Formerly known as the Danish West Indies, the U.S. Virgin Islands are the western island group of the Leeward Islands, which are the northern part of the Lesser Antilles, forming the border between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It is an unincorporated organised territory of the United States of America. It forms the Virgin Islands archipelago with the British Virgin Islands to the northeast. Politically, the eastern islands form the British Virgin Islands and the western ones form the Virgin Islands of the United States. It is comprised of St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, and Water Island. The territory is one of five inhabited insular areas of the United States, along with American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico. The U.S. Virgin Islands are an important location along the Anegada Passage, which serves as a key shipping lane for the Panama Canal. The capital and largest city is Charlotte Amalie.
What to see & do
There are a number of amazing sights in the U.S. Virgin Islands that are definitely worth checking out. St. John is home to the mile-long Cinnamon Bay, the island’s biggest beach and also considered as its best. Swimming is just the first on the long list of things that you can do here. There’s a campground; the Water Sports Centre where you can rent sailboats, windsurf boards, stand-up paddleboards, and sea kayaks; and even an archaeological museum of Taino relics. Visit Cruzan Rum Distillery and learn how the islands’ popular elixir gets made, with the end of the tour where you can even take a sip of the famous rum. There’s also the historic Blackbeard Castle, a five-storey masonry watchtower said to be the lookout of the pirate Edward Teach, known as Blackbeard, in the 18th century. Another historic site worth visiting is Christiansted National Historic Site, which includes several structures, the most impressive of which is the four-point citadel called Fort Christiansvaern.
How to get around within U.S. Virgin Islands
It’s not difficult to navigate your way around the territory, in any of the islands, as there’s a bus and/or regulated taxi service available in the entire U.S. Virgin Islands. Aside from taxis, you can rent a car or scooter upon docking at Cruz Bay. If you choose to drive around, note that traffic here moves on the left and most cars are left-hand drive. Renting a car though is more cost-effective than taking the taxi when you’re planning on visiting multiple destinations. Another way of getting around is by sailboat, which is available for rent at Red Hook. You can charter a boat for a full day and even get the chance to snorkel.
How to get there
There are two commercial airports in the U.S. Virgin Islands: Cyril E. King Airport in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas and Henry E. Rohlsen Airport in Christiansted, St. Croix. Those who wish to visit St. John (it does not have an airport) can access it via St. Thomas. Direct flights into Cyril E. King Airport can be found from Chicago-O'Hare, Washington-Dulles, and Newark on United Airlines; Miami, Boston, and New York-JFK on American Airlines; Atlanta and Detroit on Delta Airlines; Charlotte, Philadelphia, and New York-La Guardia (weekly) on US Airways; and Ft. Lauderdale on Spirit Airlines. To Henry E. Rohlsen Airport, direct flights are available from Miami on American Airlines; Atlanta (twice weekly) on Delta Air Lines; and Charlotte on US Airways (weekly, seasonal). Additionally, Seaborne Airlines flies seaplanes between St. Thomas and St. Croix. Aside from air travel, the territory is also accessible by ferry. There are numerous ferries that ply between all three US Virgin Islands, as well as to and from the British Virgin Islands and, on a seasonal basis, to Puerto Rico as well.