POST SUMMARY: The best things to do in St. John with kids and all the tips and resources you need to plan your family vacation at St. John.
Planning a trip to Saint John with kids and wondering what there is to do on the island? We’ve got you covered.
The Virgin Islands, or USVI, is comprised of three picture-perfect islands: St. John, St. Croix. and St. Thomas.
Each island offers its own unique appeal, with Saint John offering a verdant landscape of undeveloped, pristine land. With 60% of the island designated a National Park, Saint John is a beautiful respite for a family looking for a nature-filled getaway.
With most of the island left in its original state, many might wonder…Is Saint John good for kids? Yes! From calm beaches, underwater snorkel trails, and fun hikes, here’s our list of 10 things to do with kids in Saint John that are fun for the entire family.
We’ve also included a guide to Saint John, including where to stay, what to bring, tips for enjoying your time, how to get there, and a brief history of the island’s indigenous inhabitants. You can scroll down or use the table of contents below to get right to the list of what to do in St. John with kids.
*This St. John with kids post may contain affiliate links, which means we might earn a small commission if you purchase from them. This is at no extra cost to you! We only recommend products and services we truly think are helpful.
BEFORE YOU GO: Be sure to check out the Visit USVI page for the most up-to-date information on travel requirements to the US territory. We needed to get a covid test five days before getting on our plane. Things change rapidly and they are the most accurate source for requirements.
BEST TIME TO VISIT ST. JOHN WITH KIDS
Saint John has an even, tropical temperature that ranges from the ’70s to the ’80s.
The island sees the highest amount of visitors from December to March when temperatures are consistently in the 80’s, and there’s the least chance of rain. It’s also when lodging prices will be significantly higher, and crowds will be at their peak.
From April to June, the crowds begin to thin out, and prices will start to lower. This is generally considered the best time to visit St. John with kids since the weather sits in the ’80s, rain is unlikely, and restaurants and tours will still be operating.
July to November is the slowest time of year in the Virgin Islands, with rates significantly reduced. The only problem…it’s hurricane season. The last big hurricanes were Hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017, and Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017. The two hurricanes greatly devastated the island, and their impact is still seen and felt to this day. While your chances of a big hurricane are slim, it’s something to know and plan for. Travel insurance is recommended if visiting during Hurricane Season. Be sure to read the fine print on your travel insurance!!
The Restaurants and tours start to shut down around late August, with almost everything closed by mid-September. If you visit from October to November, you’ll need to stay at a hotel that has a restaurant or be prepared to make your own food
We traveled during hurricane season in early September and loved our time there. The water was warm, and the beaches were blissfully uncrowded. We had a small 10-minute rainshower that, to be honest, was absolutely magical. If you’re a romantic like me, swimming in the rain is the best.
HOW TO GET TO SAINT JOHN
With no airport on Saint John, the easiest way to get there is flying to Cyril E. King Airport (STT) on St. Thomas and taking a short ferry (20 minutes) to St. John. Most people fly into the airport and take a taxi to the Red Hook ferry terminal. You can look at this page here for up-to-date prices and ferry timetables.
You can also opt for a private water taxi to take you from St. Thomas to St. John.
If you are staying at the Westin, you can use their private ferry to take you from Red Hook to the Westin dock. It is more costly but convenient as it also includes a private transfer from the airport to Red Hook Ferry Terminal. You can see prices and the ferry timetable here.
Lastly, if you choose to rent a car in St. Thomas, you can use the car ferry. You can see prices and the ferry timetable here. Personally, we think it’s a better idea to rent a car on St. John rather than take the car ferry. More ferry options and cheaper!
WHERE TO STAY WHEN VISITING ST. JOHN WITH KIDS
We stayed at the Westin St. John Resort Villas and loved our time there. It’s located on Cruz Bay and has the advantage of a private beach and its own ferry. It’s fantastic for multigenerational travel as they offer up to three-bedroom villas. We stayed in a room with a full kitchen to cut costs by eating most of our meals in the room. It has a calm beach that is perfect for young kids. When we visited, there were no waves, and the water was shallow for about 15 feet. It has a nice playground, a big pool, a kids center, a restaurant, a small grocery and deli, and beach rentals. Your kids will love the wild iguanas, cats, lizards, and roosters that roam the property. The iguanas even like to swim in the pool! I also enjoyed that there are free beach loungers and floaties for the beach. That being said, the Westin is NOT a cheap hotel. We chose it because we were traveling with someone who has been accruing 30 years of points and loyalty with the Marriot Bonvoy program. If you’re looking for a good rewards program, we recommend the Marriott!
If looking for other places to stay, we recommend looking for a vacation rental through VRBO. The cost-benefit and advantage of having a kitchen and room for your little one to roam is a deal-breaker for us. Plus, St. John is a small island with few resorts and hotels. When looking for home rentals, you’ll want to look for homes on the island’s southwest side like Chocolate Hole, Fish Bay, Rendezvous Point, and Hart Bay.
Great Cruz Bay is the epicenter of the developed part of the island, and I personally would not want to stay there since it’s too congested and crowded for my liking. The upside to staying in Great Cruz Bay is you have the option of being within walking distance of restaurants.
The best beaches on the islands do not have accommodations since they are on National Park territory, so you’re better off choosing a rental home or hotel you like and renting a car to get to the nice beaches. You can read more about renting a car in our tips below.
Here are some options for VRBO house rentals in St. John:
- Pearl Guest House: 2 Bedrooms, Sleeps 4, Kayaks available, Staircase to a quiet beach, Ovean Views
- Spacious Cottage: 2 Bedrooms, Sleeps 4, Ocean views, Minutes to Cruz Bay, Communal pool
- Blue Wrasse Cottage: 1 Bedroom, Sleeps 6, Ocean Views, Perfect for a family on a budget.
- Palm Vista Villa: 3 Bedrooms, Sleeps 6, Option to rent only the amount of bedrooms you need, pool, Stunning panoramic view of water, Beach chairs, Luxury rental
- Coconuts: 3 Bedrooms, Sleeps 7, Ocean views, Hot Tub, Pool, Luxury Rental
You can also browse through VRBO and place your filters to find the home rental that’s right for you.
WHAT TO BRING WHEN VISITING ST. JOHN WITH KIDS
Here’s a small list of what you’ll need to bring when visiting St John with kids.
- REEF SAFE SUNBLOCK – Protect your skin and the reefs with reef safe sunblock. We used the Clear Zinc suncreen from Badger and it worked well. It does have a white cast to the skin when you first put it on, but it melts into your skin after a few minutes.
- BUG SPRAY – The mosquitos and sand flies can be a big problem depending on where you’re sitting and what time of day. Typically, you’ll find them in the late afternoon or in shady areas by foliage. I got ravaged by them, and noticed a difference when I got vigilant about using bug spray. I used this Deet free brand and it worked very well. Use it everytime you go out. Don’t wait till after they bite you!
- BUG RELIEF – You’ll want something for just in case the bugs get to you or your little ones. While you can buy an anti itch product that supposedly sucks the poison out, sometimes you don’t know you’ve been bitten until hours later when it’s too late. With sand flies, you often don’t know they’ve bitten you until the next day. I find an itch relief cream is the best for soothing your skin when it’s itchy. Itch Away from KidSafe is an excellent safe choice for young sensitive skin.
- REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE – The humidity is REAL. Bring a reusable water bottle so you can cut down on plastic consumption and have ice cold water at your disposal. You’ll need to check to see if the place you are staying has filtered water. We used our Hydro Flask water bottle and highly recommend it. It keeps your water ice cold for 24 hours, which is a godsend in the humidity of Saint John. You can compare prices and colors for their water bottles on Amazon and Hydroflask.
- SNORKEL GEAR – While you can definitley rent snorkel equipment on the island, we like to bring our own so we can know it’s clean and high quality gear. We are also a family that LOVES to snorkel. For our four year old son, we use the Aqua Sphere Snorkeling Mask and attached the Cressi Dry Top Snorkel. For us, we like the full face snorkel masks from Wildhorn. You look ridiculous in them, but we love them because your mask doesn’t fog up, the viewing space is bigger, and it’s more comfortable on your jaw.
- PASSPORT – Don’t forget your passport if you want to visit any of the neighboring islands that are not a territory of the US.
READ NEXT: For more suggestions on what to bring to a beach vacation including the best sun gear, check out our post about Beach Must Haves For Toddlers.
TIPS FOR VISITING ST. JOHN WITH KIDS
- RENT A CAR – Since a large sprawl of the island is National Park, you can only access the best beaches by driving to them. Taxis are available (you can learn about them here), but we prefer the independence of a car. Driving on the island can be intimidating. It has steep terrain, hairpin turns, the roads aren’t the best, and the driving is done on the left side of the road. I’m not trying to scare you, just prepare you for what driving conditions are like. If you drive slowly, let faster people pass you, and get a high clearance vehicle like a Jeep (highly recommended) you should be fine. We rented through O’Connor Car Rental. It’s a local company that’s been operating on the island since 1975.
- RENT BABY EQUIPMENT: If you need any baby or toddler equipment that you don’t want to lug over, you can rent from Island Baby. I would rent whatever you need before you leave so they can deliver it to your hotel, villa, or car rental for the day you arrive. They have everything from car seats, strollers, high chairs, and more.
- PACK NON PERISHABLE FOOD AND SNACKS: The food at the grocery stores is expensive. It’s an island, so it costs them a lot to stock their groceries. Almost everything they supply has to be shipped in. The cheapest cereal I could find was $5 and corn chips were $10. If I were to do it again, I would pack my suitcase with cereal, snacks, and fresh fruit and pay the airline luggage fee.
- BRING A REUSABLE GROCERY BAG: Because they are a small island with limited resources, they have to work hard to reduce trash and excessive plastics. The grocery stores do not give plastic or paper bags, so if you plan to buy groceries bring a couple of reusable grocery bags like these that pack down to a small size.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SAINT JOHN
Saint John has been a territory of the US since it was purchased in 1917 from the Danish for $25 million. Traveling around the island and enjoying its lush landscape, I wondered who the island’s original inhabitants were and what happened to them. If traveling to St. John with kids that are school age, here’s a brief history of the indigenous owners of the land that you can tell them about in addition to the Danish and US history occupation of the island.
The first evidence of human life on the island dates back to 2200 b.c. Called Ortoiroid or Ciboney, they were primitive fish foragers who lived in simple shelters.
The next evidence of human life was the Igneri, who came from South America around 400 b.c. Unlike the Ortoirod, they cultivated crops, lived in communal round houses, and lived on the islands for nearly 1000 years.
The Taino are the third group to live on the island. Taino settlements have been discovered in all of the Virgin Islands. Much more is known about them and their more advanced social systems. They traveled between the islands in canoes, made pottery, slept in hammocks, used intricate ornamentation, and used rocks as castanets to make music. They were known as a more peaceful group of people, unlike the Kalinago, a more militant, dominance-driven group indigenous to the Virgin Islands.
Today, there are no indigenous people living on the Virgin Islands. They were wiped out within 100 years of the Spanish arrival to the Caribbean. Most were killed from infectious diseases they were not immune to as well as warfare and the abusive enslavement by the colonists.
While the Taino people are no longer living, their mark is still evident in a few native words that are still used today: hammock, barbecue, and hurricane.
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SAINT JOHN WITH KIDS
It’s safe to say that you’re traveling to St. John with kids so you can enjoy the jaw-dropping, glorious beaches of Saint John. The following list of beaches are all a short walk from the parking lot and have public bathrooms available.
Here’s our list of easy to get to, family-friendly beaches in St. John:
- TRUNK BAY: (OUR FAVORITE) – Trunk Bay is a stunning beach that doesn’t disappoint. When driving from Grand Cruz torward Trunk Bay you’ll first see it from an overlook. Pull over and take the photo! You’ll see why it’s one of the most photographed beaches in the Carribean. The National Park system charges a fee of $5 per person (our four year old was free) with fees waived for active military and persons with a disability. The beach has chair rentals, food and drinks, showers, and snorkel rentals.
- MAHO BAY: (BEST ALL AROUND BEACH) Maho Beach is a stunning beach that also doesn’t disappoint. With a long swath of powdery white sand, you could spend all day here taking turns to snorkel, stand up paddle board, and build sand castles. The water is shallow for a long way out and wave free. Across the street from the beach are beach rentals, food and drinks, and bathrooms.
- FRANCIS BAY: (QUIETER BEACH) Francis Bay Beach is the last of the North Shore beaches and is a wonderful respite for anyone wanting a quieter, calm beach. There is no food or beach rentals so have everything you need before you go. Calm, blue, shallow water makes it perfect for young kids.
- HAWKSNEST BEACH: (BEST FOR WAVES) A favorite amongst locals, Hawksnest Bay, is perfect for the family that wants to romp around in the waves of the ocean. The waves are mostly moderate but they provide enough action for kids. Depending on the time of day, the beach can be a vary narrow strip. If you want shade, go in the afternoon! No rentals or food available at this beach.
- HONEYMOON BEACH: (BEST FOR AMENITIES) Honeymoon Beach, located in Caneel Bay, is a gorgeous, family friendly beach that has food, ample beach rentals, umbrellas, tours, and everything you could need. The only thing…it’s costly. It’s “free” to enter the beach, but if you drive there, you’ll park and have to pay the $10 price per person to be shuttled to the beach. Walking it is not an option. If you don’t want to pay the shuttle price, you could opt to hike the Lind Point Trail to Honeymoon Beach. It’s a 2.3 mile loop that’s rated as easy. It’s a good option for families that enjoy hiking, but if you don’t and aren’t up for spending money on the shuttle, visit other beaches.
TIP: We visited in the slow season, so crowds at the beaches were pretty sparse all day. Parking and space for everyone were easy to get. That greatly affected our experience of the beach. If you are visiting in the high season, the beaches could get crowded, and finding parking might be challenging. Your best bet is to arrive early in the morning or late afternoon if you want to snag a picnic bench and/or a parking spot.
SWIM WITH TURTLES
If your child is hoping to see turtles in their natural habitat, the best place to go with kids is Maho Bay. The close parking, covered picnic benches, bathrooms, and food make it an excellent family-friendly beach. When we visited, the water was shallow a far way out, and the water was delightfully calm.
TIP: Green turtles can most often be found in seagrass (munching away), so gravitate towards the middle area of Maho Bay, and you might get lucky. They are most often spotted in the early morning and late afternoon.
If you prefer a guided tour, you can do a snorkeling with turtles tour offered through VI Ecotours. You can see prices and learn more about the tour here.
Remember to teach your kids about the humane treatment of animals in their native habitat. It is illegal to touch or harass the turtles.
REEF BAY TRAIL
Hiking the Reef Bay Trail is an adventurous option for anyone traveling to Saint John with older kids who are up for a challenging hike. It’s a 4.4-mile out-and-back hike that ends at a pleasant beach. It includes a lush canopy of old-growth trees, a 40-foot waterfall, petroglyphs, and sugar plantation ruins. The trail is steep at times and best done in close-toed shoes. You can read more about the hike on All Trails to gauge if your child is up for the challenge. If you want to avoid the strenuous part of the hike (hiking back up!), you can do a guided tour with the National Park. The tour includes transportation to the trailhead and a boat ride back to the Visitor Center in Cruz Bay (no having to hike back up!). Bring plenty of water, snacks, a swimsuit, and bug spray.
LEINSTER BAY TRAIL AND WATERLEMON CAY
If you want a more leisurely walk, with a bonus of snorkeling at the end, take the Leinster Bay Trail, a 1.9 mile out and back trail that leads you to Waterlemon Cay, a fantastic spot for snorkeling. As with any hikes on the island, bring plenty of water, sunblock, and good walking shoes.
STAND UP PADDLEBOARDING
Saint John’s calm waters are perfect for stand-up paddleboarding! You can rent paddleboards through Virgin Islands EcoTours or SUP St. John. If you want lessons, you can schedule a lesson from SUP St. John. Both organizations have great reviews, but if you want a paddleboard delivered to your hotel or rental, SUP St John delivers for free.
With warm, calm waters, Saint John is the perfect place to snorkel with kids. If you want to snorkel independently on your own, Maho Bay and Trunk Bay offer excellent snorkeling right from the beach. Maho Bay is great for younger kids who are still learning how to snorkel. Trunk Bay has an underwater snorkel trail with informational plaques that teach you about the native species in the water. To be honest, we found the trail to be lackluster since algae were covering the plaques, and they were difficult to read. That being said, snorkeling at Trunk Bay was fun and sure to delight all ages. We spotted an octopus and a squid!
You can also opt for a guided tour with different options, like this tour that takes you kayaking to shallow coral reefs or this boat tour that takes you to two snorkeling spots and includes tacos at a floating restaurant.
CHARTER A BOAT
For a truly unforgettable experience on Saint John, charter a private boat to take you and your family on a customized trip around the azure waters of Saint John. Island Roots Charters is a highly reviewed, well-regarded local company that offers full-day private boat tours. They can create an itinerary for you, or they can work with you to accommodate the activities your family wants. You can learn more and see prices here.
You can also charter a boat to take you to neighboring islands, including the British Virgin Islands. The tour from One Love Charters is a highly rated tour that can take your family on a fun island-hopping excursion. You can learn more and see prices here.
If you’ve got an adventure kid over ten years old, you can try an introductory course to SCUBA diving that includes two dives. Less extensive than a full PADI certification, it’s an excellent way for your child to see if SCUBA is something they would be interested in learning. You can read more about the SCUBA class here.
ANNABERG SUGAR PLANTATION RUINS
The Annaberg Sugar Plantation is one of the many sugar plantations owned by the first Danish governor of St. Croix, Frederick Moth. It’s the most intact on the island and has beautiful views of the water. The ruins include a windmill tower, factory, and living quarters for the enslaved. Visiting the plantation offers a chance to give your kids a history lesson on Saint John and the colonization of the island by the Danish. Kids can learn about the production of sugar and rum and the brutal treatment and dehumanization of the enslaved workers. The National Park sometimes offers guided tours of the plantation.
KAYAK AND GLOW TOUR
This nighttime tour is a fun and short tour that includes “getting your glow on” with glow-in-the-dark body paint and transparent kayaks that light up the water underneath you. It’s a top-rated tour in Saint John that kids and parents can enjoy together. You can learn more about the tour and purchase tickets here.
Plan a sunset-watching excursion with your kids on the North Shore. You can gaze from the beach or if you want a high vantage point, opt for the easy hike to Peace Hill to watch nature’s best light show. Alternately, you can do a private sunset sail and enjoy the view from your boat. Click here to learn more about a sunset sail and to purchase tickets.
FRIDAY WITH FRIENDS PROGRAM
Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, a nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, offers a Friday with Friends seminar that offers fun hikes, kayaking adventures, and interactive education about the island. Kid-friendly programs include learning about turtles and paddling in Maho Bay and snorkeling in Hurricane Hole. They change every year, so check here to see what they are currently offering. The cost is a suggested donation of $30. By using their program, you are directly helping to conserve and protect St. John and the National Park.
That’s our round-up of the best things to do in St. John with kids! Happy adventures, and let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.
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