Everything you need to know about renting a home on St. John
If you have ever been to the Caribbean, you already understand its lure – waters so blue and clear that you can watch the fish swim around you and starfish move along the bottom of the sea, sands so smooth and soft that you can’t help but doze as the warm trade winds blow a gentle breeze, and strong sun rays tanning your shoulders to a golden hue. The islands offer up a laid-back attitude where life slows down, shoes are no longer a necessity and people offer friendly conversation at every turn. It’s no wonder that the Caribbean is a tourists’ dream, but if you’re one of the many who long to visit the West Indies without the hustle and bustle of the tourists, consider smaller islands and skip the resorts – instead, rent a villa or house to truly welcome yourself home and capture the feel of your destination.
A great place to begin is the U.S. Virgin Islands, which provide both the tropical allure, as well as the creature comforts of home because of its American heritage. Of the three islands that make up the U.S. Virgin Islands, perhaps one of the most intimate is the island of St. John, which is just 20 square miles of rolling, volcanic hills covered in dense tropical vegetation, as well as miles of private and public beaches, ideal for strolling hand-in-hand with a loved one, or combing for shells with the kids.
Why Rent a Villa
Renting a home or villa during a trip provides a home-away-from home vacation, complete with all the luxuries and privacy. Furnished rentals can be as simple as a one-bedroom condominium, which will include a kitchen, bathroom and living area in which to relax, to a full house with enough bedrooms and living space to accommodate an extended family or two. With full kitchens, save money typically spent at restaurants and visit local grocery stores instead to stock up on food for your visit, then gather up your family and friends for home-cooked meals and lively conversation seated around a dining room table. Although many rentals won’t include hotel-like services, meaning you’ll have to make your own beds each morning, wash your own linens when needed, and sweep up the sand brought in from the beach, some villa and house rentals offer additional services so you can have the ease of a hotel stay with the privacy of a home stay.
Some additional features to look for include:
- Housekeeping services. Daily or weekly housekeeping visits can ensure you still receive fresh linens and toiletries, and keep you from having to wash floors or kitchen counters. While linen service is included, personal laundry services will also be additional.
- Grocery services. Make arrangements for groceries to be delivered before your arrive to ensure a fully stocked kitchen and avoid a trip to the grocery store. You make the list and the service will do the shopping. Forgot something at the store? Call for grocery services and have your item delivered or re-stock the pantry during your visit.
- Spa services. Why go to the spa when you can have the spa come to you? In-home massages, manicures and pedicures provide the same relaxing luxury found in upscale hotels, but in the privacy of your rental.
- Chef services. Perhaps you like the idea of eating a home-cooked meal around a dining room table, but just don’t want to be bothered with the cooking? This additional service brings the chef to your door to fully cater your meals.
Where to Begin
A host of rental agencies make finding the right home for your visit a piece of cake. The agencies can search the areas of your choice, the space you need, the services you require, even the home décor style you’d prefer. Contacting an agent or conducting a search online will just require the answering of simple questions, such as: Would you prefer an ocean view or a mountain locale? Would you prefer an intimate retreat or do you need space to accommodate a family?
Once you’ve selected the villa or home of your choice, the agents will check the homes that meet your requirements with the availability you need. You will need to leave a deposit of up to 50 percent of the rental fee to confirm your reservation. Most travelers to the island visit between late-December through April, or high season. Low season, when less visitors are seeking rentals, is generally less expensive, and falls between May and mid-December. Some rentals will require a longer stay during high season, from 5 to 7 days, while low season availability may be more flexible to weekend visits. During the winter holidays, many rentals require a two-week stay.
Be sure to ask the agency you are renting with about its cancellation policies. Some agencies will only accept non-refundable deposits while others may provide partial to full refunds, depending on the advanced cancellation notice received.
St. John is a three-hour flight from Miami International Airport. As a small island, your flight will connect you to the largest of the islands, St. Thomas, where you will need to catch a ferry to St. John. Ferry rides will be less than an hour, and they run frequently. Once arriving on St. John, a taxi can take you to your final destination, but renting a vehicle is a smart choice when renting a home on the island. You won’t have to rely on taxis during your visit and will be able to cruise the island at your leisure.