The most effective issues to do within the US Virgin Islands: secret seashores, spiced rum and Caribbean delicacies

The US Virgin Islands (USVI) could also be an American territory, but it surely feels a world away when you end up splayed throughout a pristine seaside, bobbing your head to reggae rhythms and tossing again yet one more painkiller (the rum-heavy cocktail, not the tablets!).

Composed of about 50 islands, you’ll invariably find yourself on one of many primary three: St Thomas, St John and St Croix. St Thomas is the beating coronary heart of the USVI with all of the purchasing, eating and flashy sights you’d count on from one of the vital in style ports of name within the Caribbean. Practically two-thirds of neighboring St John, in the meantime, is protected against improvement by the Virgin Islands Nationwide Park, making it a far quieter haven attractive hikers, snorkelers and sun-worshippers in equal measure.

St Croix, marooned 44 miles (70km) to the south, feels much less made-for-tourists than the opposite Virgins with a powerful native id and a thriving culinary scene. Under, we have a look at a number of the finest causes to go to all three.

Prepared to start out planning? Join our weekly publication and get 20% off your subsequent guidebook.

Discover your individual secluded slice of paradise

Practically each vacationer to the USVI thinks they should go to the marquee seashores featured prominently on all of the vacationer maps – particularly Trunk Bay on St John and Magens Bay on St Thomas. Positive, they’re stunning, however they’re usually heaving with cruise ship crowds. Additionally they price cash to go to when nearly each different seaside round is free. Skip the crowds and go to close by spots favored by locals which can be equally alluring, together with the palm-lined Maho Bay on St John or the surfer hangout Hull Bay on St Thomas.

Every island has its personal Carnival all year long and its price planning your journey round at the least one © EAGiven / Getty Pictures

Plan your journey round Carnival

The shimmering sounds of metal pans, the competing clatter of meals vehicles and the technicolor feathers of masquerade outfits are all telltale indicators that the month-long Carnival season has arrived within the USVI. Every island celebrates at a special time of 12 months, with St Thomas kicking issues off in April with the territory’s largest fete, adopted by St John in June and St Croix in December. Timing your journey round considered one of these festivals will provide you with the perfect appreciation of the native West Indian tradition because the streets burst to life with calypso music, jumbie dancing (expert stilt dancers stated to chase away evil spirits), and lavish parades.

Discover historic forts in Christiansted and Charlotte Amalie

The Virgin Islands traded palms so usually in the course of the colonial period that the Spanish, French, English, Dutch and Danish all planted flags earlier than the US bought them from the latter in 1917 for $25 million in gold. The legacy of this colonization is right this moment most prevalent within the Danish fortifications that stay, together with the red-brick Fort Christian within the harbor of Charlotte Amalie, which dates to 1672, and the dandelion-yellow Fort Christiansværn within the harbor of Christiansted, which dates to 1738. Each now maintain museums that inform the historical past of the enslaved Africans who constructed them and the European armies they housed.

Discover the ruins at Leinster Bay

The Annaberg Plantation in St John’s Leinster Bay holds essentially the most intact sugar plantation ruins within the Virgin Islands, which as soon as held over 600 enslaved individuals captive. Now a part of the nationwide park, it contains info panels that describe the complicated historical past of the island, from the violent displacement of Indigenous individuals to European settlement and the trafficking of enslaved African individuals in the course of the sugar increase of the 18th and 19th centuries. After exploring the ruins, hike the Leinster Bay Path over to Waterlemon Cay and funky off within the crystal-clear waters.

An overhead view of four people scuba diving in the ocean surrounding St. Croix, US Virgin Islands
The crystal clear waters round St Croix are good for snorkeling and diving © Glowimages / Getty Pictures

Dive the world-famous Cane Bay Wall

The Cane Bay Wall plunges off the north shore of St Croix from 12m to over 4023m (40ft to over 13,200ft), with each sheer vertical drops and sluggish sloping areas that make for a number of the most incredible scuba diving within the Caribbean. As you descend, look forward to finding a rainbow of corals and sponges, in addition to eels, nurse sharks, noticed eagle rays, seahorses and colleges of tropical fish. Better of all, there aren’t any boats required – you can begin your dive from the shore.

Gallery-hop in Cruz Bay

St John has all the time had an artier attraction than its neighboring islands, which is finest skilled on a gallery hop by means of Cruz Bay. Begin at Bajo el Sol in Mongoose Junction, which is a hybrid bookstore, rum bar and artwork gallery that includes native painters and potters. Examine the web site for frequent occasions, resembling e-book signings or documentary screenings, centered on Caribbean themes. Different galleries price a cease embrace Coconut Coast Studios and St John VI Pottery (in Coral Bay) and Mango Tango throughout the bay on St Thomas.

Skip the vacationer eating places and check out conventional West Indian delicacies

Forgo the ever-present pizza and burger spots and pattern Caribbean staples resembling conch fritters, jerk rooster or callaloo soup at low-key West Indian eating places like Gladys’ Café in Charlotte Amalie, the place chef Gladys is as well-known for her cooking as her singing. Over on St John, Uncle Joe’s is a legendary spot in Cruz Bay for its Caribbean barbecue, with fall-off-the-bone ribs or juicy rooster served alongside beneficiant scoops of coleslaw or macaroni salad. Vegans rave about Ital in Paradise, a tiny eatery in Christiansted serving two every day plates in tune with the plant-based Rastafarian eating regimen. Additionally in Christiansted, Singh’s Quick Meals presents stewed goat or curried conch – all wrapped up in Trinidadian-style roti rolls (form of like a Caribbean burrito!).

Search for petroglyphs on the Reef Bay Path

Little proof stays of the Indigenous Taíno, who occupied these islands earlier than the arrival of Europeans within the 1500s. Nevertheless, on a 5-km (3-mi) hike down the Reef Bay Path on St John, you’ll get the possibility to identify a collection of historical petroglyphs they carved over a thousand years in the past. Formed like human faces with swirling eyes, they rise alongside a rock wall above a mirrored image pond deep within the old-growth forest. This backcountry path additionally passes the ruins of a Danish sugar plantation and a waterfall that rages within the wet season (Might to November).

A young woman is paddle boarding off the coast of the US Virgin Islands
You may all the time get round by boat however paddleboarding is simply far more enjoyable © Getty Pictures / iStockphoto

Kayak right into a bioluminescent bay

St Croix is residence to not one however two of the Caribbean’s uncommon bioluminescent bays – essentially the most well-known of which lies within the Salt River Bay Nationwide Historic Park (which can be the one documented place the place Christopher Columbus landed on US soil). By day, the mangrove forests listed here are a incredible place to discover by kayak or paddleboard. However the perfect time to e-book a tour is after darkish when the water lights up like a Christmas tree when disturbed due to excessive concentrations of bioluminescent micro-organisms known as dinoflagellates.

Tour the Cruzan Rum Distillery

In case your concept of a tropical trip entails piña coladas, daiquiris and mojitos, then a go to to the Cruzan Rum Distillery on St Croix is a should. Not solely are you able to pattern rum and replenish on provides, however you can too study concerning the historical past of rum-making within the Virgin Islands (it dates to 1760), the method of turning molasses right into a golden spirit, and a few recipe concepts for making native cocktails again on the lodge, together with the bushwacker or the painkiller. Not a rum fan? Search for bottles of Arc Vodka, which is hand made in Charlotte Amalie by a pair of St Thomians who had been fed up with all of the rum-guzzling pirate stereotypes perpetuated throughout the Caribbean.

Volunteer on an natural farm

At Ridge to Reef, you may sleep in a solar-powered cabin on an organic-certified farm within the rainforest of St Croix and study its objective of feeding 1% of the Virgin Islands inhabitants wholesome, native meals (principally by means of faculty lunches). Day guests can seize a self-guided interpretive map and tour the luxurious grounds, replete with Community Supported Agriculture fields, a tilapia pond and extra. Overnighters can get their palms soiled by volunteering within the discipline and cooking up their yield within the off-grid group kitchen.

The most effective of Caribbean islands

Sail to a floating restaurant

Positive, floating eating places could also be a gimmick, however who doesn’t need to chow down on pizza or tacos whereas their toes dangle within the Caribbean at a swim-up bar? On St Thomas, Pizza Pi serves a number of the territory’s finest New York-style pies as you snorkel with fish and turtles within the protected waters of Christmas Cove. Over in Coral Harbor, on St John, Lime Out whips up tacos and craft cocktails from a Caribbean-style cottage on pontoons. Each are accessible solely by boat, although a number of constitution corporations embrace them on itineraries.

Benefit from the welcoming vibe of Frederiksted

The Caribbean isn’t recognized for being a very welcoming place for the LGBTIQ+ group, however St Croix likes to think about itself as an exception. Its second metropolis of Frederiksted has develop into an LGBTIQ+ haven with gay-friendly adults-only lodges like Sand Fort on the Seashore and The Fred luring each singles and {couples} with their inclusive setting. The string of sandy coves north of Frederiksted, together with the aptly named Rainbow Seashore, are among the many prettiest on the island, whereas the bars downtown are well-known for his or her welcoming environment.

Take a day journey to the British Virgin Islands

Guests to St Thomas and particularly St John usually constitution boats for journeys to the close by British Virgin Islands, which require a passport for American vacationers not like the USVI. The seaside bars of White Bay (together with Soggy Greenback and Cunning’s) are the most well-liked cease, usually after a day spent snorkeling at Sandy Cay or suntanning on the uninhabited Sandy Spit. The Baths, a set of sky-high beachfront boulders on Virgin Gorda, is one other spotlight that’s usually mixed with a cease to snorkel the caves on close by Norman Island.