So I was driving along the North Shore the other day when I noticed a business was selling beach noodles for $14. Fourteen dollars for one pool noodle! I know things are pricey here, but my goodness, that is just nuts. I joked to my island tour guests that I should start selling noodles out of my trunk! Ok, so I won’t get that crazy, but it got me thinking… An inflatable pool noodle is such an easy thing to pack for a vacation to St. John. There are so many minor things that you can easily pack in a suitcase that will not only save you some pennies when you’re here, but it will also make your St. John vacation that much better. So you know what I did? I compiled a list for all of you. 🙂
Here are some items that you may want to add to your St. John packing list. I included links to buy, when possible, too.
Clearly we have to start with beach/pool noodles. You can purchase inflatable ones on Amazon for as little as $4.55, and they take up no room at all in a backpack or suitcase. Traveling with a group? I recently purchased six inflatable noodles for only $17. Click here to check them out on Amazon.
There isn’t a ton of shade on the majority of our beaches here on St. John. And let’s be honest, it’s hot here, so shade is our friend. The Neso tent is a great way to bring some shade along with you to the beaches that have less natural shade. These are definitely a pricier item, but they are a great investment. They come in a variety of sizes, they don’t take up a ton of room in your suitcase (you can put it in your carry on too), and they are easy to set up. You simply put the poles up (not into the sand, so they’re turtle-nest friendly), fill a few bags with sand and voilà! Click here to check them out on Amazon.
Reef Safe Sunscreen
It is actually illegal to use sunscreen that is not “reef safe” in the US Virgin Islands. This law was enacted back in March 2022. Rather than scrambling to find some when you arrive, you can grab some off of Amazon and bring it with you. There are numerous options, but Caribbean Sol is one of my favorites. Reef-safe sunscreen protects us, our coral and the marine life that we are all so excited to see while snorkeling. Basically you do not want to use sunscreen with any of the “Toxic 3 Os” – oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene. Click here to check out Caribbean Sol’s reef-safe products.
Caribbean Fish ID
This is a handy tool for snorkelers. This waterproof card shows you which fish and other sea creatures you may see while you are snorkeling or diving in our waters. And the best part? It’s only $3.99 on Amazon. Click here to check it out.
Speaking of snorkelers, defogger is a must. Nothing ruins a snorkel faster than not being able to see anything due to fog on your snorkel mask., A couple dabs of defogger will do the trick! You can also use Dawn dish soap as a backup defogger, and sometimes you will find that in your villa or condo rental. Both the defoggers and dish soap are sold in containers that are less than three ounces, so you can easily take them along with you even if you are not checking a bag. Click here to check out a few defoggers on Amazon.
A GoPro Waterproof Camera
I absolutely love my GoPro. I can strap it to the Jeep to take cool driving videos, and I can take it in the water to shoot video underwater. It is very pricey, but you truly cannot beat the quality. I film all of my driving videos using a GoPro, and I filmed the walk through the Caneel Bay Beach Club earlier this week using it too. Click here to check them out on Amazon.
A Soft-sided Backpack Cooler
These backpack coolers are great because it can double as your carry on bag on the plane. It makes it easier to bring drinks and snacks to the beach being that it’s a backpack. A lot of villas provide coolers, but they can be the larger, bulky ones. This is another great investment, and you will likely use it at home too. Click here to check out a few options on Amazon.
Baby Oil or Skin So Soft
I learned this little trick from a taxi driver several years back, and it changed my life. If you are one of the unlucky people, like me, that gets eaten alive by the no see ums, baby oil is a must. I haven’t tried Skin So Soft, but a lot of my tour guests have said it works well too. In either case, the oil prevents the no see um from biting you. I promise you, it will change your world. 🙂
Insulated Travel Cup
A lot of people opt to bring their favorite insulated cup with them on vacation. It’s great to have on the plane, so you can have a lid on your drink when it gets bumpy. And then you can obviously use it at the beach, or even at a restaurant to keep your drink colder longer.
A few other items that are helpful to bring are reusable shopping bags, a reusable water bottle, and reusable straws because not all restaurants provide straws.
I hope this helps you all plan your next trip to St. John. And if there is anything you think I should add to this list, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks everyone!
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Tag: St. John packing list
That Neso tent that you suggested…looks like the anchor lines are spread out so far that they will block beach traffic, especially where beaches are narrow.
You just set them back farther not right by the water. They work great! Especially the 4 pole kind
Jen, I get my noodles at the Dollar Stores for $1 (now $1.25). They fit nicely inside the perimeter of your suitcase. I put 2 in mine and 2 in my husband’s bag. If you don’t want to bring it back just donate.
You can make the lines shorter .Works great .
Another option is the Shibumi shade. It may take up less footprint and still provide sufficient shade.
FLEXTAILGEAR Tiny Pump Portable Air Pump Ultra-Mini Air Pump with 1300mAh Battery USB Rechargeable to Inflate Deflate for Pool Floats Air Bed Air Mattress Swimming Ring Vacuum Storage Bags (Grey)
This is a great pump for the noodles and other inflatable floats. Love your island tidbits!!
We have a Neso tent and took it on our trip to St John two weeks ago. We have been visitors to St John for over 30 years and knew that shade on the beaches are at a premium. We found that on the majority of beaches (exceptions Trunk and Cinnamon) there simply is not enough beach to put the tents up and still allow others to walk by without stepping over the lines. We also observed several coming to the beaches and pitching their Neso tents right in front of others in such a way that it blocked their view and access to the water. So many people now just seem to not think of others. We will not bring our Neso tent again and I highly disagree with your recommendation on here that visitors should bring one.
Cinnamon has plenty of space to set up a tent, if you walk further up on to the righthand side of the beach. i am not a tent person, love the sun, but have seen these tents set up on Cinnamon.
I agree with Dorene about the Neso shade, in terms of some people not being considerate of where they set theirs up. I did buy one and plan to bring it, but hope we’ll be able to set up far enough back and not disrupt others. It’s a tough call, especially coming with some who are very sensitive to sun and need to be as careful as possible in the sun.
You have a typo on the reef safe sunblock law…it was 2020, not 2022.
1) sell, offer for sale, or distribute, after March 30, 2020. in the Virgin Islands
any sunscreen product that contains oxybenzone, octoerylene or octinoxate including,
but not limited to, lotions, pastes, balms, serums, or ointments:
(2) import, after September 30, 2019, into the Virgin Islands for sale any
sunscreen product that contains oxybenzone, octocrylene or octinoxate including, but
not limited to, lotions, pastes, balms, serums, or ointments; or
(3) use or possess, after March 30, 2020, while in the Virgin Islands, any
sunscreen products that contains oxybenzone, octoerylene or octinoxate including, but
not limited to, lotions, pastes, balms, serums, or ointments.
Thanks so much Jenn! Very helpful!Esp. the baby oil tip!
This is my first time responding to your suggestion list. Aren’t aerosol sunscreens prohibited?
This is a helpful list. I can confirm that noodles are $14 at Maho Bay. I just purchased a couple in January (we were there for three weeks so it was well worth the money).
I would recommend that visitors bring along as much food and supplies as possible. We brought coffee, hard cheese, snacks, spices, peanut butter, kleenex, etc. Virtually anything you can fit in your luggage will save you lots of money on the island.
You know there are many other places besides Amazon to buy these things.
We bring camp chairs that collapse. Only weigh 2lbs and don’t take up much space. Get the ones with wide “sand” feet. Great for the beach or for waiting on sunset at Ram head! I also have a “pop up” beach tent. Only weighs 5 lbs and uses sand bags for anchoring. Easily big enough for 2 adults +
We’re the $14 noodle purchasers-hahaha!! We ended up leaving them at Cinnamon Bay for other campers. We will be bringing the inflatables on our next visit. 😂 Michelle
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Great article Jenn! Thank you.
We took a Neso tent with us to many of the beaches on St John back in March. If you go far enough back on the beach you won’t disturb others. Thank you for the great suggestions ❤️
Hi Jenn, Great suggestions! I would add a concern about Neso or other tents- please set them up away from the water so that you don’t block the view of other beach goers. We have always found shade under trees or sea grapes except for the first two years after the hurricanes.
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