St. John | Virgin Islands
The beautiful gem of St. John sits in the chain of the American Virgin Islands. Its aquamarine waters, rich emerald vegetation, and citrine sunshine make it one of the Caribbean’s most heavenly locales. But this tranquil island has a storied past that has occasionally belied its beauty.
Thousands of years ago, as early as 300 AD, the island was settled by the Taino Indians, members of the Arawak tribe. The Taino lived peacefully until the early 1300s when the Caribs overtook them. The warlike Caribs became the dominant people of the Caribbean due in part to their alleged practice of cannibalism.
The Carib controlled the island for two hundred years until Christopher Columbus discovered and named the Virgin Islands. Piracy and slave trade plagued the islands for two hundred more years, bestowing the Caribbean with a legendary reputation that remains today.
The British and Danish fought over St. John in the ensuing years until, in 1718, the Danes established the first European settlement. Plantations soon spread across the island, setting the course for a turbulent and terrible 130 years of slavery and revolt until the abolition of slavery in 1848.
In 1917, the United States purchased St. John from Denmark for $25 million as a naval base to prevent German invasion of the West. In 1956, Laurance Rockafeller purchased most of the island, designating 5,000 acres to create Virgin Islands National Park.
Take the ferry, a private water taxi, or the car barge for transport from St. Thomas Airport to St. John. The car barge makes traveling easy without shuffling people and luggage in and out of the taxi and ferry.
Car rentals can be found at the airport on St. Thomas, which will require a car barge reservation. Villa South Palm recommends taking the passenger ferry or private water taxi and renting on St. John. Please note motorists drive on the LEFT side of the road in St. John. The WAZE App provides the best navigation on the island.
Alternative Vehicle Rentals
Roads in St. John can be steep and windy. So, renting a four-wheel drive vehicle, such as a Jeep, is recommended. Bicycles and scooters are not recommended.
Villa South Palm has private parking on the rooftop driveway. However, around the island, parking spaces can be hard to find. Renting a smaller car makes it easier to find a parking space, though low-sitting cars are not recommended due to the uneven road conditions.
There are three gas stations on St. John Island, two of which are on the west side of the island. Gas stations are typically open daily from approximately 7 am - 9 pm. If you plan to travel east, make sure to prepare accordingly and fill up before heading east.
Taxis are a convenient and readily-available way to travel around the island without having to worry about finding parking. Rates are standardized, by it is recommended that you agree to the total rate for you, your group and any luggage prior to getting into the vehicle. Taxi vans are common, so you may find yourself riding with strangers. Request a private taxi to travel with only your group. Some services also offer tours in addition to transport.
At a size of only 9 miles by 5 miles, St. John is extremely walkable. Often your own two feet is the best way to get around and see everything this beautiful island has to offer. Cruz Bay, where the Villa is located, is especially pedestrian-friendly.
- Cruz Bay Map Visit Site