Years from now, I will look back with fond memories of the many times that I drove into downtown Cruz Bay, St John to establish my place in line to pick up friends and family coming in on the ferry from Redhook.
Knowing that people you love are here to visit you and experience all of the beauty of St John is sometimes overwhelming. I’ve welcomed visitors with tears, hugs, laughter, and sweat. The tears are tears of joy, and the sweat is mostly because people have visited us during the winter and early spring and are simply not acclimated to the heat and the humidity that is ever-present on our island.
The climate has me thinking, it would probably be helpful to share a simple list of what to bring and what to leave behind when you’re visiting St John. This list will help you to arrive in vacation mode, ready to happy hour in style!
What to Bring to St John
1) Loose, comfortable, breathable clothing.
Maybe you’ve spent weeks or even months working on your bikini body, and you want to show it off in tight clothes. This is not the time or the place! Flaunt your beautiful body on the beach, but bring something comfortable and thin to wear when you are not on the beach. Cotton or rayon sundresses, and shorts with cute, comfortable tops are perfect for the ladies. And, although I used to be “famous” for saying I didn’t believe in T-shirts, T-shirts are perfectly acceptable here for the gentlemen. If you’re going to a super nice dinner, you may want to bring a short sleeve polo or a linen button-down shirt if you want to be fancy. This will have you looking like you live here! St John is not the island for dinner jackets and cocktail attire.
2) A variety of swimsuits and coverups.
Now, let’s talk about beach attire. The beaches of St John are spectacular. You are going to likely want to spend most of your time on them. If your main objective is just to get sun, go ahead and wear the skimpiest bathing suit you’d like. But if you want to do some snorkeling and hiking, you’ll want to wear a comfortable, supportive suit that will work for such activities. Remember that although this is an island and it is very laid-back, you need to cover up in the car and in restaurants, even at happy hour. It’s just customary here. So bring some fun coverups for cute pictures at the beautiful overlooks like Trunk Bay, Caneel Bay, and Maho Bay. You’ll also want fun sarongs and coverups for happy hour pictures with your friends and your cocktails!
3) Proper footwear.
Flip-flops, flip-flops, flip-flops. Did I mention that you should bring flip-flops? Many of the hikes can be done in your flip-flops. And flip-flops are perfectly acceptable anywhere on the island, day or night. For some of the tougher hikes, you may want to bring tennis shoes, as we call them in the south. I think in the north, y’all call them sneakers! You really don’t need to wear dressy shoes for dinner. When I used to be a tourist on St John, I would bring wedges and strappy sandals, but they always ended up staying in my bag. Flip-flops are just the best island footwear. Period. I’m happier when I’m comfortable, aren’t you?
4) Snorkel gear.
If you own fins and a mask and are attached to them, by all means bring them with you. But no worries if you don’t own any of this equipment. There are many places on the island to rent everything you need and you will be snorkeling with your rental gear in no time!
May is skin cancer awareness month. Let’s all be aware that the sun is intense in the tropics. Don’t get too big for your britches and decide that a little “first day burn” is just what you need to get your tan started. Sunscreen is your friend. Bring plenty of it or plan to buy it the day you arrive and use it generously. A bad sunburn can put a damper on an otherwise perfect week in paradise. Plus, you just look silly!
6) Camera, Go Pro, Smart Phone.
Whatever takes the best pictures is what you should bring. A Go Pro is fabulous for underwater excursions. You will see some of the most amazing sea life while snorkeling on St. John. I find that my iPhone 4s takes beautiful pictures on land. There are very few days that we set out on our adventures with our Canon camera, but if an old-fashioned camera is what you’re most comfortable using to take pictures, bring it. You are going to be absolutely amazed at how beautiful this island is, and you’ll definitely want to capture it. No photography classes necessary to leave with frame worthy shots!
7) Cash money.
You better get ready to get your wallet out, because St John ain’t cheap! The cab ride from the airport on St Thomas to Redhook is around $15 per person. The cabdrivers only take cash. The ferry from Redhook to St John is $7 dollars per person plus a small charge for each large piece of luggage. They only take cash. Once you arrive on St John if you plan to take a cab to your villa or hotel, the cabdrivers will only take cash. Hopefully you are getting my point. There are a couple of banks and ATMs, but not the ones you use in America, so you will incur a fee. The good news is most of the restaurants and shops accept credit cards, but trust me when I say bring your dollar bills!
In a few days I’ll be blogging about what to leave behind when you are traveling to St John. Stay tuned and start packing. Actually, it’ll probably take you less than 10 minutes to pack for your trip, so take your time. No hurry. Go ahead and get your “island time” attitude started stateside! See you at the ferry dock!
Ashley Cates, St John USVI blogger