U.S. Virgin Islands
NOTE: This post was written in 2018, before hurricane Irma devastated the island. Some hotels and restaurants are no longer open or are closed temporarily for repairs.
The US Virgin Islands are perhaps the most scenically impeccable (think postcard perfect) part of the US that has not been raided by backpackers and tourists... yet! Despite the fact that these beautiful islands were wrecked by Hurricane Irma two years back, a lot of the breathtaking landscape that made this place so special has already recovered, meaning that it is still a perfect destination worth building a whole trip around!
St. Thomas and St. John may be the most sought-after tourist stops in the USVI–-and for good reasons. These atolls have crystal clear water, warm weather, charming towns, and world-class resorts. If you are planning to visit either of these two islands (or both), you are in for a real treat.
What to Do
There is no end of sights to see and things to do in both St. John and St. Thomas. When in St. John, try to spend at least one full day on the beach. St. John has some of the best beaches in the world. Whether you want to let your hair down in the secluded and unruffled Brown Bay or get a tan in the upbeat Trunk Bay, St John has a beach to satisfy your every whim. If you are looking for something more exciting, you can give snorkel diving a try. Maho Bay and Whisling Cay are the best beaches for snorkeling in St. John. Other water-based activities and sports that you can try out are kayaking and paddle boarding. You can also venture out of the towns and explore the rich nature and exotic wildlife of the island by hiking through some of the most beautiful trails in the Caribbean.
Unlike the serene and natural St. John, St. Thomas is the cosmopolitan hub of the US Virgin Islands. It is not a place one can call "off the beaten track"; it is a vibrant city with far more than a day’s worth to do. The shopping culture here is phenomenal but if you really want to dip into your vacation, you can stroll through Charlotte Amalie and explore some of the island’s unique history. You can also visit Phantasea Botanical Garden to catch a glimpse of incredible tropical flora or view marine life and coral from a unique underwater observatory. Want to hit the lovely beaches? You can head to the popular Magens Bay or lounge in lesser-known Coki, Sapphire or Morningstar.
Where to Stay
One of the most important aspects of any vacation is finding the right accommodations. The US Virgin Islands offer a wide range of accommodations ranging from cozy inns, and contemporary villas to private campsites, world-class hotels, and charming B&Bs. Whatever type of lodging you need to explore the cultural and historical scene of St John or the cosmopolitan setting of St Thomas, there is something to suit your style and needs.
My pick for the best resort in St. John is The Rosewood Caneel Bay. One of the most lavishly appointed resorts in the US Virgin Islands, The Rosewood Caneel Bay offers lush grounds and luxurious accommodations. It features 166 spacious guest rooms with handcrafted furniture, natural woods, elaborately woven fabrics, and native stone pieces. It offers a courtside, premium courtside, ocean view, garden view and beachfront accommodations to cottages, beachfront suites, premium beachfront view, and premium ocean view rooms among others. All rooms are equipped with bathrobes, a mini bar, coffee maker, in-room safe, irons with boards and beach towels. Could you possibly ask for more?
If you are in St Thomas, do check out Ritz Carlton. It is a remarkably private and extraordinarily posh (AND MASSIVE) resort, tucked into a bay that lends jaw-dropping views of the turquoise waters. The resort looks very upmarket (of course) yet very laid-back at the same time. This is something that many travelers appreciate. The rooms range from the 50 square-foot Club Resort View to the 1,850 square-foot Presidential Suite; all pleasantly equipped with 42-inch flat-screen TVs and Italian linen-covered featherbeds… it does not get more glamorous than this! And, of course, there is a world-class spa and fitness center that provides yoga and aquarobics and a dedicated Kids Program that offers fun activities for younger guests.
I also love the Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove – it is another grand resort you can consider for your lavish travel break. Situated a little closer to town, Frenchman's Cove sits along the cliffs and has stunning blue ocean views from just about every part of the resort. They have a beautiful infinity edge pool with swim-up bar, tennis courts, great restaurants and even a complimentary ferry into town.
Whether you are craving flavors of the Caribbean, Italian specialties, Mediterranean cuisine, Asian delights, or authentic American, the award-winning restaurants in US Virgin Islands have you covered. When in St Thomas, head over to Beni Iguana's Sushi Bar & Restaurant for the best sushi… EVER, Twisted Cork for the best American food in the entire archipelago and Thali Indian Grill for authentic, mouth-watering Indian delicacies. When in St John, visit Asolare for fine dining in an elegant open-air eatery, Café Concordia for delicious eclectic food and Café Roma for everything Italian – lasagna, spaghetti, meatballs, what have you!
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