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About St. John

History of St. John


The beautiful island of St. John is one of the roughly 100 islands spread throughout the northern Caribbean Sea making up the Greater Antilles region.  Originally formed by volcanic activity, St. John began as solidified lava covered in sedimentary rocks.  Trade winds and oceans currents eventually brought life to the islands, creating the spectacularly green, wildlife filled eco-system that we enjoy today.

The first confirmed human inhabitants of St. John, the Taíno, left traces of their occupance dating back to 300 BC. The Taíno, an Arawak term meaning “good” or “noble”, originated from the indigenous Arawak peoples of South America, and were the primary inhabitants of the Greater Antilles region. They were primarily situated along the south shore of St. John and evidence has been recovered suggesting there was a village at what is now Salt Pond Bay, tools were constructed at Grootpan Bay, and ocean harvests were collected and prepared at Lameshur Bays. It is believed that the Taíno were the creators of the petroglyph rock carvings found off the Reef Bay Trail. In the centuries prior to Columbus’ arrival in 1492, St. John went through various tribes that were believed to have occupied the island and was eventually deserted. Sadly, as a result of war, disease, and famine, the indigenous population had disappeared as a distinct ethnic group by the end of the 16th century.

The first permanent settlement on St. John was established by Denmark in 1718 in what is now Estate Carolina in Coral Bay. The settlement expanded quickly and it is estimated that within 15 years over 100 sugar and cotton plantations covered St. John. According to researchers, it is likely that during the plantation era virtually all of the original forests were destroyed and St. John’s once plentiful natural springs dried up and as a result of this deforestation. Danish plantations ruled the St. John economy until slavery was abolished in 1848 leading St. John to lose roughly half of its population over the following 20 years. The island was left to those who could provide for themselves through small scale subsistence farming and fishing. Around 1913, the population is estimated at 930 people.

In 1917, during World War I, the United States purchased St. John and the rest of the Virgin Islands for $25 million in order to establish a naval base. During the 20th century St. John’s popularity grew and private investment was continuous. In 1956 Laurence Rockefeller donated his land to the National Park Service under the agreement that no further development be allowed. The National Park on St. John comprises 60% of islands acreage and is home to all of the pristine beaches that the island is known for.

Currently St. John has a population of 4,170 according to the most recent census data and its economy is almost entirely based on the tourism industry. Most of the residents live in either Cruz Bay, the main town and primary entry and exit point of the island, or Coral Bay, a small town on the eastern side of the island.

For more information on St. John’s history:

St. John Historical Society
National Park Service – History and Culture
VI Now – St. John History


Helpful Information for Your St John’s Vacation



Gas Stations

The island’s two gas stations are located in Cruz Bay along the road leaving town on the way towards the Westin Resort.  There is no longer a gas station in Coral Bay so make sure that you ‘fill-up’ before heading out for an island tour!  Also, keep in mind that you will be unable to get gas while a gas delivery is being made.

  • E-C Service Station – Open Daily from 6 am to 9 pm.  Located in the Pine Peace area on Hwy 104  across from the basketball court.   340-776-6046
  • Racetrack Gas Station – Open Daily.  Located on the eastern side of Jacob’s Ladder on Hwy 104 just before The St. John Market.

Island Taxis

Taxis can generally be found along the waterfront by the Cruz Bay Ferry Dock.  For hikers/walkers along the North Shore road (Hwy 20), taxis can generally be found on the road between Cruz Bay Town and the North Shore Beaches within the National Park.  Taxis can either be arranged at the beach parking areas or potentially can be stopped along the roadway to deliver walking persons to either Cruz Bay or one of the North Shore Beaches.  Contact Dispatcher at 340-693-7530 

Island Buses – VITRAN (Virgin Islands Transit)

Bus service on St. John has greatly improved in recent years and now one can mostly expect to ‘catch the bus’ at the posted times and locations.  The Vitran buses are relatively new and sized more in tune with the geography on St. John and now can provide service to more areas on the island.  Click here to view the current St. John bus schedule

Grocery Stores & Markets

Located in Cruz Bay: 

1st Stop Convenience Store
Open daily from 8 am to 11 pm
Located next to The Fish Trap near Wharfside Village. Convenience store type offerings along with beer, wine and spirits.

Bayside Mini Market
Open daily from 8 am to 11 pm
Located in The Meada building across the street from Cafe Roma and the Longboard Grill. Convenience store type offerings along with beer, wine and spirits.

Dolphin Market
Open daily from 7 am to 10:30 pm
Located at the roundabout in Cruz Bay. Full grocery store offerings with a large produce section as well as beer, wine and spirits.

Pine Peace Market
Open daily from 7:30 am to 10:30 pm
Located on Hwy 104 just past the EC Gas Station at the bottom of Jacob’s Ladder.  Full grocery store offerings plus produce section, beer, wine and spirits.

St. John Market
Open daily from 7 am to 10 pm
Located on South Shore Road next to Greenleaf Commons apartments near the Westin Hotel.  Full grocery, produce and alcohol offerings along with a deli counter and prepared meals and lunch counter.

Starfish Market & Gourmet
Open Daily from 7 am to 10 pm
Located on the southshore road in The Marketplace shopping center on the lower level.  Full grocery, produce along with a deli counter and prepared meals and lunch counter and bakery.  Across the breezeway is the Starfish Gourmet which sells beer, wine and spirits together with gourmet cheeses, meats and snacks.

Located in Coral Bay: 

Calabash Market
Open daily from 7 am to 10 pm
Located on Hwy 107 between Cocoloba Plaza and Shipwreck Tavern.  Convenience styled store offering fresh meats, produce, beer, wine and spirits.

Dolphin Market Coral Bay
Open Daily from 7 am to 10 pm
Located in Cocoloba Plaza on Hwy 107. Full grocery store offerings with fresh produce section as well as beer, wine and spirits.

Love City Mini Mart
Open Daily.
Located in Coral Bay just past Pickles In Paradise restaurant. Small convenience store offering basic food and grocery items together with beer, wine and spirits.

Local News

Want to know what’s happening during your St John’s Vacation? Check out the following on-island news sources: