FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Virgin Territory: The U.S.V.I. Beckons

by Kelly Magyarics

Feb 9, 2024

Sapphire Beach, St. Thomas © Visit U.S. Virgin Islands

February 2024

Leaving your passport safely tucked away at home is certainly one draw for the U.S. Virgin Islands. But it’s far from the only appeal of this trio of Caribbean islands the United States purchased in 1917.

For one thing, don’t forget to pack your appetite, as the burgeon- ing culinary scene offers reason enough to hop on the first direct flight. The calendar is dotted with food festivals all year, including Love City Seafood Fest in January; AgriFest in February; Taste of St. Croix in April; King of the Wing in June (that’s chicken, of course); and Mango Melee Festival in July, where attendees can sample the beloved tropical fruit in all kinds of luscious preparations. The U.S.V.I. is also the only destination to host three carnivals per year, with festive events spread throughout the year on all three islands.

St. Croix

Boiler Bay, St. Croix © Visit U.S. Virgin Islands

Frenchman’s Reef on St. Thomas, devastated in 2017 by the one-two punch of hurricanes Irma and Maria, is fresh off an extensive $425 million rebuild project, including the opening of Westin Beach Resort & Spa and Morningstar Buoy Haus Resort, an Autograph Collection. With those two hotels come six new dining concepts, including Spanish dishes at SandBar, casual beach vibes at Salt Shack, and poke and sushi (with terrace views and killer rums) at Sugarfin.

St. Croix is the perfect island to experience the life aquatic — during the day or even at night. Buck Island Reef National Monu- ment boasts a protected marine ecosystem since two-thirds of it is surrounded by a 4,554-acre coral barrier reef. Don a snorkel mask or scuba gear to explore the underwater trail, where you can spot 250 species of fish. A 2.5- mile hike through a rainforest takes you to the large, naturally formed Annaly Bay Tide Pools teeming with marine life. For the ultimate after-dark adventure, head out in a glass-bottomed kayak through Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve to see the bioluminescent organisms making the water look like a sky full of stars.

USVI

Mongoose Shopping Junction © Visit U.S. Virgin Islands

If you’d prefer to stay on land, head to Virgin Islands National Park on St. John, where 30 hiking trails take you through landscapes such as a forest of bay rum trees and scrubland filled with cacti. There you can also see Reef Bay Valley Petroglyphs, rock carvings created by the indigenous Taino people as early as A.D. 500. After a hike on the trails at Lind Point, you can take to the bay on a kayak or spot sea turtles from the seagrass areas on Maho Bay Beach.

Art meets booze at St. Croix’s Bajo El Sol Gallery, Bar & Rum, displaying exhibits and handmade crafts from local artists, offering poetry readings, and stocking one of the largest collections of aged rums in the U.S.V.I. And if you’re feeling frazzled from the daily stressors of life on the mainland, the windmill at Peace Hill Sugar Mill hosts weekly meditation sessions. Relax, you’re on island time now.

St. John

St. John © Visit U.S. Virgin Islands

LODGING

The Fred

Named after King Frederik V of Denmark, this hip and quirky new property comprising six renovated historical structures dating to 1790 includes a beachfront resort, spa, restaurant and bar.

605 Strand St., Frederiksted, St. Croix
$$$$

Lovango Resort + Beach Club

Accommodations at this private island resort range from villas and cottages to luxury treehouses and glamping tents, with access to secluded Crescent Beach and the U.S.V.I.’s only beach club.

1 Lovango Cay, St. John $$$$$

Morningstar Buoy Haus Beach Resort at Frenchman’s Reef, Autograph Collection

Breathe in the salt air from your table at Isla Blue and take a dip in the inviting freeform pool at this new 94-room boutique hotel steps from the turquoise surf.

2 Estate Bakkeroe, St. Thomas $$$$$

sea turtle

© Visit U.S. Virgin Islands

DINING

Blue Eleven

Indulge in a tasting menu of seven, nine or 11 courses of creative Caribbean cuisine from Chef “Benji” in an ocean-inspired dining room with aquamarine ceilings, beach prints and coral-hued chairs.

Yacht Haven Grande, St. Thomas $$$$$

Morgan’s Mango

A fixture on St. John for decades, this restaurant draws on Creole, Bahamian, Cuban, Jamaican, Haitian, Puerto Rican and Maya flavors and traditions for its vibrant dishes and neo-Caribbean experience.

18-1 Enighed Cruz Bay, St. John $$$$

Savant

Settle into a cozy table inside the two-story, brick-covered Danish building or one on the romantic, candlelit courtyard to enjoy farm-to-table and boat-to-fork cuisine and an eclectic wine list.

4C Hospital St., Christiansted, St. Croix $$$$

Sugar Plantation

Annaberg Sugar Plantation, St. John © Melissa Sherron | Dreamstime.com

INFO TO GO

There are direct flights to St. Thomas (STT) from Atlanta (ATL); Charlotte (CLT); Philadelphia (PHL); Miami (MIA); New York (JFK); and Washington, D.C. (IAD), and direct flights to St. Croix (STX) from Miami, Charlotte, Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale (FLL). Visitors can travel from St. Croix and St. Thomas to St. John via a 30-minute ferry ride, and Cape Air has service to and from St. Thomas and St. Croix. There are no Ubers on the islands, so taxis or rental cars are the best bets to get around.

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