Overview of St. John
St. John is a stunning and secluded US Virgin Island which is primarily a National Park and Coral Reef National Monuments. To be clear, it is not a vacation for everyone as there is hiking involved as well as 4 wheel drive terrain. Driving is in American cars but on the left and can be tricky based on the winding, hilly and narrow roads. The island is 8 miles long and has one town center, Cruz Bay. There is one gas station on the entire island and about 4 ‘main’ roads. There are hiking trails of all difficulty levels both leading to beaches and to mountain tops. This is truly a breathtaking place to snorkel, hike or just soak in some rays. Use 50 SPF! There are 39 beaches, each with its own unique snorkeling, hiking or beach experience. Some are ‘crowded’ and on others you will be alone. And crowded in St. John does not begin to compare to what we deal with on the East Coast.
Check out our additional write-ups on the outrageously gorgeous Beaches, Snorkeling, Hiking and not-so-fab Dining in St. John coming soon!
How to Get There
Flights go into St. Thomas where you can pick up a ferry at Charolotte Amalie or Red Hook to Cruz Bay, St. John. Ferries from Charlotte Amalie leave only 3 times a day, but are close to the airport and Red Hook ferries leave every hour and have a 30-40 minute cab ride. We tried both and of course preferred the longer ferry ride and shorter time stuffed in a van with 10 other people, which is what constitutes a ‘cab’. The price and travel time are almost identical for both journeys.
Red Hook – Cruz Bay
20 minute ferry ride
$4 each per bag + tip
Taxi – $15/person + tip
30-40 minute ride in a van
Total for 2 people with 2 bags = $52 + tips and 60 minutes
Charlotte Amalie – Cruz Bay
45 minute ferry ride
$4 each per bag + tip
Taxi – $10/person + tip
15 minute ride in a van
Total for 2 people with 2 bags = $54 + tips and 60 minutes
There are 3 resorts on the island and a plethora of villa rentals as well as a few smaller in-town hotels/condos and one eco campground at Cinnamon Bay (the second at Maho Bay recently closed). The resort options are The Westin, Caneel Bay and Gallows Point Resort. Both The Westin & Caneel Bay have their own private beaches but require driving to get into ‘town’ for non-resort food in the evenings. Both are ‘deluxe’ and Caneel Bay is a no TV or phone resort. The Westin is more ‘American-style’ and it has plenty of organized activities. Since we are city folk and would prefer to ditch the car for dining and drinking we selected Gallows Point Resort for its location near Cruz Bay. For perspective, Cruz Bay can we walked in 10-15 minutes. In a week you can easily exhaust the dining and bar options. All three resorts qualify as pricey with Caneel Bay at the top of the pile, but time of year does make a significant difference.
Gallows Point Resort is a 5 minute walk from Cruz Bay along the water. Like everything, it is on a hill so the walk home is uphill. It is a condo complex with either ocean or bay view villas. There are ground floor with patio options or 2nd floor lofts with balconies. We booked late, so we got a bay view, but frankly it may have been more breathtaking than the ocean side. We could hear the music from ‘The Beach Bar’ which many people complain about on Trip Advisor. Live music plays from 9-midnight. Big whoop. The only issue is the entertainment generally sucks. We heard some bad cover tunes, but seriously we live in NYC so what’s a little music for 3 hours. It certainly didn’t keep us up at night! We were either passed out from a day of hiking and sun or out in town as well.
We were really impressed with the accommodations as well as views, amenities and snorkeling on site. We’d seen some bad pics on Trip Advisor that don’t do it justice, so we’ll rectify that situation. We took a second floor unit thinking like apartment dwellers and not wanting someone above us. But the floors were tile on concrete, so doubtful you could hear anyone! The space big – we’d say about 1300 square feet. There is a main floor with foyer, kitchen, living room/dining room, full bath and a loft with bedroom, large closet and half bath. Photos are of unit 13C. All units are privately owned so decor will vary.
And the view? Seriously? This was spectacular. The ‘bay’ is really not a busy one. Boats seemed moored there all week and the occasional new one showed up. The most activity was the hourly ferry from St. Thomas. The ocean view side was for sure more serene with St. Thomas views. This is really the view from the balcony. There were louvered doors on the front and side of the unit for cross draft if desired. But there was also some pretty powerful AC.
We also really enjoyed the pool, hot tub, decks, beach, snorkeling, and floating dock on the ocean side. This was literally a few doors away. While Gallows Point does not have a traditional huge white sand beach, it does have decks and a small man-made beach. Like many of the best snorkel spots, the coral reef comes right to the shore. Gallows Point built a dock with a snorkel entry area which made it easier than trying to get in from the shore. While we generally travelled to different beach spots daily, we always came back to Gallows Point in the afternoon for snorkeling, pool, & hot tub. And we did not see a more spectacular sunset anywhere. And by the way it’s at 6:30. The decks were awesome for stargazing. For those of us who live in light pollution, this is as important as the sun!
And finally, the grounds were beautifully landscaped. Each unit was secluded from the others with winding paths to the doorways. There were gorgeous colorful tropical flowers everywhere and we met up with the house iguana and cat a few times.
Gallow’s Point Resort – Cruz Bay, St. John