For many travelers, St. John is as near to perfection as a Caribbean island can be. Virgin Islands National Park  takes up more than 60 percent of the 20-square-mile island, so its beaches, vistas, underwater coral trails , and peaceful hiking paths  are quiet and unspoiled. For outdoor enthusiasts, there is no better place to explore a tropical wilderness. St. John may be small, but its bays, hills, and reefs hold a seemingly infinite array of sights and sounds; as you peel off the layers, you will be surprised, enchanted, and inspired.
St. John is a playground. It is the type of place where you’re tempted to live in your swimsuit, and where less is definitely more. The simple pleasures are divine: driving around with the windows down, reading a book from cover to cover on the beach, basking in turquoise water, and sitting down with a glass of wine. There is certainly an upscale bent to St. John—just check out some of the prices—but it is an upscale that prefers flip-flops to heels.
The loveliness of St. John can be almost shocking. Blinding white sand is lapped by crystal-clear water; the hillsides are a palette of greens; and the sky above is a sheer blue canvas. Tucked within St. John’s scenic coves, bays, and mountainsides is a remarkable history. In 1733 the island was the site of a successful slave revolt. Ruins of sugar works  and great houses  from the plantation era remain, and provide the opportunity to consider this island’s dramatic past.
St. John complements its natural beauty and historic sites with two laid-back hamlets, Cruz Bay  and Coral Bay . These small towns have pretty much everything a visitor needs to feel at home: gourmet coffee, trendy restaurants, cold beer, and Internet access, for starters. While Cruz Bay often vibrates with the day-to-day comings and goings of car barges, passenger ferries, trucks, cars, and gangs of tourists, Coral Bay is a sleepy row of bars, restaurants, and shops.
St. John’s perfection has consequences. So many people have come here and loved it that real estate agents, development companies, and construction firms are trying to build on every piece of the island’s undeveloped, privately held land. In some parts of the island, the sound of waves crashing is drowned out by the scream of air breaks, ringing of hammers, and hum of construction generators. Equally problematic, the influx of wealthy snowbirds has created a social divide between native St. Johnians and their American guests.