Popular with honeymooners, vacationers, yachters, and the odd celebrity or two, this collection of idyllic islands are nestled in the Caribbean but officially belong to the USA.
The US Virgin Islands consists of three main islands, St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, as well as several dozen smaller islands.
Although each has paradise-like scenery and a laid-back Caribbean vibe, you should head to St Thomas for water sports and gorgeous hotel resorts, St John for protected parkland and pristine beaches, and St Croix for excellent diving and rum factories! Here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in the US Virgin Islands (in no particular order, they’re all spectacular)…
1. Honeymoon Beach, St Thomas – a popular and romantic beauty spot
On the west side of Water Island at Druif Bay lies the beautiful Honeymoon Beach. A scenic white sand and palm tree beach staring due west to capture the daily unimpeded sunsets.
Yachts anchor in the sheltered bay and giant turtles can be seen in the clear blue-green waters. This is a neat, clean, never-too-busy beach with plenty of shady spots under the trees.
There are a few facilities; you can hire a sun-lounger, rent a kayak or buy a snack from a beachside hut, but it’s not commercialized so bring a book to read and maybe do some people-watching until the sun slowly sinks into the Caribbean Sea.
There is another place known as Honeymoon Beach on the north shore of the island of St John. This is equally as beautiful yet more remote as it sits within the National Park.
This second location, although it does not enjoy the spectacular western sunsets, has the added bonuses of snorkeling facilities, solitude, and a stunning jungle backdrop – worth the short hike from Cruz Bay.
My must-do highlights of Honeymoon Beach, St Thomas
- Hire a jet ski at one of the best beaches in the USVI and spend some time out on the crystal-clear waters.
- Spend the day relaxing along this romantic and secluded gem surrounded by palm trees, soaking up the tropical rays.
- For those who love to be in the ocean, take the chance to snorkel amongst the picturesque coral reefs.
Our cool and unique hotel choice for St Thomas – The Pink Palm Hotel
- To book, check prices or availability for The Pink Palm Hotel
2. Secret Harbor, St Thomas – a lovely and small tranquil beach to explore
In the Nazareth Bay area on the main island of St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands is the popular Secret Harbor beach. A cozy tropical white sand and palm tree beach with a neat resort behind it.
This is an excellent location for moderate-level snorkeling, the water is gentle enough for kids to paddle and the beach is kept spotlessly clean by the resort.
There is limited car parking nearby, which stops the place getting too busy, so get here early if you want a space. Alternatively, it’s a beautiful location for a cocktail at dusk in the Sunset Bar & Grill or Cruzan Beach Club where you can watch the sun sink into the distant mangroves.
My must-do highlights of Secret Harbor, St Thomas
- Go scuba diving with Aqua Action Dive Center to discover the breathtaking and vibrant underwater paradise.
- Spend the day exploring the ocean by chartering a private boat, you could even visit a neighbouring island.
- Hire a kayak and head out to Mangrove Lagoon, well known for being a hidden gem of St Thomas.
Our hotel choice for Secret Harbor St Thomas – Secret Harbour Beach Resort
- To book, check prices or availability for Secret Harbour Beach Resort
3. Drake’s Seat, St Thomas – for gorgeous views
High in the almost exact center of St Thomas Island is Drake’s Seat. A viewpoint on the Hull Bay Road with panoramic views of the entire island with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other.
Legend has it that Sir Francis Drake would sit here to watch for gold galleons of the Spanish fleet – although the bench was constructed in the 1930s, never let facts ruin a good tale!
There are a few breathtaking panoramic viewpoints along the central hills of St Thomas Island. The Charlotte Amalie Lookout, Drake’s Seat, Mountain Top and Magens Bay can all be visited on the same trip.
My must-do highlights of Drake’s Seat, St Thomas
- Capture an Insta-worthy shot overlooking the famous Magens Bay Beach and soak up views as far as Jost Van Dyke and Tortola.
- Take a trip to another well-known observation spot, the Charlottle Amalie Lookout, only moments away from Drake’s Seat.
Our self-catering accommodation choice for St Thomas – Wintberg Tropical Villas
- To book, check prices or availability for Wintberg Tropical Villas
4. Magens Bay Beach, St Thomas – one of the most scenic destinations in the US Virgin Islands
Magens Bay Beach is one of the best-loved beaches on St Thomas. It is central to the island on the north shore, just a short distance from Charlotte Amalie so used by tourists and locals alike.
Remarkably it is relatively undeveloped with one mile of very beautiful, a white-sand beach which never gets too crowded; perfect for swimming and water sports in the calm, transparent blue water of the bay.
There are nearby equipment rentals, a restaurant, restrooms, a shower, and beach rentals. The calm waters, huge sky, and green encircling hills give this place a permanent air of unhurried tropical isolation.
The park around the beach consists of 68 pristine acres: a six-acre arboretum consisting of large trees from four tropical continents, a two-acre camping ground with parking, 5 acres of coconut groves, and 15 acres of mangroves and wetlands. Plenty to explore if you get tired of sitting in the sun.
My must-do highlights of Magens Bay Beach, St Thomas
- Enjoy some tropical island drinks whilst lounging along the golden sand.
- Rent a paddle board for the afternoon to experience a magical float over the turquoise waters.
- Indulge in a delicious dinner at the Magens Point Bar and Grill and watch a beautiful sunset over the bay.
Our self-catering accommodation choice near Magens Bay Beach – Wild Ginger Villa
- To book, check prices or availability for Wild Ginger Villa
5. Brewers Bay, St Thomas – a beautiful place to visit and snorkel
Brewers Bay is a beach for the slightly more adventurous. It’s a great snorkeling spot without the crowds you often find around St Thomas.
The north side of the bay, towards Black Point, has many corals and fish for the more experienced swimmer – be careful there can be strong currents.
Turtles and small rays hang in the sandy, seagrass areas just offshore between the beach and the boats. Underwater visibility here is excellent as the massive sandy areas create a great natural canvas.
The beach is white and sandy with shade from palms and trees. There are no facilities, other than a small food truck, yet there’s a large car park making this a perfect place for a last-minute stop for relaxation and solitude.
My must-do highlights of Brewers Bay, St Thomas
- Take a few beach games and enjoy having some fun in the sun on this beautiful beach.
- Grab some street food from the street opposite the bay and experience Caribbean-style cuisine.
- For those who feel adventurous, swim out to the Black Point to have a go at free diving.
Our self-catering accommodation choice near Magens Bay Beach – Blue Pearl…a Natural Tropical Gem
- To book, check prices or availability for Blue Pearl…a Natural Tropical Gem
6. Water Island, St Thomas – one of the most stunning places to explore in the US Virgin Islands
Just south of Charlotte Amalie harbor on the main island of St Thomas is Water Island. Known locally as the “Last Virgin” because it was the last island to become part the Virgin Islands of the United States in 1996.
There is a regular passenger ferry service from the capital to Water Island taking less than 15 minutes. On arrival, you can hire a golf cart to explore the almost 500 acres of island rich in wildlife and cactus.
There are no hotels on Water Island but accommodation can sometimes be booked in advance at one of the island villas, glamping or B&B.
If you need a bit more than nature and beaches the abandoned Fort Segarra is an interesting visit; it’s an unfinished World War II installation with tunnels and underground chambers perched high on the southern tip of the island with panoramic views.
My must-do highlights of Water Island, St Thomas
- Explore around the island and see the sights in a fun way by hiring a golf buggy from Rachels Rentals.
- Admire the panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea from the observation deck at the top of Flamingo Point in Fort Segarra.
- Take a hike to Limestone Beach to discover the fossilized coral and sea glass along the stony shoreline.
Our accommodation choice for Water Island – Virgin Islands Campground
- To book, check prices or availability for Virgin Islands Campground
7. Virgin Islands National Park, St John – a must-see destination in the US Virgin Islands
Two-thirds of the island of St. John is a national park, making it a unique destination for visitors from around the world. Virgin Islands National Park has staggeringly beautiful unspoilt tropical beaches.
Those on the northern Atlantic coast can be dramatic in winter with crashing waves, the southern Caribbean beaches are much calmer, but everywhere is vulnerable to hurricanes from July to October.
There are more than 20 hiking trails in the park with everything from accessible boardwalks that meander through historic ruins, to a bird-viewing deck on one of the lovely salt ponds.
For the more adventurous, there’s the rugged Reef Bay Trail down to the ancient Taino Indian petroglyphs and then continue to the old Sugar Mill which is near a lovely beach.
Finally, there’s endless snorkeling and boating to enjoy around the coral reefs to discover hidden marine life.
My must-do highlights of the Virgin Islands National Park, St John
- Hike to the summit of Caneel Hill Trail where you will be able to experience a spectacular sunset.
- Go snorkelling at Hawksnest Bay to discover the beautiful Elkhorn coral reefs.
- Kayak to Whistling Cay which is one of the least visited locations in the National Park.
Our hotel choice for Virgin Islands National Park – Gallows Point Resort
- To book, check prices or availability for Gallows Point Resort
8. Maho Bay Beach, St John – one of the most beautiful locations to relax in the US Virgin Islands
Maho Bay in the north of St John is the place to go for sea turtles. It is sheltered from Atlantic waves by Mary Point enabling a unique ecosystem to flourish.
The seagrass beds in the middle stretches of this shallow bay provide a habitat for the green sea turtles that are seen more frequently in the early morning or late afternoon.
There’s coral and fish along the western waters of this long beach, they are more abundant the closer you get to the point between Maho and Cinnamon.
To the northeast, the rocks and reef support abundant fish populations, including angelfish. If you are lucky, you may see octopus in the coral crevices.
The beach is a postcard tropical paradise with white sand and curving palms looking out on turquoise water. There are a few facilities but, as with everything in the National Park, they are restricted to allow the park to fully breathe.
My must-do highlights of Maho Bay Beach, St John
- Rent a kayak or paddleboard and enjoy time out on the calm blue ocean.
- Wander down to Maho Crossroads to discover the array of shops, food trucks and beach bars.
- Admire the America Hill Great House Ruins from the bay, which you can also hike to from Cinnamon Bay.
A popular hotel choice for St John Island – The Westin St. John Resort Villas
- To book, check prices or availability for The Westin St. John Resort Villas
9. Coral Harbor, St John – a stunningly large and protected harbour
Coral Harbor at the head of Coral Bay on St John island is a natural protected sanctuary for yachts. There is a collection of eateries, accommodations, and stores spread around the broad curve of the harbor entirely encompassed by the Virgin Islands National Park.
A perfect base to stay for exploration of the numerous trails and unspoilt beaches. The town of Coral Bay was once the main commercial hub of St John with a population that has diminished over the last 200 years as sugar plantations closed.
Successive hurricanes and encroachment of the jungle reduced most of the abandoned buildings to rubble, traces of which can still be spotted amongst the remaining homes.
My must-do highlights of Coral Harbor, St John
- Take a trip over to Fortsberg and hike up to the historic 18th-century fort.
- Indulge in delicious tacos and sip on creative cocktails from the quirky and unique Lime Out.
- Have a sailing lesson and gain some experience being out on the tropical water.
Our hotel choice near Coral Harbor – Concordia Eco Resort
- To book, check prices or availability for Concordia Eco Resort
10. Francis Bay, St John – for a fantastic and very picturesque vacation beach
Just above Maho Bay is Francis Bay. Even more secluded, quieter and slightly wilder than its popular neighbor.
Here you will find the tropical white sand, blue sea, shady trees and snorkeling with more parking and fewer visitors than its better-known neighbors.
Francis Bay Beach has the added attraction of an easy trail through the mangroves across the headland to Mary Creek where you encounter the picturesque ruins of Annaberg School perched on the edge of the ocean.
My must-do highlights of Francis Bay, St John
- Hike along the Francis Bay Trail and explore the dry-scrub forest on the way down to the beach.
- Go for a swim in the beautiful, clear turquoise waters surrounded by lush trees and white sand.
- Take the kayak route over to Whistling Cay and discover one of the best snorkelling spots.
11. Trunk Bay Beach, St John – one of the best places to visit in the US Virgin Islands
Trunk Bay has everything you want from a tropical beach with beautiful white sand, shady trees and turquoise waters. Just off the beach is Trunk Cay, a small coral island teeming with life in its warm, shallow waters.
It is the perfect snorkeling destination with a swim around the cay. Just behind the beach are restrooms, showers, a small snack hut and a bar.
Like most of the beaches in the National Park car parking is deliberately limited to keep visitor numbers down so get there early to enjoy one of the best beaches on the north shore of St John.
My must-do highlights of Trunk Bay Beach, St John
- Capture a breathtaking Insta-worthy shot on the most famous beach of St John.
- Hike through the tropical rainforest to discover the historic Annaberg Plantation ruins.
- For a relaxed activity, take a stroll along the beautiful 3-mile-long sands.
12. Ram Head Trail, St John – a great place to walk/hike
One of the lesser-known hiking trails, but well worth seeking out, Ram Head can be found in the furthest southeast corner of St John. Access is from the south end of Salt Pond Beach.
Allow a good couple of hours and bring plenty of water, sunscreen and a bathing suit to enjoy the swim at Blue Cobblestone Beach part way.
It’s a moderate trail with lots of elevation changes and rocky paths leading to the peak at Ram Head from where you get magnificent views across the Caribbean Sea in the direction of St Croix.
This hike is all about flora and views with some of the most amazing cacti teetering on rocky surfaces all around.
My must-do highlights of Ram Head Trail, St John
- Hike along the trail which takes you from Salt Pond Bay Beach to the Rams Head point and capture several Instagrammable shots.
- Take a break at the rocky beach along the way to admire the stunning views and a different perspective of the Rams Head.
- Explore the salt pond where you will discover some of the most delightful scenery.
13. St. Croix – arguably the best US Virgin Islands to go to!
This charming island is the best US Virgin Island to visit, especially if you are into snorkeling and diving. St. Croix is the largest island and one of the most popular.
This is due to an amazing combination of great people, amazing food and cool vibes. There are tons of things to do in St. Croix. It doesn’t matter what your preferences are, because St. Croix will cover.
One of many things you can do is to explore the rainforest, learn the local dances, taste over 30 flavours of rum, meditate on the beach, go deep-sea fishing and much, much more.
When it comes to accommodation, Divi Carina Bay is the ONLY all-inclusive resort in St. Croix, however, there are plenty of other amazing places to stay.
My must-do highlights of St. Croix
- Explore the stunning St. George Village Botanical Gardens filled with over 1,000 different types of plants.
- Visit the historic Cruzan Rum Distillery and enjoy the taste of the Caribbean’s most commonly used liquor.
- Discover the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts and get lost in the creative open-air waterfront gallery.
14. Buck Island Reef National Monument, St Croix – a picturesque small, uninhabited island
Off the north coast of St Croix is this uninhabited island with a long coral-reef underwater trail, accessible by guided one-day or half-day snorkeling tours.
Buck Island is a designated National Monument and wildlife sanctuary, so tours are limited, but it’s definitely worth the trip from St Croix if you get the chance.
Snorkeling here is probably the best in the Virgin Islands with the opportunity to see blacktip sharks, eagle rays, barracuda, beautiful schooling fish, and colorful coral.
After snorkeling, on the other side of this small island is one of the finest tropical beaches in the Caribbean. Sit in the sun or roam along the blue shoreline for more chances to see barracuda and sharks in the shallows.
My must-do highlights of Buck Island Reef National Monument, St Croix
- Experience a scuba dive with Caribbean Sea Adventures or Dive Experience and reach at least 30 feet underwater.
- Enjoy a picnic whilst being surrounded by some of the most picturesque scenery the Caribbean.
- Hike along the Diedrich Trail to reach the Buck Island peak where you can admire panoramic views overlooking the ocean.
15. Annaly Bay Tide Pools, St Croix – a unique natural beauty spot
The tide pools at Annaly Bay are reached by a tricky hike from Carambola Beach on the north shore of St Croix. This experience is as much about the journey as the pools.
The trail takes about 45 minutes each way and includes some difficult rock ascents – make sure you wear some strong boots and get a guide to escort you!
On arrival, there is a series of calm, clear pools filled by seawater at high tide, perfect for a quiet bathe. The views and the sound of the waves pulling the rocks over each other is terrific; when the waves are strong it can sound like firecrackers going off along the shore.
My must-do highlights of Annaly Bay Tide Pools, St Croix
- Go on a guided tour to discover the location of the tide pools.
- Cool off and take a swim in the array of tide pools after hiking 2.5 miles to get there.
- Take a shower underneath the waterfalls created by the ocean’s waves.
16. Rainbow Beach, St Croix – the perfect beach for watching sunsets
Rainbow Beach at the extreme western end of St Croix is the perfect sunset beach. Clear, calm waters and a wide sandy beach are the draw at this serene locale, popular among divers and families.
It is a nice, quiet little beach where colors change as the sun slowly sinks into the sea.
There’s a restaurant next to the beach that serves food and drinks, beach loungers and jet skis can be rented and it’s the ideal place to take a few snorkeling lessons in the gentle waters. An excellent place to meet locals and begin your tour of the US Virgin Islands.
My must-do highlights of Rainbow Beach, St Croix
- Enjoy a mouth-watering lunch and refreshing drinks from the beach bar.
- For those who like a lively atmosphere, visit the beach at the weekend to ensure you get to watch live entertainment.
- Play a game of volleyball along the sandy beach, in a unique location.
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Michael Cowley – writer and photographer
Ever since he was knee-high to a grasshopper Michael has always had an affinity for adventure. Growing up he was lucky enough to live in a handful of exotic far flung locations including Hong Kong, Pakistan, Kenya and Tanzania and since then he’s continued seeking out new places and cultures. In his spare time he explores everywhere from the sizzling street markets in Bangkok to random back alleys in Sri Lanka and everything in between! He also has a special fondness for Cohibas, trying all kinds of street food, playing carrom with random strangers, and fine wine – he knows his clarets from his chiantis. He counts Cuba, Amsterdam, Indonesia, Goa, Cambodia and Italy as his favourite destinations. Find Michael on Instagram or Twitter.