Can You Live on St. John Island?

If you've visited the U.S. Virgin Islands and fell in love with the beautiful beaches and tropical weather, you might be pleased to learn that you don't have to just visit here: You can live on St. John and the other major islands year-round. If you're an American, the move can be relatively painless, as you won't need to apply for citizenship or bring a passport to put down stakes in this American territory. But before you start packing to make this vacation destination your home, you should carefully consider the pros and cons of this move.

Pros of Living on St. John

  • On St. John, you'll be living on island time. Far from the hustle and bustle of big cities, everything is much more relaxed here, giving you the feeling that you've got plenty of time to do whatever you want to do. If you find yourself always running late for things at home, this laid-back lifestyle may suit you better.
  • Almost two-thirds of St. John is taken up by Virgin Islands National Park, meaning that there are plenty of places where you can go hiking or camping. There are also lots of great spots to snorkel.
  • St. John has a rich history to explore. The island was settled by the Tainos before 1500, then colonized by Denmark in the 1600s. The Danes filled St. John with plantations focused on growing sugarcane, tobacco, and cotton, and you'll still find the ruins of sugar mills on the island today.
  • Since St. John is a U.S. territory, you'll have a pretty easy transition. U.S. laws apply here, and U.S. currency is used just like on the American mainland.

Cons of Living on St. John

  • Since St. John is an island, pretty much everything has to be brought in by boat, which makes the cost of living pretty high. You'll pay a lot more for things like groceries and household items. Housing costs are also high, since there's a limited supply of places to live and these places need to be built to withstand tropical weather.
  • Hurricanes are a real threat. They're not common, but they do happen, so you need to be prepared. One of the most devastating years in recent memory was 2017, when hurricanes Irma and Maria slammed into the island in quick succession, destroying everything in their path. Just about everything has been rebuilt now, but it took years for the island to recover.
  • Since St. John is such a small island, there isn't a wide variety of employment opportunities. The biggest employers are the tourism industry and the U.S. government.
  • Getting around can be a challenge. Public transit is limited to VITRAN, the public bus system, which runs three routes on the island. You can drive your own vehicle, but keep in mind that the roads can be uneven and occasionally unpaved; an SUV with good road clearance is essential. Buying a new car on St. John will be pricey, so it's best to have yours shipped in from the mainland.
  • St. John doesn't have an airport, so you'll need to get to and from the island by boat. The nearest airport is on St. Thomas, and you can get to St. John from there by ferry. You'll also need to take the ferry to St. Thomas if you need to go to a hospital; there's a clinic on St. John but not a full hospital.

Whenever you plan to move to a new place, there are plenty of pros and cons, and moving to St. John is no exception. But it's great to know that living on St. John is definitely an option for those who want to make it their permanent home.