This is the Weekend World Traveler, a potentially semi-regular series where we highlight locales around the globe that either have interesting cars, interesting roads, or both. Come with us as we show you how to not suck at driving if you go there.
Ah, beautiful, lovely, wonderful, St. John.
St. John is a small island a short trip off the coast of Puerto Rico, and a part of the United States Virgin Islands, which also includes St. Thomas and St. Croix. Sixty percent of the island is a US National Park, with lush forests, beautiful beaches, and relatively few tourists to spoil the view.
Blah blah blah who cares. This is Jalopnik, not Vacationlopnik.
That’s right! This still is Jalopnik. And this is the Weekend World Traveler, a potentially semi-regular series where we highlight locales around the globe that either have interesting cars, interesting roads, or both.
And this week, we highlight St. John, which not only has beautiful scenery, but also twisting, turning roads that will drive any Jalop wild, an unusual set of motoring circumstances, and unique vehicles to take you on the experience.
To understand what makes St. John such a singular place for drivers, we need to understand a bit of its history and geography. Surrounded by other small Caribbean islands, such as the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, St. Martin, and Vieques, the USVI were owned by the Danish until 1917, when they were bought for the tidy sum of $25 million and the American recognition of the Danish claim to Greenland.
I guess the Danes just like cold things better anyways.
With a strong British influence from the nearby UK-owned Tortola and Jost Van Dyke, St. John and the rest of the USVI drive on the left-hand side of the road, almost unique among American territories in the Western hemisphere.
Due to the proximity to the United States, however, all of the cars also have their steering wheel on the left side, potentially throwing off both American and British drivers.
That may be enough to qualify as “interesting,” but what really makes it special is the terrain. Mountainous and hilly, and with relatively little development, most roads on St. John are narrow and curvy, sometimes even getting down to a single lane, and with enough corkscrews and elevation changes to make Laguna Seca jealous. The video below is a good example of what we’re talking about (don't mind the music):
The mountainous (and sometimes unpaved) roads may necessitate some ground clearance as well, which has led to an abundance of rental Jeeps (for the tourists) and Suzuki Vitaras on the island. But what to do when everybody’s got a car just like you?
That’s right, customize! Many of the vehicles on the USVI are customized, whether its something as basic as chrome rims on your car, or this full on Suzuki Vitara woody.
St. John truly is a Jalopnik-approved vacation destination. With tight, yumping roads, perilous bends, and breathtaking views, it has the potential to join the pantheon of ultimate driving paradises around the world.
Now all it needs is a TT.
Have you been to the Virgin Islands? Do you have any advice for driving there that you'd like to share? If so, share away in the comments.
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Photo credits: Gabriel Scott/Shutterstock, Michael Ballaban