U.S. Virgin Islands

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Population: 112,000 residents
Size: 134 square miles
Language: English (primary)

Destination
Discovered during Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the new world in 1493, the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) is located in the northern section of the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands. Made up of the four larger islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John, and Water Island, they were purchased by the United States in 1917. Previously the islands were maintained by the colonies of Denmark and other European entities and were islands with thriving sugar plantations and free ports of trade. Like its neighboring islands of the British Virgin Islands, the USVI are home to amazing white sandy beaches, vibrant colors, and the refreshing breezes of the Caribbean Sea.

The scenery of the USVI is stunning with lush mountains and palm tree fringed beaches that fringe the shores of these islands. Relaxing on a sun soaked beach, snorkelling, parasailing, kayaking, and other water sports are popular activities.

USVI’s culture is uniquely Caribbean-American. However you will find the cultural influence of the Danish heritage reflected in the charming town of Charlotte Amalie as a result of their control of the islands for centuries. Like many of the islands of the Caribbean, it is an amazing experience to take in the local culture, heritage, and architecture of these European provinces blended into a Caribbean paradise backdrop. The rhythms of the USVI is definitely Caribbean with the festive sounds of calypso and reggae, however many other genres of music can be heard such ad Latin, jazz, and even current American hits.

 

When to go
The USVI has a climate that is fairly consistent throughout the year with minimal season changes. While tropical, the islands climate is tempered by the easterly trade winds and relatively low humidity. You will find that June, July, and August tend to be the hottest months with temperatures in the mid 80’s Fahrenheit. During the cooler months of December through February the temperatures will moderate to the upper 70’s Fahrenheit. Unlike some tropical destination, the USVI does not experience a distinct rainy season. However the rainiest months do tend to be August through November. Keep in mind the typically hurricane season is from June to November.

With the most visitors coming to the islands during the months of December to the middle of April, you should be prepared during this time to make reservations in advance. The off season could be looked at as between April until December. If visiting the USVI during the off season, you will be able to take advantage of the less crowded beaches and attractions, however some of the local shops may be closed for the season of have limited hours. If it’s a slow pace beach vacation you are looking for with perhaps more personal attention from the locals, this is a perfect time to go.

 

Sun, Sand, Sea & Shopping
usvi_charlotte_amalieShops along the streets Charlotte Amalie are housed in restored 18th century warehouses that once were used to store produce and were the premiere port of the New World. Back then these warehouse building stored items that were shipped back to Europe such as sugar, rum, and Caribbean spices. Today they are home to some of the most talked about duty free shops in the Caribbean. Everything from local attire, latest electronics, and exquisite jewelry that rivals some of the finest shops in Paris and New York can be found in St. Thomas’ shopping district. It is why St. Thomas has become the most popular cruise ship port in the Caribbean. St. Thomas’ best shopping buys include perfume, jewellery, cameras, alcohol, china & crystal, clothing, and watches. Be sure to look between the main streets, the alley offer some addition shopping gems with small smalls filled with additional boutiques...don’t miss out on these! Be sure to dress appropriately when shopping, locals tend to give a warmer reception to those that are not clothed in their beach attire. Be sure you haggle on the price. Many shops will work for your business so give it a try...there are plenty of other shops to choose from.

usvi_fort_christianJust a few blocks from St. Thomas’ shopping experience of Main Street, also known as Dronningens Gade, you will find a real historical gem known as Fort Christian. Construction began on the fort back in 1671 by the Danish. The building symbolizes the beauty and style of the Danish architecture, and today houses a museum that showcases the islands history and culture.

If it’s a better view that you desire, then consider taking an aerial cable car ride to the top of Paradise Point. Just an 8 minute one-way ride, you will find yourself lofted nearly 700 feet above sea level to what is clearly the most incredible sightseeing opportunity in the Virgin Islands. It’s not just an amazing view of the pearl blue sea that surrounds you, there are great shops, shows, and a festive bar awaiting to serve you lunch with a incredible panoramic view of the harbor and nearby islands.

usvi_underwater_exploratory

One of the greatest water attractions in St. Thomas is the 5 acre Coral World Ocean Park. This excursion offers the unique experience to become close with the underwater world of the Caribbean and learn about the delicate life that makes its home here at the undersea observatory. The observatory will take you by way of a bridge 100 feet off shore and nearly 15 feet down to the depths of the coral reef. You can pet a stingray, Snuba dive with a helmet, or just lounge on the beach with refreshments just a few steps away at the sand bar. Located near Coki Beach they are open seasonally so be sure to check the schedule before planning your trip. This is an excellent outing for families with children or those that love marine life.

A visit to the luscious white beaches of the USVI is a must do for anyone that is visiting. With so many beauty beaches complimented by the calm, blue Caribbean warm waters, it can be a real challenge to decide where to start. Whichever you choose, since the islands are small, a great beach choice is never far away and can be a short drive. Here is a few suggestions to get you pointed in the right direction:

St. Thomas
usvi_magens_bayMagens Bay is always a great choice and continues to be St. Thomas’ most popular sun drenched beach. While this location can get rather crowded on ship days, it is for good reason. Magens Bay beach has a full complement of amenities such as a snack bar, snorkel outfitter, beach shops, showers/bathhouses, and small sailboat rental. Weekends and holidays bring an even livelier atmosphere to the beach as the locals come to party and have a good time. The calm protected waters and flat sandy bottoms makes it ideal for swimming and families of small children.

 Near Coral World Ocean Park, is Coki Point Beach known for is crystal clear water which are ideal for snorkeling. Here you will find thousands of vibrant rainbow colored fish swimming among the beautiful corals. The beach also offers beautiful panoramic views.

 St. John
usvi_trunk_bayTrunk Bay is the hot spot on St. John. Like that of Magens Bay beach, Trunk Bay can become crowded on ship days but you can find some solitude at the extreme end of this beach. One of the unique attractions to this beach is the underwater trail that is marked with exploratory marking along the beaches water. This beach too offer full amenities of shops, gear rental, snack bars, and bathhouses.

 

Dining & Nightlife
Caribbean food is a unique cuisine and that is no exception in the USVI. The dining experience is influenced by many cultures that have settled in the region and is heavily focused on seafood. You will find an upscale flavor to the cuisine in the USVI that have been influenced by the many large hotels and resorts which have attracted top chefs from around the world. Some classic atmospheres can be found in Charlotte Amalie and Frenchtown. Frenchtown is located about a half-mile southwest of Charlotte Amalie and is popular with tourists and locals alike for its restaurants and bars. Be sure to look for those located up in the hillsides for an amazing panoramic view to compliment your dining experience. Some of our recommended choices for dining are:

Ship Wreck Tavern, St Thomas. (Just a short walk from the pier for cruise passengers)
Great spot for a quick beer and burger.
Havana Blue, St Thomas.
Rum Runners, St Croix. Voted St. Croix People’s Choice several years running.
Sunday Brunch has live steel pan music

St. John is not as well known for its nightlife as its neighbors of St. Thomas and St. Croix. It is St. Thomas that takes the title of party child among its siblings with lively entertainment in both Charlotte Amalie and Frenchtown. Many of your large resorts and hotels on both St. Thomas and St. Croix will offer entertainment that will carry on late into the Caribbean night. Many would say much of the recent action has shifted from Charlotte Amalie into the locals favorite of the Frenchtown. Currently there are not any casinos on St. Thomas but there is one on St. Croix.