Top Attractions in the U.S. Virgin Islands
A trip to these islands, a kind of tropical paradise within the U.S., with its poetic ruins of sugar plantations, curved beaches lapped by clear blue waters, and green mountaintops, will leave you breathless with wonder—and eager to return.
Brewers Bay Beach, St Thomas 00802, USVI
Quiet, hidden beaches that once defined the Caribbean are still favored by discriminating travelers. Serene and blessed with a few basic facilities (including parking, restrooms, and changing areas, as well food trucks), Brewers Bay Beach offers visitors an easily accessed, languid, sweeping shore. It’s an ideal spot for grabbing a towel, relaxing, and watching the sun set. With shallow, calm, clear, and reef-protected waters, the beach is popular with families, who can enjoy the gentle surf. Snorkeling is also popular, and the beach is home to stingray and turtle communities. Despite its secluded feel, Brewers Bay Beach is located near the University of the Virgin Islands campus and Cyril E. King International Airport.
St Croix 00820, USVI
The Buccaneer has a long history. The colonial great house was built by Maltese knight Charles Martel in 1653. Located on a protected bluff, the house later became the home of Danish governor von Prock after Denmark’s 1733 purchase of the Virgin Islands. Fast-forward to 1947, when the Armstrong family transformed what was by then a cattle estate into the Buccaneer, St. Croix’s first family-run hotel. The resort, completely modern and still quite popular, operates the Buccaneer Golf Club, celebrated for its par 70 course that offers Caribbean views from 13 of its 18 holes.
Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas 00801, USVI
Modest in keeping with the sometimes understated influence of its namesake, the Camille Pissarro Gallery is a rare treat in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. One of the original French Impressionist painters, Pissarro was born on the island in 1830. The gallery is located in his childhood home, the loft section of a merchant’s building at 14 Main Street. Several of Pissarro’s Caribbean-inspired works are on display at the gallery, along with those from about two dozen other artists, including Jenine Wesselman and Sylvia Kahn.
3007 Hannah's Rest, Fredericksted, USVI 00840, USVI
Rum is the Caribbean’s signature spirit, its production documented in the region since colonial times. Just as there are dozens of varieties of rum, Caribbean travelers can select from a wide variety of rum distillery tours. The one offered at Cruzan Rum Distillery highlights the rum-making prowess of the 19th-century Nelthropp family, considered Cruzan rum royalty by many. The Nelthropp family endeavored to craft a spirit incorporating the “warm, tropical breezes that circulate through the open-air warehouses of the distillery.” A sip after your tour will allow you to judge whether they managed to capture St. Croix in a bottle.
2100 Church St, Christiansted, St Croix 00820, USVI
This national park is an ecological preserve with upland watersheds, mangrove forests, and estuarine and marine environments that support threatened and endangered species. The park also includes the Columbus Landing Site, a National Historic Landmark that is the only known place where members of a 1493 expedition led by Christopher Columbus (his second voyage) set foot on what is now United States territory. Columbus and his men met a tribe of Caribs here, so it was the first documented encounter between American Indians and Europeans.
Coki Beach, St Thomas 00802, USVI
Small and picturesque Coki Beach is a favorite for its soft white sand and calm, crystal-clear water. While there’s only limited shade here, umbrellas are available for rent, as are beach chairs, Jet Skis, diving and snorkeling equipment, and floats. Several snorkeling and dive sites nearby include a rocky reef near shore. Beachside eateries serve up picnic-table fare including burgers, sandwiches, and local dishes. The beach can get crowded when cruise ships are in port, so ask at your hotel whether there are ships docking that day before planning a visit.
St Croix, USVI
Wide, sandy Cane Bay Beach, on St. Croix, has a lot going in its favor: The medium-size surf, full-service dive shop, barbecue grills, and fun sites to snorkel make the beach popular with families, kids, and even dogs. Choose simply to rent some beach chairs and bask in the warm Caribbean sun, or opt for a game of beach volleyball or a swim in the clear waters.
One of the island’s best lookouts, Drake’s Seat offers a panoramic view of Magens Bay and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands to the east. The site is named for Sir Francis Drake, who is said to have kept watch over the harbor from this vantage point. (Was Drake benevolently watching over his own fleet or looking for ships to plunder? The answer will depend on whether you subscribe to the British’s regard of him as a celebrated explorer or to others’ belief that he was a brutal privateer.)
52 Estate Whim, Frederiksted, VI 00840
The Estate Whim Plantation Museum, billed as the only sugar plantation museum in the Virgin Islands, is set on magnificently landscaped grounds occupying 12 acres of what was formerly a 150-acre property. The restored early-18th-century buildings include a great house, fully restored windmill, and sugar-factory ruins that are open to visitors and can be toured alone or with a docent. Sugarcane still grows in one of the plantation gardens.
Isaac Bay, St Croix, USVI
You have two choices for how to access the beach at Isaac Bay: Either hike from Jack’s Bay or arrive by boat. The hike is worth the extra effort. The breathtaking beach is home to nests of hawksbill and green turtles. (Keep your distance, though; the nurseries are protected by the Nature Conservatory.) The calm and deep waters of secluded Isaac Bay make it great for swimming and even better for snorkeling.
Jack Bay, St Croix, USVI
You won’t find crowds on a beach that is accessible only by foot or boat. Hike to beautiful Jack Bay from Point Udall or from the east end of the beach at Grapetree Bay. Like beach at Isaac Bay, Jack Bay’s is home to protected hawksbill and green turtle nests. Enjoy the privacy on Jack Bay, then hike around the bend to see more of the same kind of paradise on Isaac Bay.
1 Mohogany Run N, St Thomas 00802, USVI
These links, designed by George and Tom Fazio, offer 18 challenging holes, including numbers 13, 14, and 15, which make up the spectacular “Devil’s Triangle” that skirt the rocky hillside’s ledge above an ocean inlet. The views stretch from this northeast corner of St. Thomas to the British Virgin Islands. The pro shop is fully stocked with equipment and accessories to buy or rent.
At Point Udall, on the east coast of St. Croix, a sundial called Millennium Monument was erected for the New Year’s celebration in 2000. The stark sculpture represents the azimuth of the first sunrise of that year, the new millennium, at this easternmost point of the United States. Point Udall also affords visitors panoramic views and marks the starting point of a hike that leads to the beach at Isaac Bay.
Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas 00801, USVI
This intimate synagogue, built in 1833, is considered the oldest U.S. in continuous use (a hundred families still worship here). Visit the National Historic Landmark to find mahogany pews, ornate domes, and scrolls that survived a fire. The most famous feature is the sand floor, which symbolizes the Jews’ journey across the desert to find the Promised Land.
Red Hook Rd, Red Hook, St Thomas 00802, USVI
Duffy’s calls itself a “bar that serves great food.” Its brand of fruity tropical cocktails (some served in ceramic skulls) and casual fare seems somehow perfect for a relaxing Caribbean vacation. The restaurant claims to have hosted “pirates, debutantes, nerds, and rock stars.” From the outside, Duffy’s looks unassuming, but inside the colorful tiki bar decor features standard elements, such as bamboo-pole siding, spruced up with maritime mementos from around the Caribbean.
Hull Bay, St Thomas 00802, USVI
Hull Bay Beach—on the north shore of St. Thomas, west of Magens Bay—has the wave action surfers crave. When there’s a northern swell, the beach is considered the best surf spot on the island. The rest of the time you’ll find snorkelers, local families, and fishing boats bobbing out in the bay. The beach bar is a popular island spot.
St John 00830, USVI
One of St. John’s most beautiful seaside spots, Hawksnest Beach offers a beautiful and easy-to-reach locale with convenient parking, picnic tables, barbecue grills, and ample shade. That accessibility, alas, can mean crowds, so try to arrive early and find your spot on the sand. A long snorkeling reef begins a few yards from the shore.
21-22 Kongens Gade, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas 00804, USVI
Constructed in 1867 as the meeting place for the Danish Colonial Council, Government House is used today as the office for the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Several works by Impressionist master Camille Pissarro, a native of St. Thomas, is one highlight of a visit. The building, open to the public on weekdays, is a five-minute walk from the center of historic Charlotte Amalie.
3525 Honduras St, St Thomas, VI 00802
Owners Bryan Lewis and Eric Gaspard recently opened the Twisted Cork Café, a wine-focused restaurant located in the historic Frenchtown district of Charlotte Amalie. The neighborhood, which is busy with cruise passengers during the day, slows down to a more mellow island speed in the evenings. Daily specials, which often feature just-caught fish and produce from an on-site garden, are recommended.
Sandy Point, St Croix 00840, USVI
This three-mile beach, located near Frederiksted at the southwest end of St. Croix, is the longest in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Part of the 380-acre Sandy Point Wildlife Preserve, the beach is an important nesting area for the endangered leatherback turtle. Beach access is via a dirt road, open Saturdays and Sundays. The beach may be closed during turtle-nesting season, from March to August, so check with your hotel before you make the trek.
The friendly vibe at Delly Deck makes island eatery an ideal spot for celebrating special occasions or just grabbing breakfast or lunch with friends and family. Considered by locals to be a landmark (it’s been around for 40 years!), Delly Deck has a solid breakfast menu, with a range of omelet choices and standard but tasty lunch selections such as sandwiches, wraps, salads, and burgers. Cocktails—frozen and not—as well as beer and wine are on offer, though you probably can’t get into too much trouble before the 4 p.m. closing time.
St Thomas VI
This beautiful one-mile stretch was donated to the people of the Virgin Islands by Arthur Fairchild, a benefactor of the islands who’d made his fortune on Wall Street before retiring here. The usually calm waters of the heart-shaped bay make the beach the most popular on St. Thomas. Rent beach chairs and floats, and pick up lunch from stands selling burgers, pizza, and other snacks. Lifeguards are on duty every day.
Lille Taarne Gade, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas 00802, USVI
Yo, ho, ho and oh, my! Up on Government Hill, this watchtower, built circa 1678, is known as Blackbeard’s Castle and is literally the stuff of legends. Although it’s open for debate whether the notorious pirate ever used the five-story tower as a lookout, one thing is for certain: Its views are tops. Nearby the flower-lined 99 Steps (technically there are 103), built in the 18th century of ship-ballast brick, lead from historic Kongens Quarter to some more terrific views of the island.
Mongoose Jct, St. John, VI 00830
The home of St. John Brewers, among the leaders of the recent craft-beer revolution in the Caribbean, is a must-stop for all beer lovers visiting St. John. At the Tap Room, you can sample the brewery’s very latest beers, sometimes even while they’re in mid-development. Look for a plain black tap among the lineup of more colorfully ornate ones behind the bar. New beers in development are often available there. Feedback from customers goes into finalizing the brews.
St John 00830, USVI
Often called one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, Trunk Bay is a crescent of snow-white sand with a small green islet on the north side of the aquamarine lagoon. Part of the Virgin Islands National Park, Trunk Bay is known for its underwater snorkeling trail. Submerged signs along the trail describe the corals, tropical fish and other marine life found within the bay. Visitors can rent snorkeling gear on the beach, and lifeguards are in attendance.
Reef Bay Trail, St John 00830, USVI
The most popular trek in the St. John national park, this trail begins on Centerline Road and descends 937 feet through a shady forest. Along the way, hikers will encounter the remains of four sugar estates, as well as ancient petroglyphs, or rock carvings. The trail ends at the ruins of the Reef Bay Plantation near Genti Bay.
Cruz Bay, St John 00830, USVI
The 32 points of a compass face are called rhumb lines and in Cruz Bay, all those lines point to this Asian-influenced restaurant. Owned and operated by longtime St. John residents, Rhumb Lines is located inside a mini-mart. The restaurant’s humble setting has been transformed with fairy lights, colorful decor, and a palm-shaded garden, which, the owners say, reflects the “comfort and ambiance of a well-appointed south seas home.”
Dronningens Gade, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas 00801, USVI
Formerly the headquarters of the U.S. District Court in these parts, the low-slung brick building on the central waterfront now houses the island’s best handicrafts display. The maze features 150 artisans selling everything from handmade dolls and quilts to note cards and wooden serving items. There are also food vendors on site.