US Virgin Islands Holidays – Tours & Adventures Travel Guide
“Lured by the pristine white beaches and azure waters surrounding these islands, the US Virgin Islands has been one of the principal stopovers for Cruise ships in the Caribbean. These islands are one of the few islands that offer visitors scenic panoramic views, cultural heritage, escape from the bitter cold of winter, water sports and the safety of being in a US territory all in one location. Once a dominion of several European countries, the US Virgin Islands beauty is not only in its diverse cultural heritage but also what lies under the crystal clear blue waters off its coastline. Nowhere is tranquillity and utopia closer to the heart than the exotic Virgin Islands.”
US Virgin Islands Holidays Highlights
History & Culture - Initially inhabited by the Arawaks and Carib Amerindians, the US Virgin Islands were formerly a dominion of not just Spain but also the French, English and Danish. Today, the three main islands, St Croix, St John and St Thomas come under the jurisdiction of the United States as an unincorporated territory. The unique and diverse culture of the Islands can be witnessed not only in the architecture of the “Old World” nations but as well as in the Arts, Cuisine, Quelbe Music and Language of the Islands.
The fusion of the Amerindians, African and European cultures is what produces the distinctive and alluring blend Caribbean culture on St Croix. This is most evident in the various cultural events and fiestas celebrated throughout the year on this island.
St John, a former Danish colony, was a major exporter of sugar cane during the 1700s. Here, the influences left by the Arawaks can be found in the rock cravings along Reef Bay trail, whilst the former splendor and cruelty of the colonial masters can be observed at the restored ruins of Annaberg Plantation.
The smallest of the three islands, St Thomas houses one of the oldest synagogues to be found in the Western Hemisphere, a testament to the influences of the Jews that came to this island.
St Croix - Although a territory under the jurisdiction under the United States, unlike Puerto Rico, St Croix greatest influences to its culture come from Africa. The imported African slaves not only brought industry to the island but also their beliefs, celebrations, traditions and their cuisines as well.
One of the clearest manifestations of the African influence is the “Mocko Jumbies” stilt dancers. St Croix culture can be most clearly observed through the island’s cultural events held yearly. To get a glimpse of these rich traditions, then witness the month long Crucian Christmas Festival that starts the week before the Christmas celebration.
For the Golf aficionados, they can test their skills at the Robert Trent Jones designed Carambola Golf Course. The par 72 golf course feature nearly 100 bunkers and provide a true test of any golfer who tee off at the greens here.
Those wishing to experience the touch of the azure water can visit the Buck Island Reef National Monument. The 850 acres of Marine Park provides some of the best diving experiences in the world largely due to the spectacular wall diving.
With its numerous white sand beaches like Cane Bay Beach, Davis Bay and Protestant Cay, St Croix has also a wide host of water sports to cater for even the most discerning visitors. The world’s most famous rum producer is also located on this island. The Cruzan Rum Distillery is one of the largest suppliers of rum in the world. Visitors to the distillery can get a taste of the remarkably smooth rum here.
The other places of interest on St Croix include:
- Apothecary Hall Museum
- Buddhoe Park
- Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts
- Estate Whim Plantation Museum
- Fort Christiansvaern
- Fort Frederik
- Friedensthal “Valley of Peace” Moravian Church and Manse
- Government House
- Holy Cross Catholic Church
- Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
- Lawaetz Family Museum
- Lord God of Sabaoth Lutheran Church
- Oscar E. Henry Customs House
- St. George Village Botanical Garden
- St. John’s Anglican Church
- St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church
- St. Paul’s Anglican Church
- St. Paul’s Episcopal Anglican Church
- Steeple Building
- Moravian Mission at Friedensthal
- Scale House
- Cane Bay Beach
- Chenay Bay Beach
- Salt River Bay National Historic Park - Columbus Landing
- Cramer's Park
- Davis Bay
- Dorsch Beach
- Frederiksted Beach
- Grape Tree Beach
- Mermaid Beach
- Protestant Cay
- Rainbow Beach
- Reef Beach
- Sand Castle Beach
- Sandy Point
- Shoy’s Beach
- Sprat Hall
- Tamarind Beach
- The Grotto
St Croix’s Unique Sites:
- Buck Island
- Mt. Pelier Domino Club
- Point Udall
- Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute (VISFI)
St John - The gentle and friendly nature of the people of St John can be clearly seen in their eagerness to share their culture and history to those who come and visit the island of St John. The Elaine Lone Sprauve Library and Museum situated near Cruz bay allows visitors to view Artworks, Photographs and Newspaper articles depicting this island’s rich history.
The now restored Annaberg Sugar Plantation also provides an excellent insight into the culture of the people here. Beside hosting concerts, exhibitions and handicrafts fairs, the grounds of the plantation, the Annaberg Historic Trail bear testimony to the rich agricultural past of the this island. Visitors wishing to get a glimpse of Pre Colombian history can visit the Reef Bay Trail in the Virgin Islands national Park. Here Petroglyphs or rock cravings of the Arawaks Amerindians can be observed along the trail.
Those into archaeological attractions can join the scientists at Cinnamon Bay’s archaeological dig and partake in the uncovering of the ritual activity of the Tainos and the Danish plantation ruins.
The main sites of interest on St John include:
- Cinnamon Bay
- Francis Bay
- Hawksnest Beach
- Honeymoon Beach
- Jumbie Bay
- Leinster Bay
- Maho Bay
- Salt Pond Bay
- Trunk Bay
Gardens & Parks:
- Pastory Gardens (Botanical Gardens)
- National Park Visitor Center
- Annaberg Sugar Plantation Ruins
- Elaine Ione Sprauve Library & Museum
- Peace Hill Ruins
- Reef Bay Trail & Petroglyphs
St Thomas - Although small in stature with just an area of 32 square miles, St Thomas cultural and historical heritage alone is worth the visit to this enchanting Island. Visitors to this island can view the oldest standing building in the US Virgin Island, Fort Christian. The Fort, a U.S. National Landmark, also houses the Virgin Islands Museum where old maps and memorabilia tracing back the island’s history are kept.
On the island is also Market Square, once one of the busiest 18th century slave markets of the Caribbean. The oldest synagogue in the United States as well as in the Western Hemisphere, the Synagogue of Beracha Veshalom Vegmiluth Hasidim is located on St Thomas as well. Today, worshippers still use the synagogue.
At Government Hill, overlooking Charlotte Amalie, is Blackbeard's Castle. The 17th-century fortified tower, known as Skytsborg during the colonial times, is relic of the powers that was in the West Indies. The 99 steps of Charlotte Amalie is also a must visit for those intrigued by the history of this island. The bricks used here were formerly ballast of British and Danish Ships.
Notable attractions on the island of St Thomas include:
- Bolongo Bay
- Brewer’s Bay
- Coki Beach
- Hull Bay
- Lindbergh Bay
- Lindquist Beach
- Magens Bay
- Morning Star Beach
- Sapphire Beach
- Secret Harbour Beach
- 99 Steps (Total numbers of steps are actually 103)
- Afro Caribbean Drum Center & Museum
- Blackbeard’s Castle
- Bluebeard’s Castle
- Camille Pissarro Gallery
- Drake’s Seat
- Fort Christian & Museum
- Frederick Lutheran Church
- French Heritage Museum
- Government House
- Haagensen House
- Market Square
- Seven Arches Museum
- St. Thomas Synagogue
Family Fun Places:
- Atlantis Submarines
- Coral World Ocean Park
- Mahogany Run Golf Course
- Mountain Top
- St. Peter Mountain Greathouse & Botanical Gardens
- St. Thomas Skyride
- The Butterfly Farm
- Tillett Gardens
- VI Christian Ministries Bowling Center
- VI Ecotours
When To Go
With the Hurricane season peaking in August and September, high season is from December to April. The wettest months on these islands are in August until November in the form of tropical thunderstorm in the afternoon. Those who are willing to compromise a little rain for better hotel rates can visit the Virgin Islands during late November or early December and May.
- Americans do not need a passports to visit the US Virgin Islands, but all other nationalities do.
- When departing the islands, Americans will be asked to produce photo identification and proof of US citizenship.
- When driving on these Islands, always drive on the left (British system).
- Almost all flights to the US Virgin Islands from outside the Caribbean originate in or transit through the US.
If your Cruise ship is just stopping over the Virgin Islands with a 24 hours lay-in period then make Cruz Bay in St John your top destination where you can hike trails with the wild donkeys. The beachside Mojito bars in close proximity with ferry arrival dock mark the bars as the perfect ending for the day tour of the island.