Virgin Islands overview
Composed of St Thomas, St Croix and St John, the Virgin Islands (US) is a vacation paradise for honeymooners, divers and leisure seekers from all over the world. Water sports, golfing, dining and spas are all in store for visitors to the breathtakingly gorgeous islands. With three islands to choose from, the only dilemma travellers will face is what to do first.
Destinations in Virgin Islands
The Saint Croix region in the Virgin Islands boasts of several natural and historical wonders like the St. George Village Botanical Garden, which is a sprawling mass of exotic botanical species from all over the world. This botanical garden is great for an outdoor stroll with the family. Another super outdoorsy place is the rain forest in the northwestern region of Saint Croix. The lush vegetation interspersed with gushing waterfalls is worth witnessing. Make sure to catch the Annally Bay tidal pools in all their natural glory.
The Buck Reef National Park is one of the most visited attractions in the region for its underwater monument and snorkeling activities. Find plaques with detailed information on the flora and fauna of the land and watch coral barrier reefs and endangered sharks cut their way through the intimidating waters–breathtakingly beautiful. Another nice tourist spot in Saint Croix for wildlife enthusiasts is Sandy Point Wildlife Refuge that is famous for its elegant leatherback turtles, a rare species on the brink of extinction. Experience the stunning beauty of the Caribbean at the Coral World Ocean Park at St. Thomas, celebrated throughout the region for its emblazoned corals and the deadly stingray fish. The park has a rare underwater observatory and several cafes and souvenir shops. Activities here include Power Snorkeling, Sea Lion Splash and the exhilarating Shark Encounters. Other ecologically endowed attractions in the island include the Salt River Bay National Historic Park and Ecological Preserve that features a fascinating submarine canyon and a huge landscape of mango trees.
The Virgin Islands National Park is a brilliant place to get acquainted with the history of the islands with 7,000 acres of ancient civilization exhibits dating back to over a thousand years.
Excellently restored Danish homes abound in the Virgin Islands, and are open to the public as history museums; one very popular example is the Haagensen House in St. Croix which has an amazing collection of West Indian antiques.
Fort Frederik and the Weibel Museum
Other popular types of museums include those relating the history of slavery in the area, and those emphasizing plantation life and the process of making sugar. Visit Fort Frederik to see where 8,000 slaves demanded and were granted their freedom by Governor Von Scholten. The Estate Whim Plantation Museum is a good example of a museum that recreates life on the sugar plantation in the 1800s, and even has the original sugar process plant and windmill. For even more history, the Weibel Museum in St. Thomas reviews the 300 year history of the Jewish people in the area.
The Mango Tango Art Gallery
For some not-so-historical fun, visit one of the many colorful, new-age art museums like the Mango Tango Art Gallery. They support both local, emerging artists as well as established Caribbean artists and display some incredible sculptures, paintings, and ceramics.
Some of Virgin Islands most prominent beaches are Magen’s Bay, Hull Bay, Brewer’s Bay, Sapphire Beach and Coki Beach all of which feature the islands trademark crystal clear azure waters, colorful corals and underwater sports.
Virgin Islands embraces its visitors with a beguiling variety of hotspots that is equally adept at setting the pace for an action-packed holiday and a calm, placid vacation.
Things to do in Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands are in the Caribbean Sea and belong to two different countries. The east is governed by the United Kingdom and the west belongs to the United States. All of the Virgin Islands hold interesting and wonderful things to do.
Of course, these are islands so water sports abound. Diving and snorkeling is a great experience along the surrounding reefs. The waters are clean and there are underwater caves, shipwrecks and sea horse colonies. Buck Island Reef national Monument is a protected area near St. Croix where you can see different fish and other marine life. You can find rentals at a moderate price and you can also find people to teach you how to dive or snorkel. They offer training classes that last 3 days.
BoatingSailing enthusiasts say that the Virgin Islands are a great place to go. You can hire boats with or without a crew or charter a yacht. Try St. John Yacht Charters and you will have the loveliest hosts, Jason and Lou. Watch for local boat races because they happen all over the Virgin Islands all the time. You can even go on a tour on kayak through Mangrove Lagoon and St. Thomas’ Marine Sanctuary.
If you are a fisherman, you’ve come to the right place. Blue and White marlin, sailfish and Wahoo can be found in the waters of the Virgin Islands. Fishing charters go out all the time but don’t expect to actually keep your catch. Locals encourage the catch and release method so they can preserve the species in their areas.
You will find an 18 hole golf course at the Buccaneer Hotel in St. Croix or you can golf your day away at the Carambola Resort. St Thomas has an 18 hole course at Mahogany Run.
Sailing & Snorkeling
One of the best ways to spend a day in the Virgin Island is aboard one of the numerous tour outfitters boats. Ranging in size from private to mid-sized sailboat cruises, there is no better way to explore the waters than on an afternoon sailing tour. Along with relaxing aboard the boat and enjoying a great lunch, your guides will take you to some of the best spots for snorkeling so you can get out and see what is underneath the surface of the pristine waters.
Explore St. Croix’s amazing natural environment with a guided kayak, snorkeling or hiking trip in one of its ecologically intense areas. Hire a guide to get an in-depth look at ecology, fauna and history as you make your way through the wilderness or down the popular Salt River
Though US Virgin Islands is typically only thought of as the three major islands, in all there are over 120 islands total between the US and British Virgin Islands. Each island has a unique atmosphere and can make for a great day exploring the different flora and topography of each. With only 8 of the islands being inhabited, there is a lot of nature untouched to explore. Ride on the ferry service or use inter-island air travel for a true island hopping adventure.
Taking a tour of any of the islands on horseback is a great way to cover a lot of ground while enjoying a leisurely ride. Fun for both experienced and inexperienced riders of all ages, a tour of the natural areas, beaches, folklore and history on horseback is relaxing way to spend on an afternoon.
There are historical sites to visit as well. Annaberg Sugar Plantation gives tours with demonstrations. Fort Christian in St. Thomas is the oldest building on the island. It is now a historical museum with a roof top view that is worth seeing.
Sitting on the beach is good for some people and they can find it here in the Virgin Islands, but if you like to dive, or hike, or go boating and fishing, this is also the place for you.
When to Go in Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands are known internationally for their excellent weather, constantly clear skies, and transparent turquoise waters. Hot, sunny days with high humidity and scarce rain showers prevail in this part of the world basically all year round. There are, however, two main times of the year that are best to avoid. Hurricanes are major threats in the Virgin Islands, especially during hurricane season which occurs from the beginning of June to the end of November. Most of these tropical cyclones are concentrated during the months of August and September, so be sure not to schedule your trip during this time of year. If that is the only time of year you can go, make sure to check the weather everyday to be sure there aren’t any advisories or warnings. Another bad time to visit the Virgin Islands is during the high season from December to May. During this winter season, tons of tourists flock to these islands trying to escape the cold, northern winter. Because of this influx of visitors, prices for everything from food, to hotels, to activities rise dramatically. Also, the high demand makes it difficult to reserve your choice of hotel or excursions.
Despite the crowds of the tourist season, excellent underwater visibility and calm surf that can be enjoyed from April to August, making it the best time of year to visit the Virgin Islands if you want to spend your time diving and snorkeling. February is the busiest month of the tourist season, but April, May, and August aren’t quite as crowded, especially in St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Temperatures continuously bounce back and forth between the 70s and 80s, changing very little due to the stabilizing effect of the trade winds. Technically, there is no rainy season on the islands, but there are monthly variations in rainfall. November, October, September, August, and May are the rainiest months. However, showers pass quickly and usually occur either at night or early in the morning, so they don’t greatly affect travel plans. February and March are the driest months, but not necessarily the best months to go to the Virgin Islands, as the rain doesn’t create any problems anyway, and the islands are flooded with tourists during February and March.
The best advice is simply to avoid the worst months of the hurricane season (August and September), as well as the most crowded months of the high tourist season (February and March). Any other time of year is sure to please you with it’s enjoyable weather and more modest prices.
Accommodation in Virgin Islands
Accommodation may be divided up on an island-by-island basis. Blazing Villas are highly recommended for those who wish to relax in luxury and style. Caribbean Style Condos are available for extended stays with an at home feel. Beach resorts overlook famous beaches such as Magens Bay Beach and are next to many high end conventional hotels.
Airports in Virgin Islands
Air travel is a popular option for accessing the Virgin Islands (US). Apart from mainland United States, many of the US territories also have direct flights to the Virgin Islands (US), with airports at St Croix and St Thomas. Cruise ships make frequent stops on the islands on ports including Tortola, Charlotte Amalie and Christiansted. Many of the upscale visitors to the island participate in yacht renting to the island with stops around the Caribbean along the way.
Practical Information in Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands are two separate political entities, one belonging to the United Kingdom, and the other being a territory of the United States. The islands to the West, St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, and Water Island make up the US territory, and the islands to the East, Anegada, Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, and Virgin Gorda with over 50 other smaller islands make up the UK territory.
Location – The Virgin Islands are located on the continent of North America, they are the islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico. The Virgin Islands are an Archipelago (cluster of islands), part of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea. There are only two ways to get to the Virgin Islands, by air or by water. The two major airports located in the Virgin Islands are located on the island of St. Thomas, and the other on the island of St. Croix.
Capital – Charlotte Amalie
Population – The estimated population of the Virgin Islands is 109,825.
Terrain – Hilly, rugged, and mountainous.
Climate – The Virgin Islands climate is considered subtropic, mostly hot and humid throughout the year, with most rainfall coming in the months of August and October.
High/Low Seasons – The peak season (high) is from December to May. Peak season means higher prices, busy tourist season, and sold out accommodation. Outside of these months (June to November), rooms are cheaper and the islands are less crowded. April through August the waters are calm and make for the best diving and snorkeling as the visibility is at its best.
Currency – The United Stated Dollar ($) is the form of currency used in the Virgin Islands. Major credit cards and travelers checks are widely accepted at most retail, restaurant, and hotel outlets. It is advisable to always carry a small amount of cash. ATM’s (cashpoints) are located within the airport upon arrival, or located throughout the cities. You can also exchange currency for a small fee at the Bureau de Change.
Language – English is the most widely spoken language, but it is common to hear French Creole, and even English Creole.
Time – GMT – 3 hours
Electricty – 110V
Telephone – Country code dial 1, and the area code is 284 for the British Virgin Islands, and 340 for the United States Virgin Islands. For any medical, police, or fire emergency dial 999 or 911.