This was the 6th trip to St John for my husband and me since 1998. Our party also included our kids, 9 and 11, and my mother-in-law. We love St John and we go for the peacefulness and beauty of the island but in recent years we've found that we have to stay in Coral Bay to experience it. We don't like crowds and we don't like to get dressed up or eat at fancy restaurants. If I can go for an entire vacation without makeup or a bra, that is a good vacation. A typical day for us is a mid-morning visit to a beach where we hang out for 3 or 4 hours followed by a late lunch then back to the villa for a quite afternoon.
Arrival Day: We left our home in TN at 3:30 am and drove to ATL for our 12:40 flight. Everything was pretty much on time. We had about a 15 minute delay waiting to take off due to the typical ATL backup. We arrived at STT around 4:00 and Amy from Amalie was waiting for us outside the baggage area. My husband was back with our Jeep by the time we walked out with the bags. We took route 30 to Red Hook and stopped at Food Center for groceries. I was not impressed with the produce at Food Center and we didn't buy any meat because I packed a cooler, but the prices were okay. I don't think we saved a lot by stopping here compared to Starfish considering that I brought a cooler with frozen foods and a duffel bag full of non-perishables. The produce was much better and reasonably priced at Starfish, which we found out later in the week. We got to Red Hook at 5:39 and had to wait for the 6:30 car barge. We finally got underway around 7:00 and arrived at STJ around 7:20 where our greeter from Destination St John was waiting for us. Our greeter was an incredibly slow driver so we got to our villa around 8:15. There was a welcome basket waiting from us from Sam and Jack's which was very much appreciated after our long day and the food was excellent. All our cold groceries from Food Center and my cooler full of frozen foods miraculously survived even after being in the very hot car for 3 hrs.
Day 1: We had a leisurely morning to recover from our long trip and arrived at Maho at 11. The kids could not wait to get to Maho and find the sea turtles we saw there last year. It was pretty crowded already but we did get a spot in the new parking area. I can't comment much on snorkeling because I was having mask issues and didn't stay long but the kids only saw one sea turtle. Last year they were everywhere and we also saw a lot of rays. I love this beach any time but it's best to get there early and get a good spot all the way down to the right before the crowds show up. We went to Cruz Bay and it was incredibly crowded with Carnival going on so we walked around for a while looking for a place to eat. Finally stopped at Uncle Joe's, which has always been a required stop for us in the past. We stood around and got ignored for about 5 minutes by the ladies behind the counter then we finally just left and went back to the villa and had hot dogs and mac and cheese.
Day 2: Jumbie Beach. This was a new one for me. It's a very small beach with mostly grassy / rocky entrance. My husband and son saw lots of rays within about 20 feet of the shore. A family showed up with some kids that were loudly yelling "Hakuna Matata" in the water so we took off for lunch at Skinny Legs (sorry if those were your kids, but seriously, they were loud). The burgers at Skinny Legs were great as usual, although they could make them a little thinner so I could get them in my mouth. I love the atmosphere and looking around the shops.
Day 3: Salt Pond - this was also a new beach for me and we loved it. The beach is wide and sandy with plenty of space for the kids to play and the water is clear and beautiful. I didn't go snorkeling very far so I can't comment on that. There is a short walk (about 1/3 mile) down to the beach from the parking area that seems must longer on the way back up. We stopped for lunch at Tourist Trap. This is one of my favorite places in the world. The food is great and a plain hot dog is only $3! I love the Tourist Trap Taco (T3) for only $7. We tried the homemade mango and dreamsicle ice cream and it was wonderful and creamy. The mango may just be the best ice cream I've ever had.
Day 4: We booked a day trip to JVD with Busy Bee Charter. Captain Bryan was very knowledgeable about the islands and tghe waters and over all a good person to spend the day with. He took us to Sandy Spit where we hung out on the beach for a while and ran into the family that was sitting next to us on the flight down from ATL (of all places to run into someone you "know"!). We went to Foxy's Taboo for lunch, which had good food, but I prefer Foxy's for the atmosphere and looking around the shops. We stopped for snorkeling at the Indians, Caves, and a favorite bay of Bryan's on STJ that shall remain nameless. Were were the only boat there. Snorkeling at the Indians was the best I've ever seen. Back at home, I made chicken and dumplings for supper. I bet that's the only time anyone has made "Appalachian style" chicken and dumplings on the island. They're not the little hard "southern style" dumplings like the ones you get a Cracker Barrel. These are light and fluffy like a biscuit and I have named them Appalachian style because I've never seen made like this by anyone except my Grandmother and her mountain friends. Anyway, it was a good day but I think if I were to go out with Busy Bee again I would do the lap around St John that he offers and I would prefer a sailboat to go to the BVI's for the relaxation factor.
Day 5: This was our mid-trip day so we slept in a while, did some laundry and headed down to Cruz Bay to let my daughter wonder around the booths that were set up for Carnival and get her a hair wrap. We ate our packed lunch on the beach at Cinnamon and hung out for a while. Cinnamon is beautiful for the wide and beautiful sandy beach but it's always crowded and the water is not quite as calm as some other places. No one snorkeled because of the rough waters. We went back to the villa and had spaghetti for supper.
Day 6: We had some morning rain so we were stuck in the villa for a while. It cleared up just before noon so we had lunch and the villa and headed out to my favorite, Francis. We spent quite a bit of time snorkeling here and say turtles, rays, conch, schools of millions of little silver fish that were flanked by huge tarpon. The no-seeums were bad while sitting on the beach. I used more bug spray this afternoon than I did the rest of the week. We had lunch at Coral Bay Oasis and it was wonderful. Portions are huge and prices are very reasonable. There are 4 or 5 main dishes on the menu that change each daily. I had the veggie lasagna and it was great and enough for me to eat about 4 meals. I also loved the atmosphere. They had popcorn to snack on while you're waiting and cornhole boards set up next to the eating area. There were a lot of locals here. They post daily menus on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/coralbayoasis.
Day 7: Headed to Little Lemashur Bay early in the morning. We had not been here before, but this is one of the most beautiful beaches on St John. It's not a huge beach but it has a nice wide sandy beach and there are ruins at one end. We saw star fish and lots of large fish in the rocks to the left of the beach. The beach wasn't very crowded. There were a few families there, but overall it was quiet and peaceful. Went to Skinny Legs afterwards for burgers.
Day 8: Up early again and to Water Lemon. I love the scenery along the walk to water lemon, but I have never understood the appeal of this beach. There were a few families there we we arrived around 9:15 but it got super crowded within an our or so. We snorkeled, but did not go out to the Cay. We saw lots of starfish out at the point. We had lunch on the beach then went home and cleaned up and my husband and I headed into Cruz Bay to get gas and unsuccessfully try to find a camera charger. I forgot the charger for my Canon T3i and my Kodak EasySport underwater camera so all we had for pics was my iPhone and a GoPro. We headed back to the villa afterward and grilled burgers.
Day 9: We hit Maho early to avoid the crowds and it was wonderful. We got there around 9 and got a nice spot down to the right. We got to snorkel and see turtles, lobster and lots of nice coral formations and schools of fish before everyone else showed up. We visited Tourist Trap again for cheap hot dogs, another T3 and ice cream and then went home to start packing up. Their BBQ nachos are also great.
Departure Day: We left our villa at the checkout time of 10 am and headed into Cruz Bay to catch the car barge. We arrived just before 10:30 and the attended told us the next ferry was scheduled for 11:30. It was surprisingly on time. We drove into Charlotte Amalie from Red Hook with a plan to park somewhere, walk around and find a place to eat. This did not go well. We couldn't find a parking space so we ended up eating at Wendy's and heading to the airport. We arrived at the airport at 2:15, where Amy from Amalie was waiting to take our Jeep. By the time we got through customs and security it was around 3:30 which was perfect for our boarding time of 4:05. After the flight to ATL and a 5 hr drive back to TN we got home at 2 am. Good thing we had the weekend to recover from our trip home!
Villa: Drake's Lookout is high up on the Mountain over Coral Bay on route 108. The road is paved all the way up and it is very steep. If you continue on route 108 it comes out at that fancy looking restaurant on Center Line that I can't remember the name of right now and part of the road is unpaved. I walked to the top of the mountain a few times for my morning exercise, but by the end of the week I had stopped caring about exercise. Drake's Lookout is a wonderful villa in the perfect location for us. The views are amazing. The kitchen has been recently remodeled and there is lots of comfortable seating inside and on the decks. All the bedrooms have A/C, which is a new thing for us, and I slept so much better that way!
Car Rental: We used Amalie for our 4 DR Wrangler. This is the first time we have not rented on STJ and the service with Amalie was great. The car barge did add some stress to our trip but the convenience of getting the car at the airport balanced that out. Amalie is absolutely the way to go when renting on STT
Loud people: People really need to be aware of their voice levels on the beach. I don't want to hear everything your girlfriend keeps in her closet. Also, bad words do not offend me personally. We don't make a big deal about them in our house, but I do not appreciate people teaching my kids 30 new ways to use the f-word from your float from 50 feet away. I just wish people would be a bit more respectful of who they are sharing the beach with.
Noodles: I used a noodle for snorkeling for the first time on this trip because I'm a big dork, and I will do it again. It allowed me to stay in the water much longer and my back didn't hurt like it usually does when I snorkel.
Feet, Fins & Four wheel drive: We got a lot of great tips from this book, especially about the new beaches we visited. It's not really a book I would read cover to cover but it's a great reference to have with you.
We probably won't be back for a few years because the trip is so incredibly expensive and we are not rich. I hope someone can find some of the info I have provided useful. Happy travels.