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St John – Checking in a year after Irma

Checking in on St John, USVI – November 2018

St John island in the USVI has long been a favorite for WIMCO and its villa rental clients. What’s not to like? St John has miles of white sand beaches, quality snorkeling and scuba spots often just steps from the beach, the quaint Caribbean village of Cruz Bay full of restaurants to bop into for drinks and dinner, and a national park that covers two thirds of the island and thus limits development.

St. John, Virgin Islands, vacation rental, irma

We traveled to St John in November 2018 to inspect the private villas we represent there, and to assess how well it had recovered from hurricane Irma back in September of 2017. The island is in great shape in general. Here are the highlights:

  • Cruz Bay village– it’s as lively as ever. Restaurants line the narrow streets, music spills out of bars at night, and interesting boutiques offer everything from T-shirts to necklaces to local art.
  • Coral Bay – the sleepy east side village is as peaceful as ever. Long time favorites Skinny Legs and Lucy’s are open along with a few newcomers.
  • Villas – Over 80% of the private villas we represent are open for the start of the season. The work done on these villas has not only repaired them, but has also refreshed and updated them.
  • Infrastructure – the roads are in excellent shape and new carbon composit telephone poles were installed all over the island. Therefore, electricity, phone and internet are available everywhere. Grocery stores are open and well stocked.
  • Beaches – All of the famous north shore beaches are open, and their parking lots and public rest rooms are open.
  • Access – the ferry from Red Hook in St Thomas runs on the hour during daylight hours, and then less frequently after sunset. There is easy access for people flying into St Thomas.

What work remains?

  • There are some stores and private homes that remain boarded up. In many cases, this is because insurance hasn’t been settled yet, or because the owners have decided to completely rebuild rather than just repair.
  • Two popular waterfront restaurants in Cruz Bay, The Waterfront Bistro and The Beach Bar, are still being repaired as part of a larger upgrade of the Wharfside Village Shopping Center they are located in. They are expected to open in 2019.
  • Hotel The Westin is in the final stages of repair. Word is that it will open in January. Caneel Bay Hotel and Villas has yet to start repairs as they are working to negotiate a longer lease from the Parks Service before investing in a renovation.

St. John, Virgin Islands, vacation rental, irma

What’s hot?

  • The restaurant scene! Some favorites downtown include Extra Virgin, Longboard, Lime Inn, Woody’s, The Tap, The Terrace, Ocean 362, and High Tide (the only waterfront restaurant open in Cruz Bay as of Nov 1). On the Northside of town, visit Mongoose Junction. It’s a fun shopping and dining center and is home to the Gecko café, The Tab room bar and Greengo’s.
  • Cruz Bay! This pedestrian friendly village feels like a smaller and simpler version of Gustavia, with a pinch of Key West thrown in. You’ll find colorful shops, bars and eateries beckoning the visitor. Most vacationers opt to rent villas in the west end of the island so they have easy access to Cruz Bay.

Insiders Tips

  • Try the Mushroom Fettuchini at Extra Virgin Bistro -featuring Portobello & Shiitake Mushrooms, Fresh Herbs, Pecorino-Toscano, Truffle Oil. It’s as good as you’ll find in any top notch restaurant stateside.
  • Drop in to Skinny Legs bar in Coral Bay for Happy Hour – you’ll love the $2 rum punch!
  • Have a drink at the third floor Sky Bar at Gallows Point Hotel in Cruz Bay, watch the sun set, then see the lights of St Thomas come up.

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