Known for its white-sand beaches and colorful reefs, the Virgin Islands archipelago is one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean. With over a hundred islands, choosing which island to visit can be perplexing for first-timers. To help you, here’s a list of the best Virgin Islands to visit.
#1 St. John, US Virgin Islands
Located a mere three miles from St. Thomas, the busiest of the three main islands of the US Virgin Islands, St. John stands in stark contrast with the buzzing scene of its neighboring island. With nearly two-thirds of the island protected as a US National Park, St. John is all about peace and quiet.
Known for its lush green scenery, quiet beaches, underwater coral gardens, scenic roads, and walking trails, this island caters to visitors who want to get away from the crowd and enjoy what nature has to offer. This island is perfect if you love hiking, snorkeling, diving, and lounging on the beach.
If you’re up for some exploring, you definitely shouldn’t miss snorkeling at Trunk Bay or be hiking Reef Bay, two of the most famous nature spots on the island. Fancy staying the night? There are around 1,000 villas scattered across the island. You could easily find one that suits your budget and preference.
The resorts are fewer in this island and you wouldn’t find airports or cruise ship docks. However, this austerity in amenities only contributes to the tranquil atmosphere of the island. This makes it a quick favorite among tourists who want to get away from the most populated parts of the US Virgin Islands.
That said, you would easily find everything you need on the island. Just don’t expect to find shopping districts, lots of bars, and such other extra amenities you’d find in the more commercial islands.
#2 Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Tortola is the largest of the British Virgin Islands. It is also the governmental and commercial center of the British territory in the Caribbean. This island features a harmonious intermingling of well-preserved ruins from the island’s West Indies past and the luxury resorts in present-day British.
Home to 80 percent of the country’s population, the island offers complete amenities and countless things to do for tourists. With its powdery white-sand beaches and panoramic views of neighboring islands, it’s no wonder why island tours are extremely popular here.
Aquatic life in Tortola is breathtaking, making watersports incredibly popular. You wouldn’t want to miss snorkeling at Smuggler’s Cove. You wouldn’t want to miss visiting Cane Garden Bay either, one of the top ten beaches in the Caribbean.
For those who are not very fond of big crowds, no worries because Tortola has a number of less-crowded beaches. Want to indulge a little during your stay? Then you should pay a visit to some of the island’s luxury resorts.
In addition to its underwater sights and scenic landscape, Tortola is also home to a number of museums that highlight the island’s history, such as the 1780 Lower Estate Sugar Works Museum, Fort Burt, Mount Healthy Windmill Callwood’s Rum Distillery, and Old Government House Museum.
#3 Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
Named after an early Dutch settler and former pirate of the same name, Jost Van Dyke is a small island northwest of Tortola. It is known for its colorful folklore and happy, laidback vibe. The island didn’t have electricity and roads until the 1990s. Even now, tourists can still get a feel of its rugged charm.
Home to less than 300 inhabitants, Jost Van Dyke is the smallest of the British Virgin Islands. Despite its small land area, the island has been home to Arawak Indians, Caribs, Dutch, Africans, and the British. At present, Jost Van Dyke is often referred to as “the party island of the British Virgin Islands”.
Jost Van Dyke’s reputation as a party hotspot is easy to understand, especially with its disproportionately a large number of bars and restaurants. Whatever the island lacks in amenities, it more than makes up for with great food and hospitable company.
The island offers different cuisine, thanks to its numerous cultural influences. Its beachfront restaurants, consistent with the island’s casual vibe, give tourists a plethora of dining options which they can enjoy against the Caribbean’s peaceful backdrop.
The accommodations are few and far in between, and you wouldn’t find banks and ATMs, so don’t expect luxurious treatment here. But if you’re looking for a place where you can soak in the sun, explore old trails, and observe whales and dolphins, then this is the right island for you.
#4 St. Croix, US Virgin Islands
The largest of the US Virgin Islands, St. Croix is, interestingly, often overlooked by tourists who visit St. Thomas and St. John. Sometimes referred to as “the big island”, this 84-square-mile island is home to over 53,000 inhabitants.
More than just a tourist destination, St. Croix is a town unto itself. Homes, grocery stores, and schools are concentrated at the center of the island. Meanwhile, resorts and condominium units are strewn along the north shore. Vacation villas are scattered all throughout.
Consistent with its large size, the island offers an assortment of different sights and activities, alongside a very vibrant culture and history. The island’s Spanish, British, Dutch, and American influences gave rise to St. Croix’s unique culture which can be experienced during its festivals and cultural events.
Just by visiting Christiansted and Frederiksted, you will already get a glimpse of the island’s diversity Christiansted features regal 18th and 19th-century homes. Meanwhile, Frederiksted boasts a well-preserved tropical rainforest.
Apart from the architecture, windmills, forts, and churches, St. Croix also boasts a diverse and well-preserved ecosystem. It has three National Parks. The first National Park is Salt River, an ecosystem housing pre-historic ruins.
Also notable is Buck Island, which features stunning marine gardens. Finally, there are the five protected structures in Christiansted, which affords visitors a sneak peek to the Danish way of life.
#5 St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
With its popular cruise port and airport, St. Thomas is easily the busiest and the most crowded among three main islands making up the US Virgin Islands. Despite being only 32-square-miles in size, this busy island offers tourists with myriad things to do.
Well-known for its duty-free shopping scene, this island is certainly a shopper’s haven. The number of boutiques and jewelry stores is staggering, although you would have to brave the cruise ship crowd.
Not into shopping? Don’t worry. You can enjoy the island’s world-renowned golf course and picturesque beaches instead. Magens Bay, considered as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world is definitely a must-see.
Feeling adventurous? Take the St. Thomas Skyride 700 feet above the city for a panoramic view of the Caribbean. Alternatively, you can also climb the 99 steps of Charlotte Amalie, which offers an equally breathtaking view of the island and the sea.
With so many people gathering in the island on a regular basis, it’s not surprising that St. Thomas has a buzzing and spectacular nightlife. So, if you’re planning to spend the night on the island and don’t mind the crowd, you wouldn’t want to miss dropping by its numerous bars.