U.S. Virgin Islands: Three Distinct Islands In One Destination

Geography

The United States Virgin Islands is part of the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean. The three principal islands – St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas – are magnificent tropical environments, each distinguished by its own personality.

Population

Since 1960, the population in the U.S. Virgin Islands has nearly tripled. There are now an estimated 56,200 people on St. Croix, 54,000 on St. Thomas and 4,400 on St. John. The Water Island population is roughly 200.

Language

English is the primary spoken language, but Spanish and Creole are also heard throughout the three islands. Many locals speak in a distinct dialect, as a result of the French, Danish and Spanish influence on the destination.

Weather

The U.S. Virgin Islands offers year-round warm temperatures with averages of 77°F (25°C) in winter and 82°F (28°C) in summer.

Time Zone

St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas all fall within the Atlantic Standard Time zone, one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time (except during Daylight Savings Time).

Currency

The U.S. Dollar is the currency used in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Most locations accept credit cards and travelers checks. There are ATMs located throughout the islands.

Political History

Seven flags have flown over St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix since Christopher Columbus discovered them in 1493. The islands have been ruled in succession by the Spanish, English, French, Knights of Malta, French (for a second time), the Danish and now, the U.S. Virgin Islands is a territory of the United States. This eclectic historical path has influenced the development of all three islands, particularly during the Danish reign. Street, town and area names, architecture and former plantations all reveal the vast influence on the islands still remaining after 251 years under Danish rule.

Government

As a Territory of the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands residents are U.S. citizens. Under the US Constitution, residents of unincorporated territories, such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, do not vote in elections for a US president and vice president. However, they may vote in the Democratic and Republican presidential primary elections, in which a governor and lieutenant governor are elected on the same ticket (by popular vote) for four-year terms (eligible for a second term).

Island Personality

Cultural St. Croix

St. Croix is characterized by its cultural diversity and is the largest of the three islands, lying entirely in the Caribbean Sea. Pastel buildings and charming shops can be seen in the historic towns of Christiansted and Frederiksted, while the island’s emerald waters, powdery sands and rolling green hillside remain just as Columbus first found them in 1493.

Main Attractions

  • Buck Island: Buck Island National Monument is an environmentally sensitive area protected by the National Parks System. For more information, visit www.gotostcroix.com.
  • Carambola Golf Club: A 6,843-yard course, Carambola hosts the annual LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) Golf Tournament every year. For more information, call (340) 778-5638 or visit www.golfcarambola.com.
  • St. George Village Botanical Gardens: Dedicated to conservation and preservation of both the historical and living collections on its grounds, the garden is a unique spot to take in the natural beauty of St. Croix. For more information, call (340) 692-2874 or visitwww.SGVBG.org.
  • Tan Tan Tours: Featuring driving expeditions through St. Croix’s landscapes, rainforest and fantastic cultural spots, TanTan Tours is a one-of-a-kind experience. For more information, visit www.stxtantantours.com.
  • Whim Plantation Museum: An authentic Danish sugar estate dating from the 1700’s, the museum offers guests tours of the furnished great house, and access to the sugar factory ruins the surrounding grounds. For more information, call (340) 772-0598 or visitwww.stcroixlandmarks.com.

Best Beaches

  • Turtle Beach, Buck Island: Voted one of the world’s most beautiful beaches by National Geographic, Turtle Beach is on Buck Island’s west end, located 1.5 miles off the northeast side of St. Croix. For more information, visit www.gotostcroix.com.
  • Chenay Bay: Found on St. Croix’s east end, Chenay Bay is a perfect spot for families, with shallow waters and plenty of room to run around. Guests of the Chenay Bay hotel are welcome to use kayaks, sunfish and snorkel gear. For more information, call (800) 548-4457 or visit www.chenaybay.com.

Natural St. John

Two-thirds of St. John, the smallest of the three islands, is a protected U.S. national park with 9,500 acres of hilly green land and an underwater reserve. The readers of Condé Nast Traveler voted St. John as the “Best Island in the Caribbean/Atlantic” in the publication’s prestigious 18th annual Readers’ Choice Awards poll.

Main Attractions

  • Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins: At this former sugar plantation, travelers can revisit the remnants of plantation life and the occupation of slaves during the 18th century. Park rangers coordinate demonstrations of cultural traditions, including basket weaving, music and dance, each week. For more information, call (340) 776-6201 or visit www.nps.gov.
  • Mongoose Junction: In downtown Cruz Bay, visitors can enjoy St. John’s premier collection of shops and restaurants. For more information, www.mongoosejunctionstjohn.com.
  • Snorkeling at Trunk Bay: One of the most popular athletic activities in the U.S. Virgin Islands, snorkeling is a favorite at Trunk Bay, where the Virgin Islands National Park offers an underwater snorkeling trail. For more information, visit www.stjohnbeachguide.com.
  • Virgin Islands National Park: A landmark of natural preservation, the park takes up 7,000 acres on the island of St. John. For more information, visit www.virgin.islands.national-park.com.

Best Beaches

  • Maho Bay: Opened in 1976, Maho Bay Camps offers a secluded, white sand beach, and a variety of water sports, including sailing, scuba, wind surfing and snorkeling. For more information call (340) 715-0501or visit www.maho.org.
  • Trunk Bay: St. John’s most famous and photographed beach, Trunk Bay is also the site of the Virgin Islands National Park Underwater Snorkel Trail. For more information, visitwww.stjohnbeachguide.com.

Cosmopolitan St. Thomas

The liveliest of the U.S. Virgin Islands is cosmopolitan St. Thomas, which offers sophisticated dining and duty-free shopping. Charlotte Amalie, the capital city of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is a bustling harbor town full of character, fine restaurants, warehouse shops and historic monuments. Located just a half-mile off the coast of St. Thomas, Water Island provides visitors with the opportunity to escape the bustling shops of St. Thomas, and enjoy quiet relaxation.

Main Attractions

  • Coral World Marine Park & Observatory: Located on the northeast shore at Coki Point, Coral World is recognized as an internationally renowned tourist attraction. The 4.5-acre park consists of an underwater observatory tower, a tropical nature trail, a marine gardens aquarium, and an 80,000-gallon coral reef tank. For more information, call (340)775-1555 or visit www.coralworldvi.com.
  • Mahogany Run Golf Course: A par-70, 18-hole championship course designed by George and Tom Fazio, a highlight of the 6,022-yard course is the challenging Devil’s Triangle where the Caribbean poses perhaps the world’s ultimate water hazard. For more information, call (340) 777-6250 or visit www.mahoganyrungolf.com.
  • Paradise Tram: The St. Thomas Skyride to Paradise Point, a modern aerial cable car, offers the best sightseeing in the Virgin Islands. The trip is 7 minutes one-way and takes you 700 feet above sea level. Enjoy panoramic views of cruise ships, picturesque Charlotte Amalie harbor, downtown and neighboring islands. For more information call (340)774-9809 or visitwww.paradisepointtramway.com.
  • Shopping
  • Downtown Charlotte Amalie: The downtown area of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ capital city, Charlotte Amalie, is replete with merchants selling a dazzling selection of both the latest styles of jewelry and their own unique designs, fine fragrances, cosmetics, china, crystal, spirits and sportswear apparel.
  • Havensight Mall: With over 100 stores and businesses, Havensight Mall is St. Thomas’ most popular one-stop destination for shops, refreshments, entertainment, service and professional needs. For more information, call (340) 777-5313 or visit www.havensightmall.com.
  • Yacht Haven Grande: St. Thomas’ premier marina facility for mega-yachts within the Caribbean, Yacht Haven Grande encompasses a 48-slip mega-yacht marina with a variety of entertainment, restaurants and shops. For more information, visitwww.yachthavengrande.com.

Best Beaches

  • Magens Bay: St. Thomas’s most popular beach, voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world by National Geographic Magazine, this exquisite one-mile stretch is a public park and was donated to the people of the Virgin Islands by Arthur Fairchild. For more information, visit www.magensbayvi.com.
  • Sapphire Beach: The sapphire-blue waters here are great for snorkeling, windsurfing, jet skiing and more. The beach is located on the east end at Sapphire Beach Resort. For more information, call (800) 874-7897 or visit www.antillesresorts.com.
  • Secret Harbour: Located on the quieter East End of St. Thomas, this beach is a great spot for snorkeling. For more information, call (340) 775-6550 or visit www.secretharbourvi.com.


General Travel Information

Passport Requirements

U.S. citizens traveling to the United States Virgin Islands need only supply proof of citizenship (birth certificate with a raised seal) and a government-issued, valid form of identification to board flights and upon departure.

Inter-Island Travel

Only a government issued, valid ID is required for travel among the U.S. Virgin Islands. Traveling between each island for overnight or day trips can be done easily via ferry or plane.

Travel by Ferry

  • Passenger ferries are available between both Red Hook and Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas and Cruz Bay, St. John.
  • Car barge service is available between Redhook, St. Thomas and Cruz Bay, St. John.
  • The Water Island Ferry takes passengers from Crown Bay, St. Thomas to Water Island.
  • The St. Croix Ferry departs from the Marine Terminal in Gallows Bay, St. Croix and the Marine Terminal in Charlotte Amalie (next to Seaplane Terminal), St. Thomas.
  • The St. Thomas Ferry shuttles travellers from Frenchman’s Reef Resort at the Frenchman’s Reef Dock to Charlotte Amalie at the Charlotte Amalie Waterfront.

Travel by Plane

  • Seaborne Airlines and Cape Air operate air and seaplane shuttles between St. Thomas and St. Croix, taking travelers from one island paradise to another in as little as 25 minutes.

On-Island Travel

Taxis are the most efficient means of getting around within each island. Taxis are stationed at the airports on St. Croix and St. Thomas, and frequently wait for passengers on St. John at Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay. However, major rental car companies like Hertz, Budget and Avis can also be found on St. Thomas and St. Croix stationed at the airport.

Duty Free Allowance

The U.S. Virgin Islands’ duty free allowance is valued at $1,600 per person. Family members traveling together are entitled to a joint declaration, increasing the amount of their allowance. Gifts valued at $100 or less can be mailed (no more than one package per day), and do not need to be declared in the exemption. U.S. visitors may return with six bottles of liquor as long as one of the bottles was produced locally. Duty of 6 percent is charged for purchases totaling more than $1,600.

For more information about the United States Virgin Islands, call 800-372-USVI (8784) or go to VisitUSVI.com. When traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. citizens enjoy all the conveniences of domestic travel—including on-line check-in—making travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands easier than ever. As a United States Territory, travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands does not require a passport from U.S. citizens arriving from Puerto Rico or the U.S. mainland. Entry requirements for non-U.S. citizens are the same as for entering the United States from any foreign destination. Upon departure, a passport is required for all but U.S. citizens. Follow us on Twitter (@USVImockojumbie) and become a fan on Facebook (www.facebook.com/VisitUSVI).