US Virgin Islands Travel Guide
Situated south of the British Virgin Islands, the US Virgin Islands is a territory of the United States of America. Purchased from Denmark in 1916, it consists of three major inhabited islands, as well as a dozen smaller cays.
Like many other smaller Caribbean islands, it subsides primarily on tourism nowadays. However, with a number of preserved sugar plantations, and an impressive fort that defended this isle from pirates over the centuries, there is plenty here to interest the culture vulture when they aren’t working on their tan.
Currency: U.S. Dollars
Languages: English, Spanish
What To Do
Explore a former sugar plantation by visiting the Estate Whim Museum. Consisting of a great house, factory, mill, and slave quarters, the buildings on this twelve acre site will give you a good idea of how sugar was produced in prior centuries.
Guided tours are available, which will fill in the blanks with stories that the restored buildings here simply cannot tell.
Next, be sure to check out the grounds of Fort Frederik. Declared a National Historic Landmark, this garrison has helped to protect the town of Frederiksted from pirate attacks over the years.
Originally built in the mid-eighteenth century by the Danes and the Norwegians, this outpost was among the first on foreign soil to pay tribute to the declaration of American independence in 1776 by firing off their guns.
It was also here in 1848 where the Danish Governor signed a proclamation emancipating all slaves on St. Croix Island. With a museum and art gallery on site, this place is a must-see for cultural travelers visiting the US Virgin Islands.
The US Virgin Islands has many attractions for those that enjoy nature; for example, hikers will want to trek the Reef Bay Trail at some point in their stay, as the ruins of a sugar mill, waterfalls, and plenty of lush, undisturbed jungle can all be seen and experienced along its length.
It is the presence of petroglyphs that are the highlight of a walk along this trail however. Carved by Taino Indians over a thousand years ago, it is a landmark that makes this trek well worth the effort.
If you are an avid diver or snorkeler, you will want to spend time exploring Buck Island Reef National Monument. Surrounding uninhabited Buck Island, this coral reef is home to one of only three underwater ‘trails’ in the United States.
With over 18 square kilometers of corals to comb over, you’ll spend the better part of a day here – don’t forget to put on water-resistant sunscreen before plunging beneath the surface to explore!
Like any Caribbean island, there are plenty of beaches to discover in the US Virgin Islands. Maho Beach should be your first destination; found on the island of St. John, this place represents the Caribbean ideal, with drooping palms, sugar white sand, and crystal clear waters.
It can get busy during high season, but with manta rays that can be seen offshore, and a trail that will take you to the ruins of a sugar plantation house, sharing space with visitors is a small price to pay.
Trunk Bay is another spot on St John that is well worth a visit. Donated by Laurence Rockefeller over 50 years ago to the National Park Service, its outstanding natural setting has it competing with Maho Beach for the title of the most beautiful beach in the US Virgin Islands.
With a reef that is over 225 yards long, this is another spot that is perfect for snorkelers. If you didn’t bring your mask with you, feel free to rent one, along with an underwater camera. The latter device is perfect for capturing the memories that you will make swimming through some of the most beautiful waters that you will likely see in your lifetime.
What to Eat
Looking for a savoury breakfast on your first day in the US Virgin Islands? Trying a Meat Pate is what you will want to do. A baked or fried pastry filled with ground beef, onions, garlic, bell peppers, and sometimes chiles, this greasy, flaky turnover will put a quick end to any hunger pangs.
There are many dishes that are enjoyed by locals in the US Virgin Islands, but none are as common as Salt Fish and Rice. Inexpensive and incredibly satisfying, this meal is made by frying white fish and rice together with tomatoes, onions, garlic and green peppers.
Be sure to have Sweet Potato Pie for dessert before you leave the islands. Combining sweet potato with raisins, chopped almonds, cinnamon and sugar beneath flaky pie crust, finishing your slice will be one of the toughest tasks that you will undertake during your holiday in the US Virgin Islands.