Things to do in the USVI

Things to do in the U.S. Virgin Islands

The diversity of the islands making up the US Virgin Islands (USVI) and the British Virgin ISlands (BVI) means that there really is a number of activities that will appeal to just about anyone. So while the nature lovers in the family may seek out a long hike through the pristine nature of Virgin Islands National Park, Mom can treat herself to a massage at one of the resort spas, while Dad plays a round of golf.

Exploring the waters off St. ThomasMany popular activities in the Virgin Islands center on enjoying the spectacular natural environment.

Explore the Beaches of the Virgin Islands

Many people dream of "discovering" their own piece of sand, untouched "virgin" Caribbean waterfront property. As an archipelago composed of literally hundreds of distinct islands, the Virgins are an excellent place to indulge this fantasy. Even on the major islands like St. John (USVI) or Anegada (BVI), large chunks of the island are protected from development, so the intrepid explorer willing to venture off the beaten path (eg, leave the car behind!) is bound to stumble upon a beach worthy of Robinson Crusoe. Alternatively, if hiking isn't your thing, you need only procure a boat (there are many yacht charter companies on the islands) or hire a water taxi to take you to your very own uninhabited island, including picture-perfect pieces of sand such as Sandy Cay (BVI) below.

Approaching Sandy Cay aboard our yacht.With your own boat you can explore uninhabited islands, such as Sandy Cay, shown here.

If you're really determined to find the best beach on the Virgin Islands, try making friends with a local: everyone knows of a "secret" beach or two that isn't covered in the guidebooks.

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Virgin Islands Golf Courses

Golf may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Caribbean fun, but the Virgin Islands are home to several superior golf courses - designed by such renowned architects as George and Tom Fazio and Robert Trent Jones - which challenge golfers of all skill levels. There are no courses on St. John (which is 60% preserved as a national park), but its two sister USVI islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix are home to memorable links which rival top courses elsewhere in the world. St. Thomas' Mahogany Run, a George and Tom Fazio design, boasts 18 of the most beautiful and challenging holes in the Caribbean. Golfers extol the virtues of this 6,022-yard, par-70 championship course for its sheer beauty and exhilarating play, especially on the 13th, 14th and 15th holes. This signature trio, aptly nicknamed the Devil's Triangle, turns an already ambitious round of play into a veritable cliffside drama, where golfers must overcome a formidable stretch of Caribbean Sea that sprawls between the tee and the green.

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Virgin Islands Attractions

Of course beaches aren't the only things to see on the Islands. In addition to the natural beauty of the islands, the USVI and BVI offer several unique attractions reflecting the storied cultural and historical heritage of the islands.

snorkeling the virgin islands.A mask, a snorkel, and a bathing suit are all you need to have a ton of fun in the Virgin Isles.

One popular attraction is the Coral World Marine Park. The attraction's most memorable feature, a three-story observation tower, is the focal point of the park. The Observatory Tower sits 100 feet offshore in the middle of a living coral reef. You reach the Tower via a foot bridge. Panoramic views of the surrounding islands and cays can be had from the tower's top level. This area will also serves as a gallery for rotating exhibits. A circular tank, home to a variety of sharks, stingrays, barracuda and moray eels, surrounds the tower's middle level. A lower-level underwater observatory offers a glimpse into life in and around an active coral reef. The 360-degree, glass enclosed viewing area will expose visitors to the Caribbean Sea and its many inhabitants.

The Atlantis Submarine and Harbor Cruise is one of the island's most exciting tours. A unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience is yours when you step aboard the Atlantis and take a ride on one of the world's first fleets of recreational submarines. The real submarine will transport you to ocean depths not visible from the surface, covering over a mile and a half of ocean bottom. Blue chromis, rock beauties, yellowtail snapper and sea turtles are among the exotic sea life you'll see swimming through the sea whips, brain coral and pillar coral. A scenic harbor tour of Charlotte Amalie precedes the dive. At the completion of your dive, you'll be awarded an official dive certificate and enjoy a complimentary rum punch. The tour is two hours long; dives leave hourly beginning at 9 a.m. from Havensight Mall, Building 6. There are also weekly departures from St. John.

The Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts, located in Frederiksted, is a great way to get an introduction to the art of the Caribbean. Learn, get inspired, and connect with local artisans.

Numerous forts and strongholds mark the Virgin Island's place as a strategic point in the early struggles for supremacy over the Caribbean. On St. John you can explore restored 18th century Fort Frederik and Fort Christiansvaern, while St. Thomas offers Fort Christian and two strongholds used by pirates to scout for incoming ships: Blackbeard's Castle and Bluebeard's Castle.

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Sailing the Virgin Islands

Sailing in the Virgin Islands.Few pleasures can compare with the joy of bounding across azure waters in your very own yacht.

The Virgin Islands are a sailor's paradise. The sheer number and diversity of islands means that there is plenty to explore, from the pulsing party scene of Charlotte Amalie to the exclusive five-star resorts of Peter Island.

The British Virgin Islands in particular are world-renowned as a charter yacht destination. With islands dotting both sides of the protected Sir Francis Drake Channel, navigation is easy (almost always line-of-sight), and swells are rare. The trade winds, however, do tend to be brisk, with speeds of 15-25 knots common during the winter, and slightly less during the summer months.

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mongoose junction shoppingMongoose junction is a classy shopping destination.

Shopping in the Virgin Islands

The US Virgin Islands are famous throughout the Caribbean for their outstanding duty-free shopping opportunities, but shopping in the Virgin Islands is about more than just tax-free luxury goods. There are also numerous arts and crafts for sale which make a unique souvenir of your Caribbean vacation while helping to support local artisans and preserve Caribbean culture.

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Restaurants in the Virgin Islands

The cuisine of the Virgin Islands benefits from the islands' proximity to an amazing variety of sea life, and exotic tropical fruits and vegetables. Fish favorites include Wahoo, grouper, mani-mahi and other varieties, and it doesn't get much fresher than caught that morning by local fisherman who have been doing so for decades.

The local cuisine derives much of its flavor from the USVI's West Indian and African cultures which have for years relied solely on Mother Nature for cooking ingredients. "Fungi," a cornmeal-based side dish, and "killaloo," a soup made from okra, spinach and fish, guarantee a taste of local flavor. Sweet-potato pudding, fried "johnnycake" bread, banana-like plantations and "old wife" fish are also popular with locals and vacationers.

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diving the virgin islands.The scuba diving in the Virgin Islands is top notch.

Watersports in the Virgin Islands

Virgin Island resorts and beach areas offer the full variety of watersports for the adventure-seeking visitor. Many resorts and beachfront hotels rent kayaks or small sailboats for a day of exploring the coastline. Motorboats are also available, and for the more experienced, sailboat charters are available up the most luxurious sailing yacht, including both crewed and bareboat sailing charters. Other popular watersports to enjoy in the USVI and BVI include snorkeling, surfing, windsurfing, scuba diving, and parasailing.

Virgin Islands (USVI and BVI) Nightlife

St. Thomas harborThe St. Thomas waterfront comes alive at night.
Nightlife in the Virgin Islands varies from racuous beachside tiki huts, to floating pirate ship bars, to clubs pulsating with Caribbean dance rhythms. Most clubs and "City nightlife" are located in St. Thomas or St. Croix. Good bets include The Buccaneer and Divi Carina Bay Casino on St. Croix, and Turtle Rockk Bar on St. Thomas. In the BVI you won't find many traditional clubs, but there are some vary unique bars and restaurants. "Must do" parties include the Willy T (anchored in the Bight on Norman Island), one of the original and most famous "floating bars" in the Caribbean, where the pirate ship-like ambience has inspired many a tourist to indulge their wild side. Also legendary are the epic New Year's Eve parties attracting thousands of revelers to Foxy's Bar on tiny Jost Van Dyke, and the Full Moon Parties at Bomba's Surfside Shack, hosted by the enigmatic Bomba, who sends this message to would-be visitors: "For a free t-shirt get naked in front of Bomba OR If you're a blond with big boobs Bomba likes that even more." That pretty much says it all!

Scuba Diving in the Virgin Islands

Diving in the Virgin Islands.Beautiful coral reefs make the Virgin Islands diving among the best in the Caribbean.
There are numerous opportunities for scuba diving in the Virgin Islands, including both the USVI and the BVI. The wreck of the RMS Rhone, located in the Sir Francis Drake Channel, is deservedly among the most famous dives in the Caribbean, and should be on the life list of any serious diver. Other highlights include the colorful sponges and reefs of the Painted Walls dive site, and the wreck of the Chikuzen.

Diving in St. Thomas includes the wreck of the General Rogers, and numerous popular reef dives such as Carval Rock and Boulder Bay.

Snorkeling in the Virgin Islands

Fortunately, underwater exploration in the Virgins isn't just limited to those with a PADI certification. There are plenty of opportunities for snorkeling in the shallow reefs surrounding the islands. In fact, Trunk Bay on St. John even features one of the world's only "Underwater Nature Trails", a self-guided tour of marine life found along the coast. Another popular snorkeling location is The Dogs and The Indians in BVI, and the Buck Island Underwater National Monument off St. Croix, where you might even spot a sea tortoise.

Hiking in the Virgin Islands

Some of the most popular hiking in the Virgin Islands is found within Virgin Islands National Park on St. John. In fact, St. John is a veritable nature lover's paradise, with over 60% of the island environment protected from development. Ask at your hotel or resort for more hiking suggetions, there are coastal and inland paths on nearly every island. On St. Thomas, try the Magens Bay Nature Trail -- your reward for this short hike is a lovely secluded beach at Magen's Bay!

Biking in the Virgin Islands

The Virgin Islands (like many Caribbean Islands) tend to have rocky and mountainous interiors, meaning that the biking can be strenuous. The most popular mountain biking destination in the Virgins is Water Island in the USVI, which offers a number of fun trails, including guided tours. Otherwise, bike rental is available in the major cities and some resort hotels, and bicycling can be a fun (if challenging) way to get around the islands if you don't mind sweating a bit!

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