Must-See Activities and Attractions
Whatever your interests, and no matter what activities you enjoy, there's something for everyone in the USVI! The following sections outline the top ten must-see attractions and family-friendly activities in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Need help making reservations for your favorite activities or planning your vacation itinerary? The Concierge VI Activity Desk can help. Call 340-715-1445 for assistance finding and booking tours, boat rides, scuba-diving excursions, snorkeling trips, and other activities.
Virgin Islands National Park (St. John)
For eco-tourists and those who love the outdoors, the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John offers a chance to explore more than 7,000 acres on twenty miles of hiking trails and outdoor activities. Within this park, you'll have a chance to explore old Danish plantation roads and several beautiful beaches.
You can explore the park on your own or sign up for a guided tour at the National Park Visitor's Center, which is located at the dock in Cruz Bay. One excellent tour that's offered follows the Reef Bay Trail. It's a guided, three-mile hike that takes several hours to complete.
For information about guided tours within the park, call 340-776-6201, ext. 238. There is a $4 entrance fee to access each of several areas and trails within the park, such as the Cinnamon Bay Trail, the Annaberg Sugar Mill Historical Trail, and the Truck Bay Snorkel Trail.
Visiting the Virgin Islands National Park offers at least a full day's worth of outdoor adventures. Make sure you wear comfortable hiking shoes or sneakers, and be prepared to do a lot of walking and mild climbing. Swimming and snorkeling is allowed in certain areas of the park, so bring bathing suits, towels, and related gear.
The World Famous Mountain Top (St. Thomas)
This mountain peak, which marks the island's highest elevation point, at 1,542 feet above the Caribbean Sea, offers an incredible view of Magen's Bay (one of the island's most beautiful beaches). Looking out, you can also see more than twenty other islands from this vantage point. Visiting the World Famous Mountain Top offers a great photo opportunity and is one of the most popular tourist attractions on St. Thomas.
Air Center Helicopters (340-775-7335) provides helicopter tours of both St. Thomas and St. John. The average flight time is thirty minutes long and costs $100 per person. The helicopters hold up to six passengers. This is an incredible experience that offers breathtaking views and amazing photo opportunities, so bring a camera!
At the snack shop located here, you can enjoy a famous banana daiquiri. Over 6 million of these drinks have been served to date, so it's become something of a tradition to enjoy a daiquiri while taking in the breathtaking views. While visiting this site, be sure to drop in to some of the popular duty-free shops located nearby.
To preview the view from the mountaintop, go online to www.greathouse-mountaintop.com.
Atlantis Submarine Ride (St. Thomas)
Prepare to take a unique and exotic submarine adventure as you dive 150 feet toward the sea floor. You'll see incredible ocean life and several sunken ships through the submarine's portals. Your journey begins by taking a short boat ride to the submarine. Upon boarding the submarine, your undersea journey lasts about an hour. The entire adventure is about ninety minutes long and includes live narration by the copilot.
Built at a cost of $3.6 million, each Atlantis submarine holds forty-eight passengers and makes up to nine dives per day. The undersea journey is surprisingly smooth. There are no restrooms available on the actual submarine, however, so plan accordingly.
An Atlantis submarine ride provides a memorable and exciting experience for people over the age of four. The cost is $84 per adult and $34 per child (ages four to sixteen). To save $10 per adult ticket, make your reservations online at www.atlantisadventures.net. Advance reservations are definitely required. This is an extremely popular attraction, and it books up quickly.
To make a reservation or for additional information, call 340-776-5650.
The St. Thomas Skyride
This enclosed-gondola skyride allows passengers to experience the breathtaking view as they enjoy the smooth, 700-foot ascent to Paradise Point. The seven-minute journey (each way) offers views of Charlotte Amalie Harbor and beyond. Once you reach Paradise Point, you'll enjoy an array of shops and cafés, plus a tropical-bird show and a nature trail. The skyride departs from near the Havensight Mall and cruise-ship dock in St. Thomas.
The tropical-bird show is presented at 10:30 A.M. and 1:30 P.M. daily. The skyride operates from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. This is an extremely popular attraction among kids and teens.
Coral World Ocean Park (St. Thomas)
This kid- and teen-friendly museum and aquarium provides visitors with a unique way to see the world under the sea—without actually getting wet! By stepping into Coral World Ocean Park's underwater observatory and riding in a thirty-passenger submarine, you'll get incredible views of coral gardens, tropical fish, sea turtles, stingrays, and other exotic aquatic life, all from an underwater perspective. Plan on spending several hours visiting this popular attraction.
The underwater observatory (included with the price of admission to Coral World) takes you 100 feet offshore and fifteen feet beneath the sea, where you'll find yourself in the middle of a living coral reef.
The optional Sea Trekin’ submarine ride is priced at $68 for adults and $59 for children, and the price includes admission to Coral World.
To learn about full- and half-day bicycle tours offered on St. Croix, which include the bike and safety equipment rentals, plus knowledgeable guides, call 340-773-5004. Tours are available for experienced and novice riders.
Hours of operation are 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. daily. Coral World admission is $18 for adults and $9 for children. For the family rate of $52, two adults and two children will be admitted. If you wish to visit this attraction more than once, purchasing an annual membership for each person is definitely worthwhile. Members also receive a 10-percent discount on food, beverages, and items from the gift shop.
For details, call www.coralworldvi.com. This is one of the best places in the USVI to visit with kids and teens!
Captain Nautica Tour
You and your family can experience a half-day high seas adventure aboard Captain Nautica's thirty-one-foot power-raft. This exciting and at times high-speed cruise is a sightseeing tour with a twist that kids and teens will really enjoy.
In addition to hearing about the history of the Virgin Islands, as you cruise around them in a bright yellow, open-air power boat, the tour guide entertains passengers with exciting pirate tales and upbeat music. You'll also make two stops, during which guests are invited to go snorkeling (with all equipment provided). Drinks and snacks are included.
RAINY DAY FUN
If you're looking for land-based activities while visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands, some of what's offered include biking, bowling, casinos, golf, hiking, horseback riding, paintball, shopping, tennis, and day spas. Check with your hotel's concierge or tour desk for details about participating in these and other activities.
Departure times are at 8:30 A.M. and 1:00 P.M. daily. The voyage lasts between three and a half and four hours. Tours depart from the North Cruise Ship dock in Havensight (St. Thomas). This is one of the best boat tours you'll find that's suitable for families.
For details or to make a reservation, call www.captainnautica.com.
Located a short boat ride away from the U.S. Virgin Islands are the popular British Virgin Islands (see Chapter 11). You can take a high-speed ferry and go island-hopping in order to spend an afternoon enjoying some of the activities offered within the British Virgin Islands, such as the Dolphin Discovery program, where participants get to swim with bottlenose dolphins and interact with them.
For more information about the Dolphin Discover program offered in nearby Tortola (in the British Virgin Islands), call www.dolphindiscovery.com).
St. Croix Heritage Trail
The St. Croix Heritage Trail encompasses a twenty-eight-mile journey across the island. By following this trail (by car) and stopping at designated historical sites and attractions, you'll discover the rich history of this island. You can experience the heritage trail at your own pace by renting a car and following a clearly labeled map. Organized bus and van tours are also offered from a variety of tour operators. Contact your hotel's concierge for details.
This tour will be of greater interest to adults and seniors, since it focuses more on history and culture, as opposed to fun activities for kids or teens. Participating in this tour, however, will provide you with a detailed understanding and appreciation for this island's history.
As you'll discover, there's no start or formal end to the trail. Thus, you can pick it up at any location and visit only those designated stops that are of interest to you and your family. Along the trail, you'll visit full-service attractions (which can be toured and that are fully staffed), visitation sites (with irregular hours and no staff), plus points of interest (which can be viewed from outside, but that are not open to the public.)
Two of the attractions along the trail you won't want to miss if you're traveling with kids or teens are the St. Croix Aquarium (340-773-0196).
Are you a golfer? The USVI is home to several championship golf courses designed by people like George and Tom Fazio and Robert Trent Jones. While there are no courses on St. John, you will find several eighteen-hole championship courses on St. Thomas and St. Croix. Golf courses include Mahogany Run (340-773-8844).
For information about the St. Croix Heritage Trail, call 340-772-0598. Be sure to pick up a free copy of St. Croix Heritage Trail: Your Guide to the History, Culture and Nature of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. It's a full-color brochure and guide map available from all of the attractions along the trail, as well as from USVI tourism offices.
EcoTours Kayak and Snorkel Tours
Some of the best adventures and most memorable experiences you'll have in the USVI will take place outdoors. The Virgin Island EcoTours will take you on an exciting kayak journey through St. Thomas’ Marine Sanctuary and Mangrove Lagoon. Along the way, you'll make several stops to go snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters. Some of the wildlife you'll see when snorkeling here includes barracuda, eagle rays, snapper, angelfish, and octopus. All equipment and a tour guide are provided. Call 340-779-2155 for reservations and details.
All three major islands that comprise the USVI offer an abundance of duty-free shopping opportunities. You'll find name-brand and designer jewelry, watches, perfumes, liquor, tobacco products, leather goods, cameras, china, and other items available at discounted prices that are also being sold tax-free, allowing for additional savings.
In St. Thomas, for example, some of the popular duty-free jewelry stores worth visiting include Cardow, Little Switzerland, H. Stern Design Center & World Outlet, Tanzanite International, Omni, Royal Caribbean (not to be confused with the cruise line), and Rolex Watches at A.H. Riise.
The USVI offers visitors a $1,200 per-person duty-free shopping quota. This means you can spend up to $1,200 on duty-free items without paying any taxes on those items.
The best way to save money when shopping at duty-free stores is to know, in advance, exactly what you're looking for. Before leaving home, do research on those items and have a good understanding of prices, brand names, and model numbers (when applicable). This will allow you to intelligently compare prices when shopping in the USVI and ultimately save more money when you negotiate your best price, especially on items like jewelry and designer watches.