The U.S. Virgin Islands (which must be distinguished from the British Virgin Islands) give Americans a chance to experience an incredible Caribbean beach vacation while technically remaining in the United States. They consist of three main islands, St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John, each with its own charms. There are also some smaller islands that can also be explored, though you’ll probably be staying on one of the big three.
U.S. Virgin Islands Beaches
Obviously one of the islands’ biggest attractions, there are hundreds to choose from. Some of the best include Cinnamon Park in Virgin Islands National Park on St. John, a protected area that has cottages, a campsite and places that are perfect for water sports. Another of St. John’s most beautiful beaches is Maho Beach, known as one of the best snorkeling spots in the Virgin Islands.
Honeymoon Beach on St. Thomas is on its own little island, Water Island, and you need to get there via water taxi or on a rented boat. It’s a quiet island paradise that’s popular for honeymooners and others on romantic getaways.
Another great beach on St. Thomas is Lindquist Beach, which is close to a couple of popular resorts. There are showers and restroom facilities here.
St. John, the smallest of the 3 main islands, also has some amazing beaches, the most popular being Trunk Bay, known as one of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the U.S. Virgin Islands and listed as one of the world’s top ten beaches by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine.
Tours and Outdoor Activities
You can, of course, enjoy water sports such as snorkeling if you stay at a resort that offers these activities or if you travel with your own gear. There are also, however, many charters and tours for these and other sports.
Virgin Islands Ecotours takes you around the Mangrove Lagoon Wildlife Sanctuary & Marine Preserve, an important protected area full of incredible marine life. They also have St. John tours.
Ziplining in the Virgin Islands is another adventure worth experiencing. Tree Limin’ Extreme offers six ziplines, giving you incomparable views of St. Thomas from high in the air.
In addition to enjoying beaches and water sports, shopping is another major activity in which visitors to the U.S. Virgin Islands like to indulge. You have the benefit of duty-free shopping that provides an allowance of $1600, which is twice that of other islands in the Caribbean.
If you want to do some shopping for jewelry, St. Thomas offers many choices, such as Grand Jewelers, Ajanta Jewelers and Imperial Jewelers. These and many other places offer great deals on diamonds, wedding rings, watches and all types of jewelry.
Charlotte Amalie, a popular spot for cruise ships on St. Thomas has several shopping malls where you can find just about anything, from gift shops to jewelry to liquor. A.H. Riise Gift Sand Liquor Mall, Havensight Mall, Palm Passage Retail Mall are just some of the shopping meccas you’ll find here. Main Street in Charlotte Amalie also has many interesting smaller shops.
Skytsborg Tower -Also known as Blackbeard’s Castle, this is a place worth visiting before or after shopping in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas. It’s a centuries-old observation tower that was originally created to warn residents of approaching pirates or other invaders. It offers some of the best views on St. Thomas.
Dining and Nightlife
If you’re staying at a resort, you may find that your dining and nightlife needs are easily met without venturing anywhere else. You may, however, want to explore some fine dining options around the islands.
- Amalia Cafe, a Spanish restaurant in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, offers meat and seafood Spanish favorites such as Gambas Santa Fe Cafe, a shrimp and crabmeat dish served with homemade cocktail sauce and Almejas Salsa Verde, clams in gresen sauce. They also offer express delivery service.
- A fun and casual place for food, drinks and great views overlooking the marina in Red Hook, St. Thomas is Island Time Pub, which specializes in sandwiches, pizza and beer.
- One of the best seafood places on St. Thomas is Caribbean Fish Market at the Elysian Resort, a beachside restaurant with a menu full of fresh Caribbean and seafood specialties, such as Caribbean Chicken Roulade, Island Curry, Fish & Chips and Today’s Catch.
- Havana Blue, at Estate Bakkeroe has the motto, “Latin America meets the Pacific Rim.” It’s a beautifully decorated restaurant with Spanish, Asian and Caribbean dishes. It was named one of the Top 5 beachside restaurants in the Caribbean by Caribbean Travel & Life Magazine.
- The U.S. Virgin Islands have many fun places to go at night. A few examples are Iggies Beach Bar and Grill on Bolongo Bay in St. Thomas, a festive beach bar that often has live music. Charlotte Amalie always has plenty of nightlife options, such as The Green House, which has daily_ happy hours from the afternoon until closing and Bingo Fridays.
- Croix is home of Mount Pellier Domino Club in Frederiksted, a fun club in the middle of a rainforest known for its pig mascots.
- If you’re on St. John, The Tap Room on North Shore Road, Cruz Bay, has the best selection of draft beer in the entire Caribbean. They also serve food and snacks such as fish tacos and Mexican pizza.
Where to Stay
The U.S. Virgin Islands offers all sorts of accommodations, from inns and B & B’s to luxurious resorts.
The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas is a good choice if you’re looking for a large resort with attentive service, great dining, a well-equipped fitness center and the beach nearby.
The Buccaneer is one of the most popular resorts on St. Croix, with a pool, spacious rooms, a fitness center and the elegant Mermaid Restaurant. The Palms at Pelican Cove, in Christiansted, is a 7-acre resort right on the reef and has a freshwater pool, tennis courts and nearby hiking trails.
If you’re seeking a budget hotel in the U.S. Virgin Islands, some of your best choices are on St. Croix, such as Holger Danske Hotel in Christiansted, a comfortable hotel right on the boardwalk or King Christian Hotel, also in Christiansted on the boardwalk, which offers rather basic but reasonable accommodations.
For inns and B & B’s, you have Carringtons Inn St. Croix in Christiansted, a comfortable place with great ocean views; Galleon House Bed & Breakfast and The Crystal Palace, both cozy B & B’s in Charlotte Amalie.