As a travel agent, I’m always looking for destinations that give my clients the best experience for their money. So, when they’re looking for a Caribbean experience without the luxury of having a passport, one location I like to suggest is the US Virgin Islands; three diverse islands each offering something different for their travelers. Not to mention Americans receive a more generous duty-free allowance when they’re returning from the U.S. Virgin Islands; bringing back twice as much merchandise and four times the amount of liquor as from other Caribbean locations. So read on to find which island is right for you….
If you’re looking for great beaches, fine dinning, lots duty free shopping, and a vibrant nightlife, then this is the island for you. Since it has one of the most popular cruise ports in the Caribbean, it is the busiest and most commercialized of the three; making it the most popular. The capital city of all the islands, Charlotte Amalie, is also located here and is the islands’ commercial center. On the east of the island is the city of Red Hook, a major harbor known for its sports fishing tours and sail boats. The most popular beach is Magens Bay, and is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. You can take the Skyride 700 feet above the city, visit the Mountain Top to enjoy the views and a banana daiquiri, or visit Coral World, an underwater observatory.
For the traveler looking for a romantic getaway, or to enjoy nature and solitude, this is the island for you. It is the smallest island of the three and most expensive. Since there is no major airport here, travelers coming to St. John must fly into St. Thomas, then ferry to St. John. However, once you get there it is pretty affordable. A little over 50% of the island is designated as the Virgin Islands Natural Reserve. So, you won’t find many options for shopping or upscale dining like in St. Thomas. Your main goal here is to just lounge by the beautiful beach, Trunk Bay. Or, if you enjoy outdoor adventures there are plenty of hiking trails. The campsites at Cinnamon Bay offers travelers a camping experience within the natural reserve. History lovers will enjoy the Annaberg Plantation, showing life as it was two or three centuries ago.
The largest of the three islands is St. Croix and is 40 miles south of St. Thomas. It’s tranquil vibe is great for honeymooners, history and cultural lovers, foodies, and scuba divers. The island’s main town, Christiansted, offers beautiful waterfront views, places to shop, great restaurants and bars, and plenty of activities. Located towards the south of the island is Frederiksted, a smaller village with plenty of entertaining options, making it great for a day trip. St. Croix is also home to the distilleries Cruzan Rum and Captain Morgan Rum where you can tour and enjoy samples. For the history lovers, you can visit Whim Plantation Museum. Since the majority of accommodations is located in Christiansted, it is ideal to start here. Although, St. Croix’s airport is closer to Frederiksted.
Best Time to Visit
The best times to visit the islands is April to June. This is when the weather is ideal and you’re less likely to run into rain. The peak season is December to March. During this time you may experience higher cost. Hurricane season starts in July and starts to taper off by October. Most visitors like to plan their trips around the islands Carnival time featuring parades, steel bands, and stilt walkers. Carnival takes place on St. Thomas in April/May; on St. John in June/ July; and the St. Croix Crucian Festival in held in December/January.
Thoughts to Myself Like…
Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness” and no words seem truer. The life lessons that come from Travel, in my opinion, are top notch. It’s never about the destination, but always about the experience. Although, I encourage everyone to get a passport. You don’t have to miss out on the experience of the Caribbean if you don’t have one, because the Virgin Islands are accessible to Americans without one. Now that to me, is the American Dream!!