Tortola or St. John

For our vacation this year, my girlfriend and I are looking to rent a beach house in the Virgin Islands. We’re looking at a house because we simply want a total retreat - away from people, noise, crowds, etc.

We’ve found a great house in St. John and a great house on Tortola.

Any strong thoughts from anyone for or against one?

We really enjoy hiking, so St. John might be a bit better – and it looks like groceries will be cheaper there, as well. But the house in Tortola is nicer, so that’s what I’m currently leaning towards.

The catch? I need to decide tomorrow, 6/11!

St John the nicer of these two.

We rent a house on St John almost every year, so that is my preference, but I have never stayed on Tortola. It is easy to take a day trip via hired boat or ferry if you want to venture to one from the other. We are now in the habit of renting a powerboat for the day and going to the BVI’s snorkeling or bar hopping on Jost Van Dyke, but you should own a boat(or have a lot of experience) and be comfortable in the ocean to do so.

We love St John as it is so laid back and pristine with 2/3 of the island being National Park, but there are still plenty of bars and places to eat. On most of the beaches you have your own 100 ft of sand or so, sometimes less, but sometimes the smaller beaches entirely to yourself, and the beaches are beautiful. Make sure to snorkel with the sea turtles at Waterlemon Cay if you pick St John. When I originally looked at both, St John was a bit less expensive as well, particularly with the exchange rate.

Anyway, everytime we think about going somewhere else in the Caribbean, we just end up back on St John as it is hard to beat perfection, which pretty much sums up the place for us. I assume you realize that both Islands are very laid back without huge shopping, club or restaurant scenes. If you are looking for that sort of thing, go to St Thomas or St Croix. For us, we can’t get off St Thomas quickly enough after the plane lands, but to each his own. If you decide to go to St John, just throw up a post and I will be happy to tell you the places we have enjoyed.

Ok, missed the first part where you mentioned total retreat- either should be right up your alley, but if you like to hike St John has tons of trails.

Kenneth (and Bill!) - Thanks enormously. We’re not looking for shopping or clubs - in fact, our goal is to grill up fresh seafood most nights at our rental house.

Looks like we’ll do St. John!

Surprisingly enough, not a ton of fresh seafood in the VI’s. I had that plan as well the first time, lol. You can find some at Starfish($$$), and if you are lucky you can find some of the fishermen on the east end when they come in. I have tried 3 or 4 times with no success as of yet, but I hear it can be done. A couple we met one year managed to hook up with some divers who took them diving for Caribbean lobster and they scored big, but in general not the fresh seafood I have found elsewhere or expected. That said, you can still eat really well. Drop me a pm before you go and I’ll give you the rundown of things we found useful/fun/interesting and/or tasty.

Also, the whole place is way laid back and quiet, but if you really want the total retreat, book a place on the east end- Bordeaux Mountain or Coral Bay for example. There is actually a traffic circle in town (horror of horrors, but thankfully no stoplights), so we avoid Cruz Bay except for occasional shopping/foraging excursions and the odd dinner.

Also, you pretty much need a car and you will probably want a jeep. Be prepared to drive on the left(but the cars are US, so you still sit on the left). As they say, Drink Right, Drive Left!

Anyway, have fun, it’s an amazing place.

Been to St John many times. I think you made a good choice over Tortola. If I was going to the BVIs I would go to Virgin Gorda. Mr Brown is correct very little fresh seafood on STJ. There is a store called the fish trap downtown but most stuff is not local. Look for guys with big white coolers down by the National Park dock or in Coral Bay. It is pretty much hit or miss with a lot of Mackerel which in my opinion is not good. Don’t eat the reef fish.

You need a jeep and depending on when you are going you need to reserve one ASAP as there is a limited supply on island. If you went though a villa rental agency they should be able to help you. If not PM me and I have a list of all the rental agencies somewhere. The prices are almost all identical so shopping around is a waste of time.

Purchase a copy of St John fins, feet and four-wheel drive it is a great guide book that will give you all the hiking trails and snorkel spots.

Rent a private power boat for the day and go over to Norman island snorkel the indians and the caves. The Indians is one of the best snorkel sites in the Caribbean. Then have drinks and lunch on the Willy T a ship that is anchored in the bay on Norman island. Really amazing!