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U.S. Virgin Islands

US-Virgin-Islands

Great Destination:

4.5

Value for Money:

3.5

Total Stars:

8.0

Personality Types that Like it Best

Appeals broadly to Mid-and Centric-Authentics, and true Authentics

Did you know … ?

  • Christopher Columbus named these islands for St. Ursula and her 11,000 maidens.
  • Taxes on exported rum yield more than $24 million annually for the government.
  • Tourism accounts for 80% of GDP and employment.
  • Seven flags have flown over the islands: Spanish, Dutch, English, French (twice), Knights of Malta, Danish and American.
  • These islands are the only U.S. possession where motorists drive on the left.

Danish legacies

It’s easy to list the things that attract travelers to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Their tropical beauty, a balmy climate, clean clear ocean waters and the fact they are a U.S. possession all combine to entice Americans to these tropical Caribbean isles for rest, relaxation and recreation at reasonable prices.

Speaking of prices, St. Thomas offers a duty-free port so there is a very appealing shopping opportunity but with no currency exchange issues for Americans.

Denmark owned the islands prior to 1917. As a result, there are many Danish legacies, notably place names and architecture.

Travelers to the U.S. Virgin Islands praise the friendly people, but are pleased that the islands are not too populated. Visitors find the islands romantic and like the combination of “seclusion plus civilization.”   The warm, translucent ocean waters make for great swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. Most hotels offer tennis, and golfers can choose from several courses. Each island offers beautiful scenery and lovely soft-sand beaches.

There is plenty here for the venturesome among us, notably active sports and ecotouring, and others enjoy many of the active-traveler choices, too. However, it is those on the less adventurous side of the scale who give these islands the best ratings.

While tourists choose the Caribbean for a slower, more relaxed pace of life, they also appreciate that the U.S. Virgin Islands are not deadsville; there are nightlife options for many tastes, plus a number of outdoor festivals.

The area has three islands with many nearby islets. The three islands share some characteristics while also displaying their individuality. St. Thomas, the most developed of the island trio, not surprisingly, appeals heavily to those who like its good shopping and tourist amenities.

St. John draws a higher number of adventurous travelers, who appreciate its unspoiled, protected environment. St. Croix is mentioned the least often in surveys despite its interesting terrain (a combination of rain forest and desert) and appealing historical sites.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Sportfishing is popular and easy to arrange. Also, for a chance to compete with world class anglers, enter one of the Virgin Islands’ fishing tournaments. Twenty-four sportfishing records have been set in these islands.
  • Come to the islands for Carnival, which lights up the days and nights on all three islands. Events include parades, calypso, water sports and games as part of a full schedule covering several days.
  • In Coral Bay, St. John, the original settlement, ask about hiking to Reef Bay Estate. You’ll have great scenery on the way and be rewarded by a bit of history when you finish at the remains of an old steam-driven sugar mill, now almost buried by jungle.
  • Arrange a bareboat yacht charter and do some at-sea exploring on your own.
  • If you like scuba diving, explore the islands’ reefs and old shipwrecks. Check out Buck Island Reef, the only U.S. national park that is under water. If you are not a diver, take a course and gain your PADI certification.
  • Look for evening entertainment that is distinctive to the islands, such as steel-pan orchestras and broken-bottle dancing (dancing on broken glass).

Things to do for Centrics

  • Explore any of the islands on horseback.
  • Sample the lifestyle of an 18th century sugar plantation at Whim Greathouse on St. Croix. The beautifully restored site includes a small museum, a working sugar mill and the estate house filled with antiques and surrounded by a moat.
  • St. John’s hiking trails lead to plantation ruins and ancient petroglyphs. Hike on your own or with a guide.
  • Rent a villa for the duration of your stay. There are several choices on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
  • Go snorkeling in Turtle Cove on St. Thomas, or snorkel at numerous other sites in the islands.
  • Call on your concierge to arrange a cookout for your companions and you on Buck Island.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Play golf on any of the islands, but the Robert Trent Jones-designed course on St. Croix has star status.
  • To see Danish architecture at its best on St. Croix, explore Fort Christiansvaern, the Scalehouse, Government House and, especially, the Danish Customs House. The best example on St. Thomas is Government House in Charlotte Amalie.
  • Stroll through St. George Village Botanical Garden on St. Croix for a close-up look at the island’s astonishing flora. The past lingers in ruins of a great house and a garden featuring plants known to the earliest residents, the Arawaks.
  • Try your luck at Divi Carina Bay Casino on St. Croix. Or, gamble in one of the casinos on St. Thomas.
  • Tour the Cruzan Rum Distillery on St. Croix. Then, have a banana daiquiri; the real thing is made with Cruzan Rum.
  • Treat yourself to a scenic ride on St. Thomas, starting with Skyline Drive for its great views of the harbor, then heading to Mountain Top, the highest point on the island, for stunning views of Magens Bay, described as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism at www.visitusvi.com