U.S. Virgin Islands: Top Attractions
|Simply Perfect: USVI (Corbis)|
The Buccaneer (St. Croix)
The Buccaneer long ago set the standard for Caribbean luxury and today continues a tradition of exceptional service, privacy, and true hospitality. Located on a former sugar plantation, the 340-acre resort hugs the coastline and sits nestled against three of St. Croix's best beaches. Accommodations are in the main guesthouse and in an assortment of condos and cottages. Perched on a high terrace, their excellent restaurant offers breathtaking views to accompany its high-end cuisine.
Caneel Bay (St. John)
When American millionaire Laurence Rockefeller visited in the early 1950s, he became enchanted by the nearly abandoned island of St. John and began purchasing large tracts of land. He eventually donated more than 5,000 acres as parkland, but built his fantasy resort on 170 acres overlooking Caneel Bay. Rimmed by seven beaches and bisected by lush hiking trails, today's beautifully landscaped resort continues to cater to Rockefeller's mélange of nature, luxury, and impeccable service.
The Ritz-Carlton (St. Thomas)
Sitting on 30 acres overlooking Great Bay on St. Thomas's eastern tip, the Ritz-Carlton and its three-story Mediterranean-style villas form a semi-circle that opens onto two freshwater pools and the azure bay. While only a few miles from bustling Charlotte Amalie, the hotel feels a world away. Each room has a private balcony, and guests can choose from four resort restaurants and bars.
Buck Island Reef National Monument (St. Croix)
Less than two miles off the coast of St. Croix, 176-acre Buck Island sits at the heart of the U.S.'s first marine sanctuaryone of the most-visited sites in the Caribbean. The biggest draw is the network of shallow underwater snorkeling trails. Plenty of operators offer half- and full-day trips, and you can also arrange a hiking trip with a guide from the St. Croix Environmental Association.
Additional Info: 340.773.1460, www.nps.gov/buis/
St. Croix Environmental Association: 340.773.1989, www.stxenvironmental.org
Kendrick's (St. Croix)
Chef David Kendrick and his wife/business partner Jane continually elevate the standard for gourmet dining on St. Croix. Kendrick's is simply the best place to eat on-island. The restaurant, housed in an old Danish storefront, features a menu packed with delicious variety, but diners never go wrong with the grilled fish special or the melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon. Dine alfresco in the courtyard or inside by candlelight, but be sure to save room for a superb slice of apple pie.
The Caribbean's shopping nucleus is undoubtedly Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas' bustling port town. Cruise ship passengers, yachters, and vacationers come to take advantage of the duty- and tax-free shopping for everything from electronics and jewelry to liquor and perfume. A.H. Riise Gifts is the best place to buy your favorite libation, Cardow Jewelers has precious gems and jewelry, and Bernard K. Passman is a leading sculptor of black-coral art and jewelry.
A.H. Riise Gifts: 340.776.2303
Cardow Jewelers: 340.776.1140
Bernard K. Passman: 340.777.4580
Horseback Riding at Paul and Jill's Equestrian Stables (St. Croix)
Paul Wojciechowski and Jill Hurd's namesake stable on St. Croix is known as one of the best tour outfits in the Caribbean. Quality, well-cared-for horses carry experienced or first-time riders on trails through hidden plantation ruins, tropical forests, and spectacular hilltop vistas. Experienced guides impart captivating knowledge about local flora and fauna.
Paul & Jill's Equestrian Stables: 340.772.2880, http://pws.prserv.net/paul-and-jills/
Carambola Golf Course
Tucked in a tropical valley with grounds that look like a blooming botanical garden, the Carambola Golf Coursedesigned by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and built by Laurence Rockefelleris easily the best course in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Its natural ponds and lush vegetation complement challenging fairways and greens. Loosen up on the driving range before tackling the course.
Carambola Golf Course: 340.778.5638, www.carambolabeach.com/golfing.htm
Boating off St. Thomas
Steady trade winds, manageable tides and currents, protected bays, and hundreds of anchorages make sailing in the U.S. Virgin Islands an incredible adventure, whether you're a nautical novice or an experienced mariner. At the American Yacht Harbor in Red Hook, you can charter simple sailboats or yachts that come stocked with gourmet cuisine, an experienced captain, cook, and crew. Virgin Islands Charterboat League has information on available charters.
American Yacht Harbor: 340.775.6454
Virgin Islands Charterboat League: 340.774.3944
Sheer, coral-encrusted walls on St. Croix lead to lush coral gardens teeming with marine life including sea turtles, giant grouper, and schools of tropical fish. Near-shore reefs on St. Thomas make the diving easy and rewarding. Dive shops on both islands offer beach and boat dives, along with knowledgeable dive masters and full PADI certification.
St. Thomas Diving Club: 877.538.8734, www.st-thomasdivingclub.com
St. Croix's Cane Bay Dive Shop: 800.338.3843, www.canebayscuba.com
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
Best Hotels in U.S. Virgin Islands