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  • Catherine

Things to Know Before you Go!

Updated: Sep 19, 2021

Does the House of Open Arms have Air Conditioning?

Yes! Both the Villa and the Cottage have air conditioning to help guests sleep in comfort. In the Villa, the air conditioning is in the bedroom but will cool the entire space if you close the windows and doors. In the Cottage, it is essentially central.

Do I need a car?

Yes! You will need a 4WD jeep rental. The 4WD is necessary in order to make sure you can get up the dirt road that leads to A House of Open Arms. While this road is bumpy, it is easily manageable and not unlike those found in many other areas of St. John. More importantly, it helps maintain the privacy of A House of Open Arms. Also, the steep hills throughout St John, which can get very slick with a little bit of rain, make 4WD a huge benefit in terms of feeling safer on the roads.

No matter where you stay on St John, you will likely need a jeep in order to get around comfortably. There is a bus between Coral Bay and Cruz Bay, but it is not reliable and may only come every hour or longer. Also, taxis generally stay inside Cruz Bay and do not often come out to the Coral Bay side unless they are carrying a fare, which is rare.

What are some places you recommend for car rentals?

COURTESY CAR RENTAL: 340-776-6650. Guests of A House of Open Arms receive a 10% discount here.

SUNSHINE CAR RENTAL: 340-690-1786.

How much will a car rental cost?

Expect to pay between $65 and $100 per day, plus tax, depending on whether you are renting during high season or low season and what type of car you are renting. It would be a good idea to book the car on your credit card, since many credit card companies will automatically insure rental cars if you book using your card and then decline the rental company’s insurance option. Check with your credit card company to make sure that they do offer that benefit, and that it is still applicable to rentals made in the US Virgin Islands. Also: ALWAYS bring your car insurance info whether or not you use your credit card.

Getting here: How do I get from St. Thomas to A House of Open Arms?

Fly into St. Thomas airport (STT). From there, claim your luggage and look outside the luggage claim area for the taxi dispatcher. Ask to go to the Red Hook ferry dock. You’ll likely ride in a van with lots of other passengers (they are 15-passenger vans). This is a 40-45 minute taxi ride to Red Hook depending on traffic. The ferry runs every hour on the hour to St. John from 6AM until midnight. Red Hook ferry tickets are $8.15 per person and $4.00 for luggage.(not including carry-on items). The taxi ride should cost $20 if you are by yourself with luggage, $30 per couple with luggage. Don’t feel like you need to tip as they include it.

An alternate ferry choice is the Crown Bay Ferry which is 5 minutes from the airport by taxi. Currently, it leaves there at 3:30 and 5:30 arriving into St. John at 4 and 6PM. The Crown Bay ferry is $25 for a one way ticket per person.

Upon your arrival on St. John, I will greet you at the ferry dock. I have a white Toyota RAV4 with the license plate CARPEDM. From there, I will drive you to your car rental agency, ( some will meet you at the dock along with me) then to the grocery store to stock up for your stay, and finally out to A House of Open Arms in Coral Bay.

What beaches are nearby?

St. John is 20 square miles and beaches are everywhere! The more rocky beaches tend to have more coral and fish life while the north shore white sand beaches tend to have less. Still there are turtles everywhere and much to see both on land and sea no matter where you decide to explore each day.

What restaurants are nearby?

There are lots of great options for going out to eat on St John. SKINNY LEGS is a popular and well-known place just down the hill from A House of Open Arms that serves great American food (bar and grill). Other options in Coral Bay include AQUA BISTRO (more upscale cuisine), , RHUMB LINES/INDIGO GRILL (pizza, tacos, fish, and vegetarian options), MISS LUCY'S (island-style lunch and dinner by the sea beginning at 11am), and others. There are also options in Cruz Bay (Upscale: Morgan's Mango and Shaibu) if you care to make the drive. A lot of my guests go once to Cruz Bay for a special evening out.

What activities do you recommend?

I highly recommend a lovely book on St. John to all of my incoming guests and have copies available for you when you arrive: ST JOHN: OFF THE BEATEN TRACK by Gerald Singer. It offers several trips' worth of ideas for your visit to St. John, complete with guides to activities, color photos, maps and historical info. There are a multitude of things to do on the island. You can go scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing on a day sail, hiking on one of St. John’s 20+ trails, visit one of the island’s many ruins from the era when it was a Danish colony, make a day trip to the British Virgin Islands to visit the Baths, or just sit on a beach and soak in the sun and serenity. There are also some interesting shops in both Cruz Bay and Coral Bay, and there is often live music on the island at night. During season, there is an amazing open mic night where many local musicians come and jamb and visitors are welcome to bring their instruments and join in.

What should I bring?

Rash guard for swimming. Hat for the beach. Sunglasses. Other items: bathing suits and cover ups, shorts and tees for guys, sundresses for women. Water shoes. Keep it simple. Most people leave here never having worn most of the stuff they brought. St. John is a very casual island – you will not need any dressy clothing.

What do I provide (linens, towels, chairs, etc)?

The Villa and Cottage each have many of the items you will likely need for your stay, including:

Hairdryer, Bath Towels ,Linens, Beach Towels ,Beach Chairs, Coolers for the Beach, Shampoo, Body Gel, Soap,Iron and Ironing Board. I also gift my homemade granola for your first few day's breakfast, plus coffee, juice, and sugar. (Please note that this is part of your welcome and not intended to last you all week; see my note under Where do I get groceries and supplies?).

Check out the Amenities and Photos pages for both the Villa and Cottage for additional amenities of each.

What is the welcome dinner I’ve read about?

After a long day of traveling, I find most of my guests are ready to just sit and relax for a bit. As a gift, I make a homemade welcome dinner for my guests for their first night so that they do not need to go out to eat or make dinner for themselves. I usually offer my guests the option of chicken, fish, or vegetarian as a main entree. It’s my way of welcoming you to the island and helping you settle into your vacation.

What is the weather like at your property?

The weather at A House of Open Arms is generally a little cooler than other areas on the island. There is a constant breeze off the ocean which not only provides a kind of natural fan, but also brings the beautiful sound of the waves up to your living space. Air conditioning in the bedroom of the Villa and throughout the Cottage help make sleeping more comfortable as well.

Where do I get groceries and supplies for my stay?

When you arrive in Cruz Bay, I will meet you at the ferry dock and help you pick up your car rental. After that, I will guide you to the local grocery store, where you will be able to pick up whatever supplies you might want for your stay (whether that includes snacks and drinks or ingredients to make complete meals). I provide all my guests with 1 pound of coffee, juice, milk, and my homemade granola at the start of their visits. This is not intended to last you all week. While I would love to be able to provide you with free refills, it is very expensive and time-consuming to make this granola. As a result, granola refills are $10 a jar. I also offer up to 3 additional hot breakfasts and up to 2 additional evening meals as an add on. I will be happy to give you advice about dining out on the island during your stay as well. (See above: What restaurants are nearby?)

I'm concerned about renting a villa where the owner lives on site. How does that work?

Many people worry, understandably, about an intrusive owner. I work hard to respect my guests' privacy and comfort. Once you have settled in with your welcome dinner, you will not see me again unless you come looking for me. Most guests find it incredibly helpful to have a knowledgeable local to ask questions of about the island. I keep very busy between A House of Open Arms and my art business: Art of Open Arms. I take my cues from my guests. If they are active in seeking me out, I am more than happy to talk with them. If they prefer privacy above all else, I stay completely out of sight. I am always more than happy to talk with my guests, and many of them have written about their experiences on TripAdvisor. You can check out the reviews in one of my blogs or by going directly to TripAdvisor which is linked on my website. I encourage you to read those reviews to get the perspective of previous guests.

What is your hurricane policy?

In the unlikely event of a named hurricane having a 50% chance of passing over St. John before your arrival into St. Thomas, guests will be given the chance to roll their reservation over to a new date. Should guests be on the island when a hurricane strikes, they will not receive a refund but I will make sure they are taken care of. House of Open Arms is well built and I rode out both Hurricane Irma and Maria here very safely. If a hurricane causes significant damage to the island's infrastructure or to House of Open Arms that makes your original reservation difficult or impossible to complete, we will ask that you move your dates and apply your deposit to a new reservation for when the island has recovered enough to support tourism. Refunds are at the discretion of the owner of House of Open Arms. Any refunds given will not exceed 25% of the total value of the original booking. If you expect that you would want a full refund, we encourage taking out trip insurance to protect your investment. Always look for Cancel For Any Reason Trip insurance.

The Villa is made of concrete and is set back into bedrock, making it a very safe place to ride out a storm, should the need arise. Also, keep in mind that the Villa and Cottage have their own power and water supply independent from the island's grid.

Regular Cancellation Policy: In the event you are forced to cancel, I will make every effort to re-book your villa for a 20% service charge. However, no deposits will be refunded unless a replacement rental is obtained. In some cases we may be able to reschedule your visit to another time slot in the future. Refund arrangements can largely depend on the amount of notice given to me of your cancellation, and on the time of year for your visit. No refunds will be given within 15 days of arrival under any circumstance. For peace of mind, I strongly recommend cancellation insurance. Please Google: Cancel For Any Reason Trip Insurance to find available options for purchase.

What if my question isn't on this list?

Feel free to contact me by phone: (340) 513-7199 or email:

Questions? Please call or email Catherine:

(340) 513-7199


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