First things first, why go to St. John? I've been to my fair share of Caribbean destinations, but St. John wins out every time. I've been to Aruba twice, the Cayman Islands, and Mexico, but nothing comes as close to paradise as St. John, USVI. St. John has it all: clear blue water, white sandy beaches, and, in my opinion, the best snorkeling in the world. Still not convinced? Over half of the island is a protected, certified national park, making their beaches well-kept and beautiful. What else could you ask for?
For such a small island, St. John offers a wide variety of places to stay, and, in St. John, when it comes to comfort, you get what you pay for. If you do it on the cheap, you'll be in a tent. If you live-it-up, expect fuzzy bathrobes, coconut lotion, pillow chocolates, and private boats. Luckily for you, I've done it all, so let's dive in, and I'll let you in on the secrets of the best places to stay in St. John!
Cut Costs: Skip the Resort and Pitch a Tent!
St. John offers campers a handful of campgrounds to choose from, but the most popular are Cinnamon Bay and Maho Bay. While I've visited the Maho Bay beaches, I've only camped at Cinnamon Bay. The best thing about camping in Cinnamon Bay is that they offer different "levels" of camping depending on just how dirty you're willing to get.
Keep in mind that our travel group consisted of a mother and her two teenage daughters, and, needless to say, we weren't going to truly "rough it." Cinnamon Bay offers space to pitch your own tent, or rent a platform tent or cottage. We decided to stay in a cottage.
Overall, the beautiful beaches and attractive price made up for the community bathrooms, cold showers, and overpriced, mediocre restaurant. Luckily, when staying at Cinnamon Bay you're only minutes away from amazing beaches and the lively Coral Bay area, and, better yet, the cottages are as low as $81 a night. For more information, visit their website.
The Middle Ground
If you don't want to spend a fortune, but want a little more comfort and relaxation, then renting a condo or house is another great option. The price of renting a house is going to depend on the proximity to popular beaches, the number of people you need to fit, the time of year, and, of course, how nice the house is. We rented from Caribbean Villas & Resorts and stayed in their Serenity House, linked here.
The house was kept very nice, and they responded quickly to a bug problem we had, and even offered us credit. We needed to accommodate seven people, which would explain our choice. However, Caribbean Villas and Resorts also offer other homes for smaller groups with less expensive price tags. To check out my mom's full Trip Advisor report on our stay, click here.
It's a Vacation; Let's Splurge!
For some, a vacation is all about luxury. If you're willing to splurge for the extra pampering, Caneel Bay Resort is a great choice. My family and I stayed here for three days and two nights at the end of our seven-day camping stint at Cinnamon Bay.
These three days probably cost a good deal more than the six days we spent camping, but it was certainly nice to be pampered after roughing it all week. Even better, we got to use Caneel Bay's private boat from St. Thomas to St. John on the way to and from the island, even when Caneel Bay wasn't our sole destination.
Caneel Bay is everything you'd want in a high-end resort. It boasts great food, fuzzy bath robes, a friendly staff, tennis courts, a spa; I could go on and on. However, what sets Caneel Bay apart from other Caribbean resorts is that they have seven—yes, seven—private beaches that are well-equipped with stellar snorkeling and rafts.
Oh, and we can't forget the Daiquiri man who drives around with blenders on the back of a golf cart. And he isn't land-restricted either; he will personally deliver your drinks out to you in the ocean whilst you float. If this doesn't speak for itself, I don't know what else to say. Caneel Bay takes hospitality to the next level and everyone deserves to experience it, even if only for one night.
"It's a Jeep Thing"
On a final, somewhat random note: no matter where you stay on St. John, you'll want to rent a vehicle. Rental companies only rent jeeps and SUVs since four-wheel-drive is necessary for the daily rain showers and rugged terrain.
The steep, curved hills and driving on the left side of the road might make you nervous to drive, but you'll need your own set of wheels to explore the best, least crowded beaches. It's also a great way to save on cab fare to and from the cities at night.
Found the place you want to stay? Check out Allison's next post about the best beaches in St. John!