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US V Islands

US V Islands

Trip Plan Tags: 
diving + snorkeling
St. Croix,
St. John,
St. Thomas,
U.S. Virgin Islands

This is a couples trip. 4 Couples from New Orleans will be traveling to US Virigin Island's. My goal is to find the best snorkeling and scuba diving adventure. Also, we are interested in a very upscale but relaxing spa treatment and romantic boat charter. I hope this trip will draw myself and my boyfriend ever closer while having fun and creating memories that we will never forget.



XO Wine Bar, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

6501 Red Hook Plaza
Red Hook, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 340 779 2069

Most USVI bars specialize in the kind of nights that end with dancing on tables at 2 am. For a more refined atmosphere try XO Wine Bar, where conversations are murmured, not shouted, and drinks are sipped, not slammed. The muted lighting creates an intimate feel for the more mature crowd huddled around low black leather booths and illuminated tables. There's an eclectic collection of artwork—which ranges from marlins leaping out of the sea to winking pinups—but the crowd is more focused on sampling the rotating selection of wines, 20 to 30 of which are offered by the glass.

Open Mondays through Fridays 11 am to 2 am, Saturdays through Sundays 6 pm to 2 am.


2 Plus 2 Nightclub, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

17 La Grand Princesse
Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 340 773 3710

At this lively, Caribbean dance club, you'll groove on the black-and-white tiled floor to an eclectic blend of calypso, soul, disco, reggae, salsa, and soca. Live bands perform on weekends, when there might also be a cover charge.

See + Do

Paradise Point St. Thomas Skyride, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

9617 Estate Thomas
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 340 774 9809

Located just across the street from Havensight, the cruise-ship port area of Charlotte Amalie, this Swiss-built lift is a popular shore excursion for cruise ship passengers. Luckily, the slow ascent in a glassed-in gondola to an overlook atop 700-foot Flag Hill is best appreciated in the late afternoon, when the big boats are weighing anchor and the setting sun bathes the hills surrounding the harbor. At the summit, you're delivered to a collection of tacky souvenir shops, but the views from the restaurant-bar here are spectacular: On a good day, it's possible to spot Vieques and Culebra, the so-called Spanish Virgin Islands, and even Puerto Rico. There are far worse places to nurse a bushwacker (a potent frozen drink made of Bailey's, Kahlúa, rum, Amaretto, vodka, and crème de cacao) while listening to the obligatory reggae soundtrack. The round-trip fare is $21 for adults, $10.50 for children.

Open daily 9 am to 10 pm.


See + Do

Hiking on St. John, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 340 776 6201

There are more than 20 worthy trails within Virgin Islands National Park, all easily tackled in a half-day or less, but no serious eco-adventurer should miss the day hike to Reef Bay on St. John's southern coast. Ranger-led treks on this easy, 2.2-mile downhill trail take you past Danish-era plantation ruins, pre-Columbian petroglyphs, and an abandoned sugar mill before ending at the beach, where you can take a dip to cool off. Best of all, a boat zips you back to Cruz Bay so you don't have to climb back up the mountain. Reservations are essential; a five-mile jeep ride from the park visitor's center in Cruz Bay will bring you to the trailhead (340-776-6201, ext. 238, for schedules; $23).

For one of the best views in all of St. John, make the cactus-studded hike to Ram Head on the island's southeastern tip. Drive four miles south of Coral Bay along Route 107 and then follow the quarter-mile path to Salt Pond Bay. At the south end of the beach, you can pick up the 1.2-mile Ram Head Trail, which skirts a blue cobble beach before climbing a rugged, 200-foot-tall promontory for an incredible, 360-degree Caribbean panorama.

Low-impact hikers will appreciate the half-mile loop at north-shore Cinnamon Bay. The nature trail, including a boardwalk through the ruins of a colonial-era sugar estate, begins across the road from Cinnamon Bay Campground and is clearly marked with signs identifying animals and trees you'll spot along the way.

A short drive east of Cinnamon Bay is a portion of the half-mile Francis Bay trail that meanders through mangrove forests to a brackish pond where it's possible to spot deer and wading birds. History buffs should check out the nearby Annaberg Historic Trail, an easy half-mile walk overlooking Leinster Bay that passes through one of the island's best-preserved 18th-century plantations.

See + Do

Boat Charters in the U.S. Virgin Islands

With steady trade winds and dozens of islands within a day's sail, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands are one of the world's finest cruising grounds. You can explore the bays and cays of St. John and the nearby British Virgin Islands' Jost Van Dyke on a day trip with Calypso Catamaran Charters, with stops for snorkeling, lunch, and cocktails at the famed Soggy Dollar Bar, the birthplace of the lethal cocktail the painkiller. For an unforgettable multiday customized adventure, consider chartering a crewed yacht; a broker like Nicholson Yacht Charters can find a boat to match your style and interests.

If you want to cover a lot of water in a short amount of time—perhaps via a day trip that hits the Baths and Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda, lunch on Cooper Island, and drinks on Jost Van Dyke—a speedier powerboat may be more practical. Calypso Catamaran Charters also operates a power catamaran; call for days of departure.

Remember to bring your passport and $25 in cash for the customs fee if visiting the British Virgin Islands.

See + Do

Beaches on St. Croix

With well-preserved reefs and easy points of access, St. Croix's beaches have long been popular for snorkeling and shore diving. Some of the best beaches are near hotels, so gear is often available for rent at beachside sport shacks. Here are three of our favorite sandy spots.

Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge
St. Croix's best beach is Sandy Point, the longest and most pristine stretch of sand in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The 360-acre beachside reserve is a national wildlife refuge that's home to more than 100 species of birds and an important nesting site for endangered leatherback turtles. It's not the easiest place to find, but once you get there, you'll be rewarded with almost four miles of white powdery sand and some of the clearest water in the Caribbean. Head west on Melvin Evans Highway (Hwy. 66) from the intersection with Emancipation Drive (Hwy. 70), drive past the sign for the park, and follow the newly paved road to the beach parking lot. Be sure to bring plenty of water and a picnic since there are no concessions in the refuge. Sandy Point's beaches are open only on the weekends and are closed to the public during the leatherback nesting season (April–August), although the Fish & Wildlife Service does offer nighttime turtle-watch programs at this time.

Cane Bay
Located along scenic North Shore Road (Hwy. 80) about 20 minutes west of Christiansted, Cane Bay is a family-friendly beach with plenty of shade under the palms. It's also wildly popular with divers, who come here for the Wall, a massive coral shelf that drops to depths of 3,200 feet a few hundred yards from the shoreline (for diving excursions, stop by the Cane Bay Dive Shop). If you get hungry, head to the upscale-casual Eat @ Cane Bay for a cooling cocktail and a bowl of smoked-duck and chipotle chili.

Shoys Beach
Shoys Beach is surrounded by an affluent, gated community, which makes the picturesque cove something of a local secret, although it is open to the public. Pass the security checkpoint just east of the Buccaneer resort, follow the main road approximately one mile to a gravel parking lot, and then head down the sandy pathway bowered by sea grape and mahoe trees that spills onto a gorgeous quarter-mile arc of sand cupping Punnett Bay. Chances are you'll have the place nearly to yourself during the week; families from the surrounding neighborhood relax here on the weekends. Bring along everything you might need, as there are no vendors or services on the beach.


Savant, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

4C Hospital Street
Christiansted, St. Croix 00822, U.S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 340 713 8666

This candlelit restaurant on the outskirts of Christiansted is the perfect place for a romantic dinner. There are ten tables in the shabby-chic dining room, and owners Tom Miller and Kate Bartoldus recently unveiled a picturesque patio with artfully carved concrete walls. If it rains, servers unfurl a sailcloth taken from the mast of a 70-foot boat—instead of being hoisted straight up, it's pulled sideways above the dining area, and you can listen to the raindrops pitter-pattering overhead. The reasonably priced menu is a mix of Asian, Mexican, and Caribbean flavors, with standouts like Thai red curry with sweet basil, garden vegetables, and coconut milk; cassava-crusted catch of the day; and enchiladas stuffed with cheese, black olives, and pico de gallo.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 6 to 10 pm.


Salud Bistro, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Northside Road
Christiansted, St. Croix 00820, U.S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 340 718 7900

Tucked away in a shopping plaza about five minutes west of Christiansted, this Mediterranean newcomer is easy to dismiss based on its location. But Salud Bistro serves some of the island's most well-executed dishes. Standouts include a confit of pulled pork served with whole grain mustard, cornichons, and sour cherry chutney; a Turkish duck and lamb mixed grill; and a Mediterranean seafood stew in a saffron-tomato broth. The walls of the colorful dining room are lined with Mexican Talavera pottery and ornate artwork painted by the owners. If you're looking for a more casual (and budget-friendly) meal, grab a seat at the bar, which offers a range of sandwiches and snacks. There is live flamenco music every Friday night, and two-for-one Spanish wines on Tuesdays.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 5:30 to 10 pm.


Room With a View, St. Thomas, U. S. Virgin Islands

Bluebeard's Castle
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U. S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 340 774 2377

Given its moniker, it's no surprise that this softly lit eatery in Bluebeard's Castle Hotel is known for a dazzling vista—in this case, the bobbing boats and red-roofed buildings of Charlotte Amalie. (After an evening watching the sunset, make way for twinkling lights, and you'll see why many consider this Danish-built harbor the Caribbean's prettiest.) But even without the panorama, the restaurant, which has won Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence, would be a notable culinary destination. Greek proprietor George Hajimihalis has a range of standout menu items; worthy picks include appetizers like spanikopita (based on his mother's recipe) and prosciutto-wrapped mango (especially succulent during summer), and entrées such as seared tuna with a ginger-teriyaki glaze.

Closed Sundays.


Romano's Restaurant & Art Gallery, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

97 Smith Bay
Smith Bay, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 340 775 0045

The subdued white-wall aesthetic of this St. Thomas standby has let chef Tony Romano's culinary and artistic creations shine for nearly 20 years. Celebrities and diplomats alike have come for Romano's fine Northern Italian cuisine, with well executed standards such as the four-cheese lasagna or the veal osso buco. The nightly soup selections have a cult following: Call a day ahead to request favorites like the cauliflower and roasted red pepper purees, both prepared sans cream to enhance the purity of the flavors. This is one of the few island eateries that calls for more formal attire, so trade the flip flops for slingbacks.

Open Mondays though Saturdays 6 to 10:30 pm.

Lotus Asian Grill and Sushi Bar


La Tapa, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Centerline Road
Cruz Bay, St. John 00830, U.S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 340 773 9949

Located in the heart of Cruz Bay, this European-style sidewalk café and bistro began serving tapas and sangria in 1996. Chef Alex Ewald has changed the menu quite a bit since then—in fact, she changes it daily—but the focus is always on quality and freshness. Josephine Salad is named after the local horticulturalist who grows the greens (which are dressed in a fresh herb Dijonnaise). You might also find duck with a port, orange, and currant jus, or grilled yellowfin tuna topped with a roasted corn, tomato, and basil salsa. La Tapa has an extensive international wine list and live jazz each Monday. The rustic two-tiered dining room is painted in warm shades of yellow and red, with lots of original artwork (the restaurant used to double as a gallery).

Open Wednesdays through Mondays 5:30 to 10pm.


Kendrick's Restaurant, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

King Cross Street
Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 340 773 9199

For inventive fare in a charming setting, reserve a table in the leafy courtyard of this historic cottage (built in 1762). Waiters pull trays of warm, fragrant rolls topped with coarse salt out of the outdoor oven. The rolls are a harbinger of yummy things to come. The piquant Champagne gazpacho has the perfect balance of spice and depth, and locally caught wahoo is served with pesto and buffalo mozzarella, highlighting the creamy texture of the fish. The self-taught chef, David Kendrick (who has been at the helm here since 1986), has won some culinary accolades, including the Discovery Channel's "Great Chefs of the World" distinction.


Havana Blue, St. Thomas, U. S. Virgin Islands

Morning Star Beach, St. Thomas, U. S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 340 715 2583

What do you get when you mix a buzz that's worthy of South Beach, the culinary prowess of New York, and the serenity of the Virgin Islands? This sexy, open-sided restaurant above the lobby of the Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort. From the 20-foot windows with flowing sheer curtains to the bowls of warm cinnamon and cloves passed between courses when you order one of the specials (for smelling only), Havana Blue nails every detail—courtesy of stylish ex-Manhattanite owners Nicole Horstmeyer and her husband, Eric. They didn't overlook the menu, either, a mix of Cuban and Pacific Rim fusion dishes devised by Puerto Rican wunderkind Omar Sanchez. The ahi in the ceviche starter tastes like it was caught just minutes before; duck confit with chile-scented corn masa and mole reduction is ingenious fusion; and punchy yuzu sauce gives the tres leches dessert a new—but no less creamy—life.


Bacchus, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

52 King Street
Christiansted, St. Croix 00820, U.S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 340 692 9922

Bacchus does its namesake proud with an impressive 150-bottle wine list—by far the longest on St. Croix. Located in downtown Christiansted and housed in a restored Danish townhouse, the restaurant serves island-inspired cuisine under the guidance of husband-and-wife team Tim and Natalie Collins. Choose from whimsically worded dishes like the "Bonsai Bonsai Burger," sashimi-grade tuna tartare sandwiched between crispy wontons; "Pastafari," fettucine with spinach, mushrooms, pine nuts, truffle oil, and Asiago cheese; or the roasted pork tenderloin with a Cruzan rum–maple glaze, aptly named "Hey, Porky, Good to See Ya!" The dimly lit booths are perfect for a romantic night out; larger groups should book a table near the bar—after dinner, you can finish your dessert over a game of billiards in the adjacent poolroom. Entrees range from $20 to $30, and reservations are recommended.

Open Sundays and Tuesdays through Saturdays 6 to 10 pm, December through March; Tuesdays through Saturdays 6 to 10 pm, April through November.


Jewelweed, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

1116 King Street
Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 340 719 2888

Diamonds might be a girl's best friend, but jewelry designer Anita Schultz makes a strong case for yellow sapphires. The co-owner of this sunny Christiansted studio creates delicate baubles such as hammered gold drop earrings and black pearl pendants. Popular for its wedding band designs, Jewelweed also creates pendants out of rings from broken engagements. After all, a diamond is forever, even if the relationship isn't.

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 am to 5:30 pm.


Parrot's Cove, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

1102 Strand Street
Christiansted, St. Croix 00820, U.S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 340 773 6782

Since joining the St. Croix nightlife scene in February 2008, Parrot's Cove has gotten a hefty vote of approval from a discerning group of drinkers: St. Croix's restaurant workers. If you head to the Cove after dinner, there's a good chance you'll find your server getting down on the dance floor. Located one block from the Christiansted boardwalk, the bar has live music five nights a week, featuring local guitarists like Kurt Schindler—who plays his own brand of flamenco-inspired tunes—and Rob Paper, who sings about life on the islands. It's also one of the few spots in town that serves food until midnight (choose from a large selection of beef, chicken, and fish sliders). The airy second-story location—with views of the harbor—makes for a peaceful contrast to an often raucous crowd.

Open daily 11 am to 2 am.


Epernay, St. Thomas, U. S. Virgin Islands

24-A Honduras
Frenchtown, St. Thomas, U. S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 340 774 5348

St. Thomas luminaries tend to fill the tables at this stylish, cozy Frenchtown spot. As the evening progresses, it's shoulder-to-shoulder on the dance floor. Epernay is known for its extensive selection of wines and Champagnes by the glass.

Closed Sundays.


Beach Bar, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Wharfside Village
Cruz Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 340 777 4220

It won't win points for originality, but at least the Beach Bar's name is accurate: It's one of the few bars in the USVI's that's actually situated on the beach. Located within stumbling distance of the St. John ferry dock in Cruz Bay, the watering hole draws a steady stream of locals and tourists with zesty libations like Limin' de Coconut, a frozen combination of (you guessed it) rum, lime, and coconut. Lively crowds spill off the patio and onto the beach during the nightly performances by reggae bands and other local outfits.

Open daily 11 am to 1 am.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick


The Westin St. John Resort & Villas, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Route 104
Great Cruz Bay, St. John 00831, U.S. Virgin Islands
Tel: 800 808 5020 (toll-free), Tel: 340 693 8000

One of only two major resorts on St. John (the other is Caneel Bay), the Westin caters to a diverse clientele: You'll spot families chatting at the pool bar, kids cavorting on water trampolines, newlyweds basking on the 1,200-foot-long beach (sometimes very newly wed, as the hotel does a brisk wedding business), and everyone watching the daily iguana feedings. The pool is a big draw—it stretches over a quarter of an acre and is by far the largest in the territory—as are the signature Heavenly Beds in each of the 174 rooms (think high-thread-count sheets, comfortable mattresses, and crisp duvets). As at Caneel Bay, guests arrive via private ferry from St. Thomas (which returns to Charlotte Amalie four times a day for anyone eager to brave the cruise ship crowds); Cruz Bay Watersports is on site for those interested in booking excursions like diving, sunset sails, or parasailing.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.