Bordering the Caribbean Sea traveling south and the Atlantic Ocean on the north, visitors discover the beautiful Virgin Islands, a tropical vacation destination unlike any other in the world. Divided into the north-eastern British Virgin Islands ( BVI ) and the south-western United States Virgin Islands ( USVI ), each provides a home for a unique lifestyle and vacation experience. The larger USVI experience more popularity with tourists, while the BVI feature a more rural landscape and rugged beauty. Either island group offers shopping, exquisite dining or the wild beauty of untouched national parks and reserves. Snorkel or dive the clear turquoise waters with their abundant marine life, or experience the diverse cultures of the many towns, historical sights, and friendly people. Whether your plans include relaxation on white sand beaches or excitement and discovery, the Virgin Islands hold a corner of paradise for everyone.
For those seeking excitement, St. Thomas easily earns the title of the busiest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The most popular cruise ship port in the Caribbean, it boasts perhaps the best shopping area in the Caribbean, particularly St. Thomas jewelry stores, along with fine dining and a pulsing nightlife. Spend your days on the tranquil beaches, ranked among the most beautiful in the world, like Megan's Bay Beach, or head into the capital city of Charlotte Amalie for its unique stores and rich cultural history.
If you prefer something a little slower paced, the sleepy island of St. John rests just a short ferry ride away. With over half the island protected as a national park, the beauty of the beaches and land remains virtually unspoiled. Hike the many miles of trails past plantation ruins and observe the abundant wildlife, or relax on the white sand beaches with their protected coral reefs. Many regard snorkeling on St. John as some of the best in the Virgin Islands, with a wide variety of locations for both beginners and the more experienced. At the end of the day, take a drive to the small town of Cruz Bay to grab some dinner, do some shopping, or chat with the friendly local people. Don't expect a bustling nightlife here, but do be prepared to enjoy the ease and tranquility of a natural paradise.
If you enjoy the quiet lifestyle of St. John, you will surely appreciate the laid-back Water Island. With only a few hundred inhabitants, it contains no main town, hotels, public transportation, or shops. The people who live there depend on St. Thomas, only a quick ferry ride away, for many of their needs. If you truly wish to get away from it all, spend a peaceful day hiking, swimming, or exploring the Water Island coastline away from the world of modern convenience.
St. Croix, the largest of the USVI, at the relatively enormous size of 82 square miles, falls between the fast-paced St. Thomas and the laid-back St. John in terms of island lifestyle. Walk through Christiansted and enjoy the grand architecture and fabulous shopping opportunities, or hike the lush rainforest near Frederiksted. These "twin cities" constitute the two main towns in St. Croix, each with its own distinct personality. For excellent snorkeling, visit nearby Buck Island, 176 acres of preserved land and surrounding reef including an underwater national park.
The largest island in the BVI, Tortola appears dry and craggy, covered in cacti and dotted with turquoise coves and harbors. The small amount of rainfall here results in exceptionally clear and calm waters, making Tortola popular for snorkeling and diving. For lovers of sailing, might well represent the most popular destination in the Caribbean. Ideal trade winds make sailing a dream for both boating aficionados and dabblers alike. Spend a day cruising, or anchor near one of the many islands off the coast and enjoy your own private paradise.
For secluded and private beaches, explore the wide stretches of white sand covering Virgin Gorda. This island provides home to quiet coves and luxury resorts along it's coast while visitors find it's interior covered with trails and national parks for observing the diverse flora and fauna. Be sure to spend a day exploring the Baths, where huge granite boulders create a series of saltwater pools and rocky coves. Experience the island's rich cultural heritage by visiting the ruins at the Cornish Copper Mines or Little Fort National Park, and enjoy shopping and diverse cuisine with African, Spanish, Indian, and British influences.
The only coral island in the BVI, Anegada hosts it's own fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving, with salt ponds and springs that support an array of water animals. Aside from a few white sand beaches, much of the island is closed to settlement, protecting the many species of flourishing wildlife. Home to only a couple hundred people, Anegada maintains a remote and isolated existence far from the modern world. While it lacks the frills of the other islands, its wild beauty and abundant life give unsurpassed opportunities for exploration.
At only four miles long, Jost Van Dyke defines "laid back". A casual island known for its parties, beautiful beaches, restaurants and bars the island became a popular stopover point for yachts and cruise ships, defining the area as alternately tranquil or bustling when cruise ships dock in port. Once home to a settlement of sugar cane plantations, the ruins still hide under vegetation yet stay accessible via the many trails. Some vacationers associate Jost Van Dyke with its famous rum and holiday parties, where the bars fill with travelers from around the world.
If somehow nothing exited you on the primary British Virgin Islands, explore more than 60 other islands in the BVI, some full of history and some that remain uninhabited. Enjoy a day of privacy and isolation on Ginger Island, Round Rock, Scrub Island, or many many more. Exploring, snorkeling, and relaxing on your own island creates a truly unforgettable vacation experience.
From the bustle of St. Thomas to the remote beauty of Anegada and everything in between, a vacation in the Virgin Islands creates memories to last a lifetime. Boat, swim, snorkel, or just relax on the soft white sand beaches and take in the view. Experience local cuisine and culture, trek the rugged hiking trails, and enjoy a nature lover's paradise of flora and fauna. Sit back and enjoy yourself on a tropical vacation incomparable to any other!