the popular ones can get crowded with cruisers and day trippers - Trunk on St. John, the Baths on VG so you just avoid them on those days. I don't think that either St. John or VG will take any culinary prizes compared to Anguila and some of the other "foodie" islands. But there are good places on Virgin Gorda as well as St. John - it just seems to me, and it's been awhile, that most of the restuarants on St. John were very similiar in quality and menu. Most of the restaurants on St. John are in Cruz Bay with some in Coral Bay while on VG they are more spread out (but not far since it is small) since there is really no "town" like on St. John. The options for "formal" hiking in the Nat'l Park are more than on VG with the big hike up Gorda Peak. There are other places where you can hike, eg. between Biras Creek and Bitter End, other hiking at Biras and the roads are walking-friendly while on St. John they are not. There used to be a Trail of Palms and hiking on Moskito Island but now that Branson owns it, I don't know that it's still "public" and there are a few dirt roads that are not used that might be good but St. John has a variety of well-kept hiking trails.

You can't go wrong. If you are staying long enough why not split - but we used to do 5 or more days each. Shorter than that it didn't seem worth it.

kellybeaches Dec 11th, 2007 09:13 AM

Jenniemojo,
I think it depends how remote you want to be. I've been to both St. John (this past September) and Virgin Gorda (last year). You canít go wrong with either, although my personal favorite is VG, because it is more remote. There are a few good restaurants on VG, but your restaurant selection, shopping and beach selection is much greater is St. John (bigger island and more built up than VG). For shopping in VG, there are some cute shops near the resorts there-Leverick Bay, Bitter End, the Baths. St. John has great shopping-Mongoose Junction, Wharfside Village, and some cute shops in Coral Bay as well. We stayed in a villa on Mahoe Bay in VG, which was basically an absolutely gorgeous beach (equal to or better than any we saw in St. John) and it was steps outside our villa. There were at max about 5 other people on it at any time. St. John has gorgeous beaches as well, and many more to choose from, but you do have to travel to them via car unless you stay at Caneel. The Baths in VG are something not to be missed-but you can visit there by ferry even if you stay on St. John. Do try to do a day trip to Jost Van Dyke too-Soggy Dollar Bar is great. There is definitely more to do on St. John. I guess it all depends on what youíre looking for.

One strange thing I noticed about VG vs St. John is that on VG literally everywhere you drive you have spectacular lookout views, as the trees towards the water are further down the hill. St. John has their roads built into the mountains with the trees up on both sides so you almost feel like youíre driving through a tunnel of trees everywhere you go. You canít see out over the water really unless you stop off at the designated lookout points. Just a weird thing we noticed.

Good luck!

brenandg Dec 11th, 2007 05:23 PM

Whichever you decide, I would do so quick. February is right around the corner and it is high season so a lot of places will be booked up. I like STJ for the variety of things to do. If you like to get in your jeep and explore, hike etc go to STJ. If you want to more relaxed and closer to the beach, pick VG. Cruz Bay is the main town on STJ and it does get busy with traffic. The quieter, Coral Bay side of STJ might also be an option for you. I don't think you can go wrong with either one.

virginiafish Dec 11th, 2007 05:35 PM

kellybeaches,
can you give more information on the villa you stayed in on Mahoe Bay in VG?
Thanks!

beachplum Dec 11th, 2007 09:37 PM

not kellybeaches but we stayed at Loblolly on Mahoe last March. There are villas in two tiers - one beachfront and the others directly behind but up the hill - not a bad walk at all. They really are very nice and Mahoe is a great beach. My only complaint was that the beach chairs weren't very comfortable. The staff is warm and friendly and it was all that I wanted it to be. http://www.virgingordabvi.com/villas/ has links to the villas there listed by # of bedrooms. Mango Bay is also located on Mahoe. http://www.mangobayresort.com/ There is good snorkeling and the location is good with a short drive into SpanishTown, for dining out - actually with the island so small, nothing is inconvenient.
Maybe you'd see a few people on on the beach down by Mango or a couple of other people but the beach was empty most of the time and quite enjoyable. There is plenty of space and folage between villas so privacy is not an issue nor is noise from neighbors. If I am not mistaken they all offer basically the same amenities, altho they are individually owned and have the pool, "outdoor" showers, etc. Just be sure, if you go, to take mosquito coils and lots of bug spray especially if you hit a rainy spell but that's true for most places.

virginiafish Dec 12th, 2007 05:40 AM

beachplum-thanks for your helpful response!

mnag Dec 12th, 2007 06:49 AM

Have not been to St John but VG is one of our favorite places. If you are looking for quiet and quaint, VG is for you. The population I think is only about 4000 people. Most times we were the only people on the beach (Mahoe/Savannah). Spring Bay is beautiful and the Baths are unique. We had done some research on the two islands and picked VG beacuse we were looking for villas and VG seemed to have more options near or on the beach as compared to St John. We stayed at Bellamare which is also on Mahoe and I would highly recommend it. The views are fabulous and its a 2-3 minute walk to the beach. The center of town would be the Valley. There are a few restaurants and a grocery store there. There really is not much shopping in VG so if that is a priority St John may be the place for you since you can hop on a ferry and shop on St Thomas. I also beleive that the snorkelling may be better on St John (pretty much one of the best destinations for off beach snorkelling in the caribbean).

jenniemojo Dec 12th, 2007 11:01 AM

Thanks so much everyone. It really seems as though both islands are perfect for us! We did end up settling on St. John, mainly for the opportunity to hike, and the very easy flight from NYC (I'll be 5 months pregnant by then so ease is important!). We booked 7 nights at the Estate Landholm (www.estatelindholm.com) which is walking distance from the town of Cruz Bay which is appealing to us. I was feeling the pressure to act fast b/c I'm learning that we are already late in booking for February! I'm very excited - thanks for all of the great advice.

brenandg Dec 12th, 2007 06:30 PM

Ok, call me lazy, but Estate Lindholm isn't really "comfortable" walking distance to Cruz Bay. Maybe on the way down the hill during the day it wouldn't be too bad. You might want to take a short taxi ride back up the dark, steep hill at night, especially being pregnant. Are you renting a jeep?

A few easy hikes that I would recommend are:

The Cinnamon Bay Nature Trail just past Cinnamon Bay Beach on the opposite side of the road coming from CB. The trail starts after the ruins. There is a longer, more difficult Cinnamon Bay Trail, so make sure it is the one with the ruins by the road.

The Lind Point Trail to Solomon and Honeymoon Beaches. These beaches can only be reached on foot so are very unspoiled. The trail originates by the National Park Building. Since you are staying at Estate Lindholm, you can hop on that trail somewhere around the middle. Not exactly sure where since we started from Cruz bay.

The Drunk Bay Trail. This trail originates at the end of Salt Pond Beach. It is 0.3 miles each way and is not difficult. The views at the end are fantastic. It's a very unique place. The trek to Salt Pond is 1/4 mile down, then back up a hot dirt path.

Getting a copy of Feet Fins and Four Wheel Drive is well worth the minimal cost. We still take it with us in the beach bag for reference.

There are lots of other hikes. It just depends on what you are capable of doing while pregnant. Have fun. I'm sure you will love it there.

brenandg Dec 14th, 2007 06:32 PM

http://www.on-stjohn.com/2007/10/

I'm not very savvy at posting links, but if you check the archives for October 26th on this site, you can see the hill up to Estate Lindholm. It is the "Jeep Cam" feature and it starts in Cruz Bay. When they point out Asolare, you will be at Estate Lindholm as they are right by each other.


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