We had originally planned to do this trip in late April 2020 and would have been celebrating my husband’s birthday and meeting some friends, including our previous next door neighbor in Dallas. Obviously, Covid-19 changed all that and we randomly moved this trip (which was already paid in full) to a week in mid-October. We watched the news and saw the U.S. Virgin Islands close, reopen, close again and then reopen again in late September. Things were looking good for the islands so we decided to bite the bullet and go. We spent 5 days on St. John in a private villa and 3 nights at the Ritz Carlton on St. Thomas.
We drove from West Palm to Miami for our 10:30am flight and flew direct to St. Thomas. I had arranged for a private taxi to the ferry dock and we were lucky and made the 2pm ferry to St. John with just minutes to spare. We picked up our rental car, swung by the grocery store for some basics and headed to our villa. The villa is “Ginger Thomas” villa on St. John and can be found on VRBO and AirBnB. We really love it and it’s perfect for 1-2 couples. Below are some pictures of the view from the villa. It sits right above the main town of Cruz Bay so you have easy access to shops and restaurants but it’s also nice and quiet on the hillside and the views looking towards St. Thomas (and the sunsets) are amazing.
The villa also has a downstairs apartment with its own separate entrance, which isn’t pictured so if you travel with another couple or grown kids, it’s a great set-up.
We still wanted to socially distance as much as possible and masks are required to be worn when entering any shop, store or restaurant on the island. So, we pretty much kept to ourselves and drove to our favorite beaches on the island, had beach picnic lunches and relaxed at our villa in the evening. We went out to dinner twice, out to lunch once and picked up to go orders the rest of the time.
The north shore of St. John is 100% national parkland and has the most amazing beaches in the Caribbean. We have been all over the Caribbean (Aruba, Jamaica, Bahamas, St. Lucia, Turks & Caicos, BVI, USVI, Antigua, etc..) and I still love St. John’s beaches the most. My personal favorite of the north shore beaches is Hawksnest Bay but Cinnamon Bay is a very close second. Below are photos of Hawksnest Beach.
As you can see from the above photos, it wasn’t very crowded on the beaches. We had no problems with parking or finding a nice spot in the shade each day.
We would head back to the villa around 4pm each day to shower up and then enjoy some wine while watching the sun set behind St. Thomas. The islands never fail to put on a spectacular evening sunset show.
My second favorite beach is Cinnamon Bay, which the next beach just past the famous Trunk Bay Beach. It’s very quiet and secluded. We came here twice and barely saw any other people. If you want peace, quiet and seclusion, this is the best beach. Trunk Bay and Maho Bay tend to be fairly busy b/c they have more facilities, food trucks, etc… So, it’s really a matter of personal preference. Cinnamon Bay pics below.
There are plenty of things to do on St. John, including sunset sails, snorkeling/diving excursions, hiking and some old sugar mills to explore as well. We’ve visited the island before and have done all of those things so we decided to just keep it chill and relax this year and limit our exposure to other people. We did drive around the island for some photo ops and stopped by Skinny Legs Restaurant in Coral Bay for their famous cheeseburger one afternoon.
In case you’re wondering about Covid, the islands do have entry requirements right now. They require a negative Covid test taken within 5 days of your arrival date. There is also an online portal where you have to fill out info re: where you are staying and for how long (for contact tracing purposes only) and then upload the test results. You then print the “entry approved” email you received within 24 hours and bring it with you. Once we deboarded the plane, we showed them that email, they did a quick temperature check and we were done – it took less than 1 minute. People without the printed approval are sent into another line so don’t forget that printout!
We also booked first class airfare b/c I had the credits due to multiple cancelled flights this year and to give ourselves more space on the plane. I’m glad we did b/c it was 100% full flights there and back and American Airlines fills every single seat. Overall, though, we felt safe and we practiced social distancing, constant hand sanitizing (and every store and restaurant had sanitizer everywhere) and hand washing. We were glad we went ahead and made the trip and the change of scenery was so nice.
I’ll post about the Ritz Carlton on St. Thomas next!