Each of the seven Virgin Islands holds its own draw, and depending on what sort of experience you’re looking for during your travels–rest and relaxation, exploring off the beaten path, or a darn good party–there’s one or two that will fit you perfectly. To help choose where to spend your time, here’s an overview of each island’s personality and highlights.
Bustling, crowded, and commercial, St. Thomas is the most accessible of the Virgin Islands. Historic Charlotte Amalie is the main attraction, although spectacular beaches like Magen’s Bay and Smith Bay provide an escape from the city. Duty-free shopping for watches, jewelry, and crystal is a major draw for the millions of cruise ship passengers who visit here annually.
Nightlife is laid-back, except when full moon parties ignite the night with infectious Caribbean music and creative libations.Some two-thirds of St. John is protected by the Virgin Islands National Park. St. John has the best beaches in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the best hiking in the whole archipelago. Accommodations range from beachfront campgrounds to high-end resorts. Laid-back Cruz Bay and Coral Bay provide an antidote to the outdoors with funky shops, hip restaurants, and buzzing bars.
The largest of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix offers an appealing balance of history, natural beauty, and culture. Christiansted and Frederiksted are classic West Indian harbor towns with exquisite Danish colonial architecture. Buck Island is an ideal place for hiking and snorkeling. A lush rainforest is a perfect contrast to the sunny, sandy beaches, and divers come to explore the storied Wall off the island’s north coast.
Tortola is an island of steep hills, remarkable vistas, and quiet beaches. Delight in the exquisite white sand at Smuggler’s Cove, hike through a tropical forest at Sage Mountain National Park, or admire tropical flowers and trees at the Joseph Reynold O’Neal Botanical Gardens. Nightlife is laid-back, except when full moon parties ignite the night with infectious Caribbean music and creative libations. A sailboat is the best way to explore the out islands, including Norman Island, believed to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
At The Baths National Park, giant boulders create grottoes and pools that have delighted visitors for generations. On the other end of the island, North Sound is a sailor’s paradise: a community without roads, where the fastest route between two points is over the water. In between, find a series of unspoiled beaches and a quaint town. Gorda Peak National Park, home to the world’s smallest lizard, is good for hiking.
Jost Van Dyke
This tiny island has more goats than people, and more visitors than year-round residents. Sailors especially delight in some of the best beach bars around. Great Harbour is picturesque—its main street is a sandy path lined by palm trees. White Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Virgin Islands. Offshore cays and little-known attractions, like Little Jost Van Dyke, Bubbly Pool, and Sandy Cay reward visitors who venture off the beaten path.
Flat, dry, and sparsely populated, Anegada is famous for its miles of sandy coastline, endangered iguanas, world-class kitesurfing, and the fresh lobsters fishers harvest from reefs around the island. Anegada is also a sportfisher’s mecca: Elusive bonefish live in the shallows around the island, and wahoo, marlin, jack, and tuna patrol the nearby North Drop.
Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon U.S. & British Virgin Islands.