Change on St. John tends to come incrementally, with constant improvements to its well-loved villas and restaurants sating the need for the next big thing. The easier, slower pace of life – which exerts a powerful pull on both day-trippers from St. Thomas and eclectic expats from the mainland – rules out such surprises. In fact, if you ask pretty much anyone who’s been to St. John, they’ll tell you the same thing: “If I were moving to the Caribbean, this is where I’d live.” The other check on development is Virgin Islands National Park, which covers two-thirds of the island (and no little bit of the water), making large-scale projects the exception (see "Natural Selections”). Any one of St. John’s 4,300 locals will happily recount the story of Laurance Rockefeller’s “discovery” of the island in 1952 and his subsequent purchase of 4,600 pristine acres for the park; it is hard not to admire his foresight.
In bustling Cruz Bay – a 20-minute ferry ride from St. Thomas – visitors will find the majority of the island’s restaurants and bars and some small inns and resorts; over in the East End’s quiet Coral Bay, there’s a smattering of more quirky establishments, plus plenty of villas and some spectacular views of nearby Tortola, BVI. Wise visitors pick up a free copy of the St. John Sun Times as they step off the ferry or check stjohnsuntimes.com or virginislandsthisweek.com for what’s happening.