Getting Married on St. John


This topic is near and dear to my heart, as Robert and I had our own magical St. John wedding in 2013. We, along with 75 family and friends, set sail on Kekoa and exchanged our vows just as the sun was dropping into the blue Caribbean Sea. Over the years that we’ve lived on St. John and hosted guests at our Island Abodes properties, we’ve had the privilege of being involved in one way or another with dozens of other couples who were either getting married on St. John, or here for a weddingmoon, honeymoon, babymoon, or vow renewal. All have been wonderful and special, but I’d have to say that other than my own St. John wedding, my favorite was when my brother and sister-in-law got married at Trunk Bay in 2016. All of the things that make St. John special as a tropical island getaway make it the perfect place to tie the knot. Here’s what you need to know.

St. John Wedding Planners

St. John has some wonderful wedding planners who can coordinate all the details for you, freeing you up to enjoy the special time with your betrothed and any friends and family. Most St. John wedding planners offer a reasonable flat fee for helping with your Virgin Islands marriage application, any required permits, an officiant, a photographer, and getting your marriage license. And they can help arrange a venue and caterer if you have a larger wedding party. We personally know and have worked with all of these St. John wedding planners and highly recommend each of them (listed in alphabetical order by last name):

Mary Bartolucci with Island Style Weddings

Michelle Fage Cawthron with Paradise Planning

Anne Marie Porter with St. John Weddings

Planning Your Own St. John Wedding

Our advice is to hire a wedding planner, but it’s certainly possible to coordinate things on your own. If you decide to go that route, you’ll need to take care of all the details, and especially the application, license and permits. Here’s some information you’ll need to know…

Getting a Virgin Islands Marriage License

You’ll need to apply for a marriage license at the Family Division of the VI Superior Court. Their website has all the information about applying for and obtaining a VI marriage license. Here’s the link.

Permits to Get Married on a Virgin Islands National Park Beach

St. John’s amazing North Shore beaches are the biggest draw for travelers, and the same holds true for couples getting married. But if you want to have a ceremony on Hawksnest, Cinnamon, Maho, Francis, or the most popular one, Trunk Bay, you’ll need a permit from the National Park Service. Here’s a link to their website with all the info you’ll need.

Virgin Islands Wedding Officiants

Aside from outsourcing all the details, working with either Mary Bartolucci or Anne Marie Porter means they can officiate at your ceremony. If you decide to go it alone, a great choice for officiant is Island Mike, a former trial attorney who has truly found his calling in a much happier business.

Hair and Make-Up

Cruz Salon

Grapevine Salon

St. John Photographers

We have used the services of all five of these awesome photographers (listed alphabetically by last name):

Anne Bequette, STJ Creative Photography

Sage Hammond, Crown Images

Savanah Loftus, Savanah Loftus Photography

Yelena Rogers, Yelena Rogers Photography

Lindsay Vann, Lindsay Vann Photography

St. John Caterers

To cater a reception or a private dinner or brunch, we highly recommend these wonderful folks:

St. John Catering / Mathayom Private Chefs

Oasis Private Chefs

Best St. John Restaurants for Large Groups

Lime Inn 

Morgan’s Mango

Ocean 362

1864 Restaurant 

High Tide 

Best St. John Restaurants for Intimate, Romantic Dinners

Extra Virgin

La Tapa

The Terrace

Annual Trunk Bay Vow Renewal

For many years on Valentine’s Day, Anne Marie Porter has conducted a free vow renewal ceremony on Trunk Bay. It’s a very special event where sometimes more than 100 couples renew their vows. If you’ve been thinking of renewing your vows, this is a wonderful time to be on St. John. For more information, visit here.

St. John Wedding Accommodations

One of the most important details about getting married on St. John is finding the right accommodations for the happy couple and wedding guests. At Island Abodes we specialize in hosting special occasions. Our Sunset Serenade Suites in the hills above Cruz Bay consists of four enchanting 1-bedroom vacation homes. It’s perfect for wedding groups, and we’ve hosted so many happy couples in the Penthouse, Honeymoon Suite, Hibiscus Suite, and Papaya Suite. Down Yonder Pool Villa consists of 2 King master suites and a 30 foot saltwater pool. It can be rented separately, or together with the Garden Suite to add another private 1BR/1BA home. All units come with our famous Island Abodes hospitality, of course! We allow events when you do a buy out of either Sunset Sereande Suites or Chocolate Hole Renals. Many wedding welcome parties have taken place at Sunset Serenade Suites as it is one of the best places to watch the sunset on island!

St. John Named a Top U.S. Family Vacation Destination

Most of us look forward all year to our family beach vacation. Spending real, relaxed time with kids, and maybe extended family too, is one of the great joys of life. Throw in perfect weather, amazing beaches with crystal clear water, pristine natural beauty of a national park, and it’s downright heavenly. The Travel Channel recently named St. John as one of the best vacation destinations for families. Here’s what makes it so special.

St. John is Accessible, But Not Too Accessible

St. John doesn’t have an airport, so visitors fly into Thomas from any one of numerous US cities before reaching their final destination by ferry. In a world consumed with convenience, not every traveler is willing to go that extra mile (actually 3 miles). But for those in the know, the payoff is so worth it. Far from being an inconvenience, most St. John aficionados crave the ferry ride for the spectacular views and the anticipation of what awaits. Learn more here. 

St. John is U.S.

In a complicated world, many families find comfort in staying in the U.S. As a U.S. territory, St. John is American soil, protected by Uncle Sam. The language is English, the power is 110v, and the Dollar is the currency, so no exchange-rate hassles or costs. For all that’s familiar on St. John, there’s also a wonderful dose of the exotic. While it’s U.S., it’s the Caribbean first and foremost, with a slower pace of life, where the simple pleasures come into focus.

St. John is Safe

With only 4,000 residents, St. John is like a small town where people know each other and look after one another. That makes it a refuge where crime is exceedingly rare. While it’s still prudent to not invite a problem – for example by leaving valuables in plain view on the seat of your unlocked rental Jeep – the safety rating means that St. John is a place where families can truly relax.

 St. John Activities

Families vacationing on St. John prefer the term “experiences” over “activities.” You won’t find movie theaters or water parks or bowling alleys. Instead, think snorkeling with sea turtles, learning to paddleboard in Maho Bay, hiking to Honeymoon Beach (and taking a golf cart ride back), taking a boat trip to the BVIs, or just playing with the little ones in the gentle surf of an exquisite white sand beach.

St. John Offers Wonderful Private Accommodations, Not Big Impersonal Resort Hotels

Private villas, apartments, and suites dominate the St. John accommodations market. There are some great small Cruz Bay hotels, but most families opt to rent a home with more room to spread out, a stocked kitchen to prepare meals, and amenities like a washer/dryer to keep things civilized and make packing a breeze. Aside from being more enjoyable in every way, renting a St. John vacation home affords more opportunity to be a part of the community as you live like a local during your trip. It really adds to the entire experience of being a traveler rather than just a tourist.

St. John’s Beaches are World Class

There are lots of reasons St. John is an ideal family destination, but for most people it’s all about the beaches. The sand is perfect and the water in this part of the Caribbean is as clear and calm as it gets. That means you can get up close and personal with coral reefs and all kinds of marine life, including friendly sea turtles, colorful reef fish, stingrays, and more. From Honeymoon, Hawksnest, and Trunk, to Cinnamon, Francis, and Salt Pond, each St. John beach is both unique and spectacular. For families, it’s hard to beat Maho Bay, which is the most protected bay on the North Shore. It’s almost always calm, with perfect sand that slopes gently into the clear water, and sea turtles galore.

St. John Transportation

Getting from the airport to the ferry is easy, (as explained here) you can take the public taxi vans or safari trucks available outside baggage claim. No car seats are required or available for these public transport vehicles. The best way to travel once on St. John is by renting your own private jeep. You can also rent a car seat from Island Baby to be placed in your jeep when you pick it up at the car rental place. Using public transportation while on St. John to explore the island is not recommend as it can be unreliable.

Vacation Rentals Are The Best Way to Experience The U.S. Virgin Islands

Whether you’re going solo or as part of a group, vacation rentals in the Caribbean is a fun and memorable way to enjoy your time off. However, many people only get to enjoy locations like St. John or the US Virgin Islands from a hotel or the deck of a cruise ship. With Island Abodes, it’s easy for vacation planners to get a rental home in the Caribbean. Renting a vacation property from Island Abodes is the best way to experience the US Virgin Islands.

A trip to the US Virgin Islands is an experience in itself, but many visitors only get to enjoy the tourist areas. By getting a vacation rental from Island Abodes, your trip becomes more personal, and you experience unique things that these islands have to offer. Plus, all of our island rentals have amazing views that are excellent for taking fantastic vacation photos to share with friends.

One of the advantages of getting a vacation rental is that you can split the cost with friends. We have cozy rentals like the Papaya Suite that sleeps two with one bedroom and one bathroom. But if you want to bring some friends, we also have the Down Yonder Pool Villa that can sleep six with two bedrooms and two bathrooms plus a private pool!

Vacation Villa Rentals That Fit You

Island Abodes vacation rentals are equipped with everything you need for your home away from home. For example, every unit has a place to cook and store food. Some have space-efficient kitchenettes, while other rentals have fully-equipped kitchens. Either way, when you stay at a location from Island Abodes, it’s like having your own place on the beach for the duration of your vacation. It’s an entirely different experience from staying at a hotel or on a cruise ship.

Another benefit of choosing an Island Abodes rental is the ability to select the neighborhood you stay in during your trip. We have rental locations across the US Virgin Islands. So you can choose a property that’s closer to the things you want to do or a spot that offers you a view of the island you hadn’t seen before. For example, the Garden Suite is located in Chocolate Hole, whereas the Hisbiscus Suite is located in the Cruz Bay neighborhood. We even have vacation rentals near the Westin resort, so people can remain nearby their friends who decided to stay at the hotel.

The vacation properties you can book through Islands Abodes are owned and operated by local residents Brittany and Robert. If you have any issues or you just need some advice on where to go, there’s always someone nearby to help you. When you work with locals, you get a better vacation experience. We know the best st john restaurants, st john island activities, tour operators, and most importantly, the beach spots. We’ve lived in the US Virgin Islands for nearly a decade, so we know all of the hottest things to do.

The Island Abodes Promise

Working with Island Abodes also makes the booking process more manageable. When you book a vacation rental through our website, you cut out the middleman and any unnecessary charges. We also have a best price guarantee, so you know you’re getting a good deal on a vacation rental in St. John US Virgin Islands. With Island Abodes, you can skip the travel agents and the listing websites. If you’re ready to plan a Caribbean vacation experience that can’t be beat, book your Island Abodes rental today.

Where To Rent Snorkel Gear On St. John

A question we get asked frequently by Island Abodes guests is about where they can rent snorkel gear on St. John for their vacation. St. John’s beaches are some of the best in the world, and the beauty extends into the crystal clear water as well. To get up close and personal with coral reefs, fish, turtles, rays and other wildlife, snorkeling is the way to go, and you really want high quality snorkel gear. We think the best to rent snorkel gear in St. John is with our friends at Beach Bum.

St. John Beach Bum has a huge selection of masks, snorkels, and fins, including prescription masks for those of us who wear glasses. They’ll make sure you get a perfect fit, and their top notch equipment is sanitized between rentals. When you book with Island Abodes, we will send you a 10% off coupon code to use when renting your gear.

St. John Beach Bum is also the place to go for any other beach gear you might need during your St. John vacation, including SUP rentals, kayak rentals, beach tents and toys, and even GoPro cameras. They also carry awesome rash guards, hats, t-shirts, insulated cups, sunglasses and more.

St. John Beach Bum’s location couldn’t be more convenient. They are right there, upstairs, at the entrance to the Cruz Bay passenger ferry dock, across the street from the park and Cruz Bay Landing (one of our favorite St. John bars and restaurants).

If you haven’t been to St. John Beach Bum, be sure to stop in on your next St. John vacation.

Our Favorite Hike On Jost Van Dyke

A Hike With Drinks, Views, and Shopping.

One of the questions we get asked often is about our favorite St. John hikes. With 2/3 of St. John lying inside the Virgin Islands National Park, there are miles and miles of amazing trails offering spectacular views. And many of them end at a world-class beach. So there are tons of fantastic options when it comes to hiking on St. John.

But today we want to tell you about a favorite hike on the neighboring island of Jost Van Dyke. Jost is in the British Virgin Islands, lying just across the Sir Francis Drake Channel from St. John’s north shore. If you think St. John is an idyllic island paradise, which of course it is, Jost is a place where even those living on St. John can get away from it all.

visual view of the hiking trail on jost van dyke
part of the hike trail on jost van dyke

Getting to Jost Van Dyke from St. John is pretty easy. The most economical option for a day trip to Jost is to take the Inter Island Boat Services ferry, which leaves from the Creek on St. John Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 8am, returning at 4pm. The round trip cost per adult is $130, including all the taxes and fees to clear customs. Things change, so best to check their website for current schedule and cost.

Jost Van Dyke Hiking Guide:

Ok, now for the hike details. When you reach Jost, walk along the road to the right through the settlement at Great Harbor. It’s a super cool little place — you’ll see an old church and a few bars, restaurants and shops. The last establishment on the strip is the world famous Foxy’s. After Foxy’s you just hike on the road along the south side of the island for approximately 2.5 miles and then turn sharply left. The pavement soon ends as you hike the dirt and gravel road over the spine of JVD. You probably won’t see any people for a while, just goats and maybe horses. Some of the views are out of this world, especially back towards St. John.

When you reach a point above Great Harbor, there’s a short cut that will take you back down in case you’ve had enough by then (shown in yellow on the map). But you really want to continue on to Soggy Dollar Bar. At the end, just walk toward the water and you’ll find paradise, complete with ice cold beer and a hammock on the beach! After lunch and a few beers or painkillers, we usually opt for the taxi back to the ferry dock.

This is an incredible hike, but the difficulty level is hard, so it’s only recommended for the very fit and adventurous. Be prepared with sunscreen, hat, food and bring lots of water. A word of caution, there’s almost no shade on the hike and the sun can be quite intense.

a view of the islands from a dirk hike trail on jost
a view from one of the hike trails on jost van dyke

So if you’re looking for a new challenge on your next St. John vacation, consider this awesome Jost Van Dyke hike from the ferry dock to Soggy Dollar. It’s a St. John day trip you won’t forget.

Chocolate Hole Bay, St. John USVI

Chocolate Hole Bay in St. John is the other walkable beach from Down Yonder Villa or the Garden Suite. Same directions like you’re going to Hart Bay, except don’t turn left on Tamarind Road, keep straight on Chocolate East until you reach the Pond Bay development. There are two public parking areas, the first one is paved and the second one isn’t. The beach is mostly rocky with a little sand here and there, but it’s a great place to walk and explore. There’s surprisingly good snorkeling on either side of the bay, especially near the point. Chocolate Hole Bay is a dog friendly beach. 

Sunset Serenade Suites is 1.1 miles away from Chocolate Hole Bay

Down Yonder Villa and the Garden Suite are .5 miles away from Chocolate Hole Bay

Hart Bay, St. John USVI

This is an awesome pebble beach with sand here and there, located down an easy trail right in the Chocolate Hole neighborhood. There’s pretty good snorkeling in spots, with rock formations, coral, and sea life. The seas can get quite rough when weather is coming from the Southeast. We love the vibe of this usually deserted beach. If you’re staying at Down Yonder Villa or the Garden Suite, it’s a 10-15 minute walk to the trail head and another 10 minutes to the beach. Walk up Southshore Road towards town, take the first left on Chocolate East Road, then the first left on Tamarind Road, keep to the right and you’ll see a small sign for Hart Bay in front of a small parking area. Hart Bay is a dog friendly beach. 

Sunset Serenade Suites is 1.5 miles away from Hart Bay

Down Yonder Villa and the Garden Suite are .5 miles away.

Reef Bay, St. John USVI

This is really 2 distinct places. There’s one Reef Bay beach at the end of the Reef Bay Trail, accessed mid-island from Centerline Road. The trail is awesome, moderate to strenuous heading down, and quite strenuous going back up. At the bottom, there are ruins and an isolated coastline with ever changing sand and rocks. The crystal clear water is incredibly refreshing after the hike.

The other Reef Bay (also called Parrot Bay) is accessed from the Reef Bay subdivision beyond Fish Bay, down an easy/moderate trail, about 10 minutes to the water.  The trailhead can be a bit tricky to find; look for other vehicles parked along the road for no apparent reason. This is an amazing spot with incredible views of St. John’s rugged Southern coast. There’s good coral here and there and a sometimes a surf break that attracts a few surfers. If you like to get off the beaten path, go here and you won’t be disappointed.

a view of reef back from up a hill
reef bay trail sign with directions
part of reef bay trail with a sign

Lameshur Bay, St. John USVI

This off-the-beaten-path gem is located 1.5 miles past the Salt Pond parking area. The last trail is unpaved so the short distance will take 15 minutes. There are actually 2 bays. You reach Great Lameshur Bay St. John first — a long, rocky, crescent beach where access isn’t super easy. Next door is the real charmer, Little Lameshur Bay, with some of the best snorkeling on St. John. The beach offers soft, white sand and the bay is very protected and usually very calm (except when the weather is coming out of the South). There are great trails around and cool ruins to explore.

Salt Pond, St. John USVI

Salt Pond is a very special spot in St. John. It is the most popular beach on the South shore. To get here, take Centerline Road to Coral Bay, go right at the ball field, then drive 4 miles to just past the entrance to Concordia (now closed). Where the road turns sharply right is the parking area.

It’s a 10-15 minute easy/moderate walk down to the beach at Salt Pond. Once there you’ll discover a perfect crescent bay with white sand, good snorkeling, and trails to explore the surrounding areas. Insider tip…if the seas are rough on the North shore, head to Salt Pond where it will almost certainly be calm. This is also the start of the Ram Head Trail.

trail to salt pond
walking trail to salt pond