Now that you’ve chosen St. John as your Virgin Islands vacation destination, you might as well go ahead and prepare to fall in love and never want to leave. Also, it’s time to decide how you’re going to get around the island.
If you can afford a flight to the VI and a bed on St. John but can’t quite stretch the budget to include a rental vehicle, there’s no need to fret. It’s 100% possible to have a full and exciting St. John vacation experience without having a set of wheels to yourself.
How to get around St. John without renting a vehicle:
Firstly and with most importance, you’ll probably want to stay in or very near to Cruz Bay. It will make getting around without a vehicle much easier for you. Unless you’re camping at Cinnamon Bay, in which case there are taxis operating out of there daily, which you can easily catch to Cruz Bay.
How to catch a taxi on St. John:
You can always catch a taxi (the vast majority on St. John are open-air safari bus style) at the ferry dock to take you to any of the North shore beaches as far as Maho Bay. Taxis usually will not take you as far as Francis Bay (the furthest beach on North Shore Rd. from Cruz Bay) but that may have changed since they fixed the road. You might be in luck if you can grab one on its way to Annaberg (walking distance to Francis). See taxi rates here.
Both Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay on the North shore have taxi stands, making it very easy to get a ride back into town. The other beaches located between town and Cinnamon Bay do not have taxi stands, but it’s not too difficult to grab a taxi back into town if you stand on the side of the road and flag one down. If your cell phone works in the VI, you can also try calling one of the taxi stands or an individual driver with whom you’ve established a relationship. However, this option should not be counted on unless you’re confident that you’ll have service, since it is spotty on the North shore.
Other than being less expensive than a vehicle rental, using taxis to get around St. John also keeps you from worrying about finding a place to park. During peak season, finding a parking place at the North shore beaches can be a challenge. At least in Cruz Bay, you have the option to pay for parking. At the beach, it is first come, first serve.
On Centerline Road (Route 10), taxis will generally take you as far as the Catherineburg Ruins, and often as far as the Reef Bay Trail. If you’re really lucky, they’ll give you a ride all the way to Coral Bay, although I wouldn’t count on this. And if they do, be prepared to pay up.
On South Shore Rd (Route 104), taxis will gladly take you to the Westin, where there is also a taxi stand. But don’t count on them going too far past Chocolate Hole.
How to Take the Bus on St. John
To get from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay without taking a vehicle, you’re best off taking the dollar bus. Its route is from the ferry dock across Centerline to Coral Bay and then from Coral Bay out to Salt Pond and back, looping around just past Skinny Legs before heading back to Cruz Bay. The schedule is set to meet the arriving passenger ferry in Cruz Bay at approximately 20 minutes past the hour, beginning at 6:00am and ending at 7:25pm. From our experience, the schedule changes often due to maintenance issues, weather, holidays, etc. so it’s often best to call and verify the times if you need to be somewhere. Consider carrying a book when you are relying on public transportation and just relax and enjoy the view.
How to Get Around St. John on Foot:
If you love to walk, then you could certainly use your legs to get from A to B on St. John, although you do have to be quite committed to get to some of the North shore beaches. The most pedestrian-friendly place on St. John is within Cruz Bay, and you can easily get anywhere with your feet. You can also get around Coral Bay pretty easily on foot, although it is slightly more spread out and there is no sidewalk to speak of.
Hitching on St.John
Hitching is quite common on St. John and generally safe. We have never personally heard of anyone running into trouble by hitchhiking on St. John, but it’s always best to use common sense and trust your intuition. Rather than sticking out your thumb, requesting to hitch a ride on St. John is communicated by pointing your index finger in your desired direction.
Local Tips and Best Practices for Hitching on St. John:
- 1. If you’re getting into the back of a truck, don’t sit on the edge, sit down. If you get motion sickness, turn your head facing forward.
- 2. Get familiar with the names and general locations of the island so you know where you’re going and how to communicate this to your rides.
- 3. When your potential ride slows down, ask the driver where they’re headed first. This gives you time to assess the ride and if it’s right for you.
- 4. Be quick and don’t ask too many questions. The driver is doing you a favor and usually isn’t looking for a social event.
- 5. Don’t call your Mother or your BF to have a conversation while riding. It’s just not polite. Wait until you exit the vehicle.
- 6. Never travel alone.
Getting Around St. John with a Rental Vehicle
Most people who visit St. John rent a jeep or other available SUV. (Note: The term “jeep” is frequently used in the islands to describe any type of SUV. You might run into this. Don’t let it confuse you.) Depending on where you want to go, some of the roads can be rough, and it’s nice to have the options of 4×4 and the height of a sport utility vehicle. If you rent your vehicle on St. John, you have no other choice but an SUV.
And most people who visit St. John do choose to rent a vehicle rent locally. This means they take a taxi to the St. John ferry from the airport and pick up their car on St. John. But a lot of people also prefer to rent a vehicle at the airport on St. Thomas and drive to the car barge in Red Hook. You can read more about how to travel between St. Thomas and St. John here.
Depending on the St. John jeep rental company, some will pick you up at the ferry dock, others will require you to walk to their office. Some will be available after hours, others will require you to wait until the next morning to pick up your vehicle if you arrive after 5pm. In this case, you’ll have to get a taxi from the ferry dock to your accommodation if it is further than walking distance and/or if your vacation rental does not offer dockside pick up. Unless your car rental agency offers pickup or delivery, you’ll also need to take a taxi to your car rental place the next morning. Of course, you’ll coordinate these details with your vehicle and vacation rental companies, respectively.
What kind of vehicle should I rent on St. John?
If you choose to rent on St. Thomas and bring the car barge over, you will have the option of renting a sedan, or even a sports car. If you’re not interested in going to the few beaches that require 4×4, or if your accommodations are on a paved road, this will work just fine for you. It might even make your life easier if you rent a small vehicle since parking spaces are tight in the VI, and the smaller your vehicle, the easier to maneuver around tight spaces. We would not, however, recommend trying to impress someone by renting a low-to-the-ground sports car. It is a choice you would regret. But don’t listen to us, get the skinny on the best kind of vehicles to rent on St.John and why in this candid interview with the Coolest Man in Cruz Bay, Dale Abraham.
Should I rent a scooter on St. John?
Rather than a four-walled-and-wheeled vehicle, some people choose to rent a scooter on St. John. If traveling light appeals to you— bringing only a backpack to the beach —this could work for you. However, if you have designs on bringing a cooler to the beach, a scooter will not meet that demand. It might be fun for you to rent one for a couple days during your trip. You won’t have access to the few beaches that require a hefty vehicle, and you’ll be more subject to danger on our steep and winding roads, but (like hitching), we’ve never heard of a major scooter accident on St. John. For some candid advice on riding a 2 wheeled vehicle on St.John, check out this interview with St.John personality Nelson Uzzell.
Can I rent a vehicle at the last minute on St. John?
If your trip is not during peak season, and especially if it’s low season, you’ll likely have luck finding a walk-in rental for a day or two if you want to see some place you couldn’t get to via taxi, bus, or feet. Peak season? Forget it!
Links to Help in Getting Around St. John
Ultimate St. John Vacation Rental Guide
St. John Taxi Rates & Tips
St. Thomas to St. John Ferries
St. Thomas to St. John Car Barge
How To Get From St. Thomas to St. John (and back again)
St. John to BVI Ferries
Island Hopping in the Virgin Islands: USVI TO BVI
Do you have more questions (or answers) about getting around St. John?
Let us know in the comments below what we missed!