Cruz Bay vs. Coral Bay

Harbor view in sleepy Coral Bay
Harbor view in sleepy Coral Bay

I’ll stay out of the global warming discussion on this blog, but it certainly is the case that we have been having some strange weather lately! Today it is drizzly, grey, and in the high sixties, while my in-laws have reported that they are experiencing blizzard-like conditions in the Detroit area.  Of course, for them, that lake-effect snow is always lurking out there over those vast lakes, ready to pounce.  Mrs. Working Stiff has lamented the possibility that we may not see snow this year, but it’s really too early in winter to consider that possibility.  In any case, as the chief operator of both the snow thrower and the snow shovel, the thought of no snow is not all that terrible to The Working Stiff!

The week before Christmas was very warm, even getting up to the 70s a few times. One of those warm days, I was in our local grocery store doing a bit of shopping in preparation for the upcoming holiday merry-making, and was wearing one of my favorite Skinny Legs t-shirts, from that popular restaurant on St. John, the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Many visitors to St. John have enjoyed Skinny Legs for their after-beach burgers and beers, and the t-shirts, hats, mugs, and other stuff are popular souvenirs.

The famous Skinny Legs, an island institution and a highlight of Coral Bay
The famous Skinny Legs, an island institution and a highlight of Coral Bay

On this warm day in my Pennsylvania grocery store, while perusing the far too many choices of bagged coffee, a woman noticed my shirt and asked if I had been there. Her husband joined us in the aisle and we chatted for a few minutes about visiting St. John, a topic with which I have some experience.  (As an aside, it only makes me groan slightly to think that I should have said to them “While in this aisle, I’ll tell you about that isle”.  Oh good grief!)

Back to the coffee aisle. As it turned out, they were in the very early stages of planning a trip to the aforementioned island and had been reading snippets on Trip Advisor and other sites.  They had seen more than one on-line conversation about the pros and cons of staying in the Cruz Bay area or the Coral Bay area.  Having about 10 trips to St. John under my belt and after having spent lots of time in both places, I shall now chime in on that topic.

Cruz Bay is St. John’s main town and harbor and is on a small bay on the west end of the island, closest to St. Thomas just across the water to the west. (Aside from those lucky or wealthy few who arrive on their own boat, everyone comes to St. John via ferry from one of two origins on St. Thomas into Cruz Bay.)  The town of Cruz Bay, along with much of the southwest quadrant of the island, is where you find the vast majority of all the island’s restaurants, bars, shops, grocery stores, and all other types of businesses, along with most of the rental properties, private homes and apartments, government offices, and the infrastructure associated with all of that.

St John map credit - Google
St John map credit – Google

To my way of thinking, when you are on St. John, Cruz Bay is “town”, and is in fact the only town.

Coral Bay, on the east end of the island and mostly curving around a large natural harbor, is what many Caribbean islanders would refer to as “a settlement”.   There isn’t really a defined “town” with a main street and a central business area or strolling area.  There is a scattering of some fine eateries and shops that are absolutely worth visiting, but they are sparsely strung out along a stretch of the main east-side road (Rt. 107).  There is a gas station and there is a small grocery store. The large bay and harbor there is well populated with private boats so there must also be some services related to boating.  The famous Skinny Legs restaurant is out that way, as is Shipwreck Landing, another great place worthy of repeated visits.  There is a small school, an historic church, and lots of goats wandering around.  There are some rental properties, some of which I assume would have pools, and a few nice beaches.  There are several cool shops where we have found many a treasure, and more than a few great bargains.

Love City Market in Coral Bay
Love City Market in Coral Bay

The really breathtaking beaches on St. John, including the famous Trunk Bay, are along the north shore and are mostly within the national park property, which takes up something like 65% of the whole island. If you wanted to get to those beaches your drive from either Cruz Bay or Coral Bay would be similar, so that’s mostly a toss-up.

To sum up, if you are a writer, a painter, or a newlywed who doesn’t plan to leave the bedroom very often, staying in the Coral Bay area might suit you. Or if some generous friend is offering you free lodging- that could also a be point in favor of Coral Bay!  If however you are interested in being closer to a much greater variety of shops, restaurants, and bars, you would probably be happier being closer to Cruz Bay.  You would then also be close to all the rental car companies, the medical clinic, the police department, post office, and hardware store.

View of St. Thomas from Cruz Bay. Close!
View of St. Thomas from Cruz Bay. Close!

Lastly, if you were thinking of staying out on the east end of the island (Coral Bay), and then just zipping over to Cruz Bay each day – let me tell you – there is no zipping. Doing it a few times would be fine, but you will get tired of that drive really fast.  And you DON’T want to try it with a belly full of Cruzan Rum!  You’ll drive off into a jungle ravine and never be seen again.


My 2-cents, enjoy either way –


The Working Stiff

3 thoughts on “Cruz Bay vs. Coral Bay”

  1. Amen to all of the above! We had some friends stay on the Coral Bay side recently, and they lamented the fact that they couldn’t comfortably drive to Cruz Bay, where most of the restaurants are, for dinner, as the drive home is pretty treacherous at night. So, I might add, stay in the Chocolate Hole area, if at all possible, as it is only about 5 minutes from “town” (Cruz Bay), but is still remote enough to enjoy the privacy and views further out of town.

  2. All I can say is that you folks are very lucky to have all this information at your fingertips! Someday I hope to get to this beautiful part of the world……………

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