US Virgin Islands

US Virgin Islands

A trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands is the closest thing to a Caribbean sampler that we’ve come across, as it provides several different island experiences in one territory.

For bustling beaches, nightlife and great shopping, look to St. Thomas. Its heavy development, North American atmosphere and throngs of cruise-ship visitors make it the least distinctive of the islands but also the most visited. This is high-volume tourism—among the highest in the Caribbean.

If you want unspoiled scenery and quiet surroundings, hop the ferry to St. John. About half of the island is a national park, so it feels like St. Thomas’ alter ego. The coral reefs, hiking trails and small resorts on St. John have been a model for other ecotourism efforts in the Caribbean.

Somewhere between the extremes of St. Thomas and St. John is St. Croix, which is perhaps the most typical of other Caribbean islands. It balances a fair amount of shopping and attractions with a relaxed atmosphere and historic architecture.

Although it’s possible to spend all your time on one island, we suggest you take advantage of the variety. Good ferry and plane connections make it relatively easy to hop between the three islands and discover which experiences most appeal to you.

The foremost attractions of the U.S. Virgin Islands include white-sand beaches, snorkeling and diving, Virgin Islands National Park, deep-sea fishing, restaurants, nightlife, golfing, tennis, hiking, camping, wildlife, parasailing, duty-free shopping, historical buildings and yachting.

Travelers who enjoy shopping, beautiful Caribbean beaches, protected tropical habitats, and excellent snorkeling and diving will enjoy the U.S. Virgin Islands. Those seeking seclusion or a landscape free of Burger Kings and Radio Shacks should restrict their stay to St. John (away from Cruz Bay) or to St. Croix, at least most of it.

Geography

The three main islands (St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas) are among more than 50 islands and cays (most of them uninhabited) that make up the U.S. Virgin Islands. Situated about 1,200 mi/1,930 km southeast of Miami and 50 mi/80 km east of Puerto Rico, they are just a few miles/kilometers west of their cousins, the British Virgin Islands. St. Thomas and St. John are only 3 mi/5 km apart, bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean. St. Croix lies 40 mi/64 km to the south, surrounded by the Caribbean Sea.