Ryan and Crystal Van Denabeele (@caribbeancastaways and formerly RumShopRyan and Castaway Crystal) have, even by our jaded standards, a dream life. Together they run the Caribbean Castaways blog and podcast, a burgeoning portal to all things Caribbean. This husband and wife team travel throughout the region often, helping to inspire and inform people on the best the Caribbean has to offer. We know the islands pretty well, and so do they, so it's nice to get their occasional take on what makes the different islands special or different.
What makes St John a special island to visit?
I think people have their own unique reasons why St. John is a special place to visit. For some it may be the beaches. For others it may be the beach bars or that Kenny Chesney sings about it. But for me, it's a combination of the natural beauty of the National Park, the small town community charm, the sound of the frogs at night, and the warm feeling we always get from the people. You bundle all that up and it gives you a special vibe that's hard to replicate.
We've been to dozens of Caribbean islands, but St. John keeps bringing us back.
What’s your favourite thing to do on St John?
That's a tough one. I guess it would have to be more a routine type thing. First we wake up early and beat the heat for a hike on one of the island's many trails. Then we rest up on a quiet beach and let the cool Caribbean water turn our tired bodies into weightless marshmallows. After the beach we head into town for happy hour, an early dinner, and a Cruz Bay sunset. Then rinse and repeat. That's our favorite thing to do.
What's an “insider” tip?
We have two. Salt Pond beach is a great beach and worth the drive to the south end of the island. After your beach day there, the hike back up the hill to the parking lot will make you a bit tired and thirsty. To the left of the parking lot down the road about 100ft is a Rasta man that sells handmade items and ice cold beer and soda. Grab a beverage for the road and tell him RumShopRyan and Castaway Crystal said hi.
Tip number two would be to get the Caribbean Preferred Card. It can save you hundreds on your St. John trip or any trip around the Caribbean. You can get one here.
Best place to stay/eat /drink
Coconut Coast Villas - We love the simplicity and location. Plus walking that short trail into town each night is a super cool experience.
Grande Bay - You can't beach the location in Cruz Bay and that view!
Villas - We always recommend people try a villa rental. You feel more like a local because you make runs to the grocery story and can relax and unwind more. Plus if you are traveling with friends and family, it's a great way for everyone to be together.
Lime Out - This floating taco boat has amazing food and there's nothing quite like eating while seated at a floating bar or tables.
Pizza Pi VI - Best Pizza we've had! Yes, you have to take a boat to Christmas Cove to get it, but that's just part of the fun!
The Longboard - There are a lot of good restaurants on St. John, but we love the casual yet modern island vibes at The Longboard. They have a great menu of island fusion dishes and they have a great happy hour.
DRINK - The best cocktail bar on St. John in our opinion and they are located right on the water in Cruz Bay. What's not to like?!
Tap Room - We always tell people to drink local when they travel. When it comes to the USVI, that's beer from St. John Brewers. Hit up their Tap Room in Mongoose Junction in Cruz Bay for some local brews.
The Beach Bar - No visit to St. John is complete without a visit to The Beach Bar. This casual open-air bar sits steps from the sand in Cruz Bay and they serve up a great Painkiller.
Where are you off to next?
That's a good question! We were going to fly into Staniel Cay in Exuma, Bahamas–but I think Covid-19 put a stop on that trip. It's actually hard to say where we are off to next because travel restrictions seem to be getting tighter with this second wave. Let's just hope this ends soon so we can all get back to traveling and enjoying the Caribbean.