About St. John
We are a U.S. Territory and we enjoy all the benefits that U.S. citizenship has to offer, except that we cannot vote for President. However, we do receive all other benefits awarded citizens of the (mainland) United States. The United States purchased the Virgin Islands from Denmark in 1917. There are approximately 6000 residents currently living on St John.
Airport: There are no airports on St. John, but St. Thomas’ Cyril E. King Airport has direct flights from numerous major hubs in the U.S. Visitors to St. John fly into St. Thomas, then take a taxi to one of the two ferry docks, and then transfer to St. John via large ferryboats: Red Hook ferry is 15 minutes and the Charlotte Amalie (downtown) ferry takes about 45 minutes. There are also private “water taxis” and charter helicopter service available by advanced reservations. Our latitude is 18.2 degrees north and our longitude is 64.5 degrees west.
The Virgin Islands National Park is a tremendous asset on St. John and allows the island to offer a truly unique living experience. The Park protects the pristine beauty of approximately 2/3 of St. John. 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. National Geographic magazine named St. John as one of the “50 Places You Must See In Your Lifetime”.
St. John is a mountainous island of volcanic origin covering about 20 square miles. At its widest points, St. John is about 9 miles long and about 2 miles wide. The highest elevation is 1,277 feet at Bordeaux Mountain.
Banking: There are two banks on St. John, Scotia Bank and First Bank; both have ATM machines, and Starfish Market and both resorts also have ATM machines.
Mail Service: Mail service is provided through the U.S. Postal Service as well as Federal Express, and DHL. U.S. Postal rates are the same as in the States. Newspapers: St. John Tradewinds, St. John Sun Times, The Virgin Islands Daily News and the St. Croix Avis are the local papers. USA Today, The Wall Street Journal & several U.S. and Puerto Rican newspapers are flown in daily.
Pets: You will need to acquire a complete and current vaccination history from your veterinarian as well as a required Health Certificate stating that your pet is healthy enough to travel and withstand specific altitudes and endure temperatures typically ranging from 46 to 86 degrees. This is not usually required by the airline, but is required for your pet to pass through the USVI Customs Department.
Pharmacies: There is a full service pharmacy in Cruz Bay.
Weather on St. John: Cooled by the Tradewinds, our weather ranges from partly cloudy to mostly sunny, with near-ideal temperatures and gentle breezes year round. Rainfall averages about 43 inches per year. Winter temperatures range from about 77 to 84 degrees and summer temperatures range from about 82 to 90 degrees.
St. John residents enjoy an exceptional quality of life, with a clean environment, a low crime rate, a relaxed lifestyle, and “perfect” weather. Opportunities for outdoor exercise abound for lovers of land and water alike. We have many hiking trails through the Park, and many types of watersports are enjoyed year-round. We have two gym facilities and our health services include the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center and several private St. John physicians, as well as a hospital and additional private physicians on St. Thomas.
Virgin Island residents are subject to the Virgin Islands IRS tax code, which is a mirror image of the Federal IRS tax code. There are no city or state taxes. Businesses pay a 4% gross receipts tax on gross income.
Residents of St. John appreciate the relaxed pace and the privacy of island living, yet we enjoy opportunities to connect and have a reputation for pulling together as a small town community. There are lots of ways to be involved in our community, from volunteering for the Friends of the National Park & Animal Care Center to taking advantage of all the classes and events offered at the St. John School of the Arts.
St. John is a great place to raise children. We have a private school for grades pre-K through 12, a religiously affiliated private school for grades pre-K through 3, and public schools for grades K-9. (St. John public school students travel to St. Thomas for grades 9-12). St. Thomas has a variety of private schools as well, including the highly regarded Antilles School.
Special tax benefits are offered by the Economic Development Commission (“EDC”) of the Virgin Islands. Visit www.usvieda.org for more information.
Island of St. John Unofficial Glossary
Barge – Sometimes also called the “car ferry” people use this term to refer to the car barge between St. Thomas and St. John. Not to be confused with the passenger ferry.
Bow – The front part of a boat.
Callaloo – A leafy green vegetable which is edible when steamed.
Cay – Pronounced “Key” this term refers to a low island of sand and coral.
Conch – Pronounced “Conk.” Large edible mollusk typically served stewed, marinated in lime juice, or pounded for use in salads.
Country – All of St. John except Cruz Bay. Two thirds of the island is National Park so don’t forget to venture off the beach and explore.
Fungi – Cornmeal based side dish similar to polenta.
Good Morning/Afternoon – The essential greeting of the Virgin Islands. Use of this greeting is deeply rooted in local culture and a quick way to show respect and friendliness. The response to this greeting is usually “Okay” or “All Right” so don’t be offended when you don’t hear “good morning/afternoon” as a response.
Irie – Cool, good or nice.
Island Time – The pace of life here is different so be ready for things to take a little longer. We like to think of it as just slow enough to be just right.
Jumbie – Caribbean term for spirits or ghosts.
Love City – The nickname for St. John.
Painkiller – The classic Caribbean rum drink. Ingredients include: Dark Rum, Cream of Coconut, Pineapple Juice, OJ and a dash of Nutmeg.
Palou – Local dish made with rice, chicken & vegetables.
Port – The left hand side of a boat (facing forward). Denoted by a red light at night.
Rock City – The nickname for St. Thomas.
Salt fish – Salted dried cod or sometimes mackerel. A local staple.
Starboard – The right hand side of a boat (facing forward). Denoted by a green light at night.
Stern – The rear part of a boat.
Tamarind – The tree which produces the brown sweet/sour fruit of the same name. Also the tree in the middle of the South Shore Road.
Twin City – The nickname for St. Croix.
Yank – Someone from the U.S. mainland. Also the more formal diction used by locals when talking to tourists…as opposed to speech steeped in slang.
*Local Handshake – You will find that locals have a distinct way of greeting each other which includes a regular handshake followed by interlocking of the fingers in a cup shape and then culminated by a “fist pound.”
Tips for Driving on St. John
1. Keep to the left! We drive on the left here and you’ll find that the steering wheel is also on the left. If it helps; follow the person in front of you and hope they are locals.
2. Slow down. The speed limit is 10mph in town and 20mph otherwise, but the quality of the road will often dictate a lower maximum speed.
3. Be patient. You will find that people treat traffic rules as suggestions so it won’t be uncommon to see two cars stopped in the middle of the road to chat or the occasional delay due to donkey, cow, goat or pig crossings.
4. Don’t confuse the “ferry” which is the passenger ferry and the “barge” which is the car barge. There is no “car ferry.”
5. Three main roads:
- Centerline Road which crosses the center of the island and connects Coral Bay with Cruz Bay.
- North Shore Road debuts on the north end of Cruz Bay by the St. John Properties building and hugs the coastline heading north and east. Take this road to the prominent north shore beaches like Hawksnest, Caneel Bay, Trunk Bay, and Cinnamon Bay. Eventually North Shore Road turns into Centerline Road.
- South Shore Road exits Cruz Bay by the Marketplace and gas station. Take this road to the Westin and south shore locations. After going up Gift Hill, South Shore Road turns into Centerline Road.
6. Buckle up. The police are vigilant about seatbelt use.
7. No cell phones while driving. Use your stay on St. John to get away from your cell phone and be aware that local police will issue fines for motorists caught driving while on the phone.
8. Remember to make use of your lower gears, especially on hills and switchbacks.
9. Hitchhiking is allowed on the island and you will likely see people along the roads looking for a ride. Instead of pointing a thumb in the direction they are going hitchhikers will use their pointer finger. While picking up hitchhikers is safe it wouldn’t be expected from someone driving a rental car.
10. Have fun. While there is zero tolerance for drunk driving here you are allowed to have an open container in the car…even while driving.
Following directions on St. John is a unique experience. We don’t have traffic lights and few streets have names so directions here are given based on landmarks. A few major landmarks include:
- The Westin on South Shore Road which has notable signage and a tree growing in the middle of the road.
- Mongoose Junction which is a collection of food and retail vendors at the north end of Cruz Bay and right next to the St. John Properties building.
- The Ferry Dock where you disembark from the St. Thomas (people, not cars) ferry. Also a good place to find a cab.
- Wharfside Village is the collection of vendors located just south of the ferry dock and right on the beachfront.
- The Marketplace is another major collection of shops and home to the largest grocery store, Starfish Market. It is at the south end of Cruz Bay on South Shore Road.
- The gas station (not to be confused with the Texaco Station as per below). We use to only have one gas station in Cruz Bay and we still refer to the gas station is located on South Shore Road just after the Marketplace as “the” gas station.
- Jacob’s Ladder refers to the steep portion of road heading south towards the Westin on South Shore Road (just after the gas station). Be mindful of the cars in front of you as some of them struggle more than others with the sharp grade of the road. And, always wait for trucks to get to the top before following them up.
- The Roundabout is pretty self-explanatory and is located just east of town, up the hill from the ferry dock.
- Texaco Station is a reference point that no longer exists but is nonetheless still prevalent in direction-giving. The site of the former Texaco station is situated at the Roundabout. Perhaps more visible and just as useful is the school baseball field immediately across from the “Texaco Station.”
- Dumpsters are frequently used as landmarks. One of the more frequently referred to dumpsters is the one next to the basketball courts on South Shore Road after the Marketplace.
- Woody’s Seafood Bar & Grill is distinctly located in the center of Cruz Bay. There are usually people hanging out by the outdoor seating and occasionally in the middle of the road. It might have something to do with their popular happy hour.
- Speed bumps are also helpful markers though be vigilant as they are not always boldly painted so they can sneak up on the unsuspecting driver.
- Switchbacks are common place on the roads here as they help navigate the rugged terrain. Counting the number of switchbacks on a road can be a useful tool for finding your way.