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If you go: Island basics of laid-back St. John
Getting there: To get to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, you must fly to the neighboring island of St. Thomas. From LAX to St. Thomas, there are connecting flights only on American, Delta and US Airways. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $709.
From the St. Thomas airport, take a 20-minute taxi ride (about $9) to the dock at Charlotte Amalie, then a 40-minute ferry ($7 a person) to St. John's Cruz Bay. Or take a 40-minute taxi ride ($11) to the St. Thomas town of Red Hook and a 15-minute ferry ($3) to St. John.
Once on the island, you can rent a car (I paid $60 a day) or take taxis, which resemble open-air shuttle buses. For a couple heading out from Cruz Bay to virtually any roadside island destination, one-way fares max out at about $6.25 per person.
Where to sleep: The lowest nightly rates are typically offered in the summer, which is low season; higher rates are for high-demand winter months. (Prices exclude an 8% hotel tax.)
Maho Bay Camps, mailing address 17A E. 73rd St., New York, NY 10021; telephone (800) 392-9004 or (212) 472-9453 or (340) 776-6240 (on St. John), fax (340) 776-6504, Internet www.mahobay.com. There are 114 tent-cottages on 256-square-foot platforms (no private bathrooms), plus a beach, restaurant and water sports rentals. Rates: $75 to $115, double. The same company also runs three other lodgings that range from tent-cottages to studio apartments: Harmony Studios (just up the hill from the Maho Bay complex; 12 units with private baths, $110 to $200); Estate Concordia Studios (nine units with private baths, pool, $95 to $190); and Concordia Eco-Tents (11 units with private toilets and showers, $75 to $130). The Concordia lodgings stand on a remote hillside at the island's east end.
Caneel Bay, P.O. Box 720, St. John, USVI 00831; tel. (888) 767-3966 or (340) 776-6111, fax (340) 693-8280, www.rosewoodhotels.com. A luxury resort with 166 rooms, three restaurants, seven private beaches and one small pool. Rates: $275 to $1,000.
Gallows Point Resort, P.O. Box 58, St. John, USVI 00831; tel. (800) 323-7229 or (340) 776-6434, fax (340) 776-6520, www.gallowspointresort.com. On the water's edge near downtown Cruz Bay, it has 60 units with kitchens, a restaurant and a snack shop. Rates: $145 to $410.
Cinnamon Bay Campground, P.O. Box 720, Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI 00831; tel. (800) 539-9998 or (340) 776-6330, fax (340) 776-6458, www.cinnamonbay.com. Tent sites to cottages. Restaurant and a small grocery store. Rates: tents $58 to $80, cottages $90 to $135.
Where to eat: Paradiso, Mongoose Junction, Cruz Bay, local tel. 693-8899. Contemporary American cuisine, dinner only; open daily. Main dishes $19-$30. Stone Terrace, on Cruz Bay's waterfront, tel. 693-9370, www.stoneterrace.com. International fare, dinner only; closed Mondays. Main dishes $18-$31. Panini Beach Trattoria, Wharfside Village, Cruz Bay; tel. 693-9119. Italian. Main dishes $16-$27. Dinner daily.
When to go: Temperatures are close to 80 degrees year-round. Summer is the rainy season, fall is hurricane season.
For more information: U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, 3460 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 412, Los Angeles, CA 90010; tel. (800) 372-8784 or (213) 739-0138, fax (213) 739-2005, www.usvi.net or www.stjohnisland.com. Virgin Islands National Park visitor center, tel. (340) 776-6201.