Here’s our definitive guide for what you need to know about vacationing in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Lay of the Land
Located in the Lesser Antilles, between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, this American territory comprises more than 50 distinct islands, the largest of which are St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are extremely popular vacation destinations, and depend primarily on tourism as its main economic driver. The islands are home to welcoming, tropical climates with minimal seasonal changes throughout the year, and each of the three main isles are renowned for their white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters.
St. Thomas is the busiest and most popular to visit, with its major town, Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the island chain and major cruise ship port of call. It offers plenty of incredible shopping, dining, and entertainment opportunities.
St. Croix is the largest of the three major islands, and primarily known for its history and natural beauty. Speaking of natural wonders: St. John provides an oasis for those looking to get lost in the breathtaking scenery and observe the colorful wildlife—with nearly two-thirds of the island designated as Virgin Islands National Park, where visitors can enjoy hiking, diving, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, and more.
When to Go
Finding the best time to book your Virgin Island vacation will depend on what you want out of your stay.
Some of the best vacation weather occurs between April and June, when temperatures are more mild and there’s less chance of storms or rain. You can expect average temperatures to range from the mid-70s to high 80s, with low humidity.
The hurricane season begins in June and stretches through November, and during this period, tourism declines because of the threat of bad weather. Even though hurricanes are generally pretty rare for the region, you can still expect plenty of rain and hot temperatures averaging in the upper 80s.
The peak tourism season for the islands is between December and March, with many travelers taking advantage of the warm tropical climates to escape the northern winter freeze. Expect larger crowds and higher rates for airfare and hotel rooms.
The low season for tourism in the region extends from July to November, with September typically the least popular month to visit. If you aren’t concerned with a potential downpour, however, you can find some of the best hotel rates and package deals during this period.
Cruising to the U.S. Virgin Islands is also very popular. St. Thomas and St. Croix are two of the busiest ports in the Caribbean.
Once you arrive, the fastest and most cost effective transportation is car or taxi. While American visitors won’t require any special permits to drive, roads can often be narrow, winding, and treacherously steep. Be sure to request a vehicle with all-wheel drive.
Public transportation such as buses and ferries also operate regularly here. While buses provide affordable rides to and from major tourist centers, they can often be late or unreliable. Ferry services are a great, affordable way to travel between the islands to explore what each has to offer.
Where to Stay
Each island hosts a number of world-class hotels and resorts to satisfy any traveler’s needs. Here are several for various traveler types.
Secret Harbour Beach Resort is a serene getaway from the island crowds. Located on St. Thomas, the busiest of the three islands, Secret Harbour manages to feel like a world all its own. With no large resorts or urban centers in the area, this is a top choice for travelers looking for seclusion and solitude while still having easy access to the bustling nightlife scene.
Caneel Bay in St. John is focused on the wondrous beauty of nature. You won't find any massive resorts of bustling cities here. In fact, most of the island is part of the Virgin Islands National Park—renowned for its colorful coral reefs, tropical forests, and white-sand beaches. The only hotel located within the park, Caneel Bay is a premier ecotourism destination.
While St. Thomas is the most popular island overall, St. John and St. Croix have both become well-established family destinations. Parents and children have plenty of fun activities to choose from at a vast array of resorts. Here are several to make your stay simply unforgettable.
Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on St. Thomas offers a huge selection of activities and watersports. Guests can enjoy the lively party scene or relax on the balconies of their beachfront rooms.
Westin St. John Resort & Villas is extensive, consisting of more than 30 acres of neatly landscaped grounds and beautiful beachfront providing some of the best children’s programs and watersports on the islands.
The Buccaneer is a longtime family favorite. Located on St. Croix, this resort features on-site facilities for just about every sport or activity a traveler can imagine, from tennis, golf and swimming to jogging, sailing, scuba diving and snorkeling. The resort also hosts popular children’s programs, including a half-day sail to Buck Island Reef, and nature hikes.
Marriott Frenchman's Cove is a prime destination for an upscale stay, offering two- and three- bedroom villa rentals, each with a separate kitchen and dining area, access to an infinity pool with picturesque views of Pacquereau Bay and St. Thomas Harbor, and secluded beaches.
One of the top-rated resorts in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Ritz-Carlton in St. Thomas is the island's most luxurious. Boasting more than 30 acres of beachfront on Turquoise Bay, it hosts a wide variety of lavish rooms and suites with magnificent balcony views of the ocean.
What to Do
The U.S. Virgin Islands are awash in activities and amenities to excite and pamper every visitor. Whether stress-melting relaxation or nonstop club-hopping and dancing—it’s all here.
The U.S. Virgin Islands feature an amazing array of beaches and hiking trails for an endless variety of outdoor activities.
Magens Bay Beach in St. Thomas consists of a half-mile stretch of soft sand and calm, clear waters. Two peninsulas protect the shore from erosion and strong waves, making it an idyllic spot for swimming.
Trunk Bay is a popular St. John beach under the jurisdiction of the U.S. National Park Service, and a favorite among cruise passengers for its underwater snorkeling tours.
Rest & Relaxation
For those craving a more relaxing outdoor experience, Virgin Islands Ecotours has been voted the best eco-tourism and kayak tour adventure company on St. Thomas and St. John for years— operating out of both Mangrove Lagoon on St. Thomas and Honeymoon Beach on St. John. Guests can enjoy kayaking, hiking, and snorkeling tours with expert guides, rent their own water sports equipment, and savor great food and drinks at the Bikinis Bar & Grill nearby.
For the nightlife scene, St. Thomas is the place to be. Visit Havensight for a sweet selection of restaurants and bars known to stay open late, and hit the town to enjoy live music, dancing, and fun. Charlotte Amalie features late-night bars and restaurants, and plenty of scenic spots to enjoy peaceful nighttime walks along the waterfront.
In St. Croix, Divi Carina Bay Resort is a must-visit. It’s home to a glittering casino with 12 gaming tables and 275 slot machines, and has become a true hot spot!
Skinny Legs Bar & Grill on St. John is a fun, open-air bar and restaurant with a mellow atmosphere. This popular spot in Coral Bay is a common haunt for both visitors and locals alike to watch sports, enjoy a drink, and catch live performances by local bands.
What to Eat & Drink
The U.S. Virgin Islands serves a veritable smorgasbord of delectable food and beverages to satisfy any taste or budget.
Side Street Pub on St. Thomas is a popular family-owned restaurant renowned for its fish tacos. It also offers free Wi-Fi. Prime at Paradise Point is a more upscale American-style steakhouse with phenomenal views of the water, fresh Caribbean seafood, and the best surf and turf.
You can find some amazing restaurants in St. Croix as well, such as Rumrunners. The popular waterfront restaurant and bar at Hotel Caravelle dishes extraordinary seafood and unforgettable drinks. Zion Modern Kitchen features a unique aesthetic and menu, primarily incorporating local ingredients and sustainable products, as well as making custom cocktail blends.
There are plenty of great eateries throughout St. John, including Rhumb Lines in Coral Bay, with a great South Pacific-inspired menu and vibe. The Pizzabar in Paradise is a fantastic place to grab a slice, but be sure to get there early or call ahead, because this popular spot fills up quickly. Morgan’s Mango is an elegant restaurant with a distinctly tropical feel with ultra-fresh seafood.