U.S. Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands Travel Guide
U.S. Virgin Islands Summary
- 86- to 91-degree beach weather, year round
- No passport required for United States citizens (though it's recommended)
- Tap water is safe to drink.
- Excellent, duty-free jewelry shopping in the capital city, Charlotte Amalie
- Yachting and sailing culture; ample marinas
- Legal drinking age is 18 (not 21, as it is in the United States).
- Cruise ship crowds on most beaches (all beaches are open to the public)
- In general, hotel service is less attentive than in other Caribbean Islands, like Jamaica or the Dominican Republic.
- High crime in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas' major city
- Unreliable public transportation (mostly unmetered taxis available)
- Chance of hurricanes from June 1st until November 30th
What It's Like
The small collection of mostly arid islands that make up the U.S. Virgin Islands have long been a seafarers stomping ground -- from the pirates of yore to today's more abundant cruise ship hordes and the occasional yachtsman, who might as well have christened his gleaming white vessel "Tax Dodge" (residents of the Virgin Islands are not required to pay federal taxes). And as they have for the past 400 years, people come to the islands mainly to drink, relax on the beach, and bargain shop -- often, in just that order. Considered "insular areas" or "unincorporated territories" of the United States, traveling to the islands is in many ways analogous to traveling within the U.S. -- citizens don't need a passport, the U.S. dollar is the official currency, and English is the official language.
Where to Stay
The islands' hotels are largely concentrated on the three main islands -- St. Thomas (the only island with an airport), St. John, and, to a lesser extent, St. Croix. On each of the islands, the hotels are largely scattered across smaller patches of beach that vary from slightly rocky to sublimely soft -- there are no spectacular, enormous beaches that create a consolidated "resort hub," as you'll find in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, or Aruba. But since the islands are so small, anywhere you stay will be within about a 30-minute drive from anywhere else on the island. Hotels range from the low-key, no-frills, family-owned fun at Bolongo Bay, to all-inclusive mega-resorts like the Wyndham, to the unplugged, natural luxury of Caneel Bay, in St. John.