Renting a Villa
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We are a party of 6 renting a 3 bed soon and need to know about food shopping on ST. John. We intend to do all of our cooking as we are bringing a Firefighter who is a chef! Should we shop in St Thomas or St. John? We will be buying a lot of meats and cold cuts, salad etc.Help, also a car rental or jeep for 6 adults?
i am sure you will find good suggestions here, but your villa rental agent should be able to assist you with this... have you called them about it?
Many visitors in your situation rent a Jeep/Jeeps on St Thomas (Dependable and Amalie consistently receive excellent reviews) and then stop at CostULess and/or Plaza Extra en route to the Red Hook Ferry terminal to stock up on villa supplies which are generally less expensive than on St John. Then they take the car barge over to St John (the ferry schedule is under "Quick Links" top right this page). If you use the search engine on this forum you'll find a ton of relevant threads and posts.
We've visited St John several times over the past couple of years with a larger group (4 couples) in a single villa and prepared most of our meals at the villa. In both cases we rented jeeps on St John (Conrads) and did all of our grocery shopping at the Starfish Market in Cruz Bay or picked up essentials at the little market in Coral Bay. While this scenario may be a little more expensive we never had a problem finding what we wanted (meats, fresh veggies, etc...). Like you we had a "chef" or two in the group. The nice thing about doing it this way was the meals could be a little more spontaneous and we didn't have to plan all of the menus out in advance. The Starfish wine store also has a great selection or gourmet cheeses and some good wines. Granted we were willing to pay a little more to remove some of the hassles when we first arrived (ie. get a car at the airport, get to the grocery store, get the supplies, get to the ferry dock....). Either way I'm sure you will find what you need and have a great time. Can't wait for our return trip.
Just a couple of questions to be sure you get good advice;
Is it your first visit to StJ? First time to STT?
Helps to know your knowledge of the islands when giving advice.
How long are you staying?
If a stay shorter than a week the savings from shopping on STT might be minimal.
When are you visiting?
During high season and during Carnival week you might find some empty shelves in StJ markets. If you have already booked your airline or accomodations you should reserve the vehicle(s) NOW! Especially on StJ, rental vehicles are limited and your selection will diminish as time passes.
Are you renting one vehicle for the 6 of you or renting two or more?
The reason I ask is that vacationing with friends or family can quickly become a nightmare when you have 3 couples with 3 different agendaes. On another USVI forum someone (RickG) has a list of rules he suggests for groups traveling together. His suggestions are a good read. If the budget allows, you might consider renting at least 2 vehicles to accomodate desires to do different things. Another budget related item; since you are a party of 6, you can save a few bucks by renting a vehicle on STT and taking the car barge instead of the passanger ferry. The car barge charges per vehicle, the passenger ferry per person with luggage handling charges + taxi costs per person with luggage handling charges. The car barge schedule is not as flexible as the Red Hook ferry schedule though.
What part of the island are you staying on?
There are grocers in Cruz Bay and also in Coral Bay. Cruz Bay offers the greatest selection but the smaller Coray Bay markets have a surprising selection packed into minimal space.
You can find all the groceries you will need on StJ. The cost will be higher than if purchased on STT or if you bring some down with you. The choices of some items will be more limited on StJ than on STT. The quality of some items might be better on STT. When purchasing groceries on STT you have the problem of keeping perishable items cold and hauling all of it to where your staying on StJ.
Toes in the sand,This is the first visit for the other 2 couples. I have been to St.John from cruise visits and I just love it. I did not need to shop for anything because I was only island hopping before. We are staying for a week and haven't picked a week yet.We will be going out together all of the time so we did hope to find a car big enough for all. We did want to just shop at St. John but the chef is very fussy about the meat he is going to cook soooo. You can't upset the chef. The girls will be hitting the beach and the men will be chasing the maid( just kidding.) I hope this all works out as the island is my fav. I think the villa is in Cruz Bay. Thanks to all.
How much is a budget a concern?
If it is, consider these money saving ideas;
Purchase your meat and cheeses at home and pack them in a softsided cooler to bring them with you. You probably save 10% to 20% on meat costs in relation to stateside prices.
Rent your 6 person + luggage vehicle on STT and use the car barge. Stop on STT for remaining food supplies. Otherwise if you are renting your vehicle on StJ it is best to just shop your groceries on StJ.
For fresh salad fixings check out Josephines Greens in Coral Bay StJ.
Thanks, I was just concerned about the quality of the meat more then the price since we will be splitting all costs. I read that we are better off renting the car on St. John because the car barge could be a problem with getting it on the barge. I would think that 2 retired firefighters could manage but you never know. Thanks for taking the time to answer.
the meats on STT at CostuLess are of excellent quality at least equal to what you buy in most stateside supermarket quality - variety and choices however are not the same - the meats at Marina Market in STT Red Hook are really good - same problem with choices though - Starfish in STJ will have good quality but probably even more of a variety limitation - if the 'chef' is dead set on a particular cut or size maybe bringing some cuts in a soft sided cooler would make less stress - but in general you will not want for quality.
Costs will definitely vary but on the average I would plan on a 20-30% increase on meats - there are sales - there are overstocks - but flexibility is the real Key to dinner planning here no matter what the money situation dictates.
Thanks to all for taking the time. I am sure that we will find what is needed as long as the markets have somewhat of a selection. Does anyone have a favorite beach? That is where I am going everyday. I have always gone to Trunk Bay only.
kwadmanply wrote: I read that we are better off renting the car on St. John because the car barge could be a problem with getting it on the barge. I would think that 2 retired firefighters could manage but you never know. Thanks for taking the time to answer.
The car barges ply their route day in and day out between STT and STJ and hundreds of locals and visitors manage the trip perfectly easy so I wouldn't anticipate any problem at all! Have fun!
They are all favorite beaches! We always make a pilgrimage to Trunk, usually early in the morning or late in the day to enjoy it without the crowd. Know that late in the day you will find no-seeums at any beach. We come home with a new favorite beach each trip. This site has a great beach guide. Go to the top of the page just above the advertising banners and hover over the St John, select beach guide. Speaking of the advertising banner, the guidebook Off the Beaten Track is a great enhancement to your (especially) first trip. Great descriptions, pictures, stories, directions and history. The author has a website that is a great resource as well. You will find it at
Our favorite beach each trip depends on a few things, weather, water, wind and wildlife. Last trip it was a toss up between Denis and Francis. Previous trips our favorites have been Little Lamshur, Salomon, Honeymoon and Hawksnest. Every beach offers something a little bit different.
Thanks, I really want to learn how to snorkel before we get there so I will try it in the pool first. My husband did go to Trunk with me a couple of years ago and he loved the snorkeling. I was too chicken at that time to try it. Thanks again for all of your feed back.
No worries regarding renting from Dependable on STT, as far as I'm concerned...
I've been to STJ 15 times, just got back from yet another glorious trip mid-May.
We've kinda' done it all regarding Jeep Rentals on STT& STJ, and have often brought down a cooler filled with frozen foods so's we can plop them in the fridge upon our arrival. Nice to feel "at home" asap, if you ask me!
This past trip we didn't really bring down a lot of food...not sure why...
We rented from Dependable on STT-faster way to enjoy "island time" rather than take a taxi, and did a butt load of food shopping on the way to Redhook for the Car barge.
Drank a chilly brew on the way,sensibly, and had no problem with the barge.
Highly recommend that notion!
It's a lot easier than you think, but the food stuffs on both islands are without a doubt, top-notch, in my opinion.
Even going food shopping is a fun adventure, but it takes up some beach time...what to do? Hit a bar for an adult cocktail & have a picnic on the way!
PLEASE feel free to PM me. I'll give you all of the most unbiased help I possibly can!
It's all just so much fun, and I wish you & your party the best!
mahojim, I just saw your note, thank you for all the shop talk. I thought about packing a cooler for the trip but with all of the airport problems I didn't know what would happen. I wanted to bring some wine, water and the frozen meat but I think the weight might be a problem. This dependable car rental, is that at the airport at St.Thomas? Are the car barge times as good as the ferry? The thought of driving to the beach every day is giving me the heebie jeebies but a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do. We may bribe the guys to take us and drop us off. They would never want to stay all day like us. We have just booked the villa and the air fare so I am excited about the trip. We will arrive on Dec.3 and leave on Dec.10. I hope that the weather will be great! Thanks again for all of your help.
On the subject of having to drive to the beach. It is not a problem, really. You'll find that you will visit more beaches and find some really great ones that way instead of sitting on the same beach each day.
Driving is easy once you get the nerve to try. I find that I have more trouble switching back to "right:" when I get back to the states (when I am not forcing myself to think about it).
Meat: Be prepared to pay more but you will find what you want on St John. Caution, you WILL pay. For me, the pocketbook dictates. If I am wathing pennies I will shop at Cost-U-Less and ferry it over. If I am a little more "padded" I will just shop at Starfish on St John and close my eyes when I get to the register. I have never transported meat from the states - too much trouble. It is, after all, a vacation.
Great advice so far... The other thing you can do, which we have found that works well, is to have a large lunch around 2 pm. By then most folks are ready to get off the beach and into the shade.
Enjoy the happy hours and then head up to the villa for tapas / dinner - you will find that it is easier to rebound on a light dinner and serious partying when the sun is up. We usually grab some fresh Mahi or chicken and do something simple on the grill.
When going to St John it is always a time vs dollar decision.
I never go to STJ trying to save money - I always cherish my minutes on island.
If $$s are major concern... STJ may not be the right island. Not saying to waste money, but when everything... I mean everything arrives by ferry there are no bargins.
I have been going to the islands since the 70s... there is no place like STJ.... well maybe Guadeloupe 🙂
Just returned from a trip to St. John with five women. I did all the driving and it was no problem at all. We even rented our Jeep on St. Thomas for the first time. I was so apprehensive about backing onto the car barge and it turned out to be a breeze. They will guide you on and into your spot. Renting on St. Thomas will be the only way for me now. It was so nice to put all of our bags in the Jeep at the airport and not touch them again until we pulled up in front of the villa.
We did bring our frozen meat in a rolling cooler and was not even questioned about it at security. We loved cooking at the villa and enjoying dinner watching the sunset from the veranda each evening where our biggest decision was how to dress for dinner - swimsuit or pjs! I also highly recommend Amalie Car Rental as they meet you at the airport with the vehicle. I cannot say enough good things about working with Mr. and Mrs. Constantin at Amalie Car Rental.
kwadmanply -- no reason to bring water for sure - maybe a special bottle of expensive wine but otherwise many wines are widely available and not particularly higher priced than most states.
If you want quality meats you might want to stop at Marina Market in Red Hook if you are not shopping at Costuless or Plaza Xtra on STT.