The USA, Caribbean Style: USVI
The Caribbean has long been a destination for many Americans looking for fun in the sun and glorious tropical temperatures. Far removed from the winters back home, these fun loving folk flock to the set of islands known as the US Virgin Islands, which lie 40 miles east of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea. The main islands in the chain and the most popular for tourists are St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, and because they are American territories, US citizens don’t need a passport for a luxury Caribbean vacation when they take a US Virgin Islands honeymoon. With three distinct islands, there is sure to be one just right for the holiday of your dreams, from the history and duty-free shopping of St. Thomas to the quiet getting back to nature vibe of St. John to the largest island of them all, St. Croix, where sunset sails and tranquil days await.
The tropical climate, soothing trade winds and spectacular beaches are only some of the reasons the US Virgin Islands are such a big draw. Island weddings, honeymoons and romantic getaways set amid the beauty of the area with its white sand beaches and crystal clear waters are a treat for the senses and the stuff that honeymoon dreams are made of. Whether you go to the US Virgin Islands to snorkel, dive, have an adventure or just sit on a sun soaked beach, you will not be disappointed.
St. John is the smallest island in the US Virgin Island chain and it is famous for its unspoiled beauty and eco-tourism opportunities. If you want a quiet honeymoon away from the hustle and bustle of the neighboring islands, then St. John is for you. Roughly 60% of the island is made up of the Virgin Islands National Park which incorporates many beaches, coves, trails and wildlife and is maintained by the US National Parks Service.
What to do
Trunk Bay—the most photographed beach on the island and continuously voted one of the ten best beaches in the world. If you are anywhere near this beach you owe it to yourself to experience it. It is within the VI National Park and has marked underwater snorkel trails to follow, tons of natural shade and soft powdery white sand. It is an exquisite place to witness a sunset, or take a romantic stroll in the lapping waves.
Also in the National Park is Watermelon Cay. Located within Leinster Bay, the cay is something that you swim out to and snorkel within. Turtles, sting rays, corals, sea grasses, and starfish are only a few of the species that make the area home as do baby sharks and tiny baby barracuda. There is a small beach to rest before you head back to land on the other side, and it makes for a fascinating trip for the advanced snorkeler and beginner alike.
The Reef Bay Trail is something within the National Park that doesn’t require fins and a snorkel, as it is a charming walk through time with overgrown remains of a plantation house and sugar mill as well as interesting trees and Taino petroglyphs. Taking the trail with an experienced guide will open up the history of the area in this, the most popular hike on the island.
For a postcard worthy location, don’t miss Honeymoon Beach in Caneel Bay. It has everything from the palm trees lining it to the hammocks to laze in the sun and the views that can’t be beat. You can rent stand up paddleboards, kayaks and even underwater cameras for your very own adventure or simply soak up the sun on the soft sand and admire the view.
Where to Stay
The Caneel Bay Resort is situated within the Virgin Islands National Park and allows easy access to all of the activities, beaches, coves and natural spaces that are in the area. Seven secluded beaches and rooms that blend into the surroundings over 170 lush acres is what this resort offers, and each intimate retreat is tastefully decorated with natural woods, stones and rocks. It is a great place to unwind as it has no phones or televisions in the rooms, but balconies to welcome in the trade winds and open picture windows to take in the grandeur of the place. Gourmet dining at Turtle Bay Estate House or the Sugar Mill and open air dining at Caneel Beach Terrace are just a sampling of the restaurants near this resort.
Located on a five acre peninsula near Cruz Bay and affording sweeping ocean views is the Gallows Point Resort, with spacious rooms and a coral beach just waiting to be explored. Guests can relax in the pools or hot tub, laze in a hammock on the beach or snorkel right off of shore in this recently renovated resort. King size beds and kitchen areas mean that you are self-contained in your private beach hideaway, perfect for couples.
The Westin St. John Resort and Villa offers visitors a 47 acre tropical hideaway amid the beauty of the island. Nestled on Cruz Bay the views are spectacular from the common areas and the 146 private villas as well. Trade winds blow through your rooms from the private balcony as your eyes take in the sights of the colorful harbor below, a stunning place to start your married lives.
St. Thomas is the last stop on our tour of the US Virgin Islands. It is a busy island which packs a lot into its 32 square miles. Known for its capital city of Charlotte Amalie (the capital of all of the islands) and its fabulous duty free shopping, St. Thomas also has plenty of golf courses, sightseeing opportunities, places to snorkel and dive and places to simply get away from it all.
What to do
If you are looking for a snorkeling heaven, Secret Harbour is the place to go. Snorkel amid the colorful fish and marine life on a coral reef just steps from the beach. When you get back on dry land, be sure to check out the Sunset Grill for delicious and reasonably priced food and drinks.
For something a little out of the ordinary, well, all right, a lot out of the ordinary there is Magic Ice, the world’s largest permanent ice gallery with many ice sculptures resplendent with colored lights and interesting displays. From an ice slide to a recreated pirate ship to an ice bar where you get a complimentary shot in a keepsake glass, this place is a great way to beat the heat and get off the beach for a few hours. Don’t worry—they know it’s the Caribbean and you haven’t packed your parka. Coats, leggings and gloves are there for you to borrow at the entrance and at 28F you will surely need them.
On the south coast of St. Thomas is Mangrove Lagoon, a natural area with cliffs, crashing surf, sea grass beds, salt ponds and many places to see corals, fish and nesting birds like terns and herons. The Lagoon boasts calm waters in which to snorkel, with tours involve kayaking, hiking and of course the snorkeling to make it a day to remember.
Coral World Ocean Park is a must-see on St. Thomas as it captures all the beauty of the islands and shows the diversity of its sea life all without having to get wet. You can view a coral reef and all the fish that live in it from an underwater observatory, take a helmet dive, pet a shark, feed a stingray, go in a mini sub and do many other activities all in the one place.
Where to stay
Bolongo Beach Resort is a casual and romantic spot for the honeymooning couple. It boasts 62 beachfront rooms and sunset cruises aboard its 53’ catamaran. It is an all-inclusive resort and has been voted one of the world’s best beach front hotels. There are plenty of activities to keep you occupied or you can simply lay on the beach soaking up the rays.
Marriott’s Frenchman’s Reef offers gorgeous luxury accommodations, a spa, pools and all the amenities you have come to expect from Marriott. It is located near the port town of Charlotte Amalie but is a world away to its guests. You can choose from a villa or the main hotel and take in fabulous ocean views from the infinity pool overlooking the Caribbean, perfect for watching the sunset.
Whether you choose to honeymoon on just one of the fabulous islands of the US Virgin Islands or island hop to all three, you are sure to find a honeymoon that is custom made to your dreams. Snorkel in the clearest water around, marvel at the splendid views, get up close to nature and get away from it all. This is paradise.