USVI's Beaches

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USVI's Beaches
Every beach in the U.S. Virgin Islands is public, regardless of any hotel affiliations, making it both simple and impossible to choose. Here are some of the island's top spots.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism
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    Iconic Beaches
    Chances are, you’ve seen these U.S. Virgin Island beaches on a postcard or billboard, or in an advertisement. These sandy shores are gorgeous, but they are iconic for other reasons. Trunk Bay on St. John is considered one of the top beaches in the world, but it’s also the location of a famous underwater snorkel trail. On St. Croix, Sandy Point Beach is the largest beach in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and is a nesting spot for endangered sea turtles. Legend has it that Sir Francis Drake used Magens Bay, on the Atlantic side of St. Thomas, as a hideout while waiting for ships to plunder.
    Photo courtesy of U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism
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    Beaches Worth the Entrance Fee
    Paying a cover charge to unwind on the sand when there are literally dozens of other options within miles may seem like an odd choice, but these two beaches—both on St. Thomas—are definitely worth the price. Magens Bay charges a small entrance fee, but you gain access to a white-sand beach, an arboretum, coconut groves, mangrove forests, and wetlands. For an additional fee, you can camp on-site. Smith Bay Park, which includes Lindquist Beach, collects a few bucks from each person in exchange for taking advantage of the shaded parking, picnic tables, grills, lifeguard, and pristine beach.
    Photo by Macduff Everton/age fotostock
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    Beaches Great for Snorkeling
    Exploring the sand is fun when it comes to people-watching and hunting for seashells, but there’s so much more to be seen beneath the sea. With its underwater snorkel trail, Trunk Bay on St. John is an obvious choice, but also consider Jumbie Bay, just down the way. This small and secluded beach provides some of the same snorkeling, but way more privacy. Buck Island, just off the northeast coast of St. Croix, is uninhabited and protected, and is the site of a carefully preserved reef system. Secret Harbour, on St. Thomas, is great for beginner snorkelers, and Coki Beach is also popular.
    Photo courtesy of U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism
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    Secluded Shorelines
    If you're looking for privacy, peace, and quiet, there are plenty of options throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands. Secret Harbour in Red Hook, St. Thomas, is away from the business of the capital, but still has many amenities. Little Lameshur Bay, on the western shore of St. John, and Saltpond Bay, a bit further to the south, offer intimate beach experiences despite their public access. On St. Croix, visit Isaac's Bay on the eastern tip (but note that it is a good 20-minute hike from the road); if you want something a touch more accessible, try Sandy Point (but only on Saturdays and Sundays).
    Photo by James Schwabel/age fotostock
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    Windsurfing Hotspots
    Even though catching (and manipulating) the perfect rush of wind to propel your board is an art form in the U.S. Virgin Islands, your odds of success are greatly improved at these beaches. Located just five minutes away from the capital city, Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, Bluebeard Beach has wide-open waters and plenty of amenities, including bathrooms, beach chairs, and restaurants. Nearby, Morning Star Beach overlooks Charlotte Amalie harbor. On St. John, Cinnamon Bay is a known water sports destination, and has all the rentals and amenities.
    Photo by Marc Auger/age fotostock
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    Family Fun
    For a day of exploring, take the family to the Annaly Bay tide pools to spot sea life in the shallows. Located a few miles from the Carambola Resort on St. Croix, the tide pools require a bit of a hike to get to; while some people go on their own, those with small children might want to hire a local guide, as the rocks are steep approaching the site. Hawksnest Bay on St. John is much simpler to get to—and the parking lot is nearby so carrying your gear is easy. Francis Bay on St. John and Emerald Beach on St. Thomas are both good for kids who like the shallows.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Beaches to Hike For
    St. John has some excellent beaches as long as you are willing to make the trek. Some of the best snorkeling in the USVI can be found in Waterlemon Cay, in Leinster Bay. Pick up the Leinster Bay Trail at the end of the paved road by the Annaberg Sugar Mill and hike in (less than a mile). Once at Leinster Bay, you can snorkel into Waterlemon Cay. Ram Head Trail is about a mile long (get on it at the south end of Saltpond Bay Beach), and will lead you to a blue cobble beach. Visitors can hike in to Salomon Bay from Cruz Bay (approximately one mile), and once they arrive they will find a secluded and pristine spot in the sun. Note that Salomon is known as a nudist beach.
    Photo by Kristy Alpert
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    Where to Swim
    Francis Bay on St. John is well-known for its calm, clear water, which is perfect for wading and a leisurely float; but don't miss the equally impressive snorkeling opportunities—just under the surface, underwater grasslands are home to sea turtles. If you miss them at Francis Bay, try the appropriately named Turtle Bay in Caneel Bay, also on St. John; located in a semi-protected cove, this beach has placid waters. Davis Bay and Cane Bay, both on the north shore of St. Croix, are good swimming locations, and Magens Bay on St. Thomas is mellow and rock-free.
    Photo by Kristy Alpert