St. Thomas vs St. John vs St. Croix – Which Island is Best?
👉 Jump to: Which is Better – St. Thomas, St. John, or St. Croix? | Comparison Chart | Final Verdict | FAQs
St. Thomas, St. John, or St. Croix? Deciding which US Virgin Island you should visit is tricky if you’re unfamiliar with the beautiful archipelago in the Caribbean. Each island is wildly different, with aspects more suitable for some travelers than others.
I’m here to help. In this guide, I’ll break down the pros and cons of St. Thomas vs St. John vs St Croix!
After residing on St. Thomas with frequent visits to the neighboring islands of St. John and St. Croix, I’ve compared essential travel aspects of each to help you decide which is best for you!
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Which is Better: St. Thomas, St. John, or St. Croix?
St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix are the three main islands in the US Virgin Islands. They are only accessible via cruise ships, private boats, or arriving by air at one of the territory’s two international airports (STT, STX).
Each island has its distinct personality, white sand beaches, thrilling outdoor adventures, fascinating historical landmarks, and beautiful snorkeling sites. Which island you decide to visit depends on your preferences, budget, and how you want to spend your time while traveling.
When capturing the landscape and essence of each island, the best way I’ve heard it described is: St. Thomas is the city, St. John is the suburbs, and St. Croix is the country.
Pros of St. Thomas
St. Thomas is the most visited US Virgin island. It is a major cruise port and has the most infrastructure compared to St. John or St. Croix.
St. Thomas is the territory’s most populous island and is also the easiest to get to. You’ll find plenty of options for places to stay on St. Thomas, as well as popular tourist attractions like Coral World Ocean Park and duty-free shopping. St. Thomas has beautiful beaches, too, with world-class shorelines like Magens Bay, Coki Beach, and Lindquist Beach.
- 🏢 Most infrastructure, public transit, grocery stores, and the largest airport.
- 🏙️ Home to the territory’s capital city, Charlotte Amalie.
- 🏝️ Easy island hopping to St. John, St. Croix, Water Island, and the British Virgin Islands.
- 🏨 Many hotels and resorts, plus private vacation rentals.
- 💰 Enjoy the best aspects of St. John on a day trip while saving money by staying on the more affordable St. Thomas.
Pros of St. John
St. John has more nature and is more beautiful than St. Thomas or St. Croix.
The US National Park Service protects two-thirds of the island as Virgin Islands National Park. Its beaches, hiking trails, and historical landmarks are among the top things to do on St. John.
Meanwhile, St. John is a mere six miles east of St. Thomas and is only accessible by taking a ferry or car barge from St. Thomas.
- 🏞️ Easiest access to Virgin Islands National Park.
- 🍃 Most beautiful and natural of the US Virgin Islands.
- 🏖️ Cruz Bay, St. John’s largest community, is a lively beach town and one of the best places to visit in the USVI.
- 🤿 Great snorkeling sites, including an underwater trail at Trunk Bay Beach.
Pros of St. Croix
St. Croix is the largest Virgin Island yet it is isolated 45 miles south of the other two islands. St. Croix offers a distinct multicultural, laid-back vibe in comparison to St. Thomas or St. John.
The island of St. Croix has two main towns, Christiansted and Frederiksted, each a vestige of the former Danish West Indies. Outside the towns is a wide-open landscape, stunning beaches, and beautiful natural settings like Buck Island Reef and Jack and Isaac Bay Preserve.
- 🌊 Wide variety of things to do on St. Croix.
- 💵 Less pricey than the others.
- 🏞️ Three unique areas are maintained and operated by the US National Park Service.
- ⛱️ Popular and secluded beaches.
- 😎 Laid-back vibes.
St. Thomas is Best For
- Cruise shippers
- Family Vacation
- Island Hoppers
St. John is Best For
- Outdoor enthusiasts
- Adventure Travelers
- History Buffs
- Romantic Getaways
St. Croix is Best For
- Laid-back beachgoers.
- Adventure Travelers
- Scuba Divers
- History Buffs
- Family Trips
St. Croix vs. St. John vs. St. Thomas Comparison Chart
The table below compares St. Croix vs. St. John vs St. Thomas for relevant features like things to do, public transportation, costs, beaches, and more while visiting the US Virgin Islands.
|Feature (click jump to full comparison)||St. Thomas||St. John||St. Croix||🏆 Winner|
|Things to Do||Coral World Ocean Park, Mountain Top, Charlotte Amalie, Ziplining, and beaches.||Snorkeling, hiking, and beachgoing in the National Park.||Three National Parks, hiking, historical landmarks, kayaking, and sailing.||Three-way Tie!|
|Cost & Budget||Affordable, but is still expensive to stay, rental cars, and things to do.||Most expensive accommodation, food, and transportation.||St. Croix’s noticeably cheaper fuel gives them a nod above the others.||St. Croix|
|Getting There||Busiest and largest airport in the USVIs (STT)||Must arrive by ferry or barge from St. Thomas.||Easily accessible, yet smaller international airport with fewer flight arrivals (STX)||St. Thomas|
|Public Transportation||Safari Buses Make Frequent Trips Around the Populous Island||Transit by taxi or rental car only. No public transportation is available.||Public bus exists, but they are infrequent with very few stops.||St. Thomas|
|Beaches||Choice of secluded or lively beaches with affiliated resorts.||Pristine and untouched slices of paradise associated with Virgin Islands National Park||Beautiful north shore beaches and flat calm waters of the island’s west end.||St. John|
|Food||Local eateries, food trucks, and upscale dining offer selections of worldwide fare.||Fantastic restaurant scene in Cruz Bay, local beach bars, and watering holes in Coral Bay.||Excellent Caribbean-style cuisine with a heavy Latin influence.||Three-way Tie!|
|Hiking||Quality hiking trails are few and far between.||Virgin Islands National Park has some of the best hiking trails in the Caribbean.||Annaly Bay Tide Pools, Goat Hill, Jack & Isaac’s Bay are fantastic, but not much hiking after those three trails.||St. John|
|Hotels||Widest selection of hotels and resorts.||Very few hotels and resorts to choose from. AirBnB and VRBOs are plentiful.||Many beachfront resorts plus boutique options in the two main towns of Frederiksted and Christiansted.||Two-way tie: St. Thomas and St. Croix!|
|Snorkeling||East-end beaches, plus others feature great coral reefs and sea turtles.||The pristine, calm waters of the north shore offer the best snorkeling.||Excellent snorkeling opportunities at most beaches.||St. John|
|Scuba Diving||One beach dive and charters to divable St. Thomas East End Reserve.||The island’s premier dive operator goes to the same sites on the southeast end of St. Thomas.||Epic beach diving at the Cane Bay Wall and Frederiksted Pier.||St. Croix|
|Beach Bars||Although fun, every beach bar is associated with a hotel or resort, lacking an authentic and local vibe.||Aside from Skinny Legs, and Salty Mongoose, the best beach bars, are confined to Cruz Bay.||Unique and vibrant bars are found on the most popular beaches, including Rainbow Beach and Cane Bay.||St. Croix|
|Nightlife||Red Hook, Sapphire Beach, and parts of Charlotte Amalie liven up after the sun goes down.||Cruz Bay has many beach bars with live music open late into the evening.||The Christiansted Boardwalk features some of the best nightlife in the Caribbean.||Three-way tie!|
|History||Charlotte Amalie, Fort Christian, Blackbeard’s Castle, and other historical buildings.||Many sugar plantation ruins are well preserved with immense historical insight.||The three national parks, Salt River Bay, Christiansted, and Buck Island, provide impeccable insight into Virgin Island history.||Two-way Tie: St. John and St. Croix, due to NPS’s presence.|
|Island Hopping||St. Thomas grants access to all the other US Virgin Islands, including Water Island, plus day trips to all the British Virgin Islands.||You might need to return to St. Thomas before heading to other islands like St. Croix.||St. Croix is isolated 45 miles south of the other US Virgin Islands, making island hopping difficult.||St. Thomas|
Things to Do: St. Thomas vs. St. John vs. St. Croix
🏝️ St. Thomas – Attractions on St. Thomas caters to cruise crowds and resort-goers, with Magens Bay being the island’s highlight. Other fun things include Coral World Ocean Park, snorkeling with sea turtles, a historic walking tour in Charlotte Amalie, and nightlife in Red Hook.
🏞️ St. John – Most things to do on St. John revolve around Virgin Islands National Park, which covers two-thirds of the island. Highlights include Ram Head Trail, Reef Bay Trail, Annaberg Sugar Plantation, Reef Bay Sugar Mill, Waterlemon Cay, Cinnamon Bay, Trunk Bay Beach, and Maho Bay Beach.
🏖️ St. Croix – St. Croix has the most well-rounded mix of things to do with historical features in Christiansted National Historic Site, nightlife on the Christiansted Boardwalk, epic hiking trails on the island’s east end, beautiful shorelines, scuba diving, and sailing excursions to Buck Island Reef National Monument and its stunning Turtle Beach.
🏆 Winner: Three-Way Tie!
Cost & Budget: St. John vs. St. Thomas vs. St. Croix
🏝️ St. Thomas – While none of the US Virgin Islands are a cheap destination, it is possible to save a few bucks by staying on St. Thomas. For one, St. Thomas is the easiest to get to and has the most public transit options. Beyond that, St. Thomas has the most options for accommodation – whether it be a hotel or a vacation rental.
🏞️ St. John – St. John is the priciest of the US Virgin Islands, with limited hotel rooms and intricate supply chains to get to the island. If staying on St. John, expect to pay more for most goods and services if staying on St. John – including gas, food, and accommodation.
🏖️ St. Croix – St. Croix seems slightly cheaper than St. Thomas primarily because of significantly cheaper fuel prices. Otherwise, accommodation, food, and restaurants are similar in price.
🏆 Winner: St. Croix
Getting There: St. Croix vs. St. John vs. St. Thomas
🏝️ St. Thomas – With the largest airport (STT), St. Thomas is the most accessible island with daily flights arriving from major American hubs like Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, and New York.
🏞️ St. John – You can get to St. John only after flying into St. Thomas. You’ll have to take a taxi from the airport before hopping on the passenger ferry to St. John.
🏖️ St. Croix – Much like St. Thomas, St. Croix has a sizeable airport (STX) with daily flights arriving from major American hubs, although not as many. Otherwise, you can get to St. Croix from St. Thomas via seaplane or ferry.
🏆 Winner: St. Thomas
Public Transportation: St. Thomas or St. John or St. Croix
🏝️ St. Thomas – Although infrequent, St. Thomas does have a public bus system. However, the system of privately owned Safari taxis (open-air truck beds with seats) making a figure eight around the island is more reliable and affordable at $1 per ride.
🏞️ St. John – St. John does not have a bus system, and taxis to popular attractions are expensive (around $10 per person one-way).
🏖️ St. Croix – Like St. Thomas, St. Croix does have a public bus system, but it’s infrequent and unreliable. St. Croix does not have a Safari system like St. Thomas. The easiest way to get around St. Croix is to rent a car.
🏆 Winner: St. Thomas
Beaches: St. John, St. Thomas, or St. Croix
🏝️ St. Thomas – With the likes of Magens Bay, Coki Beach, Hull Bay, and Honeymoon Beach on Water Island, St. Thomas beaches are tough to beat.
🏞️ St. John – With assistance from Virgin Islands National Park, St. John’s beaches make a serious case for the title of best beaches in the Caribbean, with Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Maho Bay, and Salt Pond Bay.
🏖️ St. Croix – My two favorite beaches in the USVI are beaches in St. Croix: Sandy Point Beach and Turtle Beach on Buck Island. However, the abundance of beautiful beaches on St. John gives it an edge.
🏆 Winner: St. John
Food: St. Thomas vs. St. Croix vs. St. John
🏝️ St. Thomas – Upscale dining options alongside beach bars, local eateries, food trucks, burger joints, and standard American fare.
🏞️ St. John – Cruz Bay has a fantastic restaurant scene and great local spots, Skinny Legs and Salty Mongoose, in Coral Bay.
🏖️ St. Croix – My favorite food scene is the USVI is on St. Croix with iconic Caribbean-style food at La Reine Chicken Shack and Ziggy’s Island Market.
🏆 Winner: Three-way Tie!
Hiking: St. Croix vs. St. Thomas vs. St. John
🏝️ St. Thomas – Aside from a nature trail at Magens Bay and an uphill scurry near Brewers Bay, the hiking scene on St. Thomas is lacking.
🏞️ St. John – The most well-maintained and extensive hiking trails in the USVI are found on St. John in Virgin Islands National Park. Try out Reef Bay Trail or Ram Head Trail, at the very least.
🏖️ St. Croix – St. Croix’s popular hiking trails of Annaly Bay Tide Pools, Goat Hill, Jack and Isaac’s Bay Trail offer incredibly different scenery.
🏆 Winner: St. John
Hotels: St. Croix vs St. John vs St. Thomas
🏝️ St. Thomas – The east end of St. Thomas is lined with large hotels and resorts while more intimate guesthouses dot the hillsides of Charlotte Amalie.
🏞️ St. John – The Westin is the largest resort on the island, along with Gallows Point Resort and Estate Lindholm. Private vacation rentals on VRBO are spread throughout the island.
🏖️ St. Croix – Discover boutique hotels in Christiansted and Frederiksted or large resorts like The Buccaneer along the north shore.
🏆 Winner: Two-Way Tie – St. Thomas and St. Croix
Snorkeling: St. Thomas or St. Croix or St. John
🏝️ St. Thomas – East-end beaches like Coki Beach and Secret Harbour have great coral reefs for snorkeling while Brewers Bay is a phenomenal spot to see sea turtles.
🏞️ St. John – The beautiful north shore with Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Hawksnest Bay, and Maho Bay features calm, clear waters year-round with colorful coral reefs and resident sea turtles.
🏖️ St. Croix – Beaches on the west end are excellent for spotting sea turtles and discovering beautiful coral reefs.
🏆 Winner: St. John
Scuba Diving: St. John vs. St. Croix vs. St. Thomas
🏝️ St. Thomas – Multitude of dive operators visiting shipwrecks, coral reefs, ancient rock formations, and one incredible beach dive at Coki Beach (come visit me at Red Hook Dive Center! I’m the head Captain!)
🏞️ St. John – The lone dive operator on the island visits the same sites as operators on St. Thomas.
🏖️ St. Croix – Frederiksted Pier has more biodiversity and sea creatures than most dive sites in the world while Cane Bay has one of the most incredible underwater Wall Dives directly from the shore.
🏆 Winner: St. Croix
Beach Bars: St. John vs. St. Thomas vs. St. Croix
🏝️ St. Thomas – Most beach bars are associated with hotels or resorts.
🏞️ St. John – Fun beach bars in Cruz Bay, plus the few watering holes in Coral Bay.
🏖️ St. Croix – Beach bars like Rhythms and Off the Wall line the most famous shorelines, including Rainbow Beach and Cane Bay.
🏆 Winner: St. Croix
Nightlife: St. Thomas vs St. John vs St. Croix
🏝️ St. Thomas – Red Hook, Sapphire Beach, and Havensight area in Charlotte Amalie liven up the nightlife of St. Thomas.
🏞️ St. John – Cruz Bay is one of the liveliest districts in the US Virgin Islands after the sun goes down.
🏖️ St. Croix – the Christiansted Boardwalk might be the most vibrant nightlife in the territory.
🏆 Winner: Three-way Tie!
History: St. Croix, St. John, or St. Thomas
🏝️ St. Thomas – Charlotte Amalie has fascinating historical landmarks like Fort Christian and Blackbeard’s Castle. However, much of it hasn’t been restored following the 2017 hurricanes.
🏞️ St. John – Remnants of centuries-old sugar factories, like Annaberg Sugar Plantation, are found within Virgin Islands National Park.
🏖️ St. Croix – Christiansted National Historic Site does phenomenal work interpreting the human experience in the Danish West Indies. Salt River Bay Historical Park and Ecological Preserve feature the only Columbus Landing Site on US soil.
🏆 Winner: Two-way Tie – St. John and St. Croix
Island Hopping: St. Croix, St. John, or St. Thomas
🏝️ St. Thomas – St. Thomas is the launch pad – by ferry or plane – to other islands like St. Croix, St. John, Water Island, and the British Virgin Islands.
🏞️ St. John – Most ferries traveling to different islands originate on St. Thomas.
🏖️ St. Croix – The only island to visit is Buck Island from Christiansted. Otherwise, head to St. Thomas.
🏆 Winner: St. Thomas
Final Verdict – St. Thomas, St. John, or St. Croix
As you can see, the nuances of deciding which US Virgin Islands to visit are complex and depend on what activities you prefer. Budget, public transit, ease of arrival, and island hopping options are all other considerations before deciding.
Although in summary, here are my final recommendations when deciding between St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix:
- 💰 St. Thomas or St. Croix is better for budget options.
- 🛬 St. Thomas is best for an easy arrival.
- 🏞️ St. John is best for outdoor enthusiasts and hikers.
- 🇻🇮 St. Croix is best for adventure and cultural travelers.
- 🏖️ St. Thomas is best for resort and beachgoers.
- ❤️ St. John is best for honeymooners, couples, or romantic getaways.
- 👪 St. Thomas is best for families due to affordability.
- 🇻🇬 St. Thomas is the easiest to visit in the British Virgin Islands.
🌴 Any of them is ideal for an unforgettable, cultural, and laid-back Caribbean vacation!
FAQs About St. Thomas, St. John, vs. St. Croix
Which is best, St. Thomas, St. John, or St. Croix?
St. John is best for its natural landscape and beautiful scenery. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the hiking trails within Virgin Islands National Park. St. Thomas is best for accommodations and ease of arrival. At the same time, St. Croix is best for adventure travelers and laid-back beachgoers. See our full comparison chart for more.
Is St. Croix or St. Thomas More Popular?
St. Thomas is more popular because it’s easier to get to from major American hubs than St. Croix. However, both offer incredible opportunities for unforgettable experiences. See our comparison chart for more.
Is St. Thomas Safer than St. Croix?
For tourists visiting the US Virgin Islands, St. Thomas is just as safe as St. Croix, and tourists shouldn’t worry about being a victim of violent crime. Statistically speaking, crime in the US Virgin Islands is high. However, much of the crime is drug-related and doesn’t affect island visitors.
Comparing the best US Virgin Islands to visit – St. Thomas vs St. John vs St. Croix – is a common question yet a difficult task.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below – we’d love to hear any insights or suggested tweaks to our recommendations!
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