Imagine this: clear blue skies dusted with small patches of clouds, turquoise waters softly lapping against the shore and you sitting on the soft sand with a cold pina colada in hand. This is St. Thomas and yes, it’s heaven on earth. Despite all my global travels, I’m sad to say that I’ve never taken the 4 hour flight from NYC to visit the US Virgin Islands. They’re the perfect getaway for us East Coasters (similar to Miami) and doesn’t require a long journey to the opposite side of the coast. It also feels like an exotic destination without the hassle of carrying your passport or getting a visa (I would carry your passport regardless). And there’s three beautiful islands to choose from or hop around in – St. Thomas, St. Johns and St. Croix.
If you’re traveling from outside of the U.S. Virgin Islands, your flight will land in St. Thomas. Arguably the most popular of the three islands, this is also where most cruise ships dock. As a result, there’s a ton of bars, restaurants and tourist attractions. There’s also a lot of shopping – and it’s all duty-free! If you want designer items or jewelry, this is a great place to buy them. Note that the island is quite spread out and you’re required to drive on the left side of a very curvy road, so rent a car at your own risk. A few sights to see:
- Magens Bay Beach (voted one of the best in the world)
- 99 steps and Blackbeards Castle
- Gladys’ Cafe
- Dinghy’ beach bar and grill
The US Virgin Islands became a part of America in 1917, following a sale/transfer by the Danish. My favorite part about these islands (apart from the beaches) was the amalgamation of different cultures. There’s a vibrant mix of Caribbean, African, Indian and European cultures prevalent everywhere. The Caribbean food is especially good and drinks are on the cheaper side, at least for us New Yorkers. Lastly, the laid-back vibes are exactly what one looks for while on vacation. Pay special attention to the small bars located between alleys – it’s very convenient for shoppers looking for a quick drink :-). I was hoping to get a glimpse of all the three islands but unfortunately, I was only able to accommodate a day trip to St. Johns.
St. Johns is a quick 15 minute ferry ride from St. Thomas. On the other hand, St. Croix is a 20 minute flight. To maximize my time at the islands, I opted for the 6 a.m. St. Johns ferry. Specifically, I wanted to visit Trunk Bay, as I read it was also one of the top beaches in the world. The beach was located in the middle of a rain forest and hence, secluded from the rest of the island. The forest was filled with chirping birds that were a delight to listen to. However, most of my time was spent underwater as the snorkeling was incredible. In fact, there’s even a snorkeling trail that guides you through coral reefs and identifies the different types of fish you can expect to see.
Of course, none of my travel posts would be complete without a ‘what to pack’ list so here goes:
- Sunscreen (that’s always #1)
- Bathing suits and hats
- Beach wear! There’s a lot of great cheap beach outfits you can buy at local markets near Charlotte Amalie
- Comfy flats, no need for heels
(I got photobombed)
(Turkish lamps at Charlotte Amalie)
Have you been to the US Virgin Islands? If so, what did you think and what island is your favorite? Sound off below!