St. Thomas and St. John, along with the larger St. Croix, make up the three major islands of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Although located within four miles of each other, St. John and St. Thomas are very different vacation islands. St. Thomas vacations center around Charlotte Amelie, the Capital of the Virgin Islands, and extravagant St. Thomas resorts. In contrast, St. John is a quieter island where the St. John National Park accounts for 75 percent of the land and most of the St. John Beaches.
Virgin Islands Weather
Temperature in St. Thomas and St. John stays fairly stable throughout the year, with an average of 77 ° F in the winter. Summer teFmperatures in the Virgin Islands average closer to 82°.
Although tropical storms can arise any time of year, hurricane season in the U.S. Virgin Islands runs from June 1 to November 30. Tourists should monitor local weather conditions as a matter of course. Even though the chance of a hurricane is slim, both St. John and St. Thomas are well prepared for the possibility of them occurring.
Driving in the U.S. Virgin Islands
Although the U.S. Virgin Islands are a United States territory, driving during St. Thomas vacations differs from driving on the mainland. In the Virgin Islands, people drive on the left side of the road, as they do in Great Britain. Unlike Great Britain, however, the steering wheels are usually on the left side of the car, just as they are on the U.S. Mainland.
When to Visit St. Thomas and St. John
Peak tourist season in St. Thomas and St. John is during the winter, when the weather is cold on the mainland. During the summer, St. Thomas resorts and hotels may offer discounts to travelers.
College spring break season is a popular time for St. Thomas vacations, with college students from across America descending on St. Thomas hotels. Located on St. Thomas, the Virgin Island’s capital, Charlotte Amelie, is a popular party spot for vacationing college students.
Travelers who aren’t interested in partying may want to avoid St. Thomas resorts during spring break season, which runs from the middle of February to the beginning of April. Alternatively, tourists who want to avoid the college crowds can visit St. John during spring break time, as the island is not a spring break hotspot.
St. Thomas Resorts vs. St. John Resorts
St. Thomas resorts tend to be multi-story luxury resorts located on the beaches. Less expensive St. Thomas hotels can be found a short walk from the beach.
In contrast, St. John isn’t peppered with huge luxury resorts. In fact, its beaches are almost completely resort-free because they are part of the St. John National Park. As a result, all of St. John’s beaches are open to the public.
St. John’s only resort, the Caneel Bay resort, is located on a north shore beach. In contrast to St. Thomas resorts, St. John accommodations are generally smaller hotels or quaint bed and breakfast inns. While they are smaller in scale, St. John hotels do match up in the technology and comfort departments.
Things to Do on St. Thomas Vacations
As the main urban center for St. Thomas vacations, Charlotte Amelie provides tourists with one of the best shopping opportunities in the Caribbean. Its waterfront is home to a variety of shops that are housed in renovated warehouses dating back to the 1700s and the 1800s.
Another appealing aspect of visiting Charlotte Amelie is the opportunity to visit several national historic landmarks, including Fort Christian, which has guarded the harbor since 1672. Further inland, Skytsborg, or Blackbeard’s Castle, sits atop Government Hill.
Built by the Dutch in the 17th century, Skytsborg has been rumored to have been controlled by pirates. While no evidence exists to support this myth, the fortified tower certainly looks imposing.
Outside of Charlotte Amelie and the St. Thomas resorts, the island is hilly and mountainous. A climb up to Mountain Top offers an unparalleled view of the island and surrounding ocean. On your St. Thomas excursion, take a day to hike to the top of one of the mountains and then enjoy a banana daiquiri while watching the sunset.
Things to Do on St. John
In comparison to the bustling activity of St. Thomas vacations, St. John is for those in search of relaxation and unspoiled nature. Its small population of approximately 4,200 means that St. John doesn’t need an airport. Visitors come in by ferry from St. Thomas and other islands.
St. John beaches are among the most beautiful in the world. With much of the surrounding water included in the St. John National Park, the government-protected coral reefs are an extremely popular snorkeling spot.
While tourists can freely visit any of the beaches of St. John, camping facilities are only available at two St. John beaches, Cinnamon Bay and Maho Bay. Perhaps, the most popular beach is Trunk bay on the island’s north shore.
Away from St. John beaches, vacationers can hike 22 nature trails through subtropical forests. On these trails, hikers can see carvings made by St. John’s original inhabitants, the Arawak Indians.
Vacationers to St. John should make a trip to Cruz Bay, an old sugar and rum center that is now home to excellent restaurants, galleries and small shops.
St. Thomas Vacations or St. John?
With the two islands so close, you don’t have to choose between them! Visitors can stay at either St. Thomas resorts or the more laidback St. John hotels and ferry back and forth between the islands. A ferry runs from St. Thomas to St. John once an hour, and the ride across the clear waters of the Caribbean is an attraction in itself.