An island paradise that really isn’t that hard to get to
One of the great things about vacationing (and living) on St. John is the remoteness. It’s that little extra work needed to get here that makes it so special. For years we’ve heard from guests about how worried they were about travel days before their first visit, then how easy it was if you just gave yourself an extra hour each way, sat back, and enjoyed the warm breeze. Here are some details about ferry, car rental, taxi, and other options to help make your travel to and from St. John a little easier.
St. Thomas to St. John - ARRIVAL
There are three options to get to St. John from the St. Thomas (STT) airport:
Option I -- private water taxi:
We recommend Dohm's Water Taxi (1-340-775-6501). While for $25 per person with a 5-person minimum, it is more expensive than the public passenger ferry; this is a great way to start your vacation -- no hassle, no fuss and, best of all, Patti, will meet you when you arrive on St. John if you call or text her at 305-244-8000 before you leave St. Thomas, show you to your rental car agency and lead you to the Villa. To get from the airport to their dock on St. Thomas in Red Hook, Dohm’s offers to reserve for you Christopher Taxi for $75 including luggage for up to 4 people and $15 for each additional person. Space is limited so if you wish to travel by private water taxi to St. John, you will need to make a reservation early!
Option II - Public Passenger ferries:
Take a taxi (usually a 12 passenger van costing about $15 per person plus $3 per bag) from the airport to the ferry at Red Hook. The taxi ride takes about a half-hour or longer depending upon the number of stops along the way to unload other passengers. We, therefore, recommend reserving a private taxi that, for 4 or more people, costs no more than a regular taxi and will take you non-stop from the St. Thomas airport to the St. John ferry. We have arranged with Wheatley's Taxi Service for a $15 discount ($75, rather than the standard $90, for up to 4 people and then $15 for each additional person) -- contact them in advance at 1-340-473-8900 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to give them your flight schedule. They will meet you at the airport (even if your flight is delayed) and take you directly to the ferry dock. The public passenger ferry ($6 per adult, $1 per child 2-11, and $2 per bag) from Red Hook to St. John takes only 20 minutes and runs every hour on the hour up to, and including, midnight. Please call or text Patti at 305-244-8000 before you depart St. Thomas so he can meet you at the ferry dock on St. John (which is sometimes quite crowded); Patti will coordinate with your car rental agency to meet you and then she will lead you out to the Villa.
Option III -- Vehicle Barge:
If you are very adventurous, you may wish to consider renting a car at the airport on St. Thomas and taking the vehicle barge from Red Hook (adjacent to the passenger ferry terminal) to St. John (about $50 each way per vehicle, no charge for the people or baggage). While this sounds sensible, it does present a number of obstacles: (a) we drive on the left (no one knows why, but it is symptomatic of the way things work in Paradise - backwards, which is how you have to drive onto the vehicle barge); (b) we have no street signs (if you chose this option, please let me know and I will send you turn-by-turn driving directions); (c) the vehicle barges are often problematical and only run until 6:30PM or 7PM (whereas the passenger ferry runs until Midnight) so that do not even begin to think about this as an option unless your flight is scheduled to land by 4PM; (d) unless you rent a mini-van or large SUV, you will not have enough room in the car for 4 people and luggage (everyone underestimates the amount of luggage they will be bringing for a week's vacation); and, (e) if your St. Thomas rental car breaks down on St. John, you have a problem. While we do not recommend this option (especially for first-time visitors), it is less expensive as well more convenient to be able to load your luggage in your rental vehicle at the airport and not touch the luggage again until you get to the Villa. We have even arranged for guests of Great Expectations to rent vehicles on St. Thomas for a 5% discount from Amalie Car Rental and L&L St. Thomas. Be advised that not every car rental agency on St. Thomas will allow you to take their vehicles to St. John (a $1000 fine if they catch you) -- in addition to Amalie and L&L (both off-airport so no airport fees to pay and they pick you up at the airport), others that do allow their vehicles to be taken to St. John are Budget (located at the airport, but there can often be a very long line - especially on a busy weekend), Discount and Thrifty (both off-airport, but they pick you up), and (sometimes) Avis. Let me know if you choose this option so that I can provide you driving directions and let Patti know (340 244-8000) what barge you are on so she can meet you when you arrive.
St. John to St. Thomas - DEPARTURE
10 AM is departure time from the Villa (and also the time by which you must return your rental vehicle; otherwise you can be charged for an extra day!). If there are guests arriving at Great Expectations the day of your departure, the housekeeping staff will be at the Villa around 9 AM to start washing the sheets and towels and begin cleaning. If there is no arrival the day of your departure, it may be possible to extend this time (if you wish a later check-out time, please discuss it in advance with Patti). If your flight is not leaving until later in the day, you may wish to leave your luggage at Connections in Cruz Bay or the Visitor Center in Charlotte Amalie in order to spend some more time shopping or whatever.
Unless you have rented vehicles on St. Thomas, there are two main ways to get to the airport on St. Thomas (you can also reserve a private water taxi from Dohm’s Water Taxi @ 340-775-6501):
1. Take the ferry directly to "downtown"
The ferry takes about 45 minutes and costs $13 per person (children under 12 yrs of age $3.50) plus $4 per bag. It is a lovely ride (as long as there is not a lot of wind which may build up swells on the south side of St. Thomas) into the beautiful, turquoise harbor of Charlotte Amalie. You will be about a 5 minute ride from the airport and there are always taxis (should be about $10 per person) waiting to meet the ferry which leaves St. John for Charlotte Amalie at 8:45AM, 11:15AM, and 3:45PM.
If your flight is leaving in the afternoon (as most flights to the states do), we highly recommend taking the 11:15 AM or 1:15 PM ferry from Cruz Bay on St. John to downtown Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas. If you go early to do some duty-free shopping in Charlotte Amalie or to have lunch there (we recommend the Greenhouse across from where the ferry docks, or Hook, Line and Sinker in Frenchtown – just walk along the waterfront past the seaplane dock and take the first street on the left at the corner past the Post Office), you can leave your luggage with a taxi and arrange to be picked-up later to be taken to the airport (see below for how much time you will need at the airport).
2. Take the ferry to Red Hook
This ferry costs $7 per person (children under 12 yrs of age $1) plus $4 per bag and takes about 20 minutes and then it is about a 30 minute (depending on traffic) taxi ride ($15 per person plus $3 per bag) to the airport. There are always taxis waiting to meet the ferry on St. Thomas to take you to the airport. This ferry leaves St. John every hour on the hour from 6 AM to 11 PM.
If you have rented vehicles on St. Thomas, the vehicle barges are scheduled (mechanical breakdowns, US Coast Guard inspections, hangovers, etc., may cause cancellations/delays which is why we recommended not renting vehicles on St. Thomas) to depart Cruz Bay at 5:30 AM on weekdays (Boyson), 6 AM except on Sundays (Boyson), 6:15 AM on weekdays (Love City).
If you have a very early plane or just want to spend time exploring St Thomas you might consider staying at Bluebeard's Castle Hotel located on the east side of Charlotte Amalie and a convenient taxi ride to restaurants and the airport. Many of Bluebeard's rooms include a small kitchen with refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker and most have views of Charlotte Amalie harbor. If you are a guest of Great Expectations tell Reservations and you will be given a 10% discount on your stay!
You may have been told by your airline to arrive at the airport 3-4 hours before your flight (2 hours is probably plenty, but American Airlines is reportedly refusing to check-in passengers arriving less than 90 minutes before their flights so be very careful, or follow our advice – see the paragraph in red below – and hire a porter). Once you get through US Customs and TSA security, you will be in a large (air-conditioned) waiting room with an informal restaurant (good local food), your usual airport gift shop, and duty-free jewelry, liquor and perfume stores.
If you have luggage to check, you will need to go to the airline check-in counter at the St. Thomas airport so do not bother to print out your boarding passes in advance; they will not even look at them (but they will want to see your passport or government-issued photo ID). They will weigh any bags to be checked (but not your carry-on’s) and then hand the weighed bags back to you (with the baggage tags for your flight attached) so if you have any doubt about the weight of each bag, leave out the heavy stuff to carry with you and then you can re-pack the luggage after it is weighed and before you turn it over to TSA for screening and loading on your flight).
Upon arriving at the airport terminal, we recommend hiring a porter (the charge is only $3 per bag, but a little more will ensure the process goes smoothly); whether you are checking your luggage or carrying it all on-board your flight, the porter will escort you and your baggage to a ‘special’ line for US Customs and Immigration and then direct you (while he/she takes your checked luggage to TSA) to a special TSA area (for the usual TSA check of you and your carry-on baggage) thereby, eliminating any long, public lines. Trust us, it is well worth the cost, especially on a Saturday when the airport is crowded with passengers!