Bucket List Worthy
Forming a border between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the Virgin Islands are a tropical paradise for travelers looking for a relaxing escape. Their close proximity to North America, makes them an easy destination to reach, with places like St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix all being very popular with beach lovers. But these islands have so much more to offer than just beautiful beaches – although there are no shortages of those either. Here are seven great things to do in the Virgin Islands, other than sitting in the sand. Take in the View From Paradise Point One of the most spectacular views on all of the islands can be found on St. Thomas, at a place called Paradise Point. The scenic overlook provides great views of Charlotte Amalie harbor, Water Island, and even Puerto Rico. You can drive to the top of the hill, or take a sky tram, but no matter how you get there, the amazing view is definitely worth the effort. A restaurant located at the overlook gives visitors a good excuse to linger a bit longer at the top.
Tour the Cruzan Rum Distillery Cruzan Rum is a staple across the islands, but visitors to St. Croix can actually tour the distillery itself. For $5, travelers get a guided tour that shows them how the rum is made and bottled. Cruzan is unique for the fact that it is the only rum that is still made locally on St. Croix, which makes it it a great souvenir to take back home. Bottles can be purchased at the end of the tour, and delicious sample cocktails round out the experience.
Hike a National Park It isn’t all that well known, but almost the entire island of St. Thomas is a U.S. national park. The preserve features some easy hiking trails that take visitors through tropical forests, and onto remote beaches. They also wander past centuries old sugar plantations, providing a glimpse into the island’s rich history. But ancient petroglyps hidden on the rocks in the park date back further yet, marking a time period before Europeans had discovered the islands at all. The park can be a wonderful respite from the hustle and bustle of the towns and beaches, offering up surprisingly quiet solitude.
Snorkel or Dive Buck Island National Monument In addition to St. Thomas being a national park, there is also a small island off the coast of St. Croix that has been designated as a national monument by the U.S. as well. Buck Island Reef National Monument is a 4554-acre coral reef that is one of the healthiest, and most vibrant, in the entire Caribbean. An underwater trail – one of three in the U.S. national park system – marks the way for snorkelers and scuba divers, with plaques providing information about the plants and wildlife that inhabit the region. With over 250 fish species, and nurse sharks, eagle rays, and leatherback turtles in abundance, it is a great place for snorkelers and divers alike.
Step Back in Time at Christiansted On the island of St. Croix, there is a town called Christiansted that was once the capital of the Danish West Indies. Much of the town remains preserved as part of a national historic site, and walking its streets is a bit like stepping 300 hundred years back into the past. Fort Christiansted is an impressive look at an early fortress on the island, while the Scale House and Customs House are still intact as well, giving history buffs an opportunity to see the places where sugar and slaves were once traded.
Go Duty-Free Shopping St. Thomas is quite simply one of the best places to go shopping in all of the Caribbean, if not the world. It features hundreds of duty-free shops offering bargains on all kinds of products. Jewelry, art, fine china, clothing, watches, and electronics can all be had at substantial discounts, and without sales tax. The town of Charlotte Amalie offers the most shops on the island, although Havensight is a close second, and often has smaller crowds. Be sure to bring an empty suitcase to bring all of your purchases home with you.
Sail the Islands It is difficult to visit the Caribbean and not want to set sail for at least an afternoon cruise on those beautiful waters. Each island has a few ships available for hire, with regularly scheduled cruises taking place on most days. The length of those cruises can be just a few hours, or a few days, depending on how adventurous you want to be. The islands look quite beautiful when explored from the sea, and since it is easy to travel between them, sailing is a great way to make a day trip to one of the other nearby islands as well.
Bonus: The Beaches! Okay, so despite what we said above, we can’t write about the Virgin Islands without at least mentioning the beaches. They are spectacular of course, and amongst the best in the world. No matter which island you visit, you’ll find an amazing beach where you can relax with a cool beverage of your choice. On St. Thomas you’ll want to visit Magens Bay Beach, where you can hike, kayak, swim, or just sit in the sun. On St. Thomas, it is the world famous Trunk Bay, which is often listed amongst the most beautiful beaches on the planet. Over on St. Croix, head to Sandy Point, where the two-mile long stretch of sand is also a national wildlife refuge. If you’re lucky, you may even witness a leatherback sea turtles laying their eggs.