Last updated: August 9th, 2023
The island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands is home to some of the most pristine white sand beaches, see-through turquoise waters, and stunning Caribbean beauty. It’s a great tropical destination, and you’ll find no shortage of activities to enjoy on your vacation.
Whether you’re looking for an action-packed excursion, relaxing by the beach, or experiencing island culture, St. John can accommodate you. If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than the following list of the best things to do while in St. John, USVI. Also, check out our guide on the best tours and excursions.
Don’t forget your reef-safe sunscreen and snorkeling gear since you’ll need them to explore safely. Exploring underwater snorkeling trails, walking and hiking through historical ruins, and enjoying some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are a few of the things that await you.
Best Things To Do In St. John
1. Go Snorkeling and Swimming At Maho Bay
Maho Bay Beach is one of the most popular places in St. John and a great place to explore. The beach has beautiful clear waters and an abundance of marine life, especially sea turtles.
Its particularly shallow and calm waters make this bay attractive for families and first-time snorkelers and swimmers. Parents don’t have to worry about letting their children play in the ocean. Vacationers can explore the open waters without the stress of large waves or strong currents.
Maho Bay’s roster of tropical fish includes colorful, beautiful parrotfish, angelfish, and starfish, amongst others. However, it’s famous for the green sea turtles and rays that you can observe while snorkeling.
The beach itself is also stunning, with soft white sand. Maho Bay Beach has plenty of facilities, including restrooms, showers, and a concession stand, making it a comfortable place to spend an afternoon.
Unlike other beaches, you can drive up right to it, so you don’t have to worry about hiking any distance. You can see some beautiful vegetation with the sea grape trees and beach Mahos that live on the beach and can provide shade. You can also easily check out the nearby Francis Bay Beach.
2. Visit The Annaberg Sugar Plantation Ruins
The Annaberg Sugar Plantation was a thriving plantation during the Danish colonial period. It’s now a popular tourist destination that provides a glimpse beyond the island’s rich history into its dark past.
Visitors can explore the ruins of the sugar mill, including the windmill, cookhouse, and boiling house, and even see the remains of the slave quarters. There are several informative exhibits and guided tours available, which provide an in-depth look at the history of sugar production and slavery in the Virgin Islands.
The sugar plantation ruins are surrounded by tropical forests and scenic views of the Caribbean Sea, where you can enjoy a leisurely hike. The parking area can be found near Leinster Bay.
You can read our full guide about the plantation ruins here.
3. Go Snorkeling At Trunk Bay
If you came to St. John looking for opportunities to snorkel, check out Trunk Bay. Some of the best underwater sightseeing can be done here, including a one-of-a-kind snorkeling trail that is part of the Virgin Islands National Park.
Dive into Trunk Bay from the soft, white sand beach and after a short swim, you’ll find yourself near Trunk Cay, a small island teeming with sea life of every variety.
Here you can spot coral and colorful tropical fish, and if you’re fortunate, you may even get to see one of the leatherback turtles that call this area home.
When you’re ready to relax, find a spot on one of the largest stretches of white sand in all of St. John, Trunk Bay Beach. Stop by the convenient facility directly off the shore if you need to stock up on food or beverages.
4. Hike The Lind Point Trail
The Lind Point Trail is a great way to experience the island’s natural beauty, as well as inland environments of cactus scrub and dry forests. While there are many places to go hiking in St John, this is one of the best trails.
It can take you to some of the famous St. John north shore beaches like Salomon Bay and Honeymoon Beach.
The hike begins at the Catherineberg Ruins and leads to the Lind Point lookout, offering more panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea and the other British Virgin Islands. The trail is moderate in difficulty and has a few options for those willing to go the extra mile (literally) to get the sights.
Cruise up from Cruz Bay to the Lind Point Overlook, just over ½ a mile. To Salomon Bay, you just need a few more minutes to complete the ¾ of a mile total, and to get to Honeymoon Bay, you’ve got just over a mile.
The longest route is no more than 45 minutes.
5. Book a Sailing Trip
St. John has so many sights that it might be wise to charter a sailing trip so local experts can take you straight to the best the island has to offer. One of the top options available in all of St. John is Kekoa.
Kekoa offers several different excursions, including a trip to Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands, home of the world-famous Soggy Dollar Bar. This is an excellent trip for unwinding and taking in the island vistas.
When you want to get some snorkeling and swimming in, check out the full-day sailing excursion. You can snorkel near Lavango Cay and the St. James islands, as well as an additional stop for swimming. If the weather is acceptable, it opens up the chance to visit Mingo and Henley Cay.
If you want to check out a fantastic sunset, you can charter a sail just for this, and you’ll get to see the sun drop over the islands from the waters of Pillsbury Sound.
6. Take a Trip to Coral Bay
Coral Bay is the other popular area of Saint john that isn’t Cruz Bay. It’s a good place to visit if you’re looking for a place to shop, grab a bite to eat or pick up a cocktail by the beach.
This small town is one of only two populated areas on the whole island (considering most of it consists of the Virgin Islands National Park) and is home to a large variety of bars, restaurants, and stores.
On the east side of Coral Bay, check out Carolina Corral and go on a guided horseback tour of the area. Or, if you’re feeling like a day on the water, check out Mahiya Virgin Magic Charters for a boat tour, scuba, or snorkeling expedition with some of the island’s best in the business.
You can choose from dozens of accommodations in and near Coral Bay. The entire area is filled with independently owned and operated cottages, villas, and estate homes. Most options feature stunning views of Coral Harbor and spectacular sunrises.
7. Go On A Night Kayaking Tour
Night Kayaking in St. John is a unique experience you can check out near Cruz Bay on the west side of the island.
This affordable, fun adventure can teach you the basics of kayaking in a playful fashion before you head out for a sunset and nighttime excursion.
Once you’ve learned the basics, you have the chance to hop in a clear bottom, glowing kayak and make your way out into the bay. Here you can find the best chances to spot tarpon, stingrays, and other local fish and sea turtles.
Since this is a guided experience, you can feel rest assured you’re led to interesting sights in a fun, family-friendly, and safe trip. Bring your imagination and get your glow on.
8. Enjoy the View at Honeymoon Beach
Honeymoon Beach is located just outside of Cruz Bay on the west side of St. John. This location is exactly what comes to mind when you think deserted island.
You walk out of the thick, tree-filled woods onto luxuriously soft white sand that blends seamlessly into the shallow blue waters of Salomon Bay. Finding your way to Honeymoon Beach can easily be done via a short hike from Cruz Bay to the west or Caneel Bay to the east.
If you’d like to enjoy any water sports or snorkeling, there is a convenient beachside stand where you can rent equipment. This same stand offers beach chairs and hammocks if you just want to soak up some sun and bask in the warmth.
Once you’ve set up your spot, you can look out and enjoy the view of the surrounding islands. Be sure to stick around for an unbelievably majestic sunset to close out a perfect day at the beach.
9. Hike the Reef Bay Trail
The hiking trails throughout St. John can be an intensely rewarding experience and none better exemplify this than the Reef Bay Trail located through the center of the island.
You can find the trailhead just west of Coral Bay, close to the intersection of Centerline Road and Bordeaux Mountain Road.
Be prepared to see plantation ruins, old stone walls for cattle, ancient rock carvings, and a spectacular waterfall. You can easily make a day out of the Reef Bay Trail, so bring some food, water, and a comfortable pair of hiking shoes.
The scenery is worth the effort, but know what you’re up against with three miles between the trailhead and the beach that completes the hike.
Once you’ve arrived at the south side of the island, treat yourself to a swim at Reef Bay Beach, and be sure to check out the nearby Sugar Mill Ruins for a look into St. John’s history.
It’s worth checking with the Virgin Islands national park service to see if they’re offering any guided hikes at the time of your visit.
10. Visit The East Side Beaches
While the north shore beaches of St. John get the most tourists, the east sides offer a more peaceful environment.
You’ll find plenty of things to do on the east side of St. John and plenty to see around Coral Bay. The conveniences of small-town living meet with the cool breezes and beautiful vistas of the US Virgin Islands.
If you’re looking for a secluded beach, head on over to one of the gorgeous options on Salt Pond Bay, Lameshur Bay, and Grootpan Bay. Any one of these coastlines provides long stretches of soft white sand to walk on and shallow and warm blue waters you can’t help but want to jump into.
When you’re near Grootpan and Lameshur, check out the Tektite Trail, which concludes at Beehive Cove Lookout Point, a spectacular, panoramic view to the south and west. It’s a great location to catch a sunset if you’re in the area.
11. Enjoy the Beach at Cinnamon Bay
Cinnamon Bay offers one of the finest white sand beaches in St. John, USVI. Palm trees line a half-mile stretch of iconic shoreline, worthy of a postcard. It’s a place you’ll have to pinch yourself to believe it’s real.
This is a terrific option for fewer crowds, and it provides ideal conditions for a lazy day spent out in the sun. There is plenty of room for everyone at Cinnamon Bay and you can find yourself a private little piece of beach all to yourself.
The calm waters welcome snorkeling enthusiasts of all skill levels and there is enough to see to rival any spot around the entire island. Dive into the water from the east side of the beach and you’ll find every coral, colorful fish, and invertebrate you could think of.
Head out to Cinnamon Cay and check out the rocky perimeter of the small island, bursting forth with life. You can also visit Little Cinnamon Bay Beach and go snorkel to find the leftovers of a sunken plane.
12. Walk Around Cruz Bay
Cruz Bay is the largest town on St. John and serves as the island’s main commercial and transportation hub. Walking around the area is a great way to experience the local culture and get a feel for the island’s lifestyle.
Chances are it’s the first thing you’ll see in St. John as the ferry from St. Croix and St. Thomas arrive at the Saint John Ferry Terminal in Cruz Bay.
The town is filled with colorful resorts, charming shops, and lively cafes and bars, providing a perfect setting for a leisurely stroll. If you want to get in the water, hop down to Cruz Bay beach. While it won’t offer the same level of snorkeling as the other north shore beaches, it still provides a beautiful view.
After you work up an appetite, you can visit one of the many restaurants, like Cruz Bay Landing, serving up Caribbean cuisine. After, head over to the shops offering locally-made products and souvenirs.
13. Find The Petroglyphs at Reef Bay
Petroglyphs are ancient rock carvings that were made by the indigenous Taíno people and are found in various locations throughout the Caribbean, especially here in St. John. At Reef Bay, visitors can see some of the best-preserved petroglyphs in all of the U.S Virgin Islands.
They feature intricate designs and images of animals, people, and symbols. To reach the petroglyphs, visitors hike the moderately tricky Reef Bay Trail steps that leads down to the bay. It’s an excellent opportunity to experience the island’s history and get in some exercise.
This is a unique activity that you definitely don’t want to miss out on if you’re traveling all the way to St. John. You can also find petroglyphs in Congo Cay.
14. Hike The Ram Head Trail
The Ram Head Trail is a popular hiking trail on St. John that offers breathtaking views of the small island and the surrounding landscapes. The trek is 2.3 miles round trip and takes about 1-2 hours to complete.
You begin the hike at Salt Pond Bay and head from there to the summit of Ram Head. It’s a rocky outcropping that provides extensive views of the ocean, the British Virgin Islands, and the surrounding countryside. The trail is considered moderate in difficulty, with some steep sections and rocky terrain, but it is well-maintained and marked.
You can encounter lush tropical forests, wildlife, and unique geological formations along the way. The real climax is seeing St. Croix, St. John’s neighboring island, about 40 miles away. Along the way, you can visit Blue Cobblestone Beach, which is a hidden gem in St. John for snorkeling.
15. Eat At The Floating Taco Bar
Lime Out is the only floating taco bar on this U.S Virgin island. It offers a unique dining experience that is hard to find anywhere else. This floating restaurant in Coral Harbor serves a wide range of delicious tacos made from fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, hand-crafted cocktails, local juices, and hibiscus tea.
The bar is a Caribbean-style cottage situated on top of a boat and anchored in the harbor. It resembles what is usually considered a houseboat. The taco options include seafood, meats, vegetables, and more, all prepared and served with a smile.
In addition to the food, the floating taco bar also has a lively atmosphere, with live music, drinks, and friendly staff. It’s a great place to kayak, paddleboard, or swim out to relax, socialize, and enjoy a fun afternoon floating on lily pads.
The on the water restaurant opened only a couple of years ago and is a trendy place to eat in St. john. It has quite a lot of demand, so be sure to book a shuttle in advance.
When Is The Best Time To Visit St. John?
While there is never a wrong time to come to Saint John, the best time to visit St. John is between March and June.
The island has a tropical climate year-round, with temperatures averaging between 80-90°F, making it a warm and inviting destination regardless of the season.
However, if you want to avoid the tourist crowds, those typically come during the winter months of December to February to escape the cold. The weather is still generally sunny and dry, making it an ideal time to enjoy the beaches, snorkeling, and other outdoor activities. However, this is also the most crowded time of year, and accommodations can be more expensive than usual.
Similarly, you can avoid the rainy season that occurs after June. Hurricane season starts around late summer and ends in late fall.
If you’re flexible with your schedule and looking for a more peaceful and budget-friendly trip, consider visiting during the off-season. It runs from May to November when the weather is slightly more humid. There is a chance of rain, but the crowds are much smaller, and prices are lower.
Ultimately, the ideal time to come to the U.S Virgin Islands all depends on your personal preferences and style of travel.
How Do You Get Around St. John?
Getting around St. John is easy thanks to the convenient options in Cruz Bay and Coral Bay on either side of the island.
There are taxi services with reasonable rates that can take you to all of the hotspots across the island and may even be able to give you some local pointers. You can find the most options in Cruz Bay on the west side of the island.
If you want to explore at your own pace, consider renting a Jeep. Be aware that the roads throughout St. John are fairly narrow and winding and use caution, but having a Jeep can give you the capability you need for the mountainous terrain you’ll experience.
Plus, it’s also hard to find taxis late in the evenings after you spend most of the time at the beach. A car will give you the flexibility to truly be able to explore the entire island. You can read our guide on car rental companies in St. John for good companies to consider.
Just note that they drive on the opposite side of the road from what you may be accustomed to if you’re from the US mainland.
There are also water taxis and boat charters you can take on both sides of St. John to ferry you to points around the island or any of the adjacent islands. This is a terrific option to get to and from St. Thomas or over to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.