The Hawaiian Islands are quite famous and a favorite vacation place for many, but did you know the U.S. also has islands in the Caribbean? The islands are called the U.S. Virgin Islands and are off the coast of Florida located closest to Puerto Rico. They are considered part of the chain of Caribbean islands and islets. The islands are much easier to fly to and visit and many people prefer them over visiting the Hawaiian Islands. The area is known for the beautiful turquoise waters and white sand beaches as well as reefs and hills seen on the islands. The main islands are Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas, with several other smaller surrounding minor islands. The islands were named by Christopher Columbus after the historic Saint Ursula and her virgin followers. Visitors can expect a tropical climate and gorgeous views of sun, sand, and ocean, as well as many amazing things to do in the Virgin Islands.
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Annaberg was once an operating plantation and mill, producing sugar, molasses, and rum. The Annaberg plantation has long since been unused and was left to ruins. Part of it has been restored and is a fascinating stop to learn about the history of St. John (where Annaberg is located) and how sugar was produced in the late 18th and 19th centuries. The Annaberg Historic District is run by the National Park Service and is protected. Rangers will lead tours throughout the day so make sure to sign up for one to see the extensive ruins. Signs throughout the plantation will explain what you are looking at and give some insight to how everything was operated. This is a neat stop when on the island of St. John.
The main street area located on the island of St. Thomas has the best shopping around. The street is littered with shops and boutiques to browse or to find the perfect souvenirs in. The street is in the town called Charlotte Amalie and it is a very popular place that fills quickly with both tourists and people from the cruise docks that stop for a bit. Late morning and early afternoon seem the busiest times, so if you’re not in the mood to shop, people watching is the next best thing! Browse through jewelry stores, souvenirs, electronics, perfume, alcohol and much more on the active Main Street on the island of St. Thomas.
Located on the island of St. John, Caneel Bay is located right next to the Caneel Bay Resort, but is a free place for all to enjoy. The bay is not frequently visited by guests outside of the resort, which makes it a quieter and more romantic place to spend the day. The easiest way to get to the bay is by boat or guests can take a taxi from the shops of Cruz Bay. Watch the boats bobbing on the beautiful ocean in the bay and see the islands off in the distance at this secluded and quieter beach.
Cruzan Rum Distillery
The island of St. Croix is the home of the Cruzan Rum Distillery, which many visitors are eager to taste. Rum created from its island of origin is a popular choice for many visiting guests. Here at the distillery tour guides will show you around the headquarters and will teach you about the distilling and bottling operations. The tour is fun, informative and fairly short. After the tour is completed, guides will prepare samples of some of the best cocktails including the popular “Cruzan Sunset,” and “Rum Cream.” The tour is only 5 dollars currently and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors report purchasing bottles of rum as souvenirs or gifts from their trip!
Trunk Bay on the island of St. John is probably the most popular beach within the islands. The aquamarine water is perfect as is the white sand of the beach that stretches out to meet the water. This is a great area to snorkel and arriving early in the morning can get you the best pictures before people start arriving to see this gorgeous beach. The waters are calm enough that kids can snorkel too and the bay has an underwater trail complete with underwater plaques that have points of interest you can snorkel to and from. The bay has a 4 dollar admission fee, but visitors highly recommend the scenery and the experience here. There are plenty of amenities in Trunk Bay including picnic tables, a snack stand and restrooms for all to use during your visit.
Virgin Islands National Park
Also on St. John is the popular Virgin Islands National Park. Approximately two-thirds of the island is part of the park, so it is not hard to miss. The Annaberg Plantation, Caneel Bay, and Trunk Bay all lie within the park boundaries and are some of the top places to see. There are 22 trails to hike, fabulous beaches, blue ocean water and you can camp overnight on the beach. There are a few areas where visitors can rent kayaks, sailboats and other equipment. See the best of the islands through the national park where the prettiest beaches lie and where lots of water activities, as well as hiking, can be done.
Estate Whim Plantation Museum
The island of St. Croix has the plantation museum compete with house, museum, bathhouse and windmill to explore. The plantation was used during the 18th century by the Cruzans and is where sugar cane was produced. Tour guides can escort you through the plantation while giving the fascinating history of the place as well as information about the Cruzan slaves. During the winter an outdoor concert is held at the Estate Whim called the Candlelight Concert Series which are held on the grounds. There are also periodic wine tastings and other events held at the estate which is listed on the plantation’s website.
Heaven Close to Home
The gorgeous islands aren’t far from the U.S., making them spectacular vacation destinations that are closer to home. The Caribbean is known for its tropical weather, heavy tourism, white beaches and ocean as far as the eye can see. There’s no need to waste your money when heaven is so close to home right here in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Explore the area, learn the history and accomplish one or your entire list of things to do in the Virgin Islands.