With non-stop service available from most major carriers, the USVI can be reached from the U.S. mainland in as quickly as 2 1/2 hours. With no passport required for U.S. citizens, English being the language spoken and the U.S. dollar as official currency, your hassle free vacation is within easy reach.
Nearly 2.5 million visitors flock here annually to enjoy all the U.S. Virgin Islands has to offer. Like siblings, each of the three major islands has its own personality:
Cultural St. Croix
The largest of these islands at 84 square miles, St. Croix (pronounced CROY) features a varied terrain from dry cactus-studded hills out east to lush tropical forests in the west. The island lies entirely in the Caribbean Sea.
Participate in the Half-Ironman Triathlon each May, or the five-mile Coral Reef Swim race in October, or any of the many sport fishing competitions throughout the year. Hiking, kayaking and kite boarding are popular pastimes, and the island boasts two 18-hole golf courses.
Some scuba buffs claim this is the only place in the Caribbean where you can dive a wall, a reef, a wreck and a pier all in the same day. Chartered powerboats or catamarans will take you to the pristine beach and marked snorkel trail at uninhabited Buck Island Reef National Monument.
However, it is this island’s distinct history and cultural heritage that set it apart from other Caribbean islands. St. Croix is rich in diverse history that remains alive in the architecture, national parks, historic landmarks, botanical attractions, food, music and traditions that are an integral part of island life.
St. Croix has two picturesque 18th-century waterfront towns with wide open spaces in between. In Christiansted, explore Danish Fort Christiansvaern within the National Park Service Historic Site and walk a block to specialty shops and fine restaurants.
Quieter Frederiksted at the west end boasts another fort, this one near a historic park facing the Caribbean Museum Center, a gallery for regional artworks and photographs. The only casino in the Virgin Islands is on the southeastern shore.
For a closer look at St. Croix’s plantation past, tour 12-acre Whim Plantation Museum with its restored 18th-century great house, and don’t miss the Cruzan Rum Distillery or the new Captain Morgan visitor center where you can sample these rums made in St. Croix. Go further back in time at the Salt River National Historical Park and Ecological Reserve and learn about the island’s earliest Taino inhabitants.
Cosmopolitan St. Thomas
St. Thomas combines the natural beauty of the islands with an energetic, cosmopolitan atmosphere. Charlotte Amalie, (pronounced a-MALL-ya) the capital of the United States Virgin Islands, is one of the most visited ports in the Caribbean and boasts one of the most beautiful harbors in the world.
The city’s reputation as the shopping mecca of the Caribbean attracts visitors from around the world who are drawn to its elegant dining, exciting nightlife and international, duty-free shopping. Trade is a St. Thomas specialty dating back to 18th-century pirate days. Tempting treasures practically spill out of Danish-era waterfront warehouses – imported perfumes, cameras, watches, fine porcelain and crystal.
Go for it: U.S. Customs laws allow individuals to bring up to $1,600 worth of merchandise from the U.S. Virgin Islands back to the United States without having to pay duty, and there’s no sales tax.
St. Thomas provides some of the most scenic and picturesque views of the Caribbean. Visitors can enjoy beautiful overlooks, including Drake’s Seat and Valdemar Hill. Paradise Point Tramway lifts visitors 700 feet above sea level on a cable car, for one of the most spectacular views of Charlotte Amalie harbor.
Situated at the top of the lift on Flag Hill is a complex that includes a café restaurant, a nature trail and several retail shops. Paradise Peak -- a winding quarter-mile nature trail -- gives visitors the opportunity to explore additional overlooks of the island.
While touring St. Thomas’ higher elevations, visitors can treat themselves to a taste of contemporary island culture with a stop at Mountain Top for a refreshing banana daiquiri. Since the 1960’s, this site has offered the legendary cocktail made with local rum, cane sugar and bananas. For a peek at the beauty of the underwater world, a visit to Coral World Ocean Park puts visitors up close and personal with sea life, from swimming with sea lions and turtles to petting juvenile sharks and stingrays.
For the sports-minded, St. Thomas is well known for its world-class yachting and sport fishing, and welcomes golf enthusiasts to the George and Tom Fazio-designed Mahogany Run Course, known for its challenging trio of cliff-side holes called the Devil’s Triangle.
Natural St. John
St. John, the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, retains a tranquil, unspoiled beauty uncommon in the Caribbean or anywhere else in the world. Settled in the early 1700’s by Danish immigrants attracted to the island’s potential as a sugar cane producing colony, St. John soon blossomed into a thriving economy.
The island’s unspoiled forests and stunning beaches attracted the attention of wealthy families who sought privacy and tranquility on the island. In 1956, Laurence Rockefeller was so moved by the island that he bought and donated broad expanses of land to the National Park Service to keep St. John “a thing of joy forever.” More than 800 plant species grow in hilly tropical forests that drop down to beaches bordered by coral reefs. The National Park Service added even more federally owned submerged acres in 2001 to create the underwater Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument.
St. John was voted “Best Island in the Caribbean/Atlantic” by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler in the publication’s prestigious annual Readers’ Choice Awards poll.
Cruz Bay, on the island’s western edge, is the main town where car and passenger ferries dock; the island has no airport but St. Thomas is only 20 minutes away by ferry. Day visitors can stroll through upscale boutiques and art galleries along the narrow streets and dine at alfresco restaurants. When you’re ready to explore the park, begin in Cruz Bay at the National Park Service Visitors Center. Park rangers lead a variety of weekly activities like the 3/4-mile Reef Bay Trail hike through sugar plantation ruins.
Look for petroglyphs, mysterious rock carvings that archaeologists believe were left by the pre-Columbian Taino people. The Annaberg sugar plantation ruins maintain a wealth of history and cultural folklore. Park rangers conduct demonstrations of cultural traditions, including basket weaving, music and dance, each week.
St. John is known for lovely beaches along the north coast and quieter ones to the south. At some you can rent water-sports gear and snorkel the coral reefs populated by colorful fish. Don’t miss the marked underwater snorkeling trail at Trunk Bay.
Getting Married in USVI
If you’re looking to escape to a simple, romantic island wedding getaway that intensifies your feelings of love and captivates your adventurous spirit, the U.S. Virgin Islands are ideal!
With historic churches, centuries-old sugar mills and forts, romantic resorts, unique wedding locales, glorious palm-fringed beaches and simple marriage laws, the U.S. Virgin Islands is a natural aphrodisiac for budget-conscious couples or those for whom the ultimate ceremony has no price tag.
But which of the isles will you choose — St. Croix, the historic, free-spirited jewel; St. John, the unspoiled natural beauty; St. Thomas, the cosmopolitan sister; or unassuming Water Island. Any of these provide the ultimate setting for a tropical Caribbean wedding.
Each island has experienced resort and independent wedding specialists available help you plan a ceremony nothing short of amazing. Services are available for first-time brides and grooms, those renewing vows, or couples just interested in reaffirming their love for each other. Exchanging vows the traditional way, like in one of our beautiful houses of worship, remains in vogue with many couples. Synagogues, mosques, Moravian churches, Catholic cathedrals, and other houses of worship can be reserved.
Weddings on the beach are also popular. Interested in something unconventional? Consider getting married underwater, aboard a charter yacht or in a lavish villa. For a reception like no other, dine surrounded by a coral reef aquarium, or enjoy drinks in a submarine immersed in the Caribbean Sea.
Coordinators will take care of every minute detail, including incorporating family traditions; recreating special themes; helping with the menu selection; getting custom floral arrangements, photographers and musicians; and arranging for unique gifts and activities for you or any guests or family members.