It’s a life of limin’ on this U.S. Virgin Island where local bars pop up in town, at a dockyard or in someone’s front yard
St. John might be a small island, but it’s big on celebrations. And it doesn’t take a holiday or even a special occasion to justify hoisting an ice-cold beer or savoring a rum drink at the end of a day of sun, sand, and sea. From classy open-air lounges to beachfront bars and block party-style watering holes, there are plenty of places to choose from when you’re looking to wet your whistle. Here are our top 10 favorites.
Joe’s Rum Hut
When four o’clock hits, follow the 20-something crowd to find the best happy hour on St. John. Those in the know head to Joe’s Rum Hut, located right on Cruz Bay beach in Wharfside Village. Come 4 p.m., the beachfront open-air bar at Joe’s is deep with patrons enjoying $3 you-call-its. Favorites include the liquor-laden bushwacker, the famous Virgin Islands painkiller, top shelf liquors and Joe’s renowned made-from-scratch mojitos. Your wallet will thank you, your liver will hate you. Pair your happy hour experience with some of Joe’s surprisingly delicious, internationally-inspired bar food to mitigate the effects of liberal indulgence.
The Tap Room
Two words: air conditioning. While The Tap Room offers much more than a place to temporarily stop sweating, the A/C alone is a big selling point. Even better than the cool air is the fact that you can sample draft beers and sodas made on-site by St. John Brewers, who own and operate this Mongoose Junction bar. Enjoy some of the brewers’ more inventive concoctions, like Coffee Stout or Frozen Cistern Winter Ale, while picking the brains of the bartenders, some of the most knowledgeable drink slingers on island when it comes to insider St. John info. Consider your time at The Tap Room a public service—the more people who sample St. John Brewers’ ales and provide feedback, the better the recipes become. And better-tasting beer makes everyone happy. In a sad turn of events, the Tap Room suffered a complete loss in a January 2015 fire. They expect to reopen in their original location by the end of 2015. In the meantime, they’re still slinging drinks at their temporary spot just behind the original Tap Room location. Stop by and give them some love!
Way out on St. John’s southeastern side, far from any traces of modern life, there’s an oasis of sorts— an oasis where bumper stickers, random signs, and other bric a brac adorn a small shack of a kitchen sitting right in the front yard of Cheryl Geller and Larry Grenier. The decor hints at the duo’s colorful personality, but what’s not immediately obvious as you take your seat at one of the tables in the yard is that the Tourist Trap serves up food and drinks almost as delicious as the sweeping view of John’s Folly Bay. The lobster roll is a must, as is Larry’s own Drink Right Keep Left, a blend of six flavored rums and five tropical juices that tastes like heaven and candy.
Longtime islanders, boaties, local families, and of course, tourists, sing the praises of this island institution for its chill vibes. Skinny’s, a harborfront open-air bar and restaurant in Coral Bay, is a laid- back venue that promises same-day service. Sports are king at Skinny Legs, where football, hockey, soccer, and more dominate the television. The bar hosts annual regattas, a women’s horseshoe tournament, no rules golf tournaments, a popular Kentucky Derby party, and a Super Bowl party where you can watch the game on a big screen in the back yard. Coral Bay’s innate funkiness permeates the atmosphere here. Patrons wash down juicy burgers with mixed drinks like the Creamsicle, a delectable pairing of vanilla and citrus rums with OJ. The backyard smoker is fired up every Saturday with delicious results, and on Sundays, homemade pulled pork nachos are the perfect after-beach snack.
This spot in the heart of Cruz Bay has been home to many different bars, and Castaways itself has been through many reinventions. And finally, they got it right. The riff-raff has been cleared out in favor of young professionals enjoying a drink after work, families gathering over live steel pan music and Mexican-inspired fare, and locals and tourists alike taking advantage of dollar drinks and $2 Coronas at happy hour. This tiki-themed spot is the only place on St. John where you can belt your heart out at karaoke, test your knowledge at trivia night, try your luck at bingo, and enjoy a variety of other low- key entertainment. A new drink menu features inventive creations by well-known island bartender Jason Howard, and the chicken wing lollipops are the hands-down favorite on the revamped food menu.
Woody’s Seafood Saloon/Across the Street Bar
One of the preferred stops of a certain very famous country singer with a well-known love for St. John, Woody’s has been satisfying patrons with its delicious burgers and fun, block party-style atmosphere for years. The bar changed hands recently, and the new owners decided to also buy out a competing bar across the street. And that’s how the aptly named Across the Street Bar came to be. Both Woody’s and Across the Street feature the same beloved burger recipe. Across the Street offers a more mellow atmosphere, ideal for families looking for a laid-back meal, while Woody’s offers more of a party scene along with one of the island’s best happy hours. It’s not uncommon to see patrons jumping back and forth between the two bars; just remember to look left before you cross the street.
Quiet Mon Pub
An island institution, the Quiet Mon Pub is an Irish bar transplanted to the Caribbean that’s earned a big mention in one of country superstar Kenny Chesney’s songs. After your after-dinner drinks, Quiet Mon is the place to go for a nightcap. Located above one of the island’s finer restaurants, this bar overlooks the busiest stretch of Cruz Bay. Sit at the rail and you’ll see diners dressed in their best island fancy duds coming and going at said fine restaurant, as well as the often hilariously entertaining block party that tends to materialize between nearby Cruz Bay bars. Tear yourself away from the show on the street long enough to challenge your fellow bar patrons to a game of darts, and take a look at all the pictures on the wall for a glimpse of the St. John party scene back in the day.
Cruz Bay Landing
This is the place to come and get a buzz — coffee buzz, alcohol buzz, or a little bit of both. Cruz Bay Landing, situated on the edge of the park across from the ferry dock, is new on the scene, but they’ve already established themselves as a favorite among locals and tourists alike. The coffee menu is a caffeine addict’s dream. Signature drinks like the Sweet Bean with vanilla and caramel flavorings get you up and going; coffee cocktails like the Almond Joy with coconut rum, amaretto, and chocolate give you the zing to kick butt on CBL’s tournament- length shuffleboard table. Caffeine not your thing? Try the Summertime, a super refreshing combination of watermelon vodka, ginger beer, and fresh lime juice. No matter what you’re drinking, belly up to the bar at 5 p.m. for a free shot of beer.
When you’re ready to class it up a bit, head to DR!NK. Comfy blue-cushioned sofas face out into Cruz Bay harbor, and fresh, inventive drinks are the perfect pairing to this bar’s sunset view. The vibe here is cool, a little more grown-up than other island bars, but you’ll feel at home at DR!NK whether you’ve come to watch the sunset after a day out on the water or you’re dressed up and on your way out to dinner. This bar knows how to throw a party. Themed events take place on a regular basis, from parties with a purpose like Mustache Madness, a mustache runway event whose proceeds benefit the St. John Cancer Fund, to the No One is Getting Married Party in late summer, a welcome celebration at a time when the island is typically quiet. Don’t miss DR!NK’s happy hour, when you can sample appetizers from adjacent fine dining venue The Terrace—the small, five-item tapas menu pairs perfectly with DR!NK’s artisanal cocktails.
If you’re looking for a place to park it and enjoy a cocktail while watching the sun set over St. Thomas, Beach Bar is it. Like a fine wine, this well-established bar on Cruz Bay beach has only gotten better over time. Whether you find a seat at the bar or grab a table down on the beach, make sure you stick around for dinner to enjoy some of the best bar food on island. The French fries are seriously amazing, and don’t be afraid of sushi on a bar menu — the tuna down now is a crowd favorite. The Beach Bar also has a regular schedule of some of the island’s best live music, so you can dance the night away on the beach with the stars overhead.