Secret Beaches and Coves in the US Virgin Islands You Can Only Reach by Boat

The US Virgin Islands have some really incredible secret beaches and coves to discover
The US Virgin Islands have some really incredible secret beaches and coves to discover | © Larry Malvin / Alamy
Photo of Robert Curley
3 November 2021
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The US Virgin Islands have some of the best beaches in the Caribbean. When you want the only footprints on the sand to be your own, however, set sail to this collection of secret US Virgin Island beaches and coves accessible only by sea. Here’s our pick of the best.

Spend a day discovering the blissful beaches and coves by chartering a yacht with SamBoat. Or, take longer to explore more when you hire a vessel with Dream Yacht Charter.

Christmas Cove, Great St James

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Snorkeling in Christmas Cove, on St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, Caribbean
© Susan E Degginger / Alamy
On the west side of the Great St James Island, Christmas Cove is a popular anchorage – a short sail from the marinas at Red Hook and Charlotte Amalie. The bluest of waters lure swimmers and snorkelers happy to spot conch and sea turtles, particularly around the island’s southern point, known as the Stragglers. Hungry? Place an order with Pizza Pi, a floating pizza restaurant anchored in the cove.

Turtle Beach, Buck Island, St Croix

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Two people snorkelling on Buck Island Reef National Monument, US Virgin Islands
© BA LaRue / Alamy
Lying 1.5mi (2.4km) off the northeast coast of St Croix, uninhabited Buck Island offers more than palm trees and white sand – the Buck Island Reef National Monument protects the island and its surrounding waters home to a vital ecosystem. Charter yachts make daily runs here from Christiansted Harbor, but you can also sail a private boat to hike, follow an underwater snorkel trail over the reef or picnic on the broad sands of Turtle Beach.

Hassel Island, St Thomas Harbour

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A Catamaran sailing by Garrison House at Fort Willoughby on Hassel Island, St Thomas, in the US Virgin Islands
© Zoonar / Alamy
This historic dot in the middle of Charlotte Amalie Harbor was once a peninsula connected to the western edge of St Thomas. The short paddle across the channel from Frenchtown reveals ruins from early 19th-century English fortifications – along with a former marine railway, hiking trails to old British and Danish forts and several small beaches offering the winning combination of swimming and snorkelling.

Mermaid’s Chair Beach, St Thomas

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A splash of waves at Mermaids Chair on St Thomas, in the US Virgin Islands, Caribbean
© Foap AB / Alamy
Mermaid’s Chair is a slender strip of sand on the western tip of St Thomas, forming a heavenly connection between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. You can come on foot via a rugged, 3.6mi (5.8km) hike through a private community, but most people arrive by boat to enjoy this secluded beach facing the calm waters of Sandy Bay. Check your tide charts, though – the narrow beach can sometimes become covered at high tide.

Waterlemon Cay, St John

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A young hawksbill sea turtle swims among the coral in Waterlemon Cay on the island of St John in the US Virgin Islands
© Matt May / Alamy
This tiny photogenic dot of land in Leinster Bay sits in the middle of a spectacular coral reef creating excellent snorkelling. Thanks to the protection offered by Virgin Islands National Park, these waters are full of sea turtles and other marine life. Back on dry land, hikers love the trail around the bay – perfect for exploring the nearby Annaberg Plantation ruins.

Henley Cay, St John

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An aerial view of Henley Cay, St John in the US Virgin Islands
© Panther Media / Alamy
The shallow waters surrounding this small island near Caneel Bay provide excellent visibility for snorkelling over tropical reefs teeming with corals and colourful fish – be mindful of the current, which is strong at times. Soak up the serenity of Scott Beach after a hike around the island, where plantation owners sent their families during the 1733 slave revolt. The wreckage of a plane that crashed here in the 1940s – flown by the then owner’s son – is still visible at the highest point.

Hans Lollik Island, St Thomas

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A view over Hans Lollik and Little and Great Tobago from St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands
© Wildfiles / Alamy
Great Hans Lollik and Little Hans Lollik are a pair of privately owned, uninhabited islands in Coconut Bay. Great Hans Lollik – the larger of the two – is home to Coconut Beach, a golden crescent-shaped beach with excellent snorkelling in clear waters in a remote setting despite being just off the coast of St Thomas. Little Hans Lollik has a small, sandy beach that’s even less visited.

Genti Bay, St John

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The Reef Bay Sugar Mill Ruins on St John, US Virgin Islands
© Jonathan Mauer / Alamy
The 5mi (8km) Reef Bay Trail is one of the best hikes in the Virgin Island National Park – a rugged path that leads past petroglyphs and the ruins of a sugar mill before reaching uninhabited Genti Bay. Most hikers arrange pickup by boat in the bay rather than facing the long uphill hike back to the trailhead – but if you’re one of the two-day moorings in the bay, enjoy the short stroll to the Reef Bay Sugar Mill ruins, just behind the beach.

Spend a day discovering the blissful beaches and coves by chartering a yacht with SamBoat. Or, take longer to explore more when you hire a vessel with Dream Yacht Charter.

These recommendations were updated on November 3, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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