I’m a beach girl through and through. Most of my favorite vacations have and always will be at the beach. For the last two years, we had the incredible opportunity to travel to the Virgin Islands thanks to some work perks through the hubby. Last year we vacationed in St, Thomas before Isabelle struck and then this year we traveled to St John (post-Isabelle).
Having been to the VI and BVI both pre and post-Isabelle, it’s hard to believe what the people on these islands have gone through. So much was destroyed and lost. Most of the resorts were badly damaged (so much so that none of them on St. John had re-opened yet), most of the restaurants were demolished, and our favorite beach bars were washed away. As you can imagine, tourism has taken a huge hit since the storms. But with the help of natives, business owners, long-time visitors that love the islands, and Kenny Chesney (he’s a resident and a local hero), the islands are now on the mend. While many people are still living without power or a roof over their heads, they haven’t lost hope and are working around the clock to get things back in working order. These people count on tourism dollars to feed their families, so it’s been a huge focus to get businesses and vacation rentals back up and running.
We traveled to St. John in late May and we’re one of the first groups to stay in the vacation home we rented, Finisterre, since the hurricane hit. There was actually minimal damage done to the property and since they had a large generator and extremely compassionate owners, many of the people in town took shelter there during the months they went through with no power.
After taking a plane to St. Thomas, a boat to St. John, and a jeep up many winding roads to our rental, we were a bit tired but absolutely blown away when we stepped out of the car and saw the view. Words can’t even begin to describe this property because it’s absolutely breathtaking. The expansive estate, ocean views from pretty much anywhere you stand, and the attention to detail in the decor and design was second to none. Finisterre is an absolute dream, and I highly recommend it if you’re traveling with a large group.
Since our house was situated on top of a cliff, walking was out of the question, so we rented Jeeps to get around the island. We spent a ton of time at our house because with a view like that, why would you ever want to leave? But we did head to a few beaches on St. John, and into town for dinner and cocktails a few times. Most of the bars and restaurants in St. John were back up and running; many had been rebuilt or refurbished so there was no worry in finding a good meal or a cold cocktail.
We had an amazing time in St. John relaxing, sipping on painkillers, island hopping and enjoying each other’s company. So much so that we already planning our next trip!
Below you will find my top recommendations on things to do, my favorite places to dine and islands you will need to visit. Hope you visit the islands very soon!
Restaurants and bars to visit in St. John:
Morgan’s Mango– Great dinner spot, definitely go for lobster night!
Margaritas Phil’s – When you need your margarita to go!
Rhumb Lines – Great for brunch or for amazing dumplings
Extra Virgin – We went for brunch. Had the best Bloody Mary in town!
La Tapa– Great for a romantic dinner or a group! (tapas style)
Longboard- Great beer list, margs and poke bowls. The decor is super cute too!
You can also hire a private chef to cook for you, which we did one night.
Beaches to Visit :
Our favorite activity when in the VI is to go island hopping. We chartered boats two out the seven days we were there, to take us to different islands in the BVI. If you plan to island hop, be sure to pack your passport as you do have to pass through customs to enter. Pack a cooler or better yet your captain will stock the bar, and you can hop from island to island carefree and with a cocktail in hand. Cruise through the ocean, anchor at your favorite beach bar and swim to shore. Paradise.
A few of my favorite island bars that I know are open,post-Isabelle:
Soggy Dollar – This bar is a BVI staple and well named because your dollars will be soggy once you swim into shore! Known for the painkiller, and rightly so because it’s the best I’ve ever had. But be careful, they sneak up on you quick! The new soggy dollar looks a bit different but still has the same great vibes. There are also a handful of bars adjacent to Soggy Dollar worth checking out, but you can’t skip over the SD!
Cooper Island Beach Bar – This restaurant seems to be brand new, has room for tons of seating and is a great spot to stop for lunch. We had a nice long lunch there to fuel up for more island hopping and painkiller drinking!
The Baths – Just a short (and gorgeous) hike into a hidden beach bar. Gorgeous natural baths lay between your boat and the bar, so you can’t miss them!
B-Line – When we arrived, it seemed that they had just reopened. The owners were painting the plywood walls as we ordered them a cocktail and offered them a hand. While they didn’t let us pick up a paintbrush they did let Casey pick up their baby goat and rock him to sleep. True story.
Foxy’s– Great little beach bar on Little Yost. Grab a painkiller and take a swing in the hammock before cruising to the next island.
Willy T’s – We visited this pirate ship bar last year when we visited, but unfortunately, it was demolished in the hurricane. But they purchased a new boat, and when we were there in late May, the boat had just arrived, and they were just waiting on licensing before they officially opened in June. This is a must because you can jump off the pirate ship into the ocean. This was one of my favorite memories from the last trip!
If you’re looking to stay on St. John and experience their lovely beaches, I would recommend trying Honeymoon Beach and Trunk Bay. Both were gorgeous!
Boat Charter Companies:
There are many boat charter companies to choose from, but these are the two we used and liked. One day we rented a high power fancy speedboat and the second boat day was a bit more chill with a power boat from Sunshine Daydream Boat Rentals, and we packed our own cooler. Either way you’ll have a hell of a time!
St. John is calling your name and they are ready to welcome you with open arms. The large resorts will be open soon, and there are many vacation rentals and boutique hotels that are accepting guest now. Not only will you have the time of your life but your dollars will go to help rebuild St. John. Hope to see you there soon!