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The Quiet(est) Side of St. John, USVI

"We're here because we're not all there" is the unofficial slogan for Coral Bay, a town on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The slogan could fit St. John itself, an extremely hilly, 20-square-mile piece of tropical paradise that boasts no airport, one ferry dock and a national park that covers two-thirds of the island. Even Cruz Bay, the island's major (and only other) town, is a charming seaside spot, though parking is scarce and the area can be overrun by cruise-ship visitors.

Many Coral Bay residents feel the slogan also separates their village from Cruz Bay -- and many visitors like the smaller town even better. The tiny outpost on the far side of the island from the ferry landing is surrounded by truly deserted beaches, a lively restaurant and shopping scene -- and none of the crowds and resorts of many Caribbean destinations.

Here's the lowdown on this laid-back community, along with a few recession-friendly tips to use once you arrive.

Getting There

Most visitors to St. John fly in to St. Thomas. Passenger ferries run from there to Cruz Bay, where buses, taxis and rental cars -- the best way to see the island -- are available. Rentals start at roughly $75 a day.

Saving tip: An airport rental and a 20-minute drive to the car barge can cut $30 or more off your daily rate. Make sure the rental company allows travel to St. John. While Budget (CAR) and others do, some don't.

Snorkeling

St. John isn't big on addresses, or even road names. To get to Coral Bay from the car barge landing in Cruz Bay, take a right off the landing and follow signs for Route 10. The eight-mile trip will take a bit more than 20 minutes on steep and curvy roads -- more if you're learning to drive on the left side of the road.

You'll know you're in Coral Bay when you hit the triangle, a junction with a bus stop and signs for most of the town's businesses. Take a right and you'll head south toward Salt Pond Bay, passing many shops and restaurants along the way. Take a left and you'll pass the dinghy dock and Skinny Legs, a casual eatery, on the way to the East End.

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