Living on St. John

Rustic kitchen with a wooden table and chairs

St. John is one of four islands that make up the US Virgin Islands. The other three islands are St Thomas, St Croix and just off the southern shores of St Thomas lies Water Island. St. John has the reputation of being the most beautiful, friendly and tranquil island in all of the Caribbean. St. John is less than 20 square miles in area, approximately 8 miles by 3 miles and it has 32 sandy beaches and 22 preserved National Park Hiking Trails. Approximately 2/3 of the island is part of the St. John Virgin Islands National Park.

St. John’s coordinates are 18.2N 64.5 W. The island is 1075 miles east southeast of Miami, 50 miles east of Puerto Rico, and 3 miles east of St. Thomas. To the north is the Atlantic Ocean and to the south is Caribbean Sea. The highest elevation is 1,277 feet at Bordeaux Mountain. St. John’s population hovers around 5,000 residents

A backyard staycation paradise with a sparkling pool

One thing that surprises many visitors to St. John is that you can see the other Virgin Islands from your villa. St. Croix and St. Thomas are easy to spot, and St. John is surrounded by many smaller islands and cays, some of which you’ll want to visit. Make sure to bring your passport in the event you decide to visit the British Virgin Islands which lie only 3 miles to the north. St. Thomas is our largest urban neighbor and you won’t need a passport for a visit. In St. Thomas, there is an abundance of shopping for everyone – tourists and locals alike. This is also home to the large-screen cinemas, a bowling alley and many larger tourist attractions including Coral World. Ferries can take you to Red Hook on the east end of the island, or to Charlotte Amalie which is also known as ‘downtown’.

The official language is English, although in addition to Standard English you will encounter various West Indian Dialects spoken by Virgin Island natives and residents from other English-speaking Caribbean countries. Other languages spoken on the island are Spanish, spoken by natives of Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo, Patois, spoken as a second language by residents of St. Lucia and Dominica, and Creole, spoken by residents of Haiti.

In 1950, Mr. Laurence Rockefeller purchased extensive holdings on St. John including holdings of the Danish West Indies Company, developed Caneel Bay Resort and donated much of the remaining acreage to the U.S. Government as public parkland and Congress formed the VI National Park.

The VINP holdings include 7890 acres of land, 5650 submerged acres off shore, plus approximately 13,000 acres submerged off shore as “Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument.”

In addition to beaches regularly declared to be among the best in the world, the Park offers hiking trails, archaeological sites, educational talks and tours, a Visitors’ Center, and a campground.

Weather on St. John ranges from perfect to excellent, with near-ideal temperatures and gentle trade wind breezes. Rainfall averages around 43 inches per year. Winter temperatures range from about 77 to 84 degrees and summer temperatures range from about 82 to 90 degrees. Cooling trade winds blow east to northeast in the winter switching south to southeasterly in the summer.

The local currency is the US Dollar.   Most places accept major credit cards. You may want to bring travelers’ checks in small denominations.  Express Mail via the US Postal Service is the quickest way to receive/send important packages.  To mail a package to St. John in advance of your arrival, call us directly and we will be more than happy to give you instructions on mailing to the Virgin Islands. Unlike other management companies we will not charge for this service and are more than happy to accommodate our customers.

Informal: islanders wear cotton or lightweight clothing with sandals or sneakers. Away from the beach, swimsuits must be covered up and men must wear shirts. Bring hats and plenty of sunscreen to protect you from the Caribbean sun! Most restaurants are casual. For upscale restaurants, lightweight shirts and slacks are recommended for the gentlemen and sundresses or shorts outfits for the ladies. Whatever you pack will likely be too much – pack lightly!

A wonderful custom here in the islands is greeting everyone with a “good morning” or “good evening.” Caribbean manners are important! In our West Indian culture, we show respect for others by saying, “Good Morning,” “Good Afternoon,” and “Good Evening” before anything else! West Indians take pride in this tradition and are appreciative when visitors make the effort to understand the ways of the islands. This simple courtesy can be your ticket to learning and navigating St. John with ease and enjoyment.

There are four plus “grocery stores” in or near Cruz Bay and one small store in Coral Bay. Grocery prices are approximately 25% higher than in the states. Some locals make the trek to St. Thomas to do large grocery orders and other shopping, as prices on St. Thomas are closer to the mainland.

We have constant trade winds that normally keep the mosquitoes away, but if they come around, use your favorite insect repellent and keep the screens closed. Be nice to the little island lizards…they eat the mosquitoes! At night you will hear the tree frogs and crickets. Especially after an evening rain shower– relax and enjoy the chorus!

Internet is available at most Villas. The internet is also available at cyber cafés throughout the island.

St John is the same time as the East Coast of the United States during the summer months (April – October). When Daylight Savings Time goes into effect in the States (October – April ), we do not change our clocks. Therefore we are an hour ahead of the East Coast and 2 hours ahead of Central Time etc.

You can find news daily on St. John and the surrounding area. The St. John Trade winds, St. John Sun Times, The Virgin Islands Daily News (on St. Thomas), and the St. Croix Avis are the local papers.USA Today, The Wall Street Journal & several U.S. metropolitan and Puerto Rico newspapers are flown in daily.

There are no sales taxes in the US Virgin islands. Each Visitor to the Virgin Islands enjoys a $1600 Duty Free Allowance upon returning to the United States. In addition you may bring back five bottles of liquor duty free or six if one is locally produced like Cruzan Rum. The Duty Free cigarette allowance is 10 cartons of cigarettes or 100 cigars. For more information contact the Bureau of Customs:  (340) 774-2540

For US Citizens – Government- issued picture identification with a birth certificate with a raised seal. (photo copies are not allowed). Passport is desirable, but not necessary. If you are a U.S. Citizen and are traveling to Tortola or any other British Virgin Island (BVI) you will need a valid U.S. Passport. This requirement went into effect December 31, 2005 (U.S. Citizens re-entering the United States 2005 need a valid passport if traveling from the BVI’s or any other Caribbean country).

Non US Citizens – Passports required

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Be confident that you have made the right choice in considering Tropical Properties, and we sincerely hope to help you find your piece of paradise on St. John Island. Contact Us today!