U.S. Virgin Islands
Forgo the passport and expensive Euro -- we've still got the U.S. territories for exotic island escapes
Take part in what locals say is some of the best snorkeling waters in St. Croix. You’ll find rich marine and coral life.
The U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix are said to be three very different siblings in our country's Caribbean family. Since about half of St. John belongs to a national park, this natural wonder is quiet and reserved. St. Thomas, the most popular and the most cosmopolitan, thrives on shopping, dining, and nightlife. St. Croix -- the largest -- is steeped in tradition, culture, and local flavor. No matter what atmosphere and island suits you best, it's easy -- and worthwhile -- to visit them all. And the real reason you make the trip is for the beaches. Sparkling cyan water and powdered sand panoramically set off by rolling green hills offer more vistas than a camera's memory card can hold. At two of the most consistently top-ranked beaches in the world -- St. Thomas's Magens Bay and St. John's Trunk Bay—pelicans dive bomb and snorkelers scout an underwater and unparalleled coral path.
A good spot for families to set up shop is the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa on St. Thomas, a self-contained resort that houses cafés, grills, and restaurants, including some pool side. Kids' activities include bumper boats, coconut bowling, and miniature golf, plus there are four tennis courts and a private beach.
No matter where you stay, it's safe to say rum punch, sweet plantains, and, curiously, mac 'n' cheese will be on the menu. But for a most interesting meal, take a four-minute ferry ride across St. Croix's harbor from Christiansted to Harbormaster Restaurant. After some steel band music and grilled mahi-mahi, there's limbo and live entertainment in the form of fire eating and traditional Caribbean stilt dancing.
GET THERE: Daily direct flights from Charlotte to St. Thomas start around $355 (but can go as high as $700-plus for direct service in season) reach other islands via seaplane or ferry (prices vary; check website for reservations) (888-FLY-TOUR; www.seaborneairlines.com).