Top 10 Things to See and Do in the US Virgin Islands

| © Rhonda/flickr
Kris Pethick

The three main islands of the US Virgin Islands archipelago are St Thomas, St John and St Croix, and all three are their own unique paradise. Vacation in the lap of luxury on St Thomas amidst yachts and Louis Vuitton. If you are a nature lover, St John is the island for you with over 7,000 acres of preserved land. If you head through the Atlantic and enter the Caribbean, you will come to St Croix where you can step back in time and learn much more about the history of the region. Five-star resorts to hostels, gourmet dining to street food, Cartier to handmade baubles, the US Virgin Islands has it all.

1. Coral World Ocean Park

Aquarium, Park

Start with the 45-minute guided tour during which an aquarium employee will show and explain all of the exhibits and introduce you to their varied sea and wild life. After that, you will want to add every other excursion possible: Sea Trek, Sea Lion Swim, Sea Lion Encounter, Turtle Encounter, Shark Encounter, Semi Submarine and SNUBA. Coral World Ocean Park is also a beautiful setting for a wedding and reception.

Coral World Ocean Park, 6450 Coki Point, St Thomas, USVI +1 340-775-1555

Blue coral | © Ed Ralph/Flickr

Beaches

The location of the US Virgin Islands provides access to the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the south. The water is turquoise tranquility and the sand is soft and white. If you are looking for surfing, check out Hull Bay Beach on the north side of St Thomas, where the Atlantic gives you better waves, or Sapphire Beach on the calmer south coast. On St John, go to Cinnamon Bay or Caneel Bay if you are more interested in water sports, and if you are looking for a more reserved beach day, visit Salt Pond Bay and spend the day with the wild donkeys. Cane Bay Beach is the favorite spot on St Croix.

Sapphire Beach, St Thomas

2. Annaberg Sugar Plantation

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© Everett Carrico/flickr

The original inhabitants of the Virgin Islands were the Ciboney, Arawaks and Caribs, but then Christopher Columbus visited in 1493 and eventually these people were used as slaves to first clear the foliage to build the sugar plantations and then to plant, harvest and process the sugar cane. After slavery was abolished, the 518 acres were divided up into smaller farms. Annaberg is the remains of one of these sugar plantations on St John. You can tour the site where there are remains of the factory, the windmill and slave cabins. The US National Park Service has put up signs to provide information on your self-guided tour.

Annaberg Sugar Plantation, St John, USVI

Annaberg Sugar Plantation, St John | © Everett Carrico/Flickr

Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve

Established by the United States Congress in 1992 and also maintained by the US National Park Service, Salt River Bay National Park and Ecological Preserve provides a safe environment for many threatened and endangered species and to visitors offers the opportunity to experience these and other marine wildlife. History buffs like to visit this national park as the landing site of Columbus in 1493.

Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, 2100 Church St, St Croix, USVI +1 340-773-1460

Aerial view of Salt River Bay, St Croix

Hiking

Beyond the surfing and swimming and other water sports, adventurers can also hike some beautiful trails in the USVIs. Each of the three islands has trails that are well-groomed or ones that are for the more rugged traveler. Check out Reef Bay Trail on St John where you will find rivers and waterfalls. On St Thomas, Magens Bay Trail is an exhilarating tropical hike. If you are heading to St Croix, contact the St Croix Hiking Association for suggestions on the best trails.

3. Phantasea Tropical Botanical Garden

Botanical Garden, Shop

You will find some of the most breathtaking flowers and plants at the Phantasea Tropical Botanical Garden on St Thomas. If you are a gardener or just love the beauty of nature, this is a must-visit for you. There is also a small gift shop and some plants are for sale, but check on customs regulations before purchasing.

Phantasea Tropical Botanical Garden, St Thomas, USVI +1 340-774-2916

Passion flower found on Virgin Islands | © tdlucas5000/Flickr

4. Fort Christiansvaern

Park

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© US Department of the Interior/flickr

The US National Park Service works diligently to preserve so many sites in the Virgin Islands, and Fort Christiansvaern is yet another one of these parks. According to their website, “No place in the Caribbean still demonstrates the architectural, economic, and political influence of Europe like Christiansted National Historic Site. Come wander through 18th century buildings in one the Caribbean’s few urban parks. It is a unique experience that you will never forget.”

Fort Christiansvaern, Hospital St, Christiansted, St Croix, USVI +1 340-773-1460

Superintendent Joel Tutein Fort Christiansvaern at Christiansted NHS | © US Department of the Interior/Flickr

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

The US Virgin Islands are home to some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving spots in the world. According to Frommer’s, the best snorkeling spots are Coki Point Beach on St Thomas and Maho Bay, Hurricane Hole, Waterlemon Cay/Leinster Bay and Haulover Bay, St John. St Croix has a couple good spots at Cane Bay and Buck Island, which is off of St Croix. Some great diving spots are Cow and Calf Rocks on St Thomas and The Cane Bay Wall, St Croix.

Sea turtle at Maho Bay, St John, USVI

5. Shopping Main Street - St. Thomas

As a hub for many cruise lines, Main Street of St Thomas in the capital of Charlotte Amalie is a shopper’s paradise. Shoppers peruse hundreds of duty-free shops where luxury items like jewelry, crystal and perfume can be purchased, but of course that is not all. Plan a day of shopping and eating up and down the streets and alleys of Charlotte Amalie.

Main Street, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, USVI

Dining

All that beautiful ocean and sea means an abundance of fish and seafood. On St Thomas fall for Hook, Line and Sinker by trying not only their seafood like the lobster curry, but have that cheeseburger in paradise here. While visiting St John, go to Cruz Bay and feast on the Caribbean fusion cusine at Morgan’s Mango. On St Croix you must try the chicken and johnnycakes at La Reine Chicken Shack.

Fresh hot johnnycakes

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