Explore the US Virgin Islands With These Tips
Each of the three main isles that make up the core of the United States Virgin Islands has its own distinct character, and each offers a unique spin on the traditional definition of a Caribbean paradise. From bustling, tourist-friendly towns and exotic creole hotspots to remote island getaways and underwater adventures, the intrepid explorer will find a diverse range of experiences among these green isles. Here are some of the most remarkable experiences to be found on each island.St. ThomasAs the main port for visiting cruise ships and the home of the archipelago’s busiest airport, the island of St. Thomas is the gateway to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the first place most tourists will see. As such, it is also the most commercialized of the three and contains some of the islands’ most beguiling attractions. The most popular of them all is Coral World Ocean Park – an enormous marine life park located on the island’s western shore. Among other exhibits, the park boasts a magnificent three-story underwater observatory – one of only a handful in the world – which showcases the wonders of the island’s marine life in all its natural glory.St. JohnLocated just three miles from St. Thomas, St. John is as close as it comes to a remote Caribbean paradise in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Roughly three-quarters of the island’s tropical landscape is protected parkland covered in lush greenery and surrounded by remote bays and white sand beaches washed by azure waters. Within this park, miles of hiking trails lead explorers past some of the island’s most spectacular panoramic views, to archeological sites and colonial plantations. Here visitors can explore the island’s history, from the ancient relics left by the indigenous Taino people, to vestiges of the Danish Colonial legacy, such as the Annaberg Sugar Plantation and Fortsberg. On its western shore, the island’s main town of Cruz Bay is at the epicenter of commercial activity, featuring a good range of cafes, restaurants and bars.St. CroixThe largest and most isolated of the three islands is St. Croix, which is located over 40 miles south of its sister isles. Less tourist-centered than its siblings, St. Croix retains an easygoing, old-world feel left behind from the Danish colonial era. Nowhere is this colonial influence more apparent than in the island’s capital of Christiansted, which has managed to avoid redevelopment and retain much of its original architecture, thanks to the strict building codes introduced by the Danes.St. Croix is also home to some of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ most interesting historical attractions. The Carl and Marie Lawaetz Museum provides tourists with a fascinating view into life on an 18th century sugar plantation, on a tour hosted by a member of the Lawaetzfamily. For a more hands-on experience, you could embark on a self-guided driving tour on the St. Croix Heritage Trail, which encompasses many of the island’s historical and cultural highlights. Maps of the trial are available from hotels and stores throughout the island.