The U.S. Virgin Islands offer varied experiences. On St. Croix, St. Thomas, and the smallest island, St. John, visitors will find entertainment, challenging watersports, and unspoiled terrain. Americans need not use passports or foreign currency, and English is the official language.
ST. CROIX: PEACEFULLY PICTURESQUE
St. Croix's atmosphere fosters a laid back experience and small town sensibility. You’ll find Crucians, as residents are called, good natured. You may traverse St. Croix by car in around forty five minutes. Minimal development makes St. Croix an ideal locale for relaxation.
The towns of Frederiksted and Christiansted feature vivid pastel buildings. Christiansted’s neoclassical architecture reflects its European heritage. If you absolutely must touch base with the outside world, shops in Christiansted and Frederiksted have WiFi access. Twin City Coffee House and Gallery in Christiansted offers sheltered sidewalk seating. Yoga buffs decompress downtown at Renuatum Spa.
While driving, you’ll encounter a rolling landscape, dotted with vibrant mango trees. South of Route 70, local industry is evident. Touring the northwest, some of which is only accessible by 4 x 4's, the rain forest prevails. Visit the egrets in Salt River Bay National Historic Park. At night, take a bioluminescent kayak ride. Equus Horseback Riding stables offers rides on the beach. Vintage Danish sugar mill ruins remain; some offer tours, others you may explore independently. Beverage buffs should try a Blackbeard Ale at Frederiksted's Fort Christian Brew Pub, and tour the city’s Cruzan Rum Factory.
Buck Island is a mile and a half off the northeast side of St. Croix. Sailing to Buck Island is a memorable experience, as two thirds of it is surrounded by coral barrier reef. You'll learn about local animal life by walking Buck Island’s nature trail. Take in the natural splendor of Buck Island's white coral beaches.
Golfers enjoy playing at Carambola Golf & Country Club. Vacationers fond of sport fishing may charter private boats. From horseback riding near 18th-century sugar mills to scenic golf, you'll find attractions on St. Croix to suit your tastes.
ST. JOHN: WATERSPORTS WONDERLAND
Most of St. John is a national park, offering hiking, camping, and breathtaking views. Its capital, Cruz Bay, is only a 20 minute ferry ride from St. Thomas. You may wish to divide your stay between Cruz Bay and Coral Bay, which saves time otherwise spent driving from Coral Bay to browse around Cruz Bay. Fuel up in Cruz Bay, as there are no gas stations in Coral Bay. Cruz Bay is the ferry arrival point, bustling with shops, bars, restaurants. Coral Bay is more relaxed and romantic, with small establishments featuring live music.
Cruz Bay’s Beach Bar is fun, with tasty cuisine and refreshing drinks. Margarita Phil’s serves superb Mexican fare. In Mongoose Junction, a multilevel shopping complex, the Deli Grotto is a hip, inexpensive breakfast choice - their fresh bread is perfect for beach picnics. Also in Cruz Bay, Asolare has an upscale fusion menu, and postcard views. Rhumb Lines is an option for those fond of Thai fusion cuisine. Order their pork entrée, or sample the Sunday brunch.
In Coral Bay, Concordia restaurant has outdoor morning yoga and Monday karaoke, in addition to good eats. The Tourist Trap’s pulled pork nachos are special. There’s live music at both Skinny Legs and Aqua Bistro; the latter serves a picatta to die for. You can also mail items from Skinny Legs, Coral Bay’s unofficial post office.
Accommodations include the St. John Inn, or the Cruz Bay Boutique Hotel, or you may book a private home, or bed-and-breakfast. There’s also a Westin and the Caneel Bay Resort in the North Beach area.
North shore beaches are more crowded, south shore beaches more popular with locals. Shaded by sea grape trees and coconut palms, Caneel Bay is a romantic beach. Jumbie Bay Beach is so small it feels private. Get there early, as there are only seven parking spaces. There’s a 300 foot hike down to this beach. White coral sands make Trunk Bay the island's most photogenic beach, and the small cay there is ideal for snorkeling.
St. John is a boaters’ paradise. Day sails feature a light meal, beverages, and offer snorkeling gear. Bask in local nature via catamaran, kayak, schooner, power boat, or all three. Wayward Sailor is a great charter service.
Low Key Watersports provides scuba certification. At Hawksnest Beach, snorkeling is great, and there are bathrooms and changing rooms. Caneel Bay's Turtle Beach is known for bodysurfing and snorkeling. From Caneel Bay Resort, take the trail to Honeymoon Beach, which features a bar and grill. If you spend the evening in Caneel Bay, Zo Zo’s restaurant plates delightful pasta, their staff is very attentive, and it is surrounded by wondrous views. Sushi lovers enjoy their beach grill.
To view butterflies and exotic birds, take a guided tour with St. John Eco-Hike and Snorkel Adventure. It’s a three hour trek, featuring stops at Honeymoon Beach. You may also hike Ram Head Trail, or Reef Bay Trail. A guided walking tour of the 18th century Annaberg Sugar Mills is worthwhile. Carolina Corral's horseback tours are popular. From nature to night life, St. John is a most memorable getaway.
ST. THOMAS: HARBOR HEAVEN
St. Thomas features one of the world’s most beautiful harbors. The capital, Charlotte Amalie offers fine dining, nightlife, and duty-free shopping. Rent a Jeep here. Amalie Car Rental has drivers who will meet you at baggage claim with your names on an iPad, and take you to your Jeep. Rather than calling taxis to ride to beaches and towns, you may explore at your own pace. Beaches include Bluebeards Beach, Smith Bay Park, and Magens Bay.
At Coral World Ocean Park near Coki Beach, you’ll spend the day with sea lions, or pet a shark.
Kids enjoy the colorful native birds here. Virgin Islands Ecotours takes passengers on three-hour nature excursions to the Cas Cay Wildlife Sanctuary. There, you may snorkel, or take memorable photographs.
Water sports enthusiasts may participate in stand-up paddling, surfing, or kiteboarding. The kiteboarding is best in the windy East End of the island. Charter a fishing boat for a full day, a sunset sail, or a dinner cruise. If you've always wanted to learn to sail, day trip charters average about $85-$125 per person.
The USVI truly offers vacation variety. Whether your interest is water sports, relaxing beaches, or night life, the friendly USVI fills the bill.
For more information on the USVI, go to visitUSVI.com.