St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix - the three islands known to many as the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the reason millions of travelers head to the Caribbean every year. The laid-back lifestyle of the islands and crystal blue waters keep travelers flying to the U.S. Virgin Islands every year. Thanks to its close proximately to the U.S., the islands welcome nearly 2 million visitors a year by way of St. Thomas flights, charter flights to St. John or St. Croix, or cruise ships.
Travelers booking St. Thomas vacations will find it's not only the most visited island, but also the most overdeveloped of the islands. St. Thomas boasts some of the best beaches, resorts and dining and there is no shortage of things to do in this Caribbean island hotspot. In contrast, St. John is the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands and is a protected landmass – more than 60 percent of the land is controlled by the U.S. National Park Service. St. Croix is the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands and while it’s not as serene as St. John, it’s more relaxed than St. Thomas. Tourists flying to the U.S. Virgin Islands should hop over to St. Croix for its stimulating nightlife – the introduction of gambling to the island has brought more tourists, and more money, to the economy.
Virgin Islands, U.S. climate
The US Virgin Islands are humid and hot all year long. Most of the rain falls from August through October. The islands fill up during the northern hemisphere’s winter months. The best time for diving and snorkeling is between April and August, when waters and calm and underwater visibility is best.
Best Time to Fly to Virgin Islands, U.S.
November through May is peak season. Travelers planning a vacation to St. Thomas, St. Croix or St. John during this time need to book flights to the U.S. Virgin Island and hotels at least six months in advance. A couple of the events taking place during this time are the carnival on St. Thomas and the Crucian Christmas festival - look out for the mocko jumbies, the colorfully-dressed dancers on stilts - on St. Croix (mid-December/early-January).
The summer months through the end of the October is the off season and when travelers are likely to fly to the U.S. Virgin Islands. One very special event taking place during off-season is the celebration on July 4, which is well celebrated on the islands.
Getting around Virgin Islands, U.S.
There are airports on St. Thomas (Cyril E King Airport, the most popular gateway to the islands) and St. Croix (Henry E Rohlsen International Airport), but not on St. John.
Airlines flying between St. Thomas and St. Croix include Air St. Thomas; Air Sunshine; American Eagle; Bohlke International Airways; Cape Air; Leeward Island Air Transport (LIAT) and Seaborne Airlines. Helicopter service is also available.
Once on the islands, there are several car-rental options with major companies. Remember, drive on the left.
The Virgin Islands Fast Ferry sails between St. Thomas and St. Croix. The Republic Barge Service Inc., a car ferry company, sails from St. Thomas to St. John.
The following chart gives approximate journey times fromCharlotte Amalie
(in hours and minutes) to other major cities and towns in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
|Cruz Bay, SJ||-||-||0.45|
Virgin Islands, U.S. Travel Information
- St. Croix is the largest island and has two main towns, Christiansted and Frederiksted. Tourist attractions here include Buck Island Reef, which is renowned for its swimming, scuba diving and snorkeling. Estate Mount Washington Plantation, although in ruins, is the best-preserved sugar plantation on the island. Admission is free.
- Charlotte Amalie, capital of St. Thomas, is the Caribbean’s busiest port, welcoming about 1.5 million cruise ship visitors per year. St. Thomas has some beautiful beaches to bask on including Bluebeard's Beach (for windsurfing), Coki Beach (for scuba diving and snorkeling) and Magens Bay, rated one of the world’s most beautiful beaches by National Geographic magazine. Columbus Landing Beach is where Christopher Columbus landed in 1493. The Whim Plantation and museum chronicles what life was like on a sugar plantation. The Cruzan Rum Distillery dates from 1760 and is open daily for tours. Emancipation Gardens is where many official ceremonies take place. The gardens honor the emancipation of slaves in 1848 by Governor Peter von Scholten, 15 years before the U.S.
- The 99 Steps (although there are really 103) extend from Government Hill to Lille Tarne Gade (Little Tower Street in Danish) in St. Thomas. They are one of several step streets that the Danes built to negotiate the town’s terrain. At the top of the steps, are yet more steps that stretch to Blackbeard’s Castle.
- Blackbeard's Castle sits on Government Hill, overlooking Charlotte Amelie. It was originally known as Skytsborg and is said to be the Virgin Islands’ oldest structure. Legend has it that bands of pirates lived here in the 18th century. The most famous resident is believed to be Edward Teach, Blackbeard.
- St. John is the smallest island (28 sq mi) and two-thirds of it is the Virgin Islands National Park. Hiking and snorkeling are popular pastimes.