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How to See the U.S. Virgin Islands in 8 Epic Days

Day 1: Upon arrival, head to St. John
How to See the U.S. Virgin Islands in 8 Epic Days
Exploring St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix in just eight days is absolutely doable, especially with ferries, safari taxis, and seaplane flights that make up part of the adventure. Island hopping in the U.S. Virgin Islands is a bucket list-worthy journey that offers a true taste of the islands in one giant excursion. Book one-way transportation for each leg of the journey, and follow these day-by-day tips for the ultimate U.S. Virgin Islands tour.
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    Day 1: Upon arrival, head to St. John
    Day 1: Upon arrival, head to St. John
    The smallest of the three main U.S. Virgin Islands, St. John is the crown jewel. Much of the island and surrounding waters are protected as part of the Virgin Islands National Park, which was founded in 1956. Caneel Bay Resort, the only hotel within the park’s borders, has its own shuttle and ferry service that brings guests directly from the airport to the resort. Set on 170 acres, this elegant property is home to several pristine beaches, as well as a herd of wild donkeys. Hiking trails crisscross the grounds.

    Courtesy of Caneel Beach Resort 
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    Day 2: Plan a beach day at the National Park
    Day 2: Plan a beach day at the National Park
    Some of St. John’s best beaches, like Cinnamon Bay Beach and Trunk Beach, are located in close proximity along the island’s north shore, which makes it easy to “beach hop” by the island’s safari taxis. Don’t miss Honeymoon Beach or Salomon Beach, two sandy spots accessed by boat or the hiking trail between Caneel and Cruz Bay. And a short hike up Peace Hill offers a 360-degree panoramic view of land and sea.

    Photo by Erin Lindholm
    Peace Hill on St. John, USVI
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    Day 3: Let loose in Cruz Bay
    Day 3: Let loose in Cruz Bay
    St. John’s main port has some of the best happy-hour deals throughout the islands, including $1 beers at Castaway Tavern and $3 you-call-it drinks at Joe’s Rum Hut, a spot that overlooks the harbor. Making a dinner reservation in Cruz Bay is a good idea, especially with two new restaurants in town, Ocean 362 at Gallows Point Resort, with an upstairs open-air bar, and Extra Virgin Bistro.

    Courtesy of Ocean 360/Facebook 
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    Day 4: Head to St. Thomas’ East End
    Day 4: Head to St. Thomas’ East End
    The ferry service from St. John sails to the Red Hook marina on St. Thomas’ East End, where a number of the island’s top hotels, such as the Ritz Carlton, St. Thomas and Secret Harbour Resort, are in close proximity. As an added bonus, hanging out on the East End offers a break from cruise passengers arriving at the port in Charlotte Amalie. Additionally, several of the island’s most beloved beaches are located on the East End, including Coki Beach and Smith Bay Beach, known for its white sands and rugged natural beauty.

    Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas 
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    Day 5: Play tourist at the popular port
    Day 5: Play tourist at the popular port
    Being such a popular cruise-ship port of call, the island has a long list of attractions geared towards visitors. Take part in some duty-free shopping in Charlotte Amalie’s historic core, and then lunch at Gladys’ Cafe, a St. Thomas institution that’s been serving Caribbean comfort food for decades. Visiting Magens Bay Beach, St. Thomas’s most famous beach, is a must, as is seeking out one (or more) of St. Thomas’ scenic vantage points, such as Mountain Top, where banana daiquiris and souvenir shopping is also on order.

    Photo by Matt Long
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    Day 6: Explore St. Croix from West to East
    Day 6: Explore St. Croix from West to East
    The largest island of the USVI flies under the radar for most travelers, but a full tour wouldn’t be complete without a few days in St. Croix. The main town of Christiansted has a charming and walkable downtown area, although transportation is necessary to get around between destinations, like historic Frederiksted on the island’s West Coast, the Cruzan Rum Distillery Tour and Point Udall at the island’s far east end, the easternmost point in the United States.

    Photo by Patrick Bennett
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    Day 7: Dine with the Crucians
    Day 7: Dine with the Crucians
    Food is top of mind for St. Croix residents and the culture reflects as much. The island hosts numerous food-centric celebrations throughout the year, including the St. Croix Food & Agriculture Fair in February, the St. Croix Food & Wine Experience in April, and the Mango Melee and Tropical Fruit Festival in July. The culinary scene is a mix of old and new, with newcomers like 40 Strand Eatery and Zion Modern Kitchen complimenting local hangouts like Harvey’s, which draws a lunch crowd hungry for Harvey’s mom’s homestyle cooking.

    Courtesy of Zion Modern Kitchen
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    Day 8: Get on a boat
    Day 8: Get on a boat
    Full-day cruise and snorkel excursions are an incredible way to explore the region’s natural beauty, both above and below the water. Resorts like Caneel Bay on St. John and The Buccaneer on St. Croix offer tours that depart directly from their own docks. On St. Thomas, the Ritz Carlton has its own 53-foot catamaran, the Lady Lynsey, that picks up guests directly from the property’s beach. Check out the marinas on any of the islands—an easy way to find out information on private charters and group tour outfitters.

    Photo by U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism 
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    What’s Next . . .
    What’s Next . . .
    The Best Pools and Waterslides at Sea

    PHOTO COURTESY OF CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE/ANDY NEWMAN