Think of your ideal paradise – the US Virgin Islands comes pretty close. From swim-up bars in Coral Harbor to craft breweries on St Thomas, these are the top watering holes in the Caribbean archipelago.
Just 64km (40mi) east of Puerto Rico, you’ll find the US Virgin Islands, a string of white-sand beaches and tropical coral reefs in the Caribbean Sea. Beyond the palm trees and turquoise water, it’s also home to some cracking bars, serving cold beers, frozen margaritas and, of course, the legendary Painkiller cocktail. From nature-rich St John to cruising-hub St Thomas, here’s our pick.
This much-loved watering hole in downtown Charlotte Amalie takes the same approach to service and drinks as it does with its naming – simple and honest. You’ll find it housed beneath the arches of a handsome colonial building; take a pew outside for excellent people-watching. Try the local-favourite Painkiller, made with rum, pineapple, orange, coconut and grated nutmeg. In a hurry? Grab a drink and a shrimp taco to go.
The Longboard is a funky, modern take on a beach bar, with steel ceiling fans, a honeycomb-tiled bar and terrazzo countertops in shades of turquoise and gleaming white. Light, healthy food includes poke bowls, ceviche and tacos made with locally caught seafood, along with fruit and greens from across the islands. Cocktails are inspired by coastal regions around the globe, using ingredients such as grilled pineapple, fresh grapefruit and local Thai basil. The house drink? A frozen Painkiller, of course.
Looking for a place to party? Visit Dinghy’s Beach Bar and Grill. It practically has this moon-shaped stretch of sand to itself, which is handy because when the live music kicks off, things can get a little rowdy. Expect licence plates nailed to a tree, surfboards staked in the sand and a seemingly ownerless dog happily wandering around. Catch a water taxi over and make a day of it.
Stylishly barnacled walls and seagrass lampshades add a chic grotto feel to this otherwise pared-back, modern bar. Craft cocktails and local tinctures attract a hip crowd and feature ingredients such as charred grapefruit-infused tequila, dragon fruit vodka and caramelised banana rum. Try the Soursop Colada, topped with chocolate bitters. Feeling peckish? Tuck into a sushi wrap or flash-fried calamari with garlic aioli.
You have to love a bar that serves its burgers and chicken wings in foil – no messing around. The Tap and Still’s appeal lies in its holy trinity of burgers, booze and beer, with most of the craft beer brewed on the island at the Rock City Brewing Company. So, pull up a chair overlooking the American Yacht Harbor in Red Hook, and watch the waterfront bustle with a pint of Hull Bay Beach Lager.
Duffy’s Love Shack describes itself as “the best parking lot bar in the world”, giving some indication of the light-hearted vibes inside. It’s true – this bamboo-and-thatch bar is in a parking lot. Here, tiki is alive and well; it’s not so much what you drink but what you drink out of. Plastic dinosaur? Check. Coconut? Of course. Fishbowl, hula girl ceramic cup, goldfish or skull? Duffy’s has them all. Order the Thar She Blows, a lethal combination of rum, coconut liqueur, Galliano and orange.
Skinny Legs was named after the founders, Moe and Dougie, who opened the bar in 1991 – the logo is modelled on the pair’s real twig-like legs. It’s very much a family-friendly joint, with kids playing in the backyard while the adults enjoy a cold one on the terrace. Juicy, high-quality beef burgers are dished out, alongside shaken house drinks – no pneumatic drill-style blenders to disrupt your afternoon here. Favourites include the Pink Razz Lemonade, made with raspberry rum.
Looking for somewhere to stay while you’re here? Book into one of the best hotels in the US Virgin Islands with Culture Trip. And for more inspiration, check out our list of the best things to see and do.
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