Should I Stay on St. Thomas or St. John?
Planning a trip to the US Virgin Islands? One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is, “Which island should I stay on? St. Thomas or St. John?”
While the two sister islands are close to one another – only about 6 miles apart – and transportation between the two is relatively simple, they each offer slightly different experiences to those coming to visit.
A stay on either island will surely be a vacation you won’t forget. The USVI are a uniquely beautiful destination with so much to see and explore. There’s a reason people choose to come back here year after year for their annual vacations – paradise never gets old!
Which island you choose for your stay is more a matter of preference. To help you in your decision-making, here are a few insights into each island.
Is St. Thomas the right island for you?
St. Thomas, aka “Rock City,” is the busier of the two islands with a bit more hustle and bustle than St. John (though it’s still the Caribbean, not New York City, so “hustle and bustle” is a relative term!).
On St. Thomas, you’ll find quite a bit more diversity when it comes to accommodations and activities. Because St. Thomas is a major cruise ship port, there are an array of shops to peruse, and unique excursions that take you beyond the beach such as zip-lining, and food and cultural tours. There are also significantly more restaurants (and more variety of restaurant types) on St. Thomas compared to St. John. St. Thomas is also home to several large hotels, which opens up more choices for accommodations beyond private villas.
Because of all of this variety, St. Thomas can be slightly less expensive overall than St. John. It’s a bit easier to work within a budget on St. Thomas where you don’t have to necessarily rent a car, you have different hotel tiers to choose from, and you have access to cheaper food options (in both restaurants and the larger grocery stores).
Staying on St. Thomas is also simpler from a logistics standpoint because the airport is located on this island; you only have to take a taxi to your hotel/villa upon arrival rather than a ferry too.
If you’re looking to work within a tighter budget, don’t have patience for hauling your luggage on ferries, and are looking for lots of activities & restaurants to choose from on your island vacation, St. Thomas may be the best choice for you.
Or is St. John the best vacation option for you?
St. John, aka “Love City,” is the quieter, more peaceful retreat of the two islands. Two-thirds of the island is protected national park, which makes for a smaller population overall.
On St. John, Cruz Bay is the main town, quaint in size and offerings. It’s where the majority of the island’s restaurants are located, as well as the main grocery stores, and boutiques. The ferry lands in Cruz Bay, so this is where you will arrive and depart. There is no airport on St. John, so you will need to fly in and out of St. Thomas and take the ferry over.
Accommodations on St. John are limited to one main large hotel, The Westin, a couple of small boutique inns, and private villas. There are some truly stunning spaces to rent here, you just have to be willing to shell out some money to do so (traveling with a group helps, too). Because the accommodations on this island are more spread out, it is wise to rent a car, as getting reliable taxi service to and from the more remote villas can be a challenge.
In terms of activities, St. John’s strength is really all about embracing and appreciating nature. There are countless scenic hikes to explore, many gorgeous white sand beaches to choose from, and thriving reefs to snorkel.
For dining, you’ll find several great options for a decadent night out. There’s less of a range of restaurants here, but you likely won’t find a bad meal wherever you land.
Because of all of the above – villas, rental cars, and less variety – St. John is a pricier vacation overall.
If you’re looking for a more secluded vacation, with ample time to relax and unwind on a beautiful beach, and partake in some unforgettable dining experiences, then St. John may be the best choice for your island holiday.
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Which island sounds more like what you’re looking for? If you’ve visited the islands before, which island do you prefer to stay on and why?