Not sure whether to travel to St Thomas or St John for vacation?

If so, you’ve come to the right place! I’ve visited each of these islands, and have put together this guide to help you decide which island suits you best. 

In a nutshell, St Thomas is known for its laid-back beaches, shopping, and historical sites. On the other hand, St John is known for its energetic beach town, hiking, and top-notch snorkeling opportunities. 

Although they are both US Virgin Islands, there’s key differences that set them apart. 

My guide will cover the key differences in tourist activities, beaches, nightlife, and more, to help you choose which island is best suited for you!

Ready to learn how St Thomas compares to St John? Let’s dive in!

St Thomas vs St John
St Thomas vs St John

St Thomas At A Glance

Known for its picturesque beaches, St Thomas is a small Caribbean island that’s one of the three main U.S Virgin Islands. 

St Thomas’s landscape consists of lush green hills and tropical beaches with turquoise waters. 

St. Thomas, USVI
St. Thomas, USVI
(Photo by: Katrina Mulfati)

Tourists often go to St Thomas to snorkel, shop, visit historical sites, and relax on one of the many pristine white sand beaches. 

When it comes to accommodations, St Thomas has everything from all-inclusive resorts, to boutique hotels, and private beachfront villa rentals.

St Thomas has many great beaches for snorkeling, with Magen’s Bay Beach and Sapphire Beach having sea turtles, abundant coral reefs, and plenty of colorful fish.

You can rent out snorkeling equipment, paddle boards, and kayaks at Secret Harbor, Sapphire Beach, Magen’s Beach, and other popular beaches in St Thomas – if you enjoy water sports.

St. Thomas, USVI
St. Thomas, USVI
(Photo by: Karl Callwood)

If you like to avoid crowds, St Thomas has many secluded beaches like Lindquist Beach and Secret Harbor Beach for relaxing. 

Compared to St John, St Thomas is more developed so it has more attractions beyond the beaches. 

St Thomas has museums, botanical gardens, historical landmarks, a Skyride tram ride that overlooks the harbor, and the Coral World Ocean Park aquarium. 

In addition, St Thomas has a variety of shopping centers including malls and streets lined with shops. 

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
(Photo by: Andy Feliciotti)

St Thomas is more populated and developed than St John so there’s a greater variety of restaurants to choose from. From delis to fine-dining restaurants, there’s delicious food for any budget.

The nightlife in St Thomas is lively, with many beach bars and clubs playing live music. You can enjoy a sunset cruise, go on a night kayak tour, or relax at a laid-back beach bar.

Overall, St Thomas is a great place to visit if you enjoy lounging on the beach, exploring the city, and shopping. 

Things To Do In St Thomas

Whether you’re looking to explore historical sites or snorkel on a picturesque white sand beach, St Thomas has something to offer.

Head to Magen’s Bay Beach to relax on a powdery white sand beach with crystal clear waters.

Magen's Bay Beach
Magen’s Bay Beach
(Photo by: Karl Callwood)

The beach has lifeguards, showers, bathrooms, watersport rentals, lounge chair rentals, snorkel equipment rentals, and a concession stand selling food. You can go paddleboarding, kayaking, snorkeling, or stop by for a picnic. 

  • The fee to enter is $5 USD and the parking fee is $2 USD.

If you’re looking to snorkel, head to Sapphire Beach, Secret Harbor Beach, or Coki Beach. The beaches have vibrant coral reefs, with sea turtles and lots of colorful fish.

These beaches don’t have entrance fees, but you’ll need to pay $5 USD for parking at Coki beach. Sapphire Beach is a bit less crowded than the other beaches, and it has some of the most abundant coral reefs. 

Coki Point Beach
Coki Point Beach
(Photo by: Karl Callwood)

Another popular activity you won’t want to miss in St Thomas is going on a kayaking tour through a mangrove lagoon. Many tours are available, including day, sunset, and night kayaking tours. 

If you’re a history buff, head to Fort Christian to explore a 16th century historical fort that was built to protect the Charlotte Amalie Harbor.

  • The admission is $10 USD, and it’s open Monday to Friday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.  

For a breathtaking view of the Charlotte Amalie Harbor, hop aboard the Skyride to Paradise Point. This tram ride takes you 700 ft above sea level to get a scenic view of the city, and it costs $24.95 for adults. 

Skyride to Paradise Point
Skyride to Paradise Point
(Photo by: Brendan Stephens)

Other popular attractions in the city are the Phantasea botanical gardens, Pirates Treasure Museum, and Coral World Ocean Park Aquarium. For a full list of activities, check out our list of the top 20 things to do in St Thomas.

Here are some of the top tourist attractions in St Thomas. 

  • Pirates Treasure Museum
  • Coral World Ocean Park Aquarium
  • St. Thomas Synagogue
  • Fort Christian
  • Skyride to Paradise Point
  • Phantasea Botanical Gardens
  • Mangrove Lagoon Kayak Tours
  • Drake’s Seat
St Thomas vs St John

St John At A Glance

St John is the smallest of the three main U.S Virgin Islands, and is one of the most loved, for good reason. From crowd-free white sand beaches to scenic hiking trails, St John has something for everyone.

Trunk Bay, St John
Trunk Bay, St John
(Photo by: Josh Duncan)

As you arrive in Cruz Bay, you’ll be surrounded with restaurants, bars, stores, resorts, and pristine beaches. 

Similar to St Thomas, St John has upscale resorts, hotels, and luxurious villas scattered throughout the island. Read our article on the best places to stay in St John for a list of the top resorts, villas, and hotels in St John.

In Cruz Bay, you can stop by Joe’s Rum Hut for happy hour, snorkel the underwater snorkel trail at Trunk Cay, or go on a sunset cruise in the evening.

If you’re searching for a beautiful white sand beach, Trunk Bay is the place to be. With soft sand, and bright turquoise blue waters, it’s one of the most popular beaches in St John.

Trunk Bay has snorkeling equipment rentals, chair rentals, food and drink stands, bathrooms, and showers. Also, there are boat charters for snorkeling trips on nearly every beach in St John.

Trunk Bay, St. John
Trunk Bay, St. John
(Photo by: Yogi Misir)

Cinnamon Bay is the longest beach in St John, with lots of amenities and space to stop for a picnic. Other popular beaches worth visiting are Maho Bay Beach and Honeymoon Beach. 

Maho Bay Beach is the beach to be at for snorkeling. This beautiful white sand beach has snorkeling equipment rentals, and vibrant coral reefs with sea turtles. 

If you want to explore St John, the Lind Point trail is a 2.3 mile scenic trail through a woodsy rainforest that gives scenic views of Honeymoon Beach. Salt Pond Bay is another great beach that requires a short hike to get to. 

Lind Point Trail, USVI
Lind Point Trail, USVI
(Photo by: Cyrus Crossan)

If you’re a foodie, you’ll absolutely love St John. From burgers to Caribbean seafood, there’s something for everyone.

However, many restaurants in St John seasonally close during September and October. Make sure to check the restaurant’s website beforehand to ensure it’s open. 

Asolare Restaurant, Cruz Bay
Asolare Restaurant in Cruz Bay, St. John
(Photo by: Roger Darnell)

The nightlife in St John is also vibrant, with plenty of energetic bars and clubs in Cruz Bay. 

Overall, St John is an excellent place to visit if you enjoy snorkeling, hiking, and enjoying time in a beach town. 

Things To Do In St John

Once you arrive in Cruz Bay in St John, you’ll be near many exceptional beaches, bars, and restaurants. Whether you’re looking to enjoy happy hour at a bar or snorkel at the beach, St John has something to offer. 

St John, Cruz Bay USVI
Cruz Bay, St. John
(Photo by: Roger Darnell)

Tourists often relax in the beach town, snorkel, or hike in one of the various hiking trails while in St John. 

Trunk Bay is St John’s most popular beach, and it costs $5 to enter. The beach has watersport rentals, food and drink vendors, chair rentals, and bathroom and shower facilities.

Trunk Bay, St John
Trunk Bay, St John
(Photo by: Josh Duncan)

Head to Trunk Cay to snorkel the underwater snorkeling trail. This impressive 225 yard underwater trail has vibrant reefs and tons of colorful fish. 

Just a 15 minute drive away from Cruz Bay is Maho Bay Beach, the best spot for snorkeling in St John. You’ll get to see sea turtles, and potentially even nurse sharks!

Across the street from beach is Maho Crossroads, a small pop-up village with food trucks, and a tiki bar area. 

Maho Crossroads
Maho Crossroads (Photo by: Hans Isaacson)

If you’re looking to relax on a beach, head to Cinnamon Bay Beach, which is just a 1 mile away from Cruz Bay.

This is the longest beach in St John, and has grills, bathrooms, showers, campgrounds, shops, food vendors, and more.

There’s no fee to enter, but you’ll have to pay to camp overnight at one of the eco-tents or cottages. You can also hike the Cinnamon Bay trail to explore the ruins of a sugar plantation from 1717 (Cinnamon Bay Sugar Plantation).

Hike the Lind Point trail to get to Honeymoon Beach. The Lind Point Trail is a relatively easy 2.3 mile hike through a woodsy forest that gives scenic views of Honeymoon Beach and Solomon Bay Beach.

Honeymoon Beach is one of the most stunning, less-crowded beaches in St John. 

Honeymoon Beach, USVI
Honeymoon Beach, St John
(Photo by: Deb Gattas)

Nearly all of the beaches in St John are excellent for snorkeling, with Maho Bay, Waterlemon Cay, and Salt Pond being some of the best spots. 

Waterlemon Cay is right near the Annaberg Sugar Plantation, a historical sugar plantation from 1790. After snorkeling Waterlemon Cay, you can continue hiking the Leinster Bay Trail to get the perfect view of the ruins. 

Salt Pond is an excellent beach for snorkeling, and it’s right near one of St John’s most popular trails. The Ram Head Trail is a moderately challenging 2.3 mile hike over a rocky hill that’s surrounded by cacti, and gives a scenic view of Salt Pond Bay. 

Here are some of the top tourist attractions in St Thomas. 

  • Annaberg Sugar Plantation
  • Ram Head Trail
  • Reef Bay Trail
  • Waterlemon Cay
  • Maho Bay Beach
  • Trunk Bay
  • Honeymoon Beach
St Thomas vs St John

Which destination is better?

St Thomas and St John both have beautiful beaches, great snorkeling, and delicious restaurants. 

If you want to spend time relaxing on the beach, doing watersports, and shopping, St Thomas is the place to be. If you are looking to hike and snorkel in some of the most abundant coral reefs, St John is the place to be. 

St Thomas is more developed so it has more shopping centers, restaurants, and other accommodations to suit different budgets. 

St John is generally more expensive than St Thomas, less developed, and the roads can be a bit steeper to travel. That being said, St John has the most picturesque beaches, with nearly every beach being ideal for snorkeling. 

Ultimately, the best island will depend on your budget and the types of activities you enjoy. 


St Thomas’s beaches are best for watersports, whereas St John’s beaches are ideal for snorkeling and hiking. 

Magen’s Bay Beach is St Thomas’s most popular beach where you can rent out lounge chairs and watersports equipment. 

Salt Pond Bay, Maho Bay Beach, and Watermelon Cay are all prime locations for snorkeling in St John. St John also has more beaches for hiking, with nearly every beach having a hiking trail. 

In addition, St John has more notable beaches. Honeymoon Beach, Cinnamon Bay Beach, and Trunk Bay Beach are all pristine white sand beaches that offer lots of amenities. 

That being said, both islands have stunning white sand beaches that are great for relaxing at.


St Thomas and St John both have delicious restaurants, with everything from burger shops to traditional Caribbean restaurants. 

Popular traditional Caribbean dishes worth trying in the US Virgin Islands are fish and fungi (Caribbean style polenta with fish) , johnny cakes (cornmeal flatbreads), and conch fritters.

If you’re not a fan of seafood, there’s several American restaurants and pizza shops on both islands. 


St. Thomas and St. Maarten both have warm weather year-round, but St John is slightly cooler on average.

The average temperature range in St Thomas is from 74 F to 89 F, while the average temperature in St John ranges from 67 F to 86 F. 

Cost to Travel

St John is generally more expensive to travel to than St Thomas. St John is less developed than St Thomas so there are limited options for lodging, which raises prices.

St Thomas is more populated and developed so it has more accommodations to suit different budgets. 


St Thomas and St John have plenty of lively beach bars and clubs. In St Thomas, make sure to try out a classic Bushwackers drink that was invented at the Sapphire Pub.

This popular frozen drink consists of Kahlua, rum, creme de cacao, and coconut cream. In St John, make sure to try the Painkiller drink, which consists of rum, pineapple juice, coconut milk, and orange juice. 


St Thomas and St John are generally very safe for travelers. However, the roads can be steep and difficult to drive, especially in St John.

If you are nervous driving, you may want to rely on taxis or Ubers to get to your destination. 

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit St. Thomas is in the months of May, June, November, and December. On the other hand, the best time to visit St John is from December to April. 

The worst time to visit each island is from July to November, which is during their rainy seasons. 

Also read:


How do you get from St Thomas to St John?

You can get to St John on a boat tour, car barge, or ferry. The ferry from St Thomas to St. John takes 20 minutes and costs $8.15 USD each way.

The ferry departs from either Red Hook, Charlotte Amalie or Crown Bay in St Thomas to Cruz Bay in St John.

If you want to bring your rental car to St John, you can take the Big Red Barge from Cruz Bay to Red Hook for $50 USD. There are a variety of boat charters to St John from St Thomas for day trips as well. 

Is St Thomas or St John better for snorkeling?

Both St Thomas and St John have exceptional beaches for snorkeling, but St John has more notable beaches overall. In St Thomas, Sapphire Beach, Secret Harbor, and Coki Point are all good options.

In St John, Maho Bay, Cinnamon Bay, and Trunk Bay are all great spots. Nearly all of the beaches in St John have snorkeling equipment rentals and snorkeling boat tours.

In addition, Trunk Bay Beach has an underwater snorkeling trail with vibrant coral reefs, that’s 650 feet long!

Read our article on the best snorkeling in St Thomas and St John for a full list of the best spots!

How far is St John from St Thomas?

St John is approximately 6.49 miles from St Thomas. 

How long is the ferry from St Thomas to St John?

The ferry ride from Red Hook, St Thomas to Cruz Bay, St John is approximately 15 minutes. 

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