Where can you experience the Caribbean islands without a passport and have the freedom to island hop? None other than the US Virgin Islands! I had the pleasure of visiting all three islands last week while at a conference and I am here to tell you a little bit about each one. So come along for the ride and island hop with me on a US Virgin Islands vacation as we go from St. Thomas to St. John, and last but not least, St. Croix!
First off, I must say it was quite simple to travel there, no passport, no customs when you enter back to the mainland and only a 3-hour flight from Atlanta!
Our journey begins in St. Thomas! The St. Thomas airport is easy to navigate. If you are taking a taxi to your home while on the island, you will find several taxi drivers waiting eagerly to assist you with your bags. However, if you have booked a Delta Vacations package, your transfers are included—look for the Delta Vacations sign and our ground handler will take care of you from there! You will notice that a few hotels have their own office/check-in desk at the airport—including the Westin St. John and Caneel Bay. These two hotels offer their own transportation because they are located on the island of St. John and reachable only by ferry. For all other hotels on the island of St. Thomas, unless you have purchased the upgraded transfer, you will be transferred (by our ground handler) in an open-air jitney. After standing outside and feeling a bit warm, I was a bit worried when they pointed us in the direction of the open air jitney—however, I would not have wanted to travel around the island any other way. The open-air jitney is a wonderful way to see the island and also to take in a nice breeze. Very refreshing!
Throughout the week, our group attended hosted dinner and breakfast events at a few of the hotels and also had the opportunity to shop! Out of the three islands, St. Thomas is where you will find the best duty-free shopping; in fact, you can purchase up to $1,600 duty free—twice as much as any other island in the Caribbean. The best buys on St. Thomas include jewelry, alcohol, china, crystal, perfumes, art, clothing, watches, and cameras. My shopping experience took place in downtown Charlotte Amalie on Main Street. If you’re looking for a hotel that is near the water, yet close to shopping and the action of downtown, Windward Passage is the perfect place. It was there that our group enjoyed a wonderful breakfast and then walked to the shopping area. There are several shopping areas to explore on the island, including but not limited to Red Hook, Havensight Mall, Vendor’s Plaza, Yacht Haven Grande, and more!
St. Thomas is not only home to a wide array of duty-free shopping, it is also a great place to explore some fabulous beaches and try out a wide array of activities such as diving, snorkeling, sailing, or even rent your own boat to explore outskirts of the island on your own! One place we did not get to visit—but that has been noted one of the world’s most beautiful beaches by both Conde Nast and National Geographic as a “must see”—is Magens Bay Beach! It will definitely be my first stop when visiting St. Thomas next time!
Another hotel where we had the opportunity to experience the staff’s generous hospitality was Bolongo Bay Beach Resort. This hotel is family owned and once you are there, you will feel like part of the family! It is situated right on the beach and is exactly what comes to mind when you think of a laid-back beach hotel. They have two restaurants, which are both open to the public and are highly renowned in the area—Iggies Beach Bar & Grill and The Lobster Grille. If you enjoy mingling with the locals and eating with your toes in the sand, this place is the perfect getaway! I enjoyed this hotel very much and felt right at home.
Okay, are you ready to hop on the ferry and check out the island of St. John? There are two main passenger ferry docks on the island of St. Thomas—one in Charlotte Amalie and the other in Red Hook. Charlotte Amalie is the capital of St. Thomas and is situated on the south side of the island, and Red Hook is on the east side. The ferry time from Charlotte Amalie to St. John is about 45 minutes and about 20 minutes from Red Hook. Be sure to have your camera in hand as you will encounter several picturesque views along the way.
Make sure you stay tuned for my stay on St. John!
Deanna – from Delta Vacations