Things to do in U.S. Virgin Islands

Get Your Bearings in U.S. Virgin Islands

By Karen Elowitt
U.S. Virgin Islands Expert

Stay
Eat
See & Do
Party
Shop

Where to Stay

The U.S. Virgin Islands offer a wide array of accommodations, from high-end luxury resorts to villas, from bed and breakfasts to historic boutique inns. Big, splashy properties like The Buccaneer on St. Croix and Sugar Bay Resort on St. Thomas have an exhaustive list of facilities including tennis courts, beaches, spas, and multiple restaurants, while boutique inns like Hotel 1829 and the Cruz Bay Boutique Hotel offer historical ambiance and easy access to city attractions. Those seeking a more homey atmosphere can rent one of the hundreds of private villas dotted around the islands, and can even arrange for a chef to come and cook a gourmet meal onsite.

Hot Tips:

Many resorts lets kids stay free

What to Eat

The U.S. Virgin Islands offer multiple outstanding dining options, from international fare to local West Indian cuisine, with a heavy emphasis on seafood. On St. Croix, Rumrunners offers waterfront views, plus American favorites, local West Indian food, and the catch of the day. On St. Thomas, Havana Blue's award-winning Latin-Asian fusion draws guests not only from the adjacent Marriott hotel, but from all over the island. And on St. John, casual seafood joints like Woody's and Shipwreck Landing are perfect after a long day at the beach.

Be Sure to Sample:

Local favorites like goat stew and conch chowder

Things to See

In addition to the gorgeous beaches and breathtaking views, numerous attractions give insight into local culture, sea life and history. The Cruzan rum distillery on St. Croix allows visitors to view the distillation process, and includes complimentary samples of the favorite local drink. On St. Thomas, Coral World Ocean Park offers an underwater observation room where visitors can see fish, sharks and turtles up close and personal. Over on St. John, hiking the jungle trails is one of the most popular pastimes; many lead to and from the famous beaches.

Caution:

Watch out for jellyfish in the water during the summer months

Places to Party

Drinking and partying is not only a nighttime activity in the USVI: Most bars open at 11am and stay open until at least midnight, serving up local favorites like Cruzan rum, Painkillers and Bailey's Bushwackers. On St. Thomas, Red Hook is the epicenter of nightlife, and offers a number of pubs, bars and saloons. On St. Croix, visitors can down a home-brewed beer at the Fort Christian Brew Pub, or try their luck at the blackjack tables at Divi Carina's casino. In St. John, Castaways in Cruz Bay and Skinny Legs in Coral Bay are local favorite watering holes.

Hot Tips:

Most bars offer extremely cheap happy hour drinks from 5-7pm

Where to Shop

The U.S. Virgin Islands are home to a wide variety of shops, selling everything from liquor, to jewelry (including diamonds, gold, and Caribbean larimar) to high-end luxury goods like handbags and clothing. In addition, numerous art galleries, such as Tillett Gardens and Mango Tango in St. Thomas, offer diverse works by local artists. And don't forget to check out the antique shops, farmers markets and beachwear boutiques. Since there is no sales tax in the Virgin Islands, and the duty-free allowance is $1600, there's a big incentive to buy, buy, buy.

Hot Tips:

The U. S. dollar is the official currency of the USVI, so no need to exchange money before making your purchases

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U.S. Virgin Islands Neighborhoods

Things to do in U.S. Virgin Islands


U.S. Virgin Islands is known for...

Five of U.S. Virgin Islands's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Beaches:

The number one reason visitors come to the USVI is for its incredible beaches. Fringed by palms, sea grape trees and wild jungle, the peaceful, uncrowded and well-maintained white sand acts a gateway to swimming, snorkeling, paddleboarding, kayaking, and picnicking. No matter which island you're on, the beach is never more than a mile or two away: on St. John it's just a short hop to the famously scenic North Shore Beaches; on St. Croix, zip to Cane Bay in the morning, then to Rainbow Beach in the afternoon; and on St. Thomas take the family to the popular Magens Bay one day, and the secluded Secret Harbour the next.

2. Shopping:

"Shop til you drop" is the unofficial motto of the Virgin Islands. Many of the shops are located near the main cruise ship ports in order to draw shopping-mad day trippers who want to scoop up deals on gems, jewels and duty-free items like rum and tobacco.   But you can also find antiques, designer clothing, local arts and crafts, and electronics too. Whether you ply the quaint alleyways of colonial Main Street in Charlotte Amalie, the chi-chi promenades of Mongoose Junction in St. John, or the charming West Indian craft merchant stalls in Fredriksted on St. Croix, you'll come away with a souvenir you'll always treasure.

3. Watersports:

Snorkeling, SCUBA diving, jet-skiing, parasailing, fishing, and kayaking -- pretty much any kind of watersport you can imagine (and some you can't) are available in the Virgin Islands. Up-and-coming sports like stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) are gaining traction too, as are unique activities such as jet-riding (which lets you power above the water with a jet back on your back) and SNUBA (SCUBA without the heavy equipment). Ask your hotel or resort for a recommendation, or pull up to any marina and you'll find dozens of outfitters ready to take you out on the warm, inviting water for an unforgettable experience.

4. Dining:

As a dining destination, the USVI is second to none: it's got some of the premier fine-dining restaurants in the Caribbean. But it's also got hundreds of authentic West Indian cafes, casual beach joints, and trendy coffee bars. There's a little something to satisfy any palate and budget. High-end dining, though, is a strong point of the USVI: a slew of top-notch restaurants serving up classic American, elegant European and innovative fusion fare are the reason many come to the islands. Wherever you dine, local fish is likely to be the highlight of the meal: conch fritters, grilled wahoo and saltfish are among island favorites.

5. Sightseeing:

Rather than passively absorb the natural and historical sights in USVI, visitors generally take an activity-based approach. The underwater sights are best viewed during a snorkeling or diving excursion, to places like the underwater trail at Trunk Bay, St. John, or the turtle sanctuary at Buck Island, St. Croix. Spectacular views toward Tortola and the BVIs can be admired while whipping through the trees at St. Thomas's new zipline attraction, or while touring the St. Peter Great House. History buffs love shopping while wandering through the historic colonial streets of downtown Charlotte Amalie or Christiansted, where ancients forts and synagogues sit side-by-side with galleries and gift shops.