US Virgin Islands — Attractions
The beautiful Virgin Islands National Park occupies almost 60 percent of St John’s territory and contains many of the island’s finest attractions, including Trunk Bay Beach, ranked as one of the world’s most beautiful. Virgin Islands National Park shares its Cruz Bay information center with the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, where countless endangered sea creatures swim among carefully preserved coral species. St Croix’s most famous attractions are Salt River Bay National Historical Park, featuring the only known location Christopher Columbus explored on present day United States territory, and the National Historic Site and former Danish West Indies capital of Christiansted.
Virgin Islands National Park
In 1956, Virgin Islands National Park became the 29th national park in the United States, shortly after wealthy philanthropist Laurence Rockefeller visited the US Virgin Islands. Today, this breathtaking national park welcomes about 725,000 annual visitors and covers nearly 60 percent of St John’s landscape. Trunk Bay Beach is best known for its stunning underwater snorkeling trail and consistent ranking among the world’s 10 most beautiful beaches. The park’s other major beach, Cinnamon Bay, contains an archeology lab alongside its popular windsurfing and sailing spots. The rocky Ram Head Trail, under a mile long, takes hikers past a desert-like landscape where cactuses grow. The two and a half mile long Reef Bay Trail, on the other hand, is filled with sugar plantation ruins, centuries old Taino petroglyph rock carvings, and subtropical forests. The remains of Annaberg, formerly one of St John’s biggest sugar plantations, and the historic Fort Frederik are also on Virgin Islands National Park territory.
Address: Virgin Islands National Park, 1300 Cruz Bay Creek, St John, USVI 00830
Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument
The constantly changing coral reefs surrounding St John’s provide shelter for four dolphin species, humpback and pilot whales, and countless other endangered sea creatures. The platform on which St John’s is located plunges dramatically into the Atlantic Ocean’s deepest waters. Although bleaching severely damaged these unique coral reefs in 2005, they remain among the most challenging and popular spots for snorkeling and scuba diving in the US Virgin Islands. Roughly 30 of the US Virgin Islands’ 45 known coral species have been spotted in the relatively small Hurricane Hole area.
Address: Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, 1300 Cruz Bay Creek, St John, USVI 00830
Buck Island Reef National Monument
This tiny island paradise not far from St Croix’s northeast shore celebrates its 50th anniversary as an official national monument in 2012. About 50,000 visitors per year agree this protected nature reserve and its surrounding coral reefs are well worth a daytrip from Christiansted. Organ pipe cactus and frangipani trees grow around the East End and Turtle Bay trails, while more than 250 fish species swim along Buck Island Reef’s well signed underwater snorkeling trails. National Geographic ranked Turtle Beach, on Buck Island’s west end, among the planet’s most beautiful. This pristine white sandy beach provides nesting grounds for leatherback turtles in spring as well as for hawksbill and green turtles in summer.
Address: Buck Island Reef National Monument, 2100 Church Street #100, Christiansted, USVI 00820-4611
Salt River Bay National Historic Park and Ecological Preserve
The only known place on current United States territory seen by Christopher Columbus and his crew during their New World expeditions is this park and living museum in northern St Croix. The earthworks fortification of Fort Salé dates from the island’s French occupation period circa 1617. Another of the park’s historic landmarks is the Caribbean’s only existent ball court example. The park also contains a submarine canyon, several coral reefs, and some of the US Virgin Islands’ largest remaining forests of mangrove.
Address: Salt River Bay National Historical Park & Ecological Preserve, c/o Christiansted National Historic Site, Danish Custom House, Kings Wharf, Christiansted, USVI 00820
Christiansted National Historic Site
No fewer than seven national flags have flown over St Croix’s historic capital, Christiansted, since Christopher Columbus first sailed into its picturesque harbor in 1493. The Scale House containing the national historic site’s information center is just one of the community’s five historic buildings. The huge yellow Fort Christiansvaern was first constructed in 1774 to protect the Virgin Islands port against pirate attacks during Christiansted’s era as a significant rum and sugar trading hub. Another Christiansted historic landmark is the Danish West India and Guinea Company Warehouse where future Founding Father Alexander Hamilton worked during his younger years. The Danish Custom House and Steeple Building are also part of the Christiansted National Historic Site.
Address: 2100 Church Street, #100 Danish Custom House, Christiansted, St Croix, USVI 00820
St Thomas Skyride
No view of Charlotte Amalie is more spectacular than the one aboard the St Thomas Skyride, which travels 700 feet above the ground between Flag Hill and Paradise Point. Those lucky enough to catch the day’s final trams will be rewarded by even more breathtaking Caribbean twilight views. Paradise Point features a casual restaurant, several unique shops, a Ferris wheel, and the best live entertainment venue in St Thomas.
Address: 9617 Estate Thomas, Havensight, St. Thomas, USVI 00802
Coral World Ocean Park
The two-level Coral World Ocean Park has been among St Thomas’ leading tourist attractions for nearly four decades. Helmet diving technology allows visitors to walk along the ocean floor beneath the park’s surface for up to 30 minutes without snorkels or oxygen tanks. Visitors can pet sea cucumbers and starfish at the touch pool or observe hundreds more marine species behind 21 jewel tanks. The park’s underwater observatory, unlike any other in the Caribbean, stands 15 feet beneath the surface and 100 feet offshore. Iguana Alley, a nature trail, and a lorikeet garden contain the park’s creatures who roam and fly on dry land.
Address: Coral World Ocean Park, 6450 Estate Smith Bay, St Thomas, USVI 00802
Estate St. Peter Greathouse and Botanical Gardens
No fewer than 200 West Indian tree and plant species grow in these serene botanical gardens at the foot of northern St Thomas’ volcanic peaks. About 20 other US Virgin Islands can be seen from this estate’s panoramic deck, while some of the finest masterpieces by local artists hang inside the house.
Address: 6A St Peter Mountain Road, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, USVI