A road trip around Malta

March 2018

If the sound of hiring a car, and roaming around a place with an interesting past, divine food, and some stunning seaside cliff views is up your street, Malta is for you!

Quick Bites

Currency: EUR
Why to go: Rich history, good food, & beautiful scenery
Where to stay: Airbnbs with parking
How long to stay: 1-2 nights at each place
Transport: Hire a car, drive on the left
Don’t miss: Area around St. Peters Pool and Ras il-Fniek
Go with: A group of friends
Food: Famed for rabbit
Vibe: Easy going, slow pace

Why go to Malta

Mini natural pools at the ocean's edge
An amazing spot we found after getting lost on our way to St. Peter’s Pool (just northeast of St. Peter’s)

My cousins and I selected Malta for our first international trip as a group of three slightly disastrous humans. I won’t lie, it was chosen off the ‘Everywhere’ list of destinations on Skyscanner as it met our budget, none of us had ever been, and we were seeking some sun. However, having now experienced the islands in the archipelago, I am a firm fan. From one side of Malta to the other is less than an hour by car, making it perfect for a shorter trip that still feels very much complete. If the sound of hiring a car, and roaming around a place with an interesting past, divine food, and some stunning seaside cliff views is up your street, Malta is for you!

Where to visit in Malta

The Maltese archipelago consists of the islands of Malta (the largest), Gozo, and Comino (the smallest). Given time constraints, we opted to only visit Malta and Gozo stopping at various places on our way round with the car. Below is a selection of our top spots we found on offer during our Maltese road trip.

Sliema

A perched bird overlooking the walled city of Valletta
The walled city of Valletta

Sliema works as a perfect base for day visits to Valletta. It is cheaper to stay here overnight than Valletta itself and you get an awesome view of the city which you would not get from inside the walls. There is not too much to call out here in terms of sight seeing but we had the best food of the trip at a restaurant called Ta’ Kris which we could tell was top class due to all the local clientele. It’s a reasonably small place with hard worked staff, so don’t expect speed, but if you get yourself a booking you are really in for a treat. Rabbit is a Maltese specialty and the rabbit dishes here were super tasty!

Valletta

Quirky buildings with multicoloured windows around Valletta
Many of the buildings in Valletta have these quirky multicoloured windows

Valletta was gorgeous to walk around. The city is a unique mix, housing beautiful churches, quirky coloured apartments, and a spattering of some ‘hipster’ bars. It is the ultimate cool city with a laidback vibe packed with a serious historical punch. You want to give yourself time to get lost amongst the streets here but make sure to visit some of the museums to ensure you leave with an appreciation of everything the country has seen in its past. I recommend The Malta Experience for a short movie which explains the history and the War Memorial at the ocean end of the city for some awesome views of the forts surrounding Valletta. Finish your day here watching the sunset from the upper Barrakka Gardens when you are too tired to walk anymore.

A bar sign which reads: we have beer colder than your ex's heart
One of the great signs on offer for your viewing pleasure at the bars in Valletta

Gozo

Gozo has plenty to offer, so although we only spent one day and night here, I would recommend tacking on a day or two. We started our visit by taking in the megalithic Ġgantija temples to get an understanding of how ancient the land is.

Following our cultural visit of the day we headed to Marsalforn which considering it was March was quite empty. However, during high season a lot of tourists stay around here, particularly those looking to dive, as the town hosts a few diving shops. It was nice to walk around the dock area and I can definitely see the outdoor restaurant spaces packed in summer with tourists enjoying an Aperol Spritz or two.

Next we headed to the Azure Window and Blue Hole site. The Azure Window has actually collapsed now so you can’t see the arc structure which used to stand at this location. Either way this is a breathtaking area at the edge of the island of Gozo with cliffs a plenty to fulfil your sit, stare, and contemplate life needs.

A shot of a cliff and the Mediterranean sea bordering it
Captured whilst clambering around the rocks at the Blue Hole/Azure Window
Two women walking around flat cliffs with a view of the ocean behind
Visting the Azure Window in the morning and wandering around free of tourists
The cliffs at Gozo with the sea in front
The stunning cliffs near the Azure Window site

I recommend visiting Victoria at night. It is the main city on the island and boasts the stunning Ċittadella. At night the walls are lit up similarly to Valletta and it makes for a killer view. Walking around the place without other tourists made me feel like I was creeping around a castle in Dorne in Game of Thrones in the dead of night and I was all for it.

Mdina

Mdina is another of the incredible walled cities Malta has to offer. We started our visit here during the day getting lost around the city streets. At night, once again the city lit up which gave it that important castle feel. The streets are peppered with classy bars and restaurants, so although it is the old capital, you get the sense that people really socialise there rather than just treating it as a tourist destination.

Marsaxlokk

Maltese luzzu boats docked at port
Typical Maltese luzzu fishing boats docked at Marsaxlokk

Marsaxlokk is known as the best place to see the famous Maltese luzzu fishing boats. The boats are typically painted bright blue yellow and red with a pair of eyes on the bow. This small fishing village did not disappoint on the boat front and we had a stellar seafood lunch to boot.

The Mediterranean sea with a long cliffside in the distance
The view of Ras il-Fniek from the hidden private pools near St. Peter’s Pool

My favourite part of the whole trip was our hike from Marsaxlokk to the St. Peters Pool area. The walk is super nice, giving you a bird’s eye view of the village you leave behind from a path bordered by old beige walls, cacti, and yellow flowers. We actually took a wrong turn and happened to find the most beautiful place of the whole trip. We never made it to St. Peter’s Pool but found an area of multiple natural pools which were bordered by the Mediterranean, almost like natural infinity pools. There was no one around seeing as most tourist traffic heads to St. Peter’s, so it became our own little paradise. What made it was the view of the Ras il-Fniek cliffs to the left whilst we bathed!

How long to stay in Malta

Red and blue coloured benches parked in front of a port
Cute colourful benches we found at the waterfront on the walk from Sliema to Valletta

Malta is ideal for short trips because it is so small. Crossing the main island of Malta on it’s longest side takes less than 1 hour by road, so if you hire a car you have your independence and can check out as much of the country as you want. We stayed 6 days including our departure and arrival days and we squeezed so much in. I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. However, we did not visit Comino. If you have the luxury of time and want to see absolutely everything, give yourself a full 7-10 days and you will leave feeling like locals.

Transport in Malta

A path lined by yellow flowers with a small port village in the background
The view of Marsaxlokk from the hike towards St. Peter’s Pool

Malta does have a public bus system which many opt for to get from place A to B. Many also just visit Malta as a beach destination and spend most of their time in one spot. Our intention was to see as much of the island as we reasonably could and a road trip gave us the freedom to do that. If you have the time, I am sure the bus is cheaper, however, we didn’t want to find ourselves having to wait 1 hour after missing a bus (which would be typical of us). Also, be aware that in Malta you drive on the left hand side of the road!

Where to stay in Malta

A woman sleeping on the doorstep of a closed hotel title 'Hotel Ritz'
Us being high class and sleeping at the Ritz in Marsalforn because we are that boujee

Parking isn’t the easiest in Malta if you are not a confident driver. It is a small place so you can imagine it is a lot of parallel parking situations on small streets. Given the best way to see Malta is by hiring a car, I would recommend trying to secure Airbnbs with some parking space to make your life easier. That said, we predominantly used Booking.com to secure hotels and hostels at reasonable prices. In all honesty, the important thing here is proximity to where you are visiting as once you have arrived, the best thing to do is leave the car close to your accommodation and walk around given the size of the place.

A view of a small port and apartments in the background
The waterfront at St. Julian’s

Make the trip moments

A woman sat on a cliff's edge looking at the ocean below
The stunning cliffside view at the Azure Window/Blue Hole area on Gozo
  • My first trip with some of my favourite humans, being the disastrous triplet cousins we are
  • Screaming on our way to Sliema from the airport after getting volunteered to drive us as the one who is ‘used to’ driving on the left
  • The flashy lights around the churches all over Malta
  • The food at Ta’ Kris (R.I.P. the leftover pasta we forgot in the fridge)
  • Taking photos of us sleeping everywhere to curate a beautiful album for our parents
  • Falling asleep during The Malta Experience movie – I swear it was good but two thirds of us are pale and the sun hit us hard
  • So many cats, cats everywhere, cat sanctuaries in the middle of more than one Maltese town
  • Initiating our cousin into our sleep in the car habits in Gozo
  • Watching Black Panther in Victoria one evening just because (favourite Marvel film)
  • Doing everything last minute: renting a car, finding accommodation, you name it we did it
  • Loving Cisk beer and not loving Kinnie so much (acquired taste)
  • The ‘private’ natural pools near St. Peter’s Pool

Croatia from Split to Pula

September 2018

My favourite bits about Croatia were the beautiful drives perfect for a road trip, the national parks, and the awesome festival locations!

Quick Bites

Currency: HRK (Croatian Kuna)
Why to go: Ideal for road trips, natural parks, & festivals
Where to stay: Airbnbs with parking
How long to stay: 2-3 nights at each city max
Transport: Hire a car
Go with: A group of friends
Food: Very mediterranean

Why go to Croatia

The view over a cathedral by the sea
The cathedral at Šibenik

My friend and I actually decided to go to Croatia for a music festival. Pula boasts various popular festivals such as Dimensions and Ultra. We were headed to Outlook festival for a sunny dose of bass music to finish off summer. My favourite bits about Croatia were the beautiful drives perfect for a road trip, the national parks, and the awesome festival locations!

Where to visit & what to do in Croatia

We wanted to see some of the country during our trip but knew we would be knackered post festival so we flew in early to the south of the country, Split, and decided to road trip up to the festival location, Pula. The start and finish points of our trip were hugely influenced by flight prices and convenience but we saw a good bit of the country and enjoyed some beautiful drives. Below are the locations we visited and what we did in each.

Split

Waterfalls surrounded by a green forest
The waterfalls that were visible along the path at Krka National Park

We stayed in Split for 3 nights, largely because it was the minimum stay at our Airbnb but it worked perfectly as a base from which to do day trips to Krka National Park and Hvar. Split in itself has good nightlife (full of young people from all around Europe making their way up to the festivals in Pula) and a delightful old town to roam. One of our favourite bits was a tiki bar placed in one of the old town squares that transitioned from serving smoothies to cocktails as the sun dropped. Krka National Park is roughly a 1 hour drive from Split and boasts some awesome waterfalls where you can take a dip, which feels well deserved after your walk to get there.

Hvar

Hvar is known as a party island for the rich. I believe it was featured as a Made in Chelsea holiday season destination. You understand why when you arrive on a ferry from Split to a port with several yachts. The ferry trip takes around 1.5 hours one way but is pleasant. We opted to not take our car and explored the quirky streets of Hvar by foot and hiked to some more secluded beaches away from the port. The water was beautiful here and some of the hotels looked stunning, but personally I was more enthralled by the parties had during the festival!

Šibenik

The drive from Split to Šibenik was only around 1 hour. We found a cute pop art style flat last minute and arrived at night ready to check out the city the next day. Šibenik is an awesome place to roam around in the sun, particularly the old town streets. If you wind your way up through the old town you reach St. Michael Fortress which gives you a great view over the city.

Zadar

A sunset over the sea with mountains and a boat in the distance
The view of the sunset from the sea organ in Zadar

The drive to Zadar from Šibenik was again only about 1 hour (this country is honestly ideal for a road trip). The old town in Zadar is where its at. It is perfect to walk around and has plenty of options for a nice dinner and a cheeky ice cream whilst the sun goes down. One of our favourite spots was the Sea Organ, where you can sit on the marble steps leading into the ocean and watch the sunset accompanied by the sounds created by the waves and the 35 organ pipes under the steps. Next to the Organ was the Sun Salutation which is essentially a massive solar panel which uses the day’s sunlight as energy to light up a series of multicoloured light on top it. These exhibitions are the coolest bits of Zadar so you can imagine they can get quite busy!

Pula

A group a young people watching sunset over the sea
One of the beautiful sunsets we saw by the sea during the Outlook festival

Pula was our last stop and I won’t pretend that we saw much more than the festival locations but they were a gorgeous backdrop to the festival. The opening concert was held in the Pula amphitheatre and it was incredible. Imagine the Colosseum in Rome all lit up in hues of blue, green, and red accompanied by the dulcet sounds of Bonobo. Hopefully that image excites you as much as it did me. The rest of the festival was held in Fort Punta Christo. Everyone stayed nearby so it was easy to walk to and from the festival. The Fort was right on the water and some of the stages were in some incredible hidden nooks of the Fort. I cannot recommend a festival here enough!

How long to stay in Croatia

An alleyway between old town houses with green window shutters and doors
The picturesque streets in old town Šibenik

A good 10 days in Croatia is enough for a Split to Pula road trip finishing off in some festival fun. We had a bout of food poisoning so we missed out on some things we wanted to see but we did not leave feeling unsatisfied. If you want to drive less in a given day, consider staying longer. If I were to visit without going to a festival I would tack on Zagreb and Dubrovnik as additional stops.

Transport in Croatia

Approaching a town whilst driving on a seaside road
The stunning E65 road we took from Zadar to Pula – such a gorgeous drive

I am not someone who loves driving or who is a super confident driver. Unfortunately I always end up driving in random countries, here is to hoping soon I will feel like a pro. Regardless of my skills behind the wheel, Croatia was such a pleasure to drive! The roads were easy to follow, with the exception of some one way road drama in some of the smaller towns (but I blame Maps over anything else). Some of the roads we drove at sunset on the coast were stunning and I reckon you would be missing out if you don’t opt to hire a car here in favour of buses or trains.

Where to stay in Croatia

A view over a port city full of white houses with red roofing
The view over Šibenik from outside the St. Michael’s Fortress

Stay in Airbnbs throughout your time in Croatia, it is more convenient if you have a car. We didn’t experience any much difficulty with booking accommodation same day (we are not plan ahead people) and even got to stay at a quirky pop art themed place for one night (one of my favourite Airbnbs ever). I would say that if you are going to a festival, book accommodation ASAP as prices sky rocket.

Make the trip moments

  • A red mess (guess what you will)
  • Our unfortunate laughing fit when returning our hire car with a dent from reversing into a pole (the guy at the rental place called us legends for being in such a good mood, but obviously we were so chill because we know ourselves and got full cover)
  • The amazing Catalans we met and hung with throughout our time at the festival
  • Morning sunrises at the beach post dancing all night
  • Never waking up before 2pm during the festival
  • All the amazing stage locations around Fort Punta Christo
  • My friend Vedran from the Airbnb
  • Having to make the long bus and train journey to Italy to get our flight out the day after the festival ended because we left everything last minute (naturally we had slept about 30 minutes and were absolutely destroyed)

Itinerary: USVI in 7 days

February 2019

Day 1: arrival and ferry to St John

  • Arrive at St Thomas airport and get a taxi to the port
  • Enjoy your first of many Painkillers of the trip at the bar until the ferry arrives
  • Relax on your 20min ride to Cruz Bay on St John whilst breathing in the sea salt air
  • Pick up a rental wranglers (literally all rentals are wranglers on this island) if you are old enough to (i.e. 25 or above)
  • Have dinner at one of the restaurants near the Cruz Bay port
  • Get a taxi/drive to your accommodation (try not to leave it too late if it is a hard to find Airbnb)

Day 2: Hawksnest Beach & Cruz Bay

  • Drive down to Cruz Bay for a lazy breakfast at Cruz Bay Landing (the best company will get two things and share with you)
  • Head to Hawksnest Beach for your first taste of the island’s beautiful waters
  • If you have enough water (and no car) walk back on North Shore Road towards Cruz Bay to see the sights from the viewpoints on the way whilst the sun goes down
  • Wander around the Cruz Bay shops and galleries follower by dinner in one of the many restaurants in the Bay before calling it a night (the sun will have you worn out, truuust)

Day 3: Trunk Bay

  • Head to the grocery store in Cruz Bay before heading out to pick up any drinks and snacks you need for a full day at the beach
  • Drive to Trunk Bay with your snorkel gear in tow
  • Spend the day snorkelling and enjoying the Bay
  • Enjoy sunset on the beach and then get a taxi back (we left too late and ended up hiking it – perks was seeing Cruz Bay all lit up from the top of North Shore Road and a hell of an appetite for dinner)
  • Have dinner at The Longboard in Cruz Bay for some amazing Painkillers (amazing with nutmeg grated on top) and even better poké bowls

Day 4: Snorkelling at Waterlemon Cay

  • Get in a good breakfast in Cruz Bay (we just went back to Cruz Bay Landing because it was the best breakfast in the Bay in our opinion)
  • Drive to the start of the Leinster Bay trail and hike towards Waterlemon Cay (about 20min walk)
  • Spend some time snorkelling in Waterlemon Bay to see rays, turtles, barracuda, and nurse sharks
  • Following this, finish the trail towards the end of the Bay where the Cay sits (a couple was just leaving as we arrived leaving the spot fully to ourselves)
  • Snorkel around the small island just off the Cay to see a beautiful array of ocean life (you can spend hours here)
  • Tip: there is a slight current between St John and the small island, nothing very strong but it’s better to be aware of before you set off
  • Walk back on the trail (might find some donkeys) as the sun sets for beautiful views across the Bay
  • Dinner at another of the fine choices in Cruz Bay (fully guilty of returning to The Longboard again as it was so good)

Day 5: St Thomas & Magens Bay

  • Head to Cruz Bay to get the ferry over to St Thomas
  • Pick up a rental car (we went back to the airport as we had booked one here)
  • Drive to Charlotte Amalie for lunch and a wander round (mostly jewellery shops for all the cruise traffic so not too much to see)
  • Head to Magens Bay for sunset

Day 6: Coki Point

  • Have breakfast and head to Coki Point beach for the day in the company of the day’s DJ
  • Spend the day snorkelling around the coast and stay until sunset
  • Drive to Red Hook for a sushi dinner with some very fresh fish

Day 7: Mermaid’s Chair & Lindquist beach

  • Have breakfast at Barefoot Buddha (amazing sweet potato and goat’s cheese wrap)
  • Head to the Mermaid’s Chair and park up near the estate which you must hike down (we got caught in a downpour so bring a cagoule)
  • Clamber around the rocks at the literal end of St Thomas
  • Stop for some lunch and margaritas before driving around the island to reach Lindquist beach
  • Spend the rest of the day time at Lindquist before heading for some amazing sushi

Day 8: cheeky bit of beach & depart

  • Grab takeaway at Buddha again because it was just that good and head to Lindquist beach for a few hours before heading to the airport (absolutely don’t back into a pavement just before returning the car like we did)
  • Drop off your car and say goodbye to paradise

Note: This itinerary is based on not being able to rent a car. If you can rent one, I encourage you to explore much more of the island! I’ll have to return when I’m old enough to rent one! The renting age is lower in St Thomas but you are not supposed to bring your cars over on the ferry if not a local.


The United States Virgin Islands (USVI)

February 2019

Think American hospitality and service coupled with the relaxed laid-back vibe you would expect of an island paradise with turquoise waters, plus sea turtles.

Quick Bites

Currency: USD
Driving: Left side
To do: Beach, snorkelling, hiking
To stay: Airbnb for affordable quirky stays
How long to stay: 5-7 days
Food: Fish or Barefoot Buddha’s sweet potato wrap!
Vibe: Chilled
Why to go: Beautiful beaches, good vibes, and sea turtles!
Transport: Get a car if you can afford it for convenience and the freedom to explore
Best of: The beaches and the snorkelling
Worst of: Disorganised airport rental companies and cruise tourists
Go with: Partner, but works for friends or a family beach getaway

Why to go to the USVI

The USVI in the Caribbean, I ignorantly didn’t even know they existed before a friend suggested we go. To be fair I live in the UK, and for me the British Virgin Islands stirred up thoughts of private islands and Richard Branson, but I never thought to question why the British was in front – turns out it’s to distinguish. So how did I come to go to a place I’d never heard of? Long story short my travel companion couldn’t leave the US whilst waiting for a visa but we wanted to go on a trip and we wanted sun, so he did some research and it came down to Hawaii or the USVI. He’d just been to Hawaii (without me, how dare he) so we settled on the USVI as it offered sun, beautiful waters, snorkelling, and a good size for exploration, which in my opinion are all the reasons to go.

Which islands to go to in the USVI

A rock piling with a view of the ocean and boats behind
A pile of rocks and coral we came across whilst walking along the Leinster Bay Trail, there was tons of coral by the shore – Waterlemon Bay

There are three main island in the USVI: St Thomas, St Croix, and St John. Each island is different and which you visit will depend on your budget, time, and preference. For us the limiting variable was time. I have made the mistake of not spending enough time somewhere before and it is not one I wanted to make again. The cheapest flights we’d found flew into St Thomas and we had a little over 7 days to play with. St John is right next to St Thomas (a 20 min or so ferry ride), so it was the natural choice for us. St Thomas is the main island and significantly large than St John, with a “people actually live and work here” feel. St John was far quieter but also noticeably more touristy in the main town due to its size. It’s less built up as it’s a national park and this is one of the reasons it was my favourite of the two. St John fits the secluded island paradise criteria without being too secluded. Although there was a large amount of tourist traffic, it all felt pretty relaxed, no one harassing you to do a tour or anything of the sort. One of the most off putting things of St Thomas was the large amount of cruise traffic. There is a strip mall full of souvenir and jewellery shops dedicated to these visitors and the beaches are jammed with them. Tourism is important to the economy of the island but in an ideal world I’d selfishly have them skip the USVI to prevent the crowds.

What to do on the USVI

A man with a snorkel mask on
Just before we went snorkelling in Waterlemon Cay – St John

I’d call out the snorkelling. You can dive, fish, etc. on the islands but snorkelling is the one thing you see everyone doing, mainly because its cheap and convenient, as long as you can swim you are good to go. If you are looking to get your diving license, make sure you factor in the time as it will take you a few days. I’ve heard there are some cool dive sites though, including some ship wrecks which I’ve always wanted the chance to dive!

How long to spend in the USVI

A woman standing in front of a golden sunset on the beach
Sunset at Magens Bay, our Airbnb was somewhere towards the top of the hill – St Thomas

I spent seven full days in the USVI, arriving on Thursday afternoon and leaving on Friday afternoon. I split this into four nights on St John and four nights on St Thomas. The decision to spend the first four nights on St John was down to our Airbnb’s minimum stay, although I am grateful we did as it was my favourite island and as it’s smaller, we had originally thought to spend only three nights there. I wish I’d spent fewer nights in St Thomas, particularly as our Airbnb ended up having bed bugs. Flying from the UK (with an atrocious eight hour overnight stopover in JFK during the arctic cold front at the end of Jan 2019, followed by a four hour wait for my friend’s delayed flight) I wanted to spend at least a week on the islands to justify the travel time, however, you can definitely make the trip shorter if you live closer. Without a car I would suggest staying less time because it’s harder to get around to do things. Equally, if you quickly get bored of beaches and snorkelling and want a greater variety of things to do, you don’t need to spend longer than 5 or so days.

What beaches to go to on the USVI

Lindquist Beach in St Thomas
The beautiful Lindquist beach on St Thomas – one of my favourites on this island

You can’t really go wrong with any beach on these islands as they deliver the white sand and turquoise water ideal that everyone hopes for in “paradise”. I’ll continue to sing the praises of St John as it was so clearly my favourite. Quite simply St John is a smaller island, harder to get to and less populated (the cruise ships don’t directly dock there), meaning the beaches are emptier without being totally deserted. This is the same with the snorkel spots – in St John you find a few fellow friendly snorkelers rather than the larger groups on St Thomas. Magens Bay in St Thomas is famously known as one of the world’s best beaches, but precisely because of that it’s packed and was my least favourite beach. On St Thomas my favourites were Coki Point, a small beach where all the rastas hang out, and Lindquist Beach where you got the secluded feel of St Johns as it’s a large beautiful beach without too many people. Also check out the Mermaid’s chair – you have to hike down but you literally find yourself at the end of the island with the opportunity to clamber amongst some awesome rocks. We did this when it was pouring down with rain but it sure made the hike back cooler. On St John my favourite was Trunk Bay due to the beautiful setting. You’ll have to pay parking and entry to the beaches on St Thomas beaches whereas on St John you don’t have to, another perk in case I hadn’t banged on enough about St John!

The vibe of the USVI

Sunset in Waterlemon Bay
The sun setting at Waterlemon Bay, beaut, but not fun to get back from without a car – St John

The USVI definitely has that relaxed and chilled island vibe. At times I still felt I was in the mainland States rather than the Caribbean due to all the tourist influence (particularly on the restaurants) but the pace was definitely different. The island paradise feel definitely makes it a couples destination but it’s suitable for family and friends too. Just don’t go there expecting to be bouncing off the walls all day, you go there to chill. Think American hospitality and service coupled with the relaxed laid-back vibe you would expect of an island paradise with turquoise waters, plus sea turtles.

What to eat at the USVI

Unfortunately I didn’t try any local food on the island but I got a recommendation for Gwen’s Place on St John that I will pass on to you to try! There is all sorts of food on the island but I’ll give you my top recommendations for each island I visited. In St John it has to be The Longboard which had absolutely bomb poke bowls, so good that we went back twice. Definitely try their Frozen Painkillers which in my opinion are made by the grated nutmeg on top of them. I had a couple of days with an upset stomach (not because of any food, I think it was just my natural reaction to the different bacterias in the water) but once I got my appetite back in St Thomas I had a real craving for Mexican food and loved the nachos and quesadilla we had in Bonita’s Cantina, particularly as Mexican food in the UK is notoriously rubbish, I’m glad we found it. Another favourite we repeated in St Thomas was Barefoot Buddha which aside from having great coffee had a sweet potato spinach and goats cheese wrap which was the stuff of dreams.

Transport in the USVI and getting there

Boats on the water at Waterlemon Bay St John
Waterlemon Bay along the Leinster Bay Trail – St John

The cheapest option is to fly into St Thomas and then get ferries to the other two islands. I paid £700 for my return ticket from LHR which I was pretty happy with considering the distance.

Once on the islands there are plenty of taxis, most of them being safari taxis. The local buses aren’t exactly timely or reliable so it’s best to travel by taxi or rent a car. Unfortunately for us, we were slight disasters, didn’t plan our trip, and there were no rental cars available when we arrived to St Thomas, so we made a reservation to pick one up on the Monday, the day we got back from St John. We tried to rent a car in St John but all the companies only rented cars (I should say Wranglers because that is literally all there was on the island) to people older than 25, criteria we unfortunately didn’t meet. Luckily for us our Airbnb host provided us the number of Nellie, a local lady who is St John’s “uber”, i.e. if you call her she’ll pick you up. This was super useful as we sometimes irresponsibly went far away from town and stayed after dark, past when any taxis were returning to town from the beach, and we wouldn’t have had a way to get home without hitchhiking if we didn’t have her number. People are super nice on the island so someone will pick you up if you are really stranded. This happened to us the day we left, the one time Nellie hadn’t been available and a kind local took us to the port after he took pity on us hiking down with our backpacks. Prices vary but our standard fare was $10-15 for two people, with our most expensive fare having been the taxi from St Thomas airport to the ferry station to get over to St John which was around $30 for two of us. In St Thomas we had a car after a long wait at the rental office (they’re not the most organised bunch) and it was worth it to have the freedom to do what we wanted when we wanted. The island isn’t pedestrian friendly if you really want to see it all (something I had to get used to as a Londoner) and although the car rental was relatively expensive and we had to pay for parking at beaches, it isn’t something we regretted, I just wish we’d had a car on St John.

Where to stay in the USVI

Woman with a hat on looking at the USVI
Artsy photos, perks of travel with friends – somewhere along the Leinster Bay Trail, St John

Accommodation at hotels can be expensive on the islands, particularly on smaller ones like St John. I’m not a fan of hotels as I find them impersonal so I always opt for Airbnbs anyway and was pleased to find there were some reasonably priced places on both islands. Thank God for that because I can’t afford a £2k a night hotel room which seemed to be the alternative.

Make the trip moments

Man at Mermaid's Chair St Thomas
Clambering around the rocks at the Mermaid’s Chair, just before it chucked it down with rain – St Thomas
  • Seeing the turquoise water beaches for the first time
  • Walking back to town in St John in the dark, with my speaker blaring my anthem at the time, Nice for What – Drake
  • Our first dinner at The Longboard
  • The outdoor shower at our St John Airbnb – super peaceful
  • Getting absolutely drenched at the Mermaid’s Chair
  • Snorkelling at Watermelon Cay – such diversity and no-one around!
  • Seeing my first sea turtle whilst snorkelling in St John and having it come up to take a breath next to me
  • Norma, a lady we met on our last day who couldn’t walk well. We spoke with her for a while during which I offered to help her get into the water, an offer she refused. Norma tried to go in herself but started to retreat when she felt unsteady. Everyone on the beach went running to help her get in and we got her a noodle so she could hold her balance in the water. I loved seeing how caring the people on the beach were, and that day Norma was my hero for pure determination and stubbornness, YAS Norma