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Trip Advice-- overwhelmed :)

Georgia
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59 posts
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Trip Advice-- overwhelmed :)

Ok fellow Virgin Island experts... I need some advice on a trip my husband and I are planning for December.

We are in our late 20's and wanting to plan a first time trip to St John. We've been to several islands before but never the Virgin Islands. Our original plan was to fly into st Thomas then stay five nights in Virgin Gorda then 4 nights in St John. After reading more TA reviews... I'm wondering if we should spend the entire 9 nights in St John and do a day trip to VG or JVD. What is the best plan to maximize relaxation and see these beautiful islands? We are currently looking to stay in Gallows Point or the Westin. Would like a nice room but don't plan on staying at the resort much. If we go to VG we were looking at LDB. Thanks for any advice :)

ACB
Rhode Island
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1. Re: Trip Advice-- overwhelmed :)

First, let me say I am a big fan of Madison, Ga. Fortunately Sherman missed it in his march through Georgia. Many lovely old homes there. I can (hopefully) assume you are Dawg fans as well...:).

Now, on to business. You have asked a really good question and really it depends on you and what you want to spend your time doing. Do you want to stay busy or do you want to relax? To you crave a wide variety of activities, restaurants, and shopping, or are you more settled? Do you like to snorkel? To hike?

It is important to ask yourself those questions and also to consider whether you might ever come down the the VI again. I believe you will be interested in returning once you get a taste of it, but you may be the kind of people who want to experience different places and things. That's cool, too. If you think you are the kind of person who wants to try different destinations than I would advise to see as much as you can while you are in the VI. If you prefer a more leisurely pace, I would suggest staying on St John for four or five days and Virgin Gorda for the remaining days. You could do that in any order you want to. Here is my opinion on each island:

- St John: beautiful island, 60% of which is dedicated to Virgin Islands National Park. That means all the beaches within the park are mostly pristine. There are numerous beaches and snorkel spots, excellent national park hiking trails, and a wide variety of shopping and eateries. The best islands to access from St John are St Thomas and Jost. Jost is in the BVI but much closer to St John than to VG. It is an easy day trip and home of a couple of the best beach bars in the Caribbean. Cruz Bay is a bustling town, so much so that it is sometimes difficult to find parking. The other town, Coral Bay, is much sleepier. Gallows Point is right in Cruz Bay and can, on occasion get noise from town. It is, however, a great location and an easy walk to various bars and restaurants. Caneel Bay is the prime resort on the island and is associated with Little Dix on Virgin Gorda. Most visitors, however, take advantage of villa rentals on St John - the largest collection of rental properties in the Caribbean.

Virgin Gorda is much smaller than St John and much more laid back. Very limited shopping, far fewer restaurants and bars. You will never have an issue finding parking in Spanish Town. There are fewer beaches and much fewer hiking trails, but, except for the Baths in the middle of the day, most beaches on VG are much more sparsely populated than the ones on St John. Some people consider VG a smaller, less endowed version of St John. Having spent many years on St John before "migrating" to VG, I would argue that comparison with two points: St John has nothing like the boulder strewn area at the southern end of Virgin Gorda - which is truly unique and spectacular - and staying on Virgin Gorda allows you easy access to a great number of other British Virgin islands. There are three prime resorts on VG, Little Dix, Biras Creek, and the Bitter End yacht Club. Again, many folks who visit enjoy staying in the wide variety of villa rentals available on the island.

If it was me, I would go to St John first, snorkel for a few days, do the Reef Bay Trail, visit Annaberg, take a day trip over to Jost. Take the ferry to Virgin Gorda, snorkel a couple of days, visit the Baths area, visit Coppermine ruins or the North Sound area (or both), maybe hike Gorda Peak, and take a day trip over to Anegada, the only coral island in the VI and a beach person's delight. Two day trips would not stress out your trip overly much and you would still be able to experience the offerings and beauty of both St John and Virgin Gorda.

Hope this helps!

Georgia
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59 posts
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2. Re: Trip Advice-- overwhelmed :)

Outstanding reply... Thanks so much! As a fellow "Gwinnett-ian" (originally from Grayson) I really appreciate it! We do indeed love our new home in Madison! I really appreciate the advice and I can't wait to see these beautiful islands for myself. We are very chill and relax type of vacationers and if we find a great place then we are sure to revisit so I look forward to seeing STJ and VG!

California
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3. Re: Trip Advice-- overwhelmed :)

Great reply by ACB, we just did the exact same thing he recommended and loved it. We were very surprised at how few tourists go to VG. We almost felt that we had the island to our self.

ACB
Rhode Island
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4. Re: Trip Advice-- overwhelmed :)

Just drove through Grayson today. That community has really changed in the last decade.

I see that you are considering staying on St John for all 9 days. You would definitely enjoy that and have a great time. I would like you to consider something, however. As I noted earlier, the unique aspect of Virgin Gorda is the boulder field, culminating in "The Baths". The problem with the Baths is that, much like Trunk Bay on St John, many people come in to see the attraction between 10/1030AM and 3/3:30Pm. Many of us who now visit Virgin Gorda regularly started as daytrippers from other islands, or even cruise boats, who wanted to visit the area without the crowds. If you stay on Virgin Gorda you can visit that area before 10:00Am and after 4PM and have it virtually to yourself. Furthermore, you can visit the Spring Bay area just next door to the Baths (you can snorkel to the Baths in 10 minutes from the beach at Spring Bay); this beach is even prettier than the Baths and has virtually the same topography. That is one of the big advantages of staying on Virgin Gorda over St John - there are many places to rent on VG that are very close to gorgeous beaches. Properties like that are either rare on St John or almost prohibitively expensive. Here are a few links to places to stay on Virgin Gorda. The first one is Guavaberry, which is next door to the Baths and has private access to Spring Bay. I have also included a link to pictures of Spring Bay. I think you will be impressed. Guavaberry rents cottages and also represents some private villas. The second link is to villa rentals all over the island. Pay particular attention to the Mahoe and Nail Bay area, both of which have easy beach access and outstanding snorkeling.

http://www.guavaberryspringbay.com/

http://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?_adv_prop=image&fr=yhs-att-att_001&va=pictures+of+spring+bay+virgin+gorda&hspart=att&hsimp=yhs-att_001

http://www.bestofbvi.com/villas_vg_index.htm

I am not trying to sway you one way or another, but with nine days I don't see why you should not appreciate what both St John and Virgin Gorda have to offer.

I see where you have been linked to stjohnusvi.com...great website! I also recommend these sites for St John:

http://seestjohn.com/

http://www.stjohnlinks.com/

http://www.caribbeanvilla.com/

Please do not hesitate to PM me with any questions.

Georgia
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59 posts
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5. Re: Trip Advice-- overwhelmed :)

Ahhhhh your making my decision so hard :) Fortunately, my dilemma is a good one to be in! I really appreciate the insight and will do some more research on the above links. My original plan was to split my time between the two islands. My biggest concern was how hard/ easy it would be to pack up and change islands ... I didn't want to be wasting a whole day on "travel" and getting situated in a new place. What are your thoughts on this? I'm still trying to figure out the ferry schedule, etc.

I may take you up on sending you some PM's..especially as it gets closer to trip time! It's so great to get advice from someone so familiar with the islands. Thanks!

ACB
Rhode Island
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for Virgin Gorda
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6. Re: Trip Advice-- overwhelmed :)

It is much easier than you think to move between the islands. On Thursday and Sunday there is a direct ferry that leaves at 8:30 in the morning. Allowing for customs, car rental pickup (super easy on VG and if you chose to go that route) and driving to where you are staying and checking in, there is no reason you should not be on the beach by 11:00.

www.bestofbvi.com/info/bviferry_stj_vg.htm

If you are not able to travel on that day, it gets more complicated but still not time challenging. Take the 8:30 ferry to Tortola any day of the week. Grab a cab to Road Town. Take the ferry from there to VG. You should be on the beach by noon.

bestofbvi.com/info/bviferry_stjohn_tortola.h…

bvivacation.com/transportation/….UcLWKJTD8_w

bestofbvi.com/info/bviferry_tortola_vg.htm

Think of it this way -if you take a day trip to VG from St John, you will spend three hours in travel and customs going back and forth. The first route I gave you is 2.5 hours to the beach, the second one is 3.5 hours to the beach.

Which island to visit first? Depends on what you prefer - a really long first travel day or a really long last travel day. I would do the second one, which means stay on VG last and ferry or fly out from there.

Boston
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7. Re: Trip Advice-- overwhelmed :)

ACB gives great advice, as usual! The only comment I would make is that if it was me, I would probably do VG first given the fact it is much easier to leave from STJ, than it is VG. The only dilemma there is that if you stay at Little Dix on VG, both places on STJ will not be as nice IMO and it is nice to stay at the more upscale place last.

Also, I would probably consider a trip to Jost for the day from STJ,

ACB
Rhode Island
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for Virgin Gorda
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8. Re: Trip Advice-- overwhelmed :)

saffie makes an excellent point. I seriously debated which place to go to first. I have only done it one way which is St John then Virgin Gorda. What saffie is saying is that if you do St John last you have many more ferry options back to St. Thomas. This is really a significant. Last trip, we left VG on a Saturday on the 8:30 ferry to St Thomas. This is the only direct ferry. We were out of customs on St. Thomas by 10:20AM. Problem: our flight did not leave until 4:29PM. We left our luggage at the ferry dock and walked/shopped St Thomas for a while and stopped for lunch. Still, eventually we got hot and bored and still spent a couple of hours at the airport. If you have a variety of ferry options out of St John you can still enjoy the island and schedule your departure to greater effect.

Here is something else to consider: you will depart the US from ATL, which has MUCH better prices to SJU (San Juan) than to STT (St Thomas). This will never change. When you are considering fares, make sure you look at both locations and add in the cost of a puddle jumper. Air Sunshine, Cape Air, and Seaborne are the one's to consider. It did not work for us this year, but in the past we have saved money going SJU and a puddle jumper to VG over STT and a cab to the ferry dock and then the ferry itself.

Minneapolis...
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9. Re: Trip Advice-- overwhelmed :)

Thank you ACB.

From someone who has visited St. John and has an upcoming trip planned to VG, I really appreciate the comparison of the two islands. I think VG is going to be a great fit for us.

ACB
Rhode Island
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for Virgin Gorda
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10. Re: Trip Advice-- overwhelmed :)

My pleasure, mngolfergal. They are very different and yet have much in common (as one might expect, being of the same chain of islands). We use to visit St John because it was fairly easy to get to, very beautiful and undeveloped, and rather languid. My wife and I have often discuss the fact that we don't find St John as appealing as we use to. Is it because we remember "when"? We both recall out first trip to Lameshur more than two decades ago. The road was unpaved and vertical, one of the few times on our visits that we ever REAlLLY needed four wheel drive. We were rewarded with a spot that had nary a soul in sight during our long afternoon there. Our last visit there was along a paved road and the beach eventually had a crowd of 30-50 folks. Things change. It is still an awesome island and National Park and I recommend it often, particularly to people who want more to do than just "lime". Virgin Gorda is still a place where you can avoid the crowds and enjoy beaches that you have almost have to yourself. As Clint1583 noted, sometimes you feel you have the island to yourselves. Here is a fairly accurate recap of the number of people we saw each day we visited certain beaches: Spring Bay: never more than 10; Valley Trunk: none; Long Bay: none; Mountain Trunk: 4; Mahoe: 7; Savannah: 6; Devils Bay/The Baths (after 4PM): 6. I think those numbers say everything.

Edited: 12:50 pm, June 20, 2013
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