VIRGIN ISLANDS – The United States Virgin Islands is nicknamed “America’s Caribbean” for good reason. This group of islands is located in the heart of the Caribbean Sea, not far from Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands. Because the U.S. Virgin Islands are a U.S. territory, U.S. citizens may travel through the islands without a passport as they would travel through any state. Plus, English is spoken throughout the entire region. The islands offer something for all travelers, whether they are families, singles, couples or groups.
The three main islands of the U.S. Virgin Islands are St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. St. Thomas is home to Charlotte Amalie, the capital city of the entire U.S. Virgin Islands. St. Thomas is also home to over 40 white sand beaches and all the opportunities for water recreation you can imagine. If you prefer to stay dry, look into the submarine cruises and glass bottom boat rides available. You may get to spot the vibrant marine life easily visible in the islands’ pristine waters. For a more face-to-face encounter with the natural ecosystem, visit the Coral World Marine Park & Observatory.
St. Thomas is a mountainous island, so you can go from under the sea to under the sky. The mountains offer views as high as 1,500 feet above sea level. Drake’s Seat, Valdemar Hill, Flag Hill and Paradise Peak are some of the scenic “high” points of the island. If you want to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, visit Fort Christian. This U.S. national landmark was built in 1672, making it the oldest standing structure in the Virgin Islands. The fort has been converted into a museum documenting the islands’ history.
If you visit during early spring, you can catch the colorful, month-long Carnival celebration. Any time of the year, the West Indian and Caribbean dining and nightlife is a carnival experience of its own.
The next island to visit is St. Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Heritage tours and trails highlight St. Croix’s cultural mix of Danish, French, Spanish, West Indian and African influences. You can explore local art, jewelry and crafts vendors, particularly the island’s hook bracelets designed with the rare larimar gemstone. Take in the rhythms of quelbe and quadrille, the French and African-influenced native music and dance of the Virgin Islands. In winter time, things heat up during the Crucian Christmas Festival which runs from December to January.
Buck Island National Monument off St. Croix’s shore is the only naturally-occurring underwater national monument in the U.S. The monument is 700 acres of a protected home for underwater flora and fauna, an ideal spot for snorkeling. Visitors to the Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve can explore the natural wildlife refuge via scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking and kayaking.
St. John, the smallest of the three islands, still retains an unspoiled natural environment. The island offers many ecotourism activities to keep it that way, and two-thirds of the island is protected land as the Virgin Islands National Park. Trunk Bay and Hawkesnest Bay are popular attractions both for their beaches and underwater activities. There are even ecotourism resorts and campgrounds for the environmentally-minded. St. John is home to highest point of elevation in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the town of Coral Bay. The island is also noted for its lengthy Fourth of July celebration, covering June through July 4th.
These are just a few of the many reasons to make your next exotic vacation to America’s Caribbean.
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