American Virgin Islands
The American Virgin Islands is an island nation in the Caribbean Sea, covering an area of 346.36 km². The largest and best known islands are only four – St. Croix, St. John, Thomas and Water. The remaining dozens of small islands and atolls are mostly uninhabited. The U.S. Virgin Islands should not be confused with the British. Together they form the Virgin Islands, which, in turn, are part of the Lesser Antilles archipelago. The islands are a U.S. possession. Officially, they have the status of an unincorporated organized territory. Almost a century ago, the U.S. bought the islands from Denmark. But, of course, they are better known as offshore under the U.S. flag.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are a paradise not only for businessmen looking to get rid of burdensome taxes, but also for tourists who come here every year to take a break from the bustle of the city on white-sand beaches and immerse themselves in the distinctive life of the island.
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Video: U.S. Virgin Islands
The climate of the British Virgin Islands is tropical, maritime, and trade winds. Comfortable temperatures are maintained throughout the year. In winter on the islands +22-24 ° C, in summer +28-29 ° C, and with the change of the time of day temperature varies little. The annual rainfall is up to 1300 mm a year.
In the British Virgin Islands distinguish 2 dry (winter, summer) and 2 wet (spring, autumn) seasons. The rainy season is most pronounced from September to November, but even then the tropical downpours are short-lived. And in July and October, the islands can experience hurricanes.
The highest point of the American Virgin Islands – only 475 m above sea level. The surface of the islands is hilly, due to their limestone origin. In some places, you can see inclusions of volcanic and crystalline rocks.
There are no rivers and lakes on the islands. On the shores of the bays can be seen mangrove swamps, while most of the islands are covered with tropical forests. Unfortunately, some of them, along with wildlife, was destroyed by man. You can admire the lush nature preserved on St. John, two-thirds of which is a National Park. On St. Thomas, you can see the sparse forests and shrubs of the former plantations. The marine waters of the U.S. Virgin Islands are home to a variety of fish, crustaceans, and shellfish.
Top 10 sights of the islands:
1. American Virgin Islands National Park, where you can see the rarest species of animals and birds 2. Fort Christiaan on St. Thomas Island 3. Blackbird Castle 4. Market Square in Charlotte Amalia 5. Charlotte-Amalia Aquarium with rare tropical fish 6. Mount St. Peter Greathouse with botanical gardens and a distillery on its slopes 7. Picturesque Coki Bay 8. Wim Sugar Plantation on St. Croix 9. Cruzan Wineries in Christiansted 10. Uninhabited Buck Island
- The tourist season in the U.S. Virgin Islands lasts from January to April. For fans of snorkeling and other water activities, it makes sense to fly to the islands in early summer, when there are no storms and prices are lower.
- Please note that the hotel bill includes an additional 8% tax and 10% service tip. Sometimes a 3% charge for electricity is added to the cost of lodging.
- In restaurants and cafes tips for service are 10-15%, and in large restaurants they are initially included in the bill, and in small cafes it is customary to tip the waiter personally.
- Keep in mind that the lifting of any marine organisms and objects from the bottom, as well as collecting barnacles thrown on the shore is prohibited. A license is required for sport fishing.
The U.S. Virgin Islands has many hotels for all tastes, but prices are hard to call low. Room rates in resort hotels start at $250-300 a night. Economy-class hotels will ask for $150-170 a night, and a room in a budget guesthouse can be rented for $ 80. In this case, no matter what option you choose, you will be pleased with quality service.
There are also campgrounds on some islands, which are very popular with young people.
If you are interested in a vacation of the highest caliber, the U.S. Virgin Islands offers villa rentals on the coast. Prices start at $5,000 a week.
Sea and air links between the islands are well developed, and on the larger islands there is no problem renting a scooter, car or getting around by cab. However, distances between resorts are relatively short, so many travelers prefer to get around on foot or by bicycle.
Keep in mind that you can take duty-free purchases from the island if their total value does not exceed $1200. By the way, in the U.S. Virgin Islands you can profitably buy watches, jewelry, photo and video equipment, perfumes, leather goods and porcelain. Stores are open strictly on schedule: Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Also be sure to visit the local markets. The vendors are happy to haggle, and you can buy souvenirs quite inexpensive. The most popular are handicrafts, rum, spices and tea. Treat yourself to some fresh fruit.
Top 5 things to do in the U.S. Virgin Islands:
1. Diving 2. Cruise around the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean 3. A helicopter tour 4. Attending one of the local festivals (such as Fireworks Week in late June or the Carp Festival in January) 5. Sport Fishing
Approximately 2 million travelers come to the U.S. Virgin Islands each year. Accordingly, the tourism industry and services here are growing rapidly.
Industry also plays a special role. The islands are home to one of the largest oil refineries in the world. The locals are also engaged in the production of rum, textiles, electronics and watches. Agriculture is underdeveloped, but the financial sector, which depends on the U.S. economy, has all the conditions for rapid growth.
14 Best Sights and Places to Visit in the U.S. Virgin Islands
The U.S. Virgin Islands are some of the best tourist destinations in the Caribbean. Located in the Lesser Antilles, between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, this American territory includes about 50 islands and islands, the largest being St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. After a turbulent history, with many occupations, the islands reflect their influence in Denmark most prominently with some beautiful examples of neoclassical Danish architecture. Natural beauty is another advantage. All of the islands are sprinkled with lush mountains, rainforests, curving beaches and rocky coves, and the crystal clear waters and steady winds lure sailors and boaters who like to stand in sheltered coves.
Each island exudes a different character. St. Thomas is the most visited island and the gateway to the archipelago. Its main town, Charlotte Amalia, is the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands and a major cruise ship port with many stores, restaurants and entertainment venues. St. Croix, the largest of the three, is less tourism-oriented than its sister islands. The best attractions here are the historic district of its largest city, Christiansted, as well as the sugar plantations, orchards and coastal scenery on the heritage trail. St. Croix is also home to beautiful Buck Island, the world’s first underwater monument.
Eco-travelers will find an oasis on St. John’s, where two-thirds of the island is designated Virgin Islands National Park. Hiking, diving, snorkeling, fishing and kayaking are the things to do here.
1 Virgin Islands National Park, St. John
Virgin Islands National Park, St. John
A Caribbean gem, Virgin Islands National Park attracts more than a million visitors each year, making it the largest tourist destination in the entire archipelago. Lawrence Rockefeller donated 5,000 acres of land to create the National Park in 1956. Today, the park covers two-thirds of Emerald St. John’s Island and includes hiking trails, sheltered bays, stunning beaches, underwater marine gardens, petroglyphs and the ruins of historic sugar mills. A trip to Reef Bay, one of St. John’s most popular hiking trails, is a great way to explore some of these attractions.
Nature lovers marvel at the park’s ecological diversity. More than 800 plant species and 30 species of tropical birds are found within its boundaries. In addition to many coconut palms, sea grapes and rum cove, the park is home to the native night-blooming cerus, which attracts bats and butterflies with its vanilla scent. Other wildlife includes green iguanas, geckos, hawksbill turtles, and a variety of marine life. Not surprisingly, the park’s waters are great for swimming, diving and snorkeling. Highlights include Watermelon Cay, Maho Bay, Caneel Bay and Cinnamon Bay.
Address: 1300 Cruz Bay Creek, St. John
Official website: http://www.nps.gov/viis/index.htm
Accommodations: Where to stay on St. John’s
2 Trunk Bay Beach & Underwater Snorkel Trail, St. John
Trunk Bay Beach & Underwater Snorkel Trail, St. John
Located in Virgin Islands National Park , Trunk Bay’s long and curving curve of creamy sand and turquoise water is the most photographed beach on St. John’s. It is one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, surrounded by sea grapes and coconut palms. The Bay Trunk Bay underwater snorkel trail is just off shore from the land protruding into the bay. Up to 30 different species of fish can be found in the crystal-clear waters here. Underwater signs indicate key features of the coral reef.
Address: 1300 Cruz Bay Creek, St. John
3 Buck Island Reef National Monument, St. Croix
Buck Island Reef National Monument, St. Croix
Beautiful Buck Island and the surrounding marine gardens are one of the most visited attractions in St. Croix. Lying 1.5 miles off the northeast coast of St. Croix, in the center of a vast marine sanctuary, Buck Island was guaranteed protection when President John F. Kennedy named it the first American Underwater National Monument in 1961. Elkhorn Coral Grottoes is here and is one of the best dive sites in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Along the marked trail, snorkelers and divers can spot many tropical fish such as bluefin and barracuda. Cruises dive from the north shore. Buck Island also offers protected beaches, picnic areas and a grill for cooking, as well as a hiking trail through a forest of giant tamarinds to the island’s scenic ridge.
Address: Buck Island, St. Croix
Official website: www.nps.gov/buis/index.htm
Accommodations: Where to stay in St. Croix
4 Magens Bay, St. Thomas.
Backed by green hills and coconut palms, Magens Bay has been named one of the most beautiful beaches in the world by many travel publications. The sea is calm along Horseshoe Bay and is great for snorkeling, swimming, kayaking and other water sports. Also in the Magens Bay watershed, the Tropical Hike opening leads participants through a 75-acre preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy. This unique area includes a variety of habitats ranging from dry forested hills to mangrove wetlands by numerous species of native and migratory birds. A two-mile groomed trail descends under tree canopies to beautiful Magens Bay Beach, where hikers can take a dip.
5 Cruz Bay, St. John.
Located in a yacht-filled harbor adjacent to steep hills, Cruz Bay is the “town center” of St. John.Until the 1970s, Cruz Bay was a quiet custom port without much activity. Today, the small town of about 3,000 people has become a hip hub, earning the nickname “City of Love.” Many shopping and dining options are among the pastel-colored homes dotting the hills at the edge of the village, and the town is the starting point for excursions to Virgin Islands National Park .
A treasure in town is the Elaine Ione Sprauve Library and Museum located in a restored plantation of a magnificent house. The museum exhibits the history of St. John through photographs, newspaper articles and local Indian and colonial artifacts. Galleries show the work of local artists. Nearby lies beautiful Maho Bay as well as Hawksnest Beach , a popular snorkeling spot.
6 Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
The capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalia (named for the Danish queen) is one of the most popular cruise ports in the Caribbean. Located in the middle of the island on the south shore of St. Thomas, the town is sprinkled with beautiful pastel, red-roofed houses against a backdrop of steep green hills. In addition to its many restaurants and entertainment venues, Charlotte Amalie also offers the largest number of boutiques and jewelry stores in the Caribbean, as well as several beautiful beaches for swimming and snorkeling. Coral Ocean Park is the main attraction here, and other highlights include Blackbeard Castle ; St. Thomas Synagogue ; Emancipation Garden ; 99 Steps ; Government House ; Friedrich Lutheran Church ; and Fort Christian, the oldest structure on the island.
Accommodation: Where to stay on St. Thomas
7 Coral World Ocean Park, St. Thomas
Coral World Ocean Park, St. Thomas Bryan and Jalin Drum / photo modified
Coral World Ocean Park offers an interactive marine experience on St. Thomas. The park features an underwater observatory, a tropical trail, a marine garden aquarium and a huge glass tank with coral reefs. Animal lovers can interact with turtles, sea lions, stingrays and sharks or serve colorful rainbow lorikeets. SNUBA is popular, and the park also features the Nautilus Half Dome, parasailing and Sea Trek snorkeling, where guests walk on the floor of the Caribbean Sea. Wild iguanas also roam the park.
Address: 6450 Estate Smith Bay, Charlotte Amalia, St. Thomas
Official website: http://www.coralworldvi.com
8 Heritage Trail, St. Croix
Heritage Trail, Santa Cruz by Christine Warner Hawkes / photo modified
The St. Croix Heritage Trail is a 72-mile self-guided journey through the island’s historic and natural attractions. Road signs guide you along a route between Frederikssted and Christiansted, north of Hamm Bay to the west and to Udall Point, the easternmost point in the United States. The Heritage Trail stretches along a scenic coastline through rainforests, cattle country and historic maritime towns. It’s a great way to explore St. Croix’s most popular attractions on your own, including the Urbanization Plantation Museum, St. George Botanical Gardens, and Fort Frederick .
9 Christiansted, St. Croix
Christiansted, St. Croix LizSullivan / photo modified
St. Croix’s largest city, Christiansted, lies on the island’s north coast between steep hills and a reef-protected shallow harbor. At one point, the bustling port of Kristiansted was the capital of the territory under Danish rule, and the attractive six-block historic district reflects the glory days of Danish prosperity.
Designed as a model for the Norwegian city of Christiansted (now Oslo), the city has elegant pink and gold neoclassical buildings and offers a wide variety of housing, dining and entertainment. A great start for a walking tour is the Kristiansted National Historic Site covering five classic colonial buildings, including Fort Kristiansvaern, the Customs House and the Steeple Building. Other city attractions include the Apothecary Hall, Government House, and the beaches and water sports of Protestant Key. Several cruise ships dock in Christiansted Harbor each week.
About five miles west of Christiansted, Salt River Bay National Historical Park marks the only known point where Christopher Columbus landed on U.S. soil. It is now an ecological preserve and a popular spot for mangrove kayak tours. About 15 miles southwest of Christiansted, Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge is also worth a visit, with a two-mile stretch of dazzling white sand beach. The refuge protects leatherback sea turtles as well as many species of birds, but check opening times before you go, as it is closed during turtle nesting times.
10 Frederick Lutheran Church, St. Thomas
Frederick Lutheran Church, St. Thomas
Centuries of history lie within the walls of Frederick Lutheran Church in Charlotte Amalie. This architectural gem was built between 1789 and 1793 in the Georgian style. Restored twice in the 19th century, the church now has Gothic Revival elements such as a gabled tower. The entrance to the church has a “welcoming arms” staircase (flared at the base), typical of western Indian architecture. In the 19th century, the congregations of the church were divided into West Indian and Danish groups.
Address: Norre Gade, Charlotte Amalia, St. Thomas
11 Blackbeard’s Castle, St. Thomas
Blackbeard’s Castle, St. Thomas
Atop the famous 99 Steps , Blackbeard’s Castle is a five-story stone tower and the only one of its kind in the Caribbean.Known in colonial times as Skightsborg, the watchtower was built by a Dane in 1678. Legends claim that the tower was a lookout stand for the pirate Blackbeard (Edward Teach) in the 18th century. Today, the property is home to a popular hotel and restaurant. From here, you can enjoy great views of Port St. Thomas and Charlotte Amalie.
Address: 1001 Blackbeard’s Hill, Charlotte Amalia 00802, St. Thomas
Official website: www.blackbeardscastle.com
12 99 Steps, St. Thomas
99 Steps, St. Thomas
A relic of the mid-1700s, the 99 steps (actually 103 steps) were built in Danish colonial times from ship’s ballast bricks. The 99 steps are one example of the many staircases built on the steep hills of Charlotte Amalie. They lead to Blackbeard’s Castle , where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the city.
13 Government House, St. Thomas
Government House, St. Thomas
This three-story, white-roofed mansion has two floors of cast-iron porches. Built between 1865 and 1867, Government House was restored in 1994 and is now the offices of the territorial governor. The first and second floors of the Government House are open for tours and you can see many paintings by local artists, including the native Thomas Camille Pissarro.
The address is King St., Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
14 Garden of Emancipation, St. Thomas
Garden of Emancipation, St. Thomas Roger Wollstadt / photo modified
The Garden of Emancipation is where the Emancipation Proclamation was read on July 3, 1848, freeing the slaves of St. Thomas. The event took place after officials received word that Governor Peter von Scholten had freed the slaves on St. Croix. Today the park has benches, a gazebo and plenty of shade, and it’s a good place to relax or catch the occasional band concert. In April, the festival turns into Carnival Village. In the corner of the park sits a replica of Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell.