Choose from 22 Fun Things to Do in Us Virgin Islands
St. John might have the lion’s share of the Virgin Islands’ natural attractions, but the extraordinary concentration of flora and fauna in St. Thomas’ Mangrove Lagoon makes it a top eco-tourism destination.
Small kayak groups thread through the lagoon’s tiny red mangrove islands, with guides pointing out the huge diversity of birds they attract, including herons, egrets and ducks.
The route takes you to deserted Cas Cay island, where hermit crabs dart about among mangrove roots. On your gently-paced travels you’ll see young fish darting around this natural breeding ground. Low-impact snorkeling will get you even closer, and you’ll spot rays, eels and jelly fish as well as a host of colorful tropical fish.
Mangrove Lagoon is in the southeast of St. Thomas, less than 15 minutes’ drive away from the capital, Charlotte Amalie.
- This attraction is a must-see for families.
- Choose between a general admission ticket and a combo pass that includes a semi-submarine cruise, turtle encounter, or snuba dive adventure.
- Most exhibits are wheelchair accessible; there’s a wheelchair elevator in the Caribbean Reef Encounter.
St. Croix keeps its distance from the other two U.S. Virgin Islands, with a distinct identity and thriving industry which leaves it less reliant on tourism. Nonetheless there is more than enough to interest beach bums, history buffs and even gourmands.
There are numerous excellent beaches here, ranging from busy tourist magnets to secluded south coast spots where it’s just you and the palm trees. The whole coastline is famed for its diving opportunities, dotted with wrecks and wreathed by reefs.
Christiansted, the largest community, is a charming town with vivid traces of the Danish colonial adventure. Both there and the west coast town of Frederiksted offer some of the best dining in the Virgin Islands. Saint Croix’s local flavors include excellent mangos, goat stew and the ubiquitous Cruzan Rum.
St. Croix’s airport connects mainly to other Caribbean destinations, as well as direct flights to Miami, Atlanta and Charlotte. Ferries from Christiansted travel to St. John and St. Thomas.
The majority of St. John is covered by the Virgin Islands National Park, a stretch of preserved wilderness all the more remarkable when you consider how much of the island was once cleared for sugar plantations.
Get the most out of this natural wonder on hiking trails which crisscross the island. None takes more than two hours to complete, but they cover a surprising range of topography and vegetation as well as historic sites such as the eerie plantation ruins of Annaberg. And there’s no better way to end your walk than a swim at one of St. John’s superb beaches, such as beautiful Trunk Bay in the island’s northwest.
The park also protects the island’s reef, with public access allowed at the mangrove bay of Hurricane Hole, east of Coral Bay. Snorkeling is a popular activity all along the coastline.
Head for the park’s visitors’ center in Cruz Bay, the point of arrival for ferries from St. Thomas, to pick up maps and tips for further exploration. The park covers about two-thirds of the island as well as significant off-shore areas.
Snorkelers and divers love Coki’s underwater clarity and sea creatures. Beach day-trippers enjoy the sand, sunshine and wandering vendors of drinks and snacks, souvenirs, sunscreen and hair-braiding.
Coki Beach is quite a scene, lively and fun rather than quiet and laid-back. Beach lounges and thatch umbrellas can be hired, along with all kinds of water sports equipment, from jet skis to snorkel gear.
The fish are used to people at this popular beach, and have even been known to eat from your hand (BYO dog biscuits).
Hawksnest Bay faces east and gets lots of morning sun, and shade arrives earlier than on other St John beaches. For beginning snorkelers, an offshore reef is a short swim away, set in shallow waters where novice divers can see a cornucopia of colorful fish, corals, and sea creatures. Ambitious snorkelers will find much to discover farther out, where large, orange elkhorn coral brighten up the deeper waters.
If you want to get away from the crowd, head over to Little Hawknest: a quiet stretch of white, sandy beach, lying west of the main beach.
Caneel Bay is one of the first beaches you come to as you drive up North Shore Road out of St John’s main port, Cruz Bay. Much of the coastline here is monopolized by an extensive resort, but they guarantee access to Caneel Bay and their restaurants adjacent to the beach are accessible also.
The area was once a plantation and the ruins of the old sugar works make an atmospheric detour. The beach itself is a three-dimensional postcard, while snorkelers will delight in sting rays, barracudas and other sea life.
Caneel Bay is in western St. John, a few minutes’ drive from the port of Cruz Bay. Nearby Honeymoon Bay can only be reached via a (short) forest trail, so it’s even more secluded, though largely without facilities.
The island’s favorite beach is a curving arc of white sand and bright blue water. It’s protected by a forested arboretum and palm trees, ensuring calm waves for swimming and kayaking.
From the vantage point of Mountain Top, you can easily make out the bay’s unusual rectangular shape and mile of white-sand beach, but the best view is up close from the sand.
Being so popular, the beach has some great facilities, including lifeguards, showers, snack stall and windsurf rental.
A nature trail winds from Magens Bay Road down the beach, just over a mile, taking you through tropical forest and mangroves via boardwalks and well-maintained steps and paths.
Once on dry land, start your time in St Thomas with a sightseeing tour to downtown Charlotte Amalie for duty-free shopping and Danish architecture on Veterans Drive and Main Street, or a trip to the island’s highest point at the summit of Mountain Top. Some cruise ship passengers opt for shore excursions that highlight Caribbean adventures in the USVI—think snorkeling with sea turtles, kayaking through a mangrove lagoon, and hiking at historic Hassel Island and Virgin Islands National Park. Other cruise excursions include admission to Coral World Ocean Park for a theme park experience or transport to the area’s best beaches, including Lindbergh Bay Beach, Magens Bay, Honeymoon Beach, Sapphire Beach, and the Marriott Beach Resort, for a day of relaxation before heading back to the cruise ship.
- Most St Thomas shore excursion tours include pickup and dropoff at the port.
- St Thomas is fairly compact, so it’s easy to pack a number of activities into your island tour.
- The island enjoys warm weather year-round, although the months of June through November are known as hurricane season.
How to Get to Charlotte Amalie From the Cruise Port
While St Thomas has two cruise ports, most large cruise ships come in at the busy West India Company Dock (Havensight) on the south-central part of the island, about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) from downtown Charlotte Amalie. Take a long stroll along the waterfront to get into town, or opt for a 10-minute taxi ride. At the port area, travelers will find a shopping mall and a few dining options.
English is spoken here (often with a French or Spanish lilt), and residents are United States citizens. Banks and ATMs can be found in downtown Charlotte Amalie; the US dollar is the local currency. The British Virgin Islands are neighbors to the east, and Puerto Rico is about 40 miles (64 km) to the west.