The island of St. John is the third largest U.S. Virgin Island and is located approximately 60 miles east of Puerto Rico in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. Only nine miles long and five miles wide, St. John is home to only 5,000 people and is over 60% U.S. National Park. You are never far away from an incredible view of lush green mountains, white sand beaches, and the turquoise sea. The pace is slower on St. John, and it is an island tradition to greet strangers and friends alike with "good morning", "good afternoon" or "good evening" before asking a question or making a comment.
The National Park Visitors Center is located in Cruz Bay and is a wonderful resource for the services and facilities of the National Park. There are maps of the extensive hiking trails, programs and exhibits and historical information on the culture, architecture, flora and fauna of the islands. They are supported by the local organization, Friends of the VI National Park, which has extensive information on their website, www.friendsvinp.org.
Cruz Bay is the island's main town. Located on the west end of the island. It is small and quaint with no stoplights, narrow streets and an easy natural feeling. There's a small park in the center of town across from the ferry dock which is often filled with the sounds of live music, arts and crafts fairs, and the slapping of dominoes as the taxi drivers play while waiting for a fare. Open-air bars and restaurants, street side cafes, and small shops offering an eclectic selection of items from around the world are tucked into a whimsical assortment of buildings old and new.
Cruz Bay has three grocery stores, one drug store, one gas station, two banks, a communications center, and the post office — everything you need to cover the basics. Wine and liquor are duty free, and there is a sizable selection.
Coral Bay is the island's only other village. Blink and you will miss it — but don't, because it is a destination in itself. Located on the east end of the island small shops, delis and restaurants dot the road around Coral Bay. There is Skinny Legs Bar and Grill, which has the best burgers and grilled fish sandwiches on the island. The characters lined up on the bar are also great entertainment. Surrounding Skinny Legs are various shops and galleries. Keep going east past Skinny Legs and you will discover Hurricane Hole, a part of the National Park that is filled with small bays. Stop at Vie's Snack Shack for some garlic chicken and head to Round Bay, a pristine little beach with great snorkeling. If you are lucky you will have it all to yourself, with the exception of an occasional visiting goat.