Each of the three U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) has its own distinct personality, and together they offer travelers an extraordinary range of choices. Outgoing St. Thomas has an abundance of shopping and exuberant nightlife, while much of St. John is preserved as a national park. St. Croix, though neither as boisterous as St. Thomas nor as peaceful as St. John, will appeal to both shoppers and nature lovers.
U.S. Virgin Islands Basic Travel Information
Location: In the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, about 50 miles east of Puerto Rico
Size: 134 square miles. See Map
Capital: Charlotte Amalie
Language: English, some Spanish
Religions: Predominantly Baptist and Roman Catholic
Currency: U.S. dollar. Major credit cards and traveler's checks usually accepted.
Area Code: 340
Tipping: Tip porters $1 per bag. Tip 15-20% at restaurants; many add a service charge.
Weather: Daily highs average 77° degrees in winter and 82 in summer. Rainy season is September to November. Hurricane season is from August to November.
U.S. Virgin Islands Flag
Airports: Cyril E. King Airport, St. Thomas (Check Flights); Henry E. Rohlsen Airport, St. Croix (Check Flights)
U.S. Virgin Islands Activities and Attractions
Shopping is the biggest activity on St. Thomas, and thousands of cruise ship passengers disembark in Charlotte Amalie every day to do just that. Steep discounts on duty-free goods mean you can save up to 60 percent on some items. While St. Croix has superlative shopping in Frederiksted and Christiansted, its main attraction is Buck Island, a small island off the northeastern coast with underwater snorkeling trails. As for St. John, the serene island itself is the attraction, with almost two-thirds preserved as a national park.
U.S. Virgin Islands Beaches
St. Thomas has 44 beaches; its most famous, and one of the loveliest, is Magen's Bay. This public beach has plenty of facilities but does charge a fee. On St. John, Caneel Bay has a string of seven beaches. Trunk Bay, also on St. John, is known for its underwater snorkeling trail. Sandy Point on St. Croix is the U.S. Virgin Islands' biggest beach and a nesting ground for the endangered leatherback turtle; it's open to the public only on weekends. Buck Island National Monument, just off St. Croix's north shore, has excellent snorkeling.
Hotels and resorts in the U.S. Virgin Islands can be pricey. If you want to save money, book your stay as part of a package deal that includes airfare and lodging or travel in the off season, which runs from mid-April to mid-December. Staying in a guesthouse or a villa is another way to save. St. John’s premier resort, Caneel Bay, has no TVs or phones in the rooms, making it a great place to reconnect with nature. For a more glamorous setting, try The Buccaneer on St. Croix or the Marriott Frenchman’s Reef on St.
U.S. Virgin Islands Restaurants and Cuisine
As varied as the people who settled these islands, the cuisine of the U.S. Virgin Islands draws on African, Puerto Rican, and European influences. On St. Thomas, the Frenchtown area of Charlotte Amalie has some of the best dining; restaurants on St. Croix and St. John are concentrated in the main towns of Christianstad and Cruz Bay, respectively. Traditional dishes incorporate local spices, fruits, root vegetables, and seafood. Look for fresh fish like wahoo and mahimahi; callaloo, a soup made with leafy greens and flavored with pork and spices; curried goat; and sweet potato pie.
U.S. Virgin Islands Culture and History
Columbus discovered the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1493. During the 17th century, the three islands were divided between the English and the Danish. Slaves were imported from Africa to work the sugarcane fields. In 1917, the U.S. purchased the Danish islands. The culture combines American and Caribbean influences, incorporating musical traditions with African roots like reggae and calypso, as well as blues and jazz. Stories about spirits, or jumbies, are another popular local tradition.
U.S. Virgin Islands Events and Festivals
The St. Croix Crucian Christmas Festival, St. John's Fourth of July celebration and St. Thomas' annual Carnival are three of the most popular celebrations in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Newer additions to the annual event calendar include A Taste of St. Croix -- the island's big food fete -- and the Love City Live music festival on St. John.
U.S. Virgin Islands Nightlife
Skip St. John and head right to St. Thomas and St. Croix if you’re in search of nightlife. Both islands offer sports and wine bars, plus a variety of live music, casinos, dance clubs and local dives that serve up a mean rum punch -- on St. Thomas, Red Hook, the Fat Turtle at Yacht Haven, and Iggie's at Bolongo Bay are among the hot spots. On St. John, most of the action is in Cruz Bay.