You’re already in love with sailing the US Virgin Islands; you just don’t know it yet. Here, you can kayak the bioluminescent bays of St. Croix, dive the Cartanzar Senior wreck with eels and sharks, swim with hawksbill turtles in Isaac Bay and explore the 18th-century plantations reclaimed by St John’s kapok trees. Follow our seven-day itinerary to see the best of this Caribbean paradise.
Cruise with ease around this Caribbean archipelago by hiring a yacht for the day with SamBoat. Alternatively, book a week-long sailing adventure through Dream Yacht Charter.
Before heading over to meet your skipper at Compass Point Marina, be sure to spend a little time where you land in Charlotte Amalie, the (party) capital of the USVIs. Here, Carnival’s parades, food fairs and fireworks start in April and end in May, but your stay will be delightful whatever the season. Nearby Blackbeard’s Castle is one of the five National Historic Landmarks in the USVIs. Red-footed tortoises plod between wild white frangipanis on Hassel Island, just offshore. Wander Frenchtown and ponder your itinerary over an IPA at Frenchtown Brewing.
Water Island, just off Charlotte Amalie, offers excellent fish tacos and even better snorkeling on popular Honeymoon Beach. Alternatively, explore the underground chambers of World War II-era Fort Segarra. Striking west reveals serene anchorages like Fortuna Bay. Southwest are the terns, noddies and white-tailed tropicbirds of rocky Saba Island, the greatest avian haven in the USVIs. Rounding St. Thomas’ cay-spangled western tip, you’ll find Mermaid’s Chair, a ribbon of sand separating the Caribbean and the Atlantic. Sail east along the dramatic, rocky north coast, stop for unspoilt Inner Brass Island’s forests and reefs, then moor in the sandy serenity of Magens Bay.
Today is for snorkelers and beach lovers. Sail away from Magens Bay and head east to Coki Beach. Here, the sand is fine, but the snorkeling is finer. Visibility of up to 50ft (15m) is exactly what you want when surrounded by coral, trumpetfish, eels, rays and barracuda. The Lindquist and Sapphire beaches are less populated but equally biodiverse. Further east is the marina, stores and bars of Red Hook. Next, head for Cruz Bay on St. John and find a mooring ball in Christmas Cove, north of Fish Cay. Snorkel at the Stragglers and dive at Cow and Calf.
St. John’s north shore is wild and free. Protected by the Virgin Islands National Park, it’s all forest-fringed beaches, teeming reefs and pristine cays. Caneel Bay, Hawksnest Beach, Trunk Cay, Whistling Cay, Maho Bay – these sights are all on the must-see list. Make sure you visit Annaberg, the remains of an 18th-century Dutch sugar plantation. Offshore, you can snorkel with spotted rays and sea turtles around the lovely Watermelon Cay. Further east, the park keeps giving you eye-popping bays and beaches. Round Long Point and make for sheltered Coral Harbor. Its floating restaurant, Lime Out VI, makes for a fun few hours of cocktails and tacos.
Day five is for you open-water sailors. Pause to snorkel with filefish at Hurricane Hole, a unique mangrove and coral garden. Then sail south through the deeper waters of Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, and west to the Capella Islands. A wildlife refuge popular with sea turtles, this tiny archipelago demands exploration with flippers or a kayak. Next, traverse 30mi (48km) of open sea to Buck Island, just off St. Croix. Shallow coral grottos for snorkeling, trails for spotting leatherback turtles and two deep-diving sites beckon. A long day ends just south, at sheltered Salt River Bay.
Kayak Salt River Bay at night and marvel at its bioluminescence. This rare spectacle is caused by tiny plankton and cone jellyfish glowing neon blue. Leave the bay and head east for historic Christiansted. Tie up to explore the remains of this Dutch stronghold’s 18th- and 19th-century buildings; you’ve never seen anything like mustard-yellow Fort Christiansvaern. Tired of galley food? Try lime-coconut-steamed snapper at Galangal or flaky roti at no-frills Singh’s. Keep sailing east off the lightly developed coast to your prearranged berth at St. Croix Yacht Club, Teague Bay.
It’s east again to wild and lovely St. Croix East End Marine Park. The mix of mangrove, coral habitats and marine life here is the richest in the USVIs. Humpback whales cruise these waters between February and mid-April, while queen triggerfish and spotted trunkfish dart among staghorn coral. Round East Point for the calm waters and golden sands of secluded Isaac’s Bay, or more of the same at easternmost Sandy Point. If time allows, visit 18th-century Frederiksted, St. Croix’s sleepy second city. History buffs will love Fort Frederik’s stout scarlet walls, museum and seaward cannons.
Rather stay somewhere on dry land? Read our guide to the best villas in the US Virgin Islands, all bookable on Culture Trip.