U.S. Virgin Islands

Why visit the U.S. Virgin Islands?

The three main islands making up the USVI’s—St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix—have individual charms with one commonality. Since 1916, they have been included among the U.S. Territories.

(Featured photo above: Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI)

Accommodations

You’ll find accommodation choices in the USVI run the gamut, from major hotel chains to smaller, family-owned resorts, smaller B&B’s and inns, as well as villas and even campsites on St. John, where two-thirds of the island is national park land. Where I stayed – St. Thomas: Bolongo Bay Beach Resort; St. John: Caneel Bay Resort; St. Croix: Carambola Beach Resort

Activities

Fantastic diving and snorkeling can be experienced throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands. St. Thomas’s capital city, Charlotte Amalie, is one of the Caribbean’s best duty-free shopping ports. Both Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas and Christiansted on St. Croix are worthy of walking tours to learn of the islands’ Danish past.

Beaches

Magens Bay on St. Thomas and Trunk Bay on St. John, renowned for its underwater snorkeling trail, have been named to many best beaches lists. On St. Croix, there are many more to explore, including Cane Bay Beach, great for easy shore diving. Take a boat ride to Buck Island to enjoy the beach and snorkel its underwater trail.

Food and Drink

Although you’ll find American chain restaurants here, seek out local foods like fish and fungi, goat water, rice and peas, callaloo soup, and johnnycake. Fresh fish and seafood can be found everywhere. Local rum – Cruzan. Tour the Cruzan Rum distillery on St. Croix.

Getting There

The American flag flies and no passport is required to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are direct flights to St. Croix from Miami, Atlanta, Charlotte and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Direct flights to St. Thomas can be booked from New York, Newark, Boston, Miami, Atlanta, Charlotte, Ft. Lauderdale, and Philadelphia.

Location

The U.S. Virgin islands are located about 1,115 miles south of Miami in the Caribbean and 70 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the meeting point of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. While St. Thomas and St. John are just four miles apart and can be reached by ferry, St. Croix lies further to the south and can be reached by seaplane or a fast ferry (90 minutes). You may also take a ferry from St. Thomas or St. John to the nearby British Virgin Islands (in an hour or less), but remember to take your passport. You’re no longer in the U.S.!

Vibe

Geographically Caribbean and officially American, you have the best of both worlds. While St. Thomas is most cosmopolitan of the three, with its capital, Charlotte Amalie, boasting some of the Caribbean’s best duty-free shopping, St. John is quiet and laid back, as almost the entire island is protected as a National Park. St. Croix, largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is a blend of the two. Fewer cruise ships stop here, so there are fewer daytrippers than on St. Thomas. St. Croix’s tourism focus is on scuba diving, snorkeling and watersports, including Buck Island Reef National Monument, a protected area just north of St. Croix.

Tourism Website: www.visitusvi.com

 

If you go, don’t miss:

St. Thomas

Take in unparalleled views of Charlotte Amalie’s harbor aboard the St.Thomas Skyride, across the street from Havensight Mall. Three continuously running trams make the 7-minute, 700-foot ascent to the top of Flag Hill’s Paradise Point.

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Skytrain

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Skytrain (© Debbra Dunning Brouillette)

Take a walking tour of St. Thomas’s capital city, Charlotte Amalie, where much of the architecture and remnants of its Danish past remains. One such landmark is the 99 steps. There are actually 103, one of several step-streets built by the Danes.

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, 99 Steps

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, 99 Steps (© Debbra Dunning Brouillette)

Even if you’re not staying at Bolongo Bay Resort, make plans to be there for Carnival Night on Wednesdays, which features an all-you-can-eat West Indian
buffet, live Calypso music, Mocko Jumbie stilt dancers and a limbo show.

Bolongo Bay Resort, Carnival Night, St. Thomas

Bolongo Bay Resort, Carnival Night, St. Thomas (© Debbra Dunning Brouillette)

Magens Bay, St. Thomas, USVI

Magens Bay, St. Thomas, USVI (© Debbra Dunning Brouillette)

St. John

St. John’s most famous beach, Trunk Bay, is known for its underwater snorkeling trail.

Trunk Bay, St. John

Trunk Bay, St. John (© Debbra Dunning Brouillette)

Visit Annaberg Plantation ruins, once an active sugar-producing factory.

Annaberg Plantation, St. John

Annaberg Plantation, St. John (© Debbra Dunning Brouillette)

Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI

Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI (© Debbra Dunning Brouillette)

St. Croix

Scuba divers will find opportunities for diving to fit every experience level off the shores of St. Croix. A night dive off the Fredericksted Pier is one you shouldn’t miss!

Brittlestar, Night Dive, Fredericksted Pier, St. Croix

Brittlestar, Night Dive, Fredericksted Pier, St. Croix (© Debbra Dunning Brouillette)

Do a shore dive at Cane Bay and visit the Coral Nursery, one of two locations off St. Croix where nursery-raised staghorn coral specimens have been attached to steel tree-like structures on concrete pedestals buried in the sand.

Coral Nursery, Cane Bay, St. Croix

Coral Nursery, Cane Bay, St. Croix (© Debbra Dunning Brouillette)

For authentic island cuisine, make your way to Harvey’s for lunch (11B Company St., Christiansted, St. Croix).

Lunch at Harvey's, St. Croix

Lunch at Harvey’s, St. Croix (© Debbra Dunning Brouillette)

Don’t leave without shopping for the original St. Croix  hook bracelet at Sonya’s (Sonya Ltd.) on Company Street.

Sonya Ltd., Original Hook Bracelets, St. Croix

Sonya Ltd., Orginal Hook Bracelets, St. Croix (© Debbra Dunning Brouillette)

 

Published articles on the U.S. Virgin Islands:

Island Ease

The only passport you’ll need to visit St. Thomas and St. John, two Caribbean beauties with American ties, is a plane ticket

ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—As we climbed into our taxi outside the Cyril E. King Airport on the island of St. Thomas, we saw an American flag waving in the breeze. We had landed in St. Thomas, more than 1,100 miles south of Miami and the most popular destination in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The island and its sisters, St. John and St. Croix, are territories of the U.S., and are known for duty-free shopping, world-class beaches and Danish history. It was a tropical destination made easy — no passport required…

Read the rest of the article published in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, by opening a PDF here:  St Thomas-St John Article

StThomasStJohnFST081411FrPgWeb

St. Croix’s Underwater World

Access to St. Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is easy since it’s a U.S. territory and no passport is required. However, access to the beauty and diversity of life under the waters that surround it requires more effort. You must be a certified scuba diver. Of course you can see plenty of sea life by donning a mask and snorkeling, but as I found out when I became certified, it’s not the same…

Read the rest of my destination feature, “St. Croix’s Underwater World,” on TravelSquire.com, at this link: St Croix’s Underwater World article

TravelSquire-StCroixWeb

St. Croix, USVI – A Scuba Diver’s Delight

There are very few places in the Caribbean where scuba divers can plan dives on a reef, a wall, a shipwreck, and then do a night dive under a pier — all in one day, or more likely, spaced throughout several days. St. Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is one of those places. It is a great destination for scuba divers of all experience levels, as well as for those who would like to learn.

(Also includes sidebar article: Scuba Diving Changed My Life…and My Travels)

Read the rest of my feature in TravelWorld, the online magazine of NATJA (North American Travel Journalists Association), at this link: TravelWorld – St. Croix USVI Scuba Diver’s Delight

StCroixTravelWorldWEB

 

 

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