On land, sad histories of the sugar cane plantations, slavery, & rebellion left sites you can visit for a taste of the Antebellum Caribbean. Today the descendants of the slaves inhabit all of the Caribbean islands. Their musical patois and colorful attire are an integral part of each island's charm. Talk to the locals, get to know a few, you just may get as insider's view of the islands that will take you off in a whole new direction.
Wrecks from hundreds of years ago on up to modern times litter the sea floor, creating fantastic dive sites all around the islands. Dive shops on St. Thomas offer trips to dive the famous Wreck Of The Rhone in the BVI's, or you can dive off the coast of St. Croix to see what's rumored to be an anchor lost from one of Columbus' ships.
(See specific island pages for more detailed tips - I'm still building them, so will link to them when done! Meanwhile, feel free to email me for more info on diving the USVI's.)
Sir Francis Drake left his mark on these islands, as well as Blackbeard, Bluebeard, & others too numerous to count. Today you can visit Blackbeard's Castle, drive to Drake's Seat where Sir Francis Drake sat with his telescope to scan for ships on the horizon, and then tour Ft. Christian in Charlotte Amalie, originally built in 1672.
Get some tourist maps & info, & take a driving tour of the islands to see hundreds of years of colorful history laid out for you! (But first see Driving Tips, Transportation Page!)
...and the USVI's certainly have their share of utterly gorgeous beaches. Pick one:
From the overly-touristed Coki Beach (which is still fun, with snorkeling at the reef & Coral World right next door to visit, and local vendors hawking their wares), to Magen's Bay (considered by many to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the Carib), you have your choice of hot spots with trendy beach bars or private little coves.
Trunk Bay, with its snorkeling trail & non-stop view, may get more tourists than the other beaches on STJ, but that doesn't mean it's not a spectacular sugar sand beach that you shouldn't miss. And then there is a whoooole island left to explore, in search of that perfect secluded arc of sand...After all, it is 2/3 dedicated to Virgins Islands National Park...
The small but lovely Cane Bay on STX's north side not only has a beautiful beach, but also great snorkeling & shore diving with access to The Wall. Most agree that the beaches of Buck Island, where you'll find the world's only underwater National Park, are some of the best around. All beaches on STX are open & free of fees for the public to use, thugh you may wish to rent beach chairs from resorts at certain sites.
Now this is more my speed, I love to parasail! Once you are set in the gear & sitting on the back of the boat, it begins to pick up speed, slowly lifting you into the air a hundred feet, and more. The boat tows you at a moderate speed, and you hover in the air with the most spectacular 360 degree views. And the waters of the Carib are SO CRYSTAL CLEAR that you can see fishes swimming below.
Again, this is generally available wherever watersports are popular in the resort beaches.
But when all that frenzy of water sports & shopping & sight-seeing is done, there's really nothing quite like your favorite hammock for a little resting up, is there? And after all, isn't this what it's really all about???
There's no end to what hidden or even obvious delights you'll find if you drive all over the islands. There are tourist maps & info available virtually anywhere you go. Just make sure you talk to someone reliable before you set out, so you know what areas to avoid, since there are clearly unfriendly elements on any of the Caribbean Islands. STT & STX especially have their share. Oh - and have a look at my tips on Driving in the USVI's first too!
All of the islands also have charters available for sunset cruises & day cruises. The types available are almost unlimited - ocean fishing charters, "cigarette" speed boats that zoom you to various locations or just around the harbor for a thrill, power boats or sailboats of all sizes to cruise to some of the small uninhabited islets for picnics & snorkeling, huge catamarans that softly slide out of the harbors for romantic sunsets either with or without dinners included, and even the notorious Tiki party boat that regularly invades various beaches on STT (it's little more than a huge raft with loud music and a raucous bar).
All of the main towns on St. Thomas, St. John & St. Croix offer free walking tours you can take to explore the towns & get to know the history of each settlement. It's a great way to find out what's special about each town, whether it's the wonderful old Danish fort at Christiansted, or the famed 99 Steps to the summit of Government Hill in Charlotte Amalie. Just to get you started:
Christiansted, St. Croix
Aye matey, it's a far cry from the computer terminal back at the office, ain't it?
Well, finish swabbin' the fo'csle deck & then just get yerself one o' them fine lookin' pirate's beer coozies at the local market, and kick back for a fine night o' drinkin'. (Mayhaps ye kin get one o' them buxom lasses up at the bar to join you.)
Like motorcycles on the water, these are a gas to try, but be considerate of the swimmers around, & watch out for divers' buoys too. AND be careful about where you go,since there may be reefs almost anywhere that can trip you up.
Rentals are on many beaches, just check with your hotel (which may rent some right there).
You have to head over to the rain forest to see the beer drinking pigs (don't worry- they serve them non-alcoholic beer). Also, the nice woman there makes this rum-honey drink and calls them 'mama wanna shots.' You have to have one- they are potent so beware.
All of the Caribbean Islands have coral reefs to snorkel or dive, and although the USVI's may not lay claim to having the best of all, they certainly have some lovely and easily accessible reefs. Some you can paddle out to see from the shore, like the popular snorkeling trail at Trunk Bay. Others (like Buck Island Reef off St. Croix) can be reached by taking a day cruise on one of the many small boat charters available all over the islands.
(Again, island-specific details to follow!)
Some of these guys are just amazing to watch. It seems as if they are just about to crash into the breakwater or the shore, & then they flip up into the air and spin around to go the other way like it's the easiest thing in the world!
Kitefurfing is becoming more popular everywhere in the Caribbean, so just check with the tourist information at your hotel to find out where to go for rentals. This guy was at the Ritz Carlton Resort beach on STT.
Many resorts offer the use of their little kayaks for free. It's a great way to explore the bay or cove where you are staying, so take them up on it.
Find the best snorkeling spots on your home beach, or even take a little picnic with you for a more extended paddle.
Magens Bay Road, , 00802, Caribbean
Good for: Couples
7338 Estate Bakkeroe, Charlotte Amalie, Caribbean
Good for: Business
The hotel rooms were old and the bathroom's were rusty, dirty, and downright disgusting. The food...more