Why people bring food to St. John

Twenty years ago, our packing for St. John always included a cooler of food and salty snacks.  

Not because we wanted to save money but, back then, there weren't fully-stocked food stores.  You couldn't be sure you'd be able to buy bread and milk never mind good cuts of beef.  That's changed now, but many people still bring coolers.

In a thread on Trip Advisor, most people said they bring food for convenience, not to avoid restaurants.  

"We dine out, but we visit STJ for relaxing," said Toes_in_the_Sand.  "We find it more relaxing at the end of a day at the beach to sit at the villa, enjoy a couple of drinks while we fix dinner.  No hurry, no parking, no worries."

Poolmom_9 added, "We saved a lot of money (bringing food).  We still ate out plenty.  It was nice to grill (at home)." Cleobeach1 said, "We generally eat out every lunch and dinner, but we have taken a cooler more often than not. We are particular about our meals, especially meats and specialty snacks like cheeses."

What about you?

30 thoughts on “Why people bring food to St. John”

  1. Bringing a cooler with food is a lot of trouble — especially with airport hassle and fees for checked baggage. Then, they may lose it in St Thomas anyway. Not worth the trouble.

  2. A couple we travel with started bringing a cooler full of frozen meats a few years ago. For both convenience and cost saving. Everything Still frozen when we get to STJ. It has worked out very well. Even with the baggage charge the cost of the meat is still cheaper then buying on island. He loves to BBQ. Plus it does make for a quiet end to the day. We buy everything else for the dinners on Island. We still eat out most of the time during our 2 weeks. Can’t go to STJ. without having meals watching the sunset from the bar at ZOZO’S or having a lobter at the Lime Inn.

  3. I’ve brought food and wine down there before, but since have found that if you go to the right markets on St. John or Thomas, you don’t need to bring a cooler on the plane. Last month, we rented a car in St. Thomas and stopped at Cost-U-Less and stocked up. They have everything we have here in the states, and CRussDavis is right, wine and liquor prices are better.
    On St. John, I like the prices at Pine Peace for beer and non-perishables, although for fresh meats and veggies, you can’t beat Starfish.

  4. Yes, definitely. We just returned from our 6th trip to St. John. Starting with our 2nd trip, we have always taken coffee, breakfast cereal, laundry soap, etc. But then we always eat out at many of the awesome restaurants like Cafe Roma and Miss Lucy’s. St. John is heaven!

  5. My MIL brings a cooler when we all go together stocked with steak and sausage and chicken and bean dip etc, etc. So hubby and I thought- ya let’s bring a cooler- when we went alone. But it seemed like a real pain in the ass and survived just fine without it.

  6. We bring a small cooler with good quality meat to grill fro a few night. We stay in Coral Bay and shopping is limited. Frankly, the views from the rental are too good and the restaurants, for the most part, too mediocre or overpriced to eat out every night.

  7. You really have to weigh your own personal pros and cons. When this question comes up on the forums I try to give people a realistic idea of what the island has and what it costs. People who want specialty items, have dietary restrictions, or are traveling in large groups, are the ones that benefit the most from packing food to bring to island. For everyone else, I say it’s not worth the trouble and extra cost with the airlines.
    As a full time resident, I am happy that St. John now has so much more availability and remind people that if there is no longer a demand for these things on island, we will lose them. Would hate to see places offer less product!

  8. We bring the expensive stuff, Strip steaks, shrimp and scallops but no cooler. We freeze it, wrap in 2 freezer bags then wrap in towels and clothes. It arrives frozen solid, way better than a cooler. Always a risk of a lost bag but same deal for a cooler.

  9. I live on St John and I always bring back fresh fruit–blueberries, cherries especially–fresh baked bread, assorted cheeses, coffee, cliff bars, you name it from San Francisco’s farmer’s market. Two, three times a year. I have even brought back fresh Halibut to cook for my friends on several occasions. I always keep it under 50 lbs to avoid extra charges.

  10. A cooler from Chicago, Il, that would be ridiculous! When we arrive, our first stop is the Starfish Market! My Aunt thinks the steaks are as great as the Blue Goose’s here in St. Charles! When Mathayum catered our daughter’s wedding, the lamb chops and steaks were fabulous! We have been coming to St. John for over 25 years, and have never had any reason to bring a cooler! Sandy

  11. We always bring a cooler. Generally things that are too expensive on island like frozen waffles, bacon, lamb, veal, steak, specialty cheeses and meats for cocktail hour by the pool!
    We never have an issue bringing it and are always glad we did. Each year we get better and better at packing it.
    We also dine out a few nights, but mainly enjoy cooking dinner and ebjoying family time with our kids at the villa.

  12. We also bring a cooler with good steaks, shrimp, rack of lamb, cheeses, along with the basics of coffee, spices, etc. We’ve been doing it for several years and don’t find it a hassle at all. I love to cook and nothing beats a day on the beach and then grilling up at your villa while the sun sets.

  13. We did check two bags of food for our trip. We took cereal, peanut butter, muffins, snacks etc.. My daughter has to eat gluten free and just not sure what we would find. St. John Market actually had gluten free products, but they are very expensive. We did eat out as well. Loved Morgan’s Mango and had Margarita Phil’s. We had no problem with the bags and would do it again.

  14. We have been bringing coolers down for over 15 years and wouldnt leave home without them. We bring shrimp, racks of lamb, steaks, crab meat, amd a lot of baby backs for beach grilling. We even bring ice cream. ( Yes we eat well ) and we also go out quite often to our favorite place Aqua Bistro i n Coral Bay.

  15. After traveling to the BVIs for 7 years and the last 5 yrs to St. John, all we bring in our luggage is coffee (we’re from Seattle) and the spices we want to use. We rent our car in St. Thomas, pit stop for liquor and meats along with some fresh produce, then hit the car barge for St. John. The majority of our shopping is done on island…we do our best to contribute to the local economy.

  16. We brought food last year when there were seven in our party. I checked a padded soft cooler with no trouble and lots of lower-cost meats. For a smaller group, not worth the trouble.

  17. One time we brought our entire Thanksgiving dinner including the turkey to St John in a cooler. Even though we are regular visitors to St John we were unsure of the holiday store hours and the availability of turkey at the last minute.
    My kids still fondly recall spending the morning at the beach while the turkey was roasting back at the villa. (we typically spend our Thanksgivings in the cold Northeast).

  18. When we first began coming down we would just make sure we had tons of munchies for the kidos. 19 years later – we definitely don’t bother! I mean, its a vacation – I don’t want to bring all that stuff on the plane looking like something out of a Chevy Chase vacation movie, ya know. I want to be adventurous and cook what is fresh & available that day – I do bring some of my favorite spices but honestly, over the years STJ has gotten pretty competitive with their products….and I’m a huge foodie who loves to cook! We don’t eat a lot of heavy meats in the summer and really enjoy spear fishing out in Coral Bay and putting it on the grill! But hey, if you gotta bring the roller out, totally understandable.

  19. Eat out all three meals….we shop at Starfish Market for snacks and beverages, and the only thing we bring is our own coffee from New Orleans (coffee $ chickory) which we make in the mornings at the villa that we rent….

  20. We pack a wheeled cooler with just under 50lbs. of frozen meats and veggies, enough for 5-6 days. At Maho, we usually have breakfast and lunch in our cabin,and the choice of eating out or not for dinner. The real savings is in time and taxi fares. We plan a shopping trip to Cruz Bay around another outing to re-stock. My husband figured we saved around $2,000 during a 2-week stay with 2 hungry teenagers!

  21. We sometimes have 13 family members at the same time for two weeks on St. John. Going out to dinner could be $700 or more for ONE meal. We have brought coolers and boxes of food for years, but now that you have to pay for the first and second bags on the plane, we are only bringing proteins and whatever else fits to make 50 pounds x 2 space bags. Maybe some frozen coffee creamers to keep the meat frozen. Or lunchmeat. Did you know you can freeze lunchmeat?

  22. Check out http://www.starfishmarket.com before considering carrying food down on your vacation. It will show you what is available at Starfish Market and Starfish Gourmet and Wines plus, if you click on Specials, you can get an idea of the sales for the week you’ll be on island. Starfish is a beautifully clean, fresh, full-service supermarket on St. John and in combination with Starfish Gourmet and Wines, should be able to fulfill whatever you need during your stay on St. John – and still keep you on budget.

  23. At Concordia, we love to cook meals, but buy everything at the Love City Mini Mart–a great store that has everything we need. Some of the prices may be higher than off-island, but that seems insignificant compared to schlepping a heavy cooler all the way there. If it doesn’t carry on, it doesn’t go!

  24. Yes 20 years ago, we use to pack one suit case with food and bring a cooler. Now, we just so busy leading up to the trip and just want to get there.Our first stop after the car rental pick up is Starfish. We also fregquent Pine Peace and St John’s Market.

  25. We no longer bring food, with the exception of items not available on St. Thomas where we stock up for our two months on island. It is foolish to stock up on food on St. John given the outrageous prices food retailers charge. We eat out frequently, most often at Aqua Bistro in Coral Bay. The chef there is the best on the island and the prices are reasonable. Skinny Legs, with the loss of Doug and Moe, is just another burger joint with little more soul than Burger King. The Tourist Trap is the new Skinny’s. Everyone should try it out.

  26. My parents still bring food when they come down to St. John for many-month-long stints. A small cooler with meat and cheese, especially if you have access to Trader Joe-type prices at home isn’t a bad idea. However, we mainly bring things that are hard to find on island: special spice mixes to share with St. John friends, bulgar wheat, and whatever other small things will fit into the regular bag we bring down. It makes no sense to pay to check a cooler full of stuff unless you eat a super meat-heavy diet. Otherwise, the key to cooking well and cheaper on St. John is to stick to simple (beans, rice, carrot salad), and to base your meals on what happens to be available or on sale at the grocery (local yams, green papapya from the yard, etc.).

Leave a Comment