A Perfect Traveler’s Getaway: The Virgin Islands

Caribbean — By on July 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm

By Annie Shustrin

EDingy on White Bay, Jost Van Dykevery time I book a trip, my inner traveler kicks in with important questions. What is unique about my destination? What can I learn? How can I push the limits of my comfort zone? If there is some adventure to be had or interesting point of view to learn, I’m there with my camera, front and center, to experience it.

Sometimes though, even the most dedicated of travelers needs a getaway. No more internet, no more exploration. We are so connected these days that it’s easy to forget that yes, we too need a break from it all.

The Virgin Islands, an archipelago of eight islands in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, is a perfect place for a break. Not only are these islands a short flight from the US, but they are easy to travel between and brimming with natural beauty. You’ll find out first hand why so many people come to the Caribbean to sit rather than explore.

Though there are plenty of markets and delicious restaurants to visit, you’ll want to spend most of your time admiring the islands and the sea from the countless beaches. If you are the type who gets a little stir crazy sitting on a beach all day long, there are scenic mountain hikes, off shore snorkels, and deep sea dives to keep you engaged with the environment. And because there are several islands to choose from, a trip here would not be complete without a visit to both the US territories (USVI) and the British territories (BVI).

For a Relaxing Getaway: St John, USVI

Maho Bay Saint JohnIf you are looking for some island calm, head over to St John in the USVI. As 63% of the island is protected as a National Park, it is rather undeveloped as far as Caribbean islands go. This means untouched beaches. Protected bays with calm water perfect for swimming and paddleboarding. Donkeys, chickens, and goats sharing the road with passing cars. It is an island that is popular with cruise-goers and Caribbean tourists, but still has local pride and a predominantly wild feel.

Favorites on St John:

Trunk Bay – This the most photographed beach on the island and for good reason. The sand is white, the water is a rainbow of blues, and the offshore reef is a good place to spot rays and turtles.

Maho Bay – Both Little and Big Maho are quiet and don’t get as many beach goers as other popular north shore beaches. The sea here is unbelievably calm and features aqua/green water. It feels more local here as parts of the beach are close to the road.

Miss Lucy’s Restaurant – An open air restaurant right on the water near Salt Pond Bay. Try the Johnny Cakes – this donut like snack is light, but rich and sweet.

Salt Pond Bay – This southern beach is more difficult to get to but highly worth it. Once you park your car, there is a short walk that takes you to out a protected cove with a wide sandy beach and water  teeming with fish and turtles. There is a nature hike here as well that leads to a salt pond as well as another rocky beach.

Concordia Eco Resort – Sitting above Salt Pond Bay in the hills, is this Eco resort is made of mostly tents. The ocean breeze keeps the tents cool and the relative isolation keeps the resort quiet at night.

For a Party: Jost Van Dyke – BVI

White Bay, Jost Van DykeIf you are looking for a fun-filled vacation, there’s no better place than Jost Van Dyke of the British Virgin Islands. Even though this island is rather undeveloped, White Bay is host to one of the biggest beach parties in the archipelago. Yachts come from all over to moor at one of two main bays. Great Harbor Bay, the more quiet and local of the two, and is a good place for a quiet lunch or dinner overlooking Tortola and St John. This is the island’s main harbor, so it’s not the best choice for swimming. Over in White Bay, the crowd is much larger as the beach is near perfection. The palm-tree lined white sand overlooks shallow turquoise water specked with white yachts and catamarans. Beach bars run up and down the shoreline offering ice cold beer, lunchtime island snacks, and the Virgin Islands favorite mixed drink the Painkiller.

Favorites on Jost Van Dyke:

Soggy Dollar Bar – This is, by far, the most famous of all the bars on Jost. It was here that the “national drink” was created. The Painkiller is a mix of cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juice, with Cruzan rum and a shaving of nutmeg. Duck into the Soggy Dollar to try one. Or seven.

One Love Bar – On the far end of White Bay, this beach bar serves up all day reggae and drinks with a low key vibe. Not too far from the bar is a quiet corner for off-beach snorkeling.

Foxys – This bar is lively and boisterous even though it’s in Great Harbour Bay. It’s on the far end of the beach, but the walk from White Bay to Foxy’s is gorgeous and worth the trip.

For an Something Easy: St Thomas, USVI

Magens Bay, Saint ThomasIf you are looking for something easy, it doesn’t get easier than staying on St Thomas. Most flights land on this island in the main port town of Charlotte-Amelie, which eliminates the need for ferry travel. There are tons of resorts, guesthouses, and apartments, depending on what you are looking for. Beware of the cruise ships, however, as the island turns into much more crowded place once a ship has docked.

Favorites on St Thomas:

Lindquist Beach: This wide open beach near Red Hook is famous for its pinkish sand and extremely shallow shelf. As the water is so shallow, its vividly blue. There is little shade, though the right side of the beach has a small coconut grove.

Magen’s Bay: This has constantly been named by many travel outfitters as one of the nicest beach in the Caribbean as it’s protected water is calm and clear and the beach is wide. Make sure to come here in the morning or on a day without cruisers as it gets extremely crowded. Royal Caribbean towels abound!

Ritz-Carlton St Thomas: If you want really really easy (though I’m not saying budget friendly!), don’t forget about the excellent selection of resorts and beach hotels. The Ritz Carlton, located near Red Hook, is a beach front property where you can enjoy beach-sitting in style without even leaving your hotel.

 

Annie Shustrin is a travel addict. When she’s not on the road, she’s either thinking about past trips, planning future ones, or fantasizing about where she’d like to be right now. After years of deliberating and planning, Annie and her husband took a yearlong Round- the-World trip, which was also their honeymoon. She writes about her experiences on her blog, and she’s hoping to help any travel lovers who need advice on planning  both long term and short term trips. Currently, Annie is living in Brooklyn, New York, working in the digital media space.

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