Below are some of the questions guests often ask.
Click on the question, and the answer will expand below it.
- Do you have air conditioning?
Yes! Both the Villa and the Cottage have air conditioning to help guests sleep in comfort. In the Villa, the air conditioning is in the bedroom. In the Cottage, it is essentially central.
- Do I need a car?
Yes! You will need a 4WD jeep rental. The 4WD is necessary in order to make sure you can get up the dirt road that leads to A House of Open Arms. While this road is bumpy, it is easily manageable and not unlike those found in many other areas of St. John. More importantly, it helps maintain the privacy of A House of Open Arms. Also, the steep hills throughout St John, which can get very slick with a little bit of rain, make 4WD a huge benefit in terms of feeling safer on the roads.
No matter where you stay on St John, you will likely need a jeep in order to get around comfortably. There is a bus between Coral Bay and Cruz Bay, but it is not reliable and may only come every hour or longer. Also, taxis generally stay inside Cruz Bay and do not often come out to the Coral Bay side unless they are carrying a fare, which is rare.
- What are some places you recommend for car rentals?
- How much will a car rental cost?
Expect to pay between $375 and $600, plus tax, depending on whether you are renting during high season or low season and what type of car you are renting. It would be a good idea to book the car on your credit card, since many credit card companies will automatically insure rental cars if you book using your card and then decline the rental company’s insurance option. Check with your credit card company to make sure that they do offer that benefit, and that it is still applicable to rentals made in the US Virgin Islands.
- Getting here: How do I get from St. Thomas to A House of Open Arms?
Fly into St. Thomas airport (STT). From there, claim your luggage and look outside the luggage claim area for the taxi dispatcher. Ask to go to the Red Hook ferry dock. You’ll likely ride in a van with lots of other passengers (they are 15-passenger vans). Don’t stress about getting to the ferry dock on time. If you had planned on a specific time of arrival on St. John and you end up not making the ferry, I will wait for you at the dock. Just give me a call: 340-513-7199. The taxi ride should cost $15 if you are by yourself, $11 per person for groups of 2+, plus $2 per bag (not including backpacks, etc). Don’t feel like you need to tip. It isn’t a bad idea to discuss rates with them beforehand to make sure that you’re on the same page. You can check here for the current rate schedule (look for “Miscellaneous to/from: Red Hook; you’re coming from Cyril E. King Airport, not Charlotte Amalie). The ferry costs $7 per person ($1 per child ages 2-11), plus $4 per bag (not including carry-on items). As you can see, it will help if you pack light! Here is the link for the ferry times and schedules Use the navigation pane on the right side of the window that pops up to see times for "St John Passenger Ferry" or "St John Car Barge".
During season, there is a ferry that runs from downtown Charlotte Amalie but not every hour on the hour. The advantage is that it is only 5 minutes from the airport; the disadvantage is that its times are limited. IF your arrival time coincides with this ferry schedule, then it is a great way to travel to St. John. It removes the winding drive from the airport to Red Hook and all the stops the taxis make delivering people along the way to hotels (occasionally, these added stops can make you miss the nearest hourly connection).
Once you arrive on St. John, I will be waiting for you at the ferry dock. I have a white Toyota RAV4 with the license plate CARPEDM. My picture is to the right. From there, I will guide you to your car rental agency if they don’t meet you at the dock with me, then to the grocery store to stock up for your stay, and finally out to A House of Open Arms in Coral Bay.
- What beaches are nearby?
There are a few secluded beaches on the East End that I will show you how to get to. There are also lots of white-sand beaches on the north shore of the island, which are a short 10-15 minute drive from A House of Open Arms. Only a couple of villas on the island are directly on the beach, and they are very expensive; most everyone else drives to them. The routes have incredible scenery along the way, so it is definitely no chore to drive.
- What restaurants are nearby?
There are lots of great options for going out to eat on St John. Skinny Legs is a popular and well-known place just down the hill from A House of Open Arms that serves great American food (bar and grill). Other options in Coral Bay include Aqua Bistro (more upscale cuisine), Shipwreck Landing (American food), Indigo Grill (pizza, tacos, fish, and vegetarian options), Miss Lucy's (island-style Sunday brunch by the sea beginning at 10am, complete with local jazz), and many others. There are also options in Cruz Bay if you care to make the drive, but Coral Bay has enough that you will likely find it is never necessary.
- What activities do you recommend?
I highly recommend a lovely book on St. John to all of my incoming guests and have copies available for you when you arrive: St. John Off the Beaten Track by Gerald Singer. It offers several trips' worth of ideas for your visit to St. John, complete with guides to activities and restaurants, color photos, maps and historical info. There are a multitude of things to do on the island. You can go scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, sailing on a day sail, hiking on one of St. John’s 20+ trails, visit one of the island’s many ruins from the era when it was a Danish colony, make a day trip to the British Virgin Islands to visit the Baths, or just sit on a beach and soak in the sun and serenity. There are also some interesting shops in both Cruz Bay and Coral Bay, and there is often live music on the island at night.
- What should I bring?
Sun-protective clothing: A good idea is to look at REI or similar stores for material that is both moisture-wicking and UPF-30 or -50 rated (UPF-30 means only 1/30 of the UV rays that hit the clothes go through; UPF-50 means only 1/50 get through). Other items you should probably bring include:
- Bathing suits
- Beach cover-ups
- Sundresses for women
- Shorts (jeans will likely be too warm)
St. John is a very casual island – you will not need any dressy clothing.
- What do you provide (linens, towels, chairs, etc)?
The Villa and Cottage each have many of the items you will likely need for your stay, including:
- Bath Towels
- Beach Towels
- Beach Chairs
- Coolers for the Beach
- Kitchen Utensils, Plates, Glasses, Cooking Utensils, etc.
- Iron and Ironing Board
- My homemade granola for your first day's breakfast, plus coffee, juice, and milk. (Please note that this is part of your welcome and not intended to last you all week; see my note under Where do I get groceries and supplies?).
- What is the welcome dinner I’ve read about?
After a long day of traveling, I find most of my guests are ready to just sit and relax for a bit. As a gift, I make a homemade welcome dinner for my guests for their first night so that they do not need to go out to eat or make dinner for themselves. I usually offer my guests the option of chicken, fish, or vegetarian plates. It’s my way of welcoming you to the island and helping you settle into your vacation.
- What is the weather like this time of year on St. John?
- What is the weather like at your property?
The weather at A House of Open Arms is generally a little cooler than other areas on the island. There is a constant breeze off the ocean which not only provides a kind of natural fan, but also helps keep the property relatively free of bugs.
Air conditioning in the bedroom of the Villa and throughout the Cottage help make sleeping more comfortable as well.
- Where do I get groceries and supplies for my stay?
When you arrive in Cruz Bay, I will meet you at the ferry dock and help you pick up your car rental. After that, I will guide you to the local grocery store, where you will be able to pick up whatever supplies you might want for your stay (whether that includes snacks and drinks or ingredients to make complete meals). I provide all my guests with 1 pound of coffee, juice, milk, and my homemade granola at the start of their visits. This is not intended to last you all week. While I would love to be able to provide you with free refills, it is very expensive and time-consuming to make this granola. As a result, granola refills are $10 a jar. I will be happy to give you advice about dining out on the island during your stay as well. (See above: What restaurants are nearby?)
- I'm concerned about renting a villa where the owner lives on site. How does that work?
Many people worry, understandably, about an intrusive owner. I work hard to respect my guests' privacy and comfort. Once you have settled in with your welcome dinner, you will not see me again unless you come looking for me. I do not go into the Villa or Cottage when guests are staying there unless I am invited down. Most guests find it incredibly helpful to have a knowledgeable local to ask questions of about the island. I keep very busy between A House of Open Arms and my art business, Art of Open Arms. I take my cues from my guests. If they are active in seeking me out, I am more than happy to talk with them. If they prefer privacy above all else, I stay completely out of sight. I am always more than happy to talk with my guests, and many of them have written about their experiences on TripAdvisor. You can check out our Reviews page for some excerpts. I encourage you to read those reviews to get the perspective of previous guests.
- What is your hurricane policy?
In the unlikely event of a named hurricane having a 50% chance of passing over St. John before your arrival into St. Thomas, guests will receive a refund and will be given the chance to roll their reservation over to a new date. Should guests be on the island when a hurricane strikes, they will not receive a refund. If a hurricane causes significant damage to the island's infrastructure or to House of Open Arms that makes your original reservation difficult or impossible to complete, we will ask that you move your dates and apply your deposit to a new reservation for when the island has recovered enough to support tourism. Refunds are at the discretion of the owner of House of Open Arms. Any refunds given will not exceed 25% of the total value of the original booking. If you expect that you would want a full refund, we encourage taking out trip insurance to protect your investment.
The Villa is made of concrete and is set back into bedrock, making it a very safe place to ride out a storm, should the need arise. Also, keep in mind that the Villa and Cottage have their own power and water supply independent from the island's grid.
- What if my question isn't on this list?
Feel free to contact me by phone: (340) 513-7199 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org!