© Max Kim Bee
Best for Unspoiled Nature
The least populated and least developed of the U.S. Virgin Islands sits just east of St. Thomas (a 20- to 45-minute ferry ride away). Two-thirds of St. John is protected from development as part of the Virgin Islands National Park—the legacy of Laurance Rockefeller, who donated the first 5,000 acres to the federal government in 1956.
If you stay at the Westin St. John Resort & Villas (888/627-7206 or 340/693-8000; westinresortstjohn.com; doubles from $759) or Caneel Bay (340/776-6111; caneelbay.com; doubles from $550), it’s easy to get to the main town of Cruz Bay by taxi—roughly a five-minute ride from either resort. Consider, however, renting a car for at least one day to explore the rest of the island—and remember to drive on the left.
Worth the Splurge
Another of Rockefeller’s legacies is Caneel Bay. One of the first-ever eco-resorts, its low-lying buildings were designed in 1956 to blend in to the surrounding environment; to this day wild donkeys share the grounds with guests. The resort also has seven beaches, five restaurants, and the Self Centre, for meditation and yoga.
The Maho Bay Camps (800/392-9004; maho.org; doubles from $135) is a no-frills eco-resort—which means no pool, shared bathrooms with low-flush toilets, and 114 non-air-conditioned tents. That said, there is a charming tree house–like appeal, thanks to the wooden boardwalks and staircases leading up from Maho Bay to the tents. And the price is right.
Because Honeymoon Beach can only be reached by hiking from Caneel Bay or Cruz Bay, it’s rarely crowded. (Word of advice: Trunk Bay, on the other hand, is very popular, but first-time visitors shouldn’t miss the snorkeling trail managed by the National Park Service, with plaques on the ocean floor identifying different types of coral and fish.)
While the food at the Pan-Asian Asolare (6A Caneel Hill, Cruz Bay; 340/779-4747; dinner for two $135) is good—dumplings, noodles, seared and grilled fish dishes—the main draw is the hilltop view of Cruz Bay, especially stunning as the sun sets over St. Thomas.
Residents love Woody’s Seafood Saloon (Cruz Bay; 340/779-4625; dinner for two $17), good for conch fritters and cold beer. There are often more patrons than can fit into the small space, so you can opt to take your drinks to the tables outside.