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Similar to St. John

Michigan
Level Contributor
14 posts
2 reviews
Similar to St. John

My husband and I are looking to go somewhere for a week in October (without our kids!). We will

Be traveling from Michigan. We really enjoyed St. John and would like suggestions for somewhere with a similar feel. Things we enjoyed about St. John: we rented a home with a pool and complete privacy, renting a Jeep for exploring, hiking, beaches and snorkeling from the beach, having a few dining options, and avoiding crowds. Places we are considering but don’t seem to meet all of the criteria: Saba, Bequia, Jost Van Dyke, Grand Cayman. Budget is under $10,000. Please give me pros and cons of any of those places or suggestions as to another location that we aren’t thinking of. Thanks so much!

6 replies to this topic
Pa.
Level Contributor
6,105 posts
133 reviews
1. Re: Similar to St. John

Look on the stj forum for posts about this. Those most frequently listed are Virgin Gorda, Vieques, and Culebra, but not sure how any of those are faring post Irmamaria. Stj has fared the best due to many volunteers and has made an amazing recovery.

I have also heard Bequia mentioned often. Never Been

Saba is one of my favorite places, but there is essentially one beach that is there part of the year (I have never seen it or been to it) and a swimming area by the airport. There is amazing beauty, hiking, and scuba diving. Not so much snorkeling as it is more deep water, bit you could go with the dive boats to Tent Reef area. Super quiet, super safe, and great food. You really don’t want to rent a car there and there are plenty of great rentals and small hotels.

GC is scrub and WAY busier than stj. You will get the beaches and I think you can find nice quiet away from the 7mb area. Great scuba diving, but not very scenic. Great food options and I think some areas with good shore snorkels.

The sister island of Cayman Brac has the bluffs and is prob more quiet than Saba. Mostly ironshore and not a good dining scene. I didn’t find much while snorkeling, but it was primarily a dive trip.

Bonaire and Roatan also get raves for the shore snorkeling. Bonaire is also scrub, decent food (great food trucks), limited hiking, easy to drive , plenty of rentals, but I would stay in a hotel/ Inn while there.

Hope that helps

Marietta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Beach Vacations, Bonaire
Level Contributor
4,745 posts
54 reviews
2. Re: Similar to St. John

Of the islands you mentioned, I have not been to Saba. My only experience with StJ and JvD is from a sailboat touring the islands,which may be different from staying n=on them. We visited Bequia for a day on a Windstar cruise. Stayed in GC for a week on one visit. Based on that....

Snorkeler-6 is right about the comparison of GC and the other islands... It is way busier and more commercial than the other islands mentioned. In many ways, Bequia and JvD are similar but Bequia seemed to have even less tourist facilities than JvD. Both of them would be good as a base for exploring other nearby islands.

Another possibility you might consider is the island of Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos islands. There are several small rental/condo hotels and it is not overrun with tourists, especially in October. It is more developed than Bequia, JvD, or StJ, butt not nearly as much as GC.

Pa.
Level Contributor
6,105 posts
133 reviews
3. Re: Similar to St. John

Hi amateur!

I did not find shore snorkeling in Provo to be that great and I think it is quite built up. Stunning beaches, great food. Scrub island and with the increase in tourist incidents, I would not stay in a villa there, but I am sometimes overly cautious.

Marietta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Beach Vacations, Bonaire
Level Contributor
4,745 posts
54 reviews
4. Re: Similar to St. John

You are correct, Snorkler-6, shore snorkeling on Provo is not great, but I did not read the OPs comments as saying that was an important factor. To be clear, Provo has two shore accessible snorkel sites, Coral Gardens and Smith's Reef. Coral Gardens is a very easy snorkel, often recommended for beginners and is close to shore, not very deep, has little current and usually few waves. There are a fair number of fish and turtles frequent it. Smith's Reef is a larger area, has more coral formations and more larger fish but is subject to some current, wave action, and even possible boat traffic so it is recommended for more experienced snorkelers.

Provo is built up along the central Grace Bay Beach area, although nothing like Seven Mile Beach on GC. If the OP had not mentioned GC as a possibility, I probably would not have mentioned Provo as it certainly would not be in the same "style" as JvD, or Bequia, but not that much different from StJ. I would recommend any first visitor to Provo to stay at one of the rental/condo resorts but there are many villas available. There was an up-tick in crime about a year ago, but it seems to have settled down and Provo is still one of the safest/quietest islands in the Caribbean. One advantage that Provo has compared to all but GC is ease of access, with direct flights from probably 7 or 8 US cities with no additional transfers or ferries required. (I guess I'm getting lazy in my old age.)

One other advantage for Provo is that there is no cruise ship port, so no cruise ship passengers "invading" the island. When we stayed at GC, one day we looked down 7MB and counted seven large ships in port. To my knowledge, only small ships (such as the 150 passenger Windstar we were on) call at JvD or Bequia and cause very little impact.

Edited: 16 May 2018, 02:12
Maryland
Destination Expert
for Beach Vacations
Level Contributor
1,844 posts
25 reviews
5. Re: Similar to St. John

St. John is somewhat unique in several ways compared to many Caribbean islands (can't say all), but it is not common to find an island that has nice white sand beaches, good snorkeling, lots of hiking, and limited development. The last two are due to it being 2/3 national park. Not having a commercial airport or cruise ship dock also keeps crowds down. You may need to prioritize the things that you liked about STJ when picking another island (or go back to STJ). Of the places you mentioned that you have considered, I have only been to Grand Cayman and to Jost Van Dyke (daytrip from STJ). I also have been to Turks & Caicos (Providenciales) numerous times.

I'm not sure that either Grand Cayman or Provo are great fits for you, but here are some more specific points related to the things you liked about St. John:

- Home with a pool and complete privacy: Possible on both islands, although the majority of accommodations in both places are condos/hotels on the main beaches, Grace Bay on Provo or Seven Mile Beach on GC.

- (Renting a Jeep for) exploring, hiking, beaches and snorkeling from the beach: Both Provo and GC are scrubby, flat islands, so in terms of hiking, they do not offer anything like STJ. Both have good beaches. As AmateurGo described in detail, Provo has two off the beach snorkeling options. I have only snorkeled at Coral Gardens, but I don't think it is a great spot, especially on my more recent trips (a couple of weeks ago and Dec 2015). I think there are more places in GC for off shore/beach snorkeling, but I only snorkeled on a boat excursion when I was there.

- Having a few dining options: Both Provo and Grand Cayman have plenty of dining options. The largest concentrations are on the beach strips. There is no real "town" in Provo like Cruz Bay in STJ, and Georgetown in GC has a cruise ship port and is overrun with tourists when there are several ships in port.

- Avoiding crowds: October is a less busy time of year in the Carribbean, and there are less people overall in Provo than GC. I suspect that you will find the central parts of Grace Bay and SMB/Georgetown to be too crowded, but there are less crowded places on both islands.

In terms of where else to suggest, I'm not sure. I would guess that one or a combination of other Virgin Islands would be similar geographically, but I only have spent a small amount of time on JVD and St. Thomas, and I don't think either one is exactly what you are seeking.

Pa.
Level Contributor
6,105 posts
133 reviews
6. Re: Similar to St. John

AMateur, glad to hear it is ticking back down. West Caicos was the best diving I ever did and Provo was some of the best diningl Also like the easy access, but stj has my heart! I was sorry to see a cruise ship port added to Grand Turk, wasn’t there when we were there and the tranquility was wonderful. Glad Provo has not followed suit

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