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Virgin Islands Outdoor Adventures

The Virgin Islands are the most westerly group of islands comprising the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean. The islands to the north east of this grouping are British overseas territories and consist of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, Anegada and fifty other smaller islands. The southwestern grouping of islands are territories of the United States and consist of St Croix, St Thomas, St John and several smaller islands. The islands of Culebra and Vieques are also part of the Virgin Islands and belong to Puerto Rico.


bullet Island Hopping through the USVI
bullet Walking through the history of St Thomas
bullet Finding your Inner Tourist in St Thomas
bullet Diving in the British Virgin Islands
bullet 4 Spots not to miss on your BVI powerboating trip
bullet Top 5 Surf Spots in the Virgin Islands
bulletBuck Island


Island Hopping Through the USVI

By Justin Burch

Most visitors to the U.S. Virgin Islands don't stray beyond St. Thomas - the nexus of the islands' vibrant culture. However, there are a variety of daytime excursions that offer activities for any type of tourist on St. Thomas' sister islands. From the extensive colonial history of St. Croix to the wide-open spaces of St. John and Water Island, there is plenty to experience throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands. Furthermore, moving between the islands is a breeze as ferries visit each of the U.S. Virgin Islands every day.

Of the three major U.S. Virgin Islands, St. John is the least developed destination. As two-thirds of the island is designated as the Virgin Islands National Park, you are guaranteed plenty of undeveloped Caribbean beauty. The island's interior is lined with hiking trails offering challenges for experienced hikers and families alike. Though the island measures just 28 square miles, you will be able to feel like you have escaped from the hustle and bustle.

St. John is also a great spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. The coral reefs surrounding the island are teeming with colorful fish and sea creatures. Though St. John is a quiet island, you will easily be able to find tour guides and dive instructors. Such dive tours and ferry service from St. Thomas can be arranged directly through your resort.

St. Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is a great destination for historical sightseers. Prior to European colonization of the Caribbean, the island was inhabited by native Arawaks and Caribs. In 1493, Christopher Columbus landed on the island and claimed it for the Spanish Crown. Named Santa Cruz (Holy Cross), the island was the site of many battles between the native populations and the Spaniards for more than a century. In the 17th Century, Dutch and English settlers came to the St. Croix. The island continued changing European hands as the Spanish ousted both the Dutch and English, only to have their settlements overtaken by the French. After serving as a profitable agricultural settlement for a number of European companies - including the Dutch West India and Guinea Company, St. Croix was eventually sold to the United States by Denmark during World War I to prevent German acquisition. When all was said and done, St. Croix had flown seven different flags during 500 years of colonial history.

The remains of this colonial history can be found throughout St. Croix, especially in Christiansted and Frederiksted - the island's largest settlements. Beyond the unique ruins of European colonies, the 82 square-mile island is full of the natural beauty the Caribbean is known for. From the rainforests at the interior of the island to the wide beaches at the shore, St. Croix has everything you expect of an island paradise. St. Croix can easily be reached by direct ferry or flight from St. Thomas.

So when planning your trip to St. Thomas, consider a day trip to one of the other islands to enjoy everything that the USVI has to offer.

This article was written by Justin Burch. Justin writes select pieces about enjoying a Marriott Caribbean Vacation at the St. Thomas.


Walking through the history of St Thomas

By Justin Birch

Though St. Thomas is known as one of the best shopping destinations in the Caribbean, the island is also home to a wealth of historical intrigue. Within a concentrated area of St. Thomas' capital city, Charlotte Amalie, visitors will find everything from ornate churches and government buildings to colonial forts and mythical pirate outposts. If you want to experience St. Thomas' fascinating history, there is no better way to see the sights than a walk through Charlotte Amalie amongst the beautiful Caribbean weather.

The best place to start a walking tour of Charlotte Amalie's historic sites is Fort Christian, a Danish-built structure dating to the late 17th century. Visible throughout Charlotte Amalie, this vivid red-brick fort is in fact the oldest remaining structure in the Virgin Islands. Having served as a government center and a church after the colonial period, Fort Christian is now a National Historic Landmark and history museum. After visiting the museum, be sure to visit the roof of Fort Christian for an excellent panoramic view of the harbor.

Directly across the street from Fort Christian, you will see the historic Legislature Building, a beautifully rebuilt colonial structure. After serving as barracks for Danish police and later for U.S. Marines, the Legislature Building was completed restored in 1956 and has served as home to local lawmakers since 1970.

From the courtyard of the Legislature Building, turn left and follow the sidewalk to the first traffic light. At the traffic light, turn right and look for the Vendor's Plaza on your left. Above this outdoor market, you will find Emancipation Park, the site of many official ceremonies and the Virgin Islands' replica of the Liberty Bell.

Directly across the street from Emancipation Park is the Grand Hotel, a 19th century structure that now houses a number of small shops and restaurants. After perusing the unique businesses inside the Grand Hotel, walk towards Fort Christian and turn left up the first narrow road.

At the top of the narrow path, you will come upon one of St. Thomas' most significant churches, the golden Lutheran Church. Known for its large staircase and bright yellow color, the church is one of the most photographed buildings in St. Thomas. Once the official church of the Danish West Indies, the Lutheran Church is still used for services today.

Turning right after leaving the Lutheran Church, you will walk past Post Office Square and a trio of statues. As you continue up Government Hill, you will come upon a street known as Kongens Gade, site of the 99 Steps. Constructed in the mid-18th century, these steps represent the Danes' attempt at city planning near the hilly shores of St. Thomas.

If you choose to follow the street rather than climbing the staircase, you will find the historic Government House - a building known for its collection of paintings by Camille Pissaro - on your immediate left. However, if you climb the 99 Steps, you will find yourself on the easiest route to Blackbeard's Castle, one of St. Thomas' most popular sights. Blackbeard's Castle is actually a large watch tower that once belonged to the Danish Fort Trygborg. As Blackbeard's Castle rests atop Government Hill, the structure provides an excellent view of the harbor. Though it is not known when the watch tower came to be known as Blackbeard's Castle, local legend has it that the famous pirate used the watch tower to patrol for rival ships.

The land surrounding Blackbeard's Castle is home to several town house museums, including Villa Notman and The Haagensen House. In each case, these musuems house everything from antiques to valuable Danish furniture. After leaving the area of Blackbeard's Castle, return to the area of Post Office Square and Main Street. After turning right onto Main Street, look on the right for a small street called Nye Gade.

One block up from Main Street at the corner of Crystal Gade and Nye Gade, you will find the pictuesque St. Thomas Reformed Church. Known as the island's finest example of classical revival architecture, the St. Thomas Reformed Church resembles a Roman temple, complete with large supporting columns.

Turning left onto Crystal Gade, you will quickly come upon the St. Thomas Synagogue, the second-oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. Having served an incredibly significant spiritual role during the colonial period, the St. Thomas Synagogue is still used today under Sephardic tradition. As a result, the St. Thomas Synagogue features the traditional sand-covered floor, a symbol of the Jewish flight from Egypt.

Returning to Main Street along the same route, you will be in the heart of St. Thomas' shopping district. Turning right at Main Street and following the road to the end of the shopping district, you will come upon Market Square, a former slave market that now serves as an open-air produce and craft market.

One block further up Main Street, you will find St. Thomas' primary Catholic church, Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. Constructed in 1806, the cathedral is known for its ornate murals painted by Belgian artists, Father Leo Servais and Brother Ildephonsus.

While history probably won't be the first thing on your mind while in St. Thomas, the island features a wealth of important sites within a very walkable area. After enjoying the beach and the relaxing amenities of your resort, this simple walking tour of Charlotte Amalie offers a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Justin Burch writes articles about travel in St. Thomas for the Marriott Resorts.

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Finding Your Inner Tourist In St Thomas

As you plan your trip to St. Thomas, you will probably find that one of the favorite activities for St. Thomas vacations is duty-free shopping in Charlotte Amalie. While shopping and walking the streets of this colonial capital might be a great start to a St. Thomas vacation, St. Thomas certainly has more to offer than simple shopping and dining. From the historic colonial sites scattered throughout the island to the natural beauty of the Caribbean, St. Thomas has something to offer any type of tourist. You and your family can embark on exotic underwater adventures, or ride a cable car to the top of a Caribbean peak. The possibilities are endless in St. Thomas.

A favorite of families, the Coral World Ocean Park features over five acres of aquariums, pools, hiking trails and observatories. Feeding shows and snorkeling expeditions allow children to interact with some of the Caribbean's most interesting sea creatures. For the daring tourist, the site even offers parasailing and a swim-with-sharks program. Also for lovers of marine life, the high-tech submarine tour - Atlantis XV - allows tourists to coast through coral reefs and observe numerous types of fish, turtles and other Caribbean creatures. Your tour guide will point out interesting and rare species along the way.

Just east of the capital city of Charlotte Amalie is another tourist favorite, Bluebeard's Castle. Though local legend states that the structure was built by the famous pirate to commemorate his love of Mercedita, the stone tower was actually constructed by Danish colonists in 1689 as a watchtower for nearby Fort Christian. Connected to this site is the complex know as Frederiksberg, a residence erected after the colonial government sold the land in 1818. Today, the buildings serve as one of the most unique architectural sites in the Caribbean.

The highest point in St. Thomas, the 1,542 foot peak of St. Peter Mountain, was once used by the U.S. government as a communications station. Today, this scenic overlook features shops and restaurants that look down upon Drake's passage - the legendary site believed to have been a lookout for Sir Francis Drake spying on the Spanish Armada - and the surrounding. Another great location for that perfect Caribbean view is The St. Thomas Skyride to Paradise Point. The aerial cable car at the site takes you up 700 feet in less than 7 minutes with stunning scenery along the way. At the top you will find a number of fun shops and restaurants, all of which feature amazing views of Charlotte Amalie harbor.

The Tillet Gardens are the home of St. Thomas' vibrant local art scene. Formerly a Danish farm, English artist Jim Tillet converted the property into a center for visual arts and performance after arriving in St. Thomas in 1959. Besides being one of the few colonial farms open to the public, Tillet Gardens are brimming with local paintings, silkscreen prints, jewelry and other crafts all created by the local community. After enjoying a cool drink and a snack, check the event schedule as you may have the pleasure of hearing a classical music performance.

The charming fishing outpost known as Frenchtown is another great area to visit and relax while in St. Thomas. Settled in the late 1800s by fishermen from the nearby French-Caribbean island of St. Barthelemy, Frenchtown still features an active fish market. Early in the morning, you can observe fishermen approaching the shore in their small boats and preparing their catch for sale.

Resting on a hilltop in the middle of town is St. Ann's Catholic Church, a great place to catch a view of town and the vast Caribbean. Frenchtown also has the beautiful French Heritage Museum with artifacts documenting the French colonial experience in the Caribbean region. A little further off the beaten path is the town of Red Hook, a departure point for many Caribbean ferries and other vessels. Supporting the local marinas are several excellent restaurants and bars, each with unique offerings. Experiencing small towns such as Red Hook, in addition to the capital of Charlotte Amalie and the surrounding countryside, will certainly offer some understanding of the rich culture and history of this beautiful Caribbean island.


About the Author:
This article was written by Justin Burch. Justin writes select pieces about travel in Caribbean for the Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort




Diving in the British Virgin Islands

By Frances Van Den Berg

The British Virgin Islands are a series of volcanic outcrops that stretch more than 70 miles between the Caribbean and the Atlantic. The major islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke are accompanied by almost 40 smaller islands that form a protective chain around the Francis Drake channel. This protective rock formation makes  Virgin island diving possible around the channel  in all weather conditions.

Scuba diving in the British Virgin Islands differs slightly from the rest of the Caribbean in that there is very little wall or drift diving here, and the majority of the dives are done in only 50-60 feet of water. Subsequently, large coral gardens, wrecks and caverns tend to characterize diving here. The majority of the diving tends to take place within the Francis Drake channel, however, the large number of wrecks that surround Anegada ensure that it is also a popular spot for Virgin Island diving.

The British Virgin Islands offer a number of excellent dives, however, the wreck of the RMS Rhone off Salt Island is considered the cream of the crop. The wreck of the RMS Rhone lies in shallow waters of Black Rock Point. During a hurricane in October 1867, the RMS Rhone collided with the rocks around Black Rock Point, which caused an explosion in the boiler room. Nowadays, there is an abundance of marine life across the wreck including a giant green moray and an octopus, both of which inhabit the rear portion of the wreck.

The temperatures throughout the Islands are relatively constant, ranging from 86 degrees F in summer down to approximately 80 degrees F in the cooler winter period. Water temperatures range between 78 and 83 degrees F.

Overall, the diving industry in the Islands is well developed and owing to their calm, clear waters, the islands are considered an excellent destination for novice or learner scuba divers. For experienced divers there are also a large number of more challenging dives, which make British Virgin Island diving a worthy experience for everyone, from the rookies to the experts.

Frances wrote this article for Dive Time Virgin Island Diving " is the premier Scuba diving destination on the internet, with a unique offering of Scuba related information and services to divers everywhere"

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4 Spots Not to Miss on Your BVI Powerboating Trip

By Greg C Hunt

The British Virgin Islands comprise around fifty Caribbean islands and outcroppings. Most of them are located within sights of one another, which is the reason why the BVIs archipelago is perfect for a powerboating trip. If you're eyeing to charter a powerboat on your next visit, here are 4 spots you wouldn't want to miss.

The Baths

The Baths in the southern tip of Virgin Gorda is a famous BVIs landmark. The unique natural formations of grottoes, tunnels and arches, formed by massive granite boulders and half-submerged rocks somehow represents the Virgin Islands as it is: untamed but beautiful. Topping it off are the sea grapes and coconut palms, as well as the stunningly colored and time-deformed boulders that line up the shore.

A quarter-mile south from the Baths is the Devil's Bay, and getting to this equally stunning bay, is hiking through a maze-like passage of boulders and shallower grottoes. Along the trail, you'll find the Cathedral; a pool formed by an overhead intersection of two gigantic rocks, which creates a tall, triangular roof that lets a small amount of light through. This is a popular setting for romantic pictorials.

Bitter End Yacht Club

The North Sound at the Northern end of Virgin Gorda is a remote anchorage and home to the world-famous Bitter End Yacht Club. Although, the white sand beach and calm sapphire blue waters of this sheltered bay are crowd drawers by themselves, establishments like the BEYC and many other seafood grills and steakhouses on the shore-side see to it that the yachties, adventure seekers, and land lubbers from near and afar get their fix of the island paradise.

Jost Van Dyke

Jost Van Dyke is a four mile-long barefoot paradise best known for its casual style, and world-class beaches; beach bars and restaurants. The Soggy Dollar Bar, known for giving the world the spiky frozen delight, the "Painkiller," is among the bars that make JVD their home. Another one is Foxy's Beach Restaurant and Tamarind Bar, known for throwing huge New Year's Eve Parties, which they call "Old Year's Eve."

Soper's Hole

Tucked away at the Western tip of Tortola, Soper's Hole a.k.a. Tortola's West End, is often referred to as a tropical urban "gunkhole," a nautical term for a great anchor spot. The Marina retains its quaint charm with its captivating complex of pastel West Indian-Style buildings, boutiques, bars and restaurants. Surrounded by small mountains such as the Frenchman's Cay, and along with an alluring opening to the Caribbean Sea, Soper's Hole exposes a soothing sense of spatial intimacy.

Powerboating around the British Virgin Islands is an exciting way to experience this tropical island paradise's beauty and natural wonders. Make your trip more memorable by visiting these 4 top BVIs destinations.

Greg Hunt is a wanderer who has the knack for writing. Upon a trip to the Virgin Islands, fell in love with its hum and vibration. He currently resides in St. Thomas and works as a skipper for St Thomas Boat Rental.

Check out some of his works at

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Top 5 Surf Spots in the Virgin Islands

By Greg C Hunt

Little is known about the awesome waves and surfs that grace the United States and British Virgin Islands during warm seasons. During this time, roughly from mid-November to late April, waves can reach up to eight-feet in height, and on bigger days may reach as high as double overhead. And although the VIs waters are pretty flat and un-surfable the rest of the year, passing storms on the Northern part can still create some pretty exciting surf.

Here are the top 5 surf spots in the Virgin Islands.

Sprat Bay, Water Island, USVI

A 10-minute ferry ride from St. Thomas, Water Island, is better known for swimming and snorkeling. However, Sprat Bay, near the Island's East End, has hollow, fast, and ledgy right point breaks that suit surfers of any skill level -- including beginners. Settled in a mostly undeveloped island, Sprat Bay does not draw in a heavy crowd; making it a good place for "limin'" (chilling and relaxing).

Hull Bay, St. Thomas, USVI

Hull Bay is perhaps the beach that's most associated with surfing in all of St. Thomas. Located on the island's Atlantic side, the bay produces four to ten-foot point/reef breaks from the swells that come from the Northeast. With fast and powerful ledgy left and right point breaks, as well as having a reef and coral bottom, Hull Bay is recommended only for experienced surfers.

Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI

The point break at Cane Garden Bay generates strong waves wrapping around as they race down the harbour's inside bowl section. Although waves can reach heights of up to fifteen-feet, they need to be over five-feet before the break is surfable. The bay's inside reefs are exposed as the water sucks out, which can be quite risky for beginners.

Long Bay, Tortola, BVI

Long Bay is perfect if you are looking for family friendly surf. The bay is popular with kids and newbies because of its "learner's wave". The beach has long sections of shallow water and has a sandy bottom with soft rocks. Wall after wall of whitewater reforms after the waves break further out, which can be exciting for the kids.

Sandy Spit, Jost Van Dyke, BVI

Surfable four to fifteen-foot waves form as left-hand waves break in front of Sandy Spit. Waves at the Southern tip of this desert island paradise are small but long and curling round the point. The Spit has a coral bottom and have several reefs line up its shore; recommended for experienced surfers.

There are many more surfing spots in the Virgin Islands; some are conveniently located near big towns while some can only be reached by boats. If you ever feel the urge to ride some waves while in the VIs, these are the places to visit.

Greg Hunt is a wanderer who has the knack for writing. Upon a trip to the Virgin Islands, fell in love with its hum and vibration. He currently resides in St. Thomas and works as a skipper for St Thomas Boat Rental.

Check out some of his works at

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Buck Island in the US Virgin Islands

By Nagib Georges Araman  

Recommend ArticleConsidered by many to be the finest marine gardens in the Caribbean Sea, Buck Island Reef National Monument is a popular day-trip destination for people visiting St. Croix. This region is one of the prominent sections of the US Virgin Islands. Established in 1961, through a Presidential proclamation, Buck Island and its surrounding waters is a fully protected marine area within a National Park System.

This gorgeous island covers 176 acres of land area and is enveloped with the elk horn coral barrier reef. The coral system is highly admired for its extraordinary formation, and is home to an abundant number of underwater animals, which include reef fish, crustaceans and hawks bill turtles.

Since the island is a highly protected destination; don't expect to find the usual water sports like jet skiing, fishing, surfing and kite surfing conducted here, as they are all prohibited. But what you can truly enjoy while here is hanging out on the beach, having picnics, swimming, snorkeling and just soaking in the tranquil and secluded ambiance. Although scuba diving is not permitted at the underwater trail, there are two scuba moorings in the north lagoon. There are no tourist accommodation facilities on Buck Island, and it is closed to visitors during sunrise and sunset.

To reach wonderful Buck Island, which is less than two miles north of St. Croix Island, you need to take one of the boats from concessionaires authorized by the National Park Service. Once aboard, you can sail to the island and admire it from different perspectives. If you are coming from overseas, you can first fly to Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix and then plan a trip to Buck Island.

You have the option choose whether to sign up for a half day or full day trip with the concessionaires. But if you do have the time, it is highly recommendable to linger on the island for as long as you can. It is the perfect spot to feel that you are away from it all. It is even more special for those who adore snorkeling, beaches and lush forests.

You can find the concession boats docked at Green Cay Marina and Christiansted Wharf. If you wish to come to the Island by private vessel, note that it is only allowed if you have obtained the necessary permit. Permit applications are processed by the National Park Service visitor contact station at Fort Christianvaern, located in downtown Christiansted.

Once you step foot on Buck Island, you can easily access the outer reef and underwater trail by boat. There is only one foot trail on the island and it connects Turtle Beach and the reef area. The trail takes about 60 minutes to complete, and makes a nice hiking experience. Turtle Beach is a very famous destination on Buck Island. Hailed by National Geographic as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, this is a dream-come-true destination for any beach lovers or romantics.

Your time on Turtle Beach will become even more memorable if you grab the opportunity to go underwater. If you are not too confident in your snorkeling skills, you can always sign up for a snorkeling tour, and let a professional guide you all the way. However take note that since the snorkeling trail around Buck Island is protected by the national park system; the number of snorkelers is limited for each day. So to secure that precious spot, make sure to make your reservations early. TRANSFORMING THE WAY WE TRAVEL

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To learn about the other islands in the Caribbean, visit our Island Adventures Page.






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Last modified: September 10, 2017