U.S. citizens do not need a passport to enter the USVI which is one of the reasons it is so popular in the States. The three main islands (St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas) are among more than 50 islands and cays that make up the U.S. Virgin Islands. Situated about 1,200 miles southeast of Miami and 50 miles east of Puerto Rico, they are just a few miles west of their cousins, the British Virgin Islands. St. Thomas and St. John are only 3 miles apart, bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean. St. Croix lies 40 miles to the south, surrounded by the Caribbean Sea.
The foremost attractions of the U.S. Virgin Islands include white-sand beaches, snorkeling and diving, Virgin Islands National Park, deep-sea fishing, restaurants, nightlife, golfing, tennis, hiking, camping, wildlife, parasailing, duty-free shopping, historical buildings and yachting.
Travelers who enjoy shopping, beautiful Caribbean beaches, protected tropical habitats, and excellent snorkeling and diving will enjoy the U.S. Virgin Islands. Those seeking seclusion or a landscape free of Burger Kings and Radio Shacks should restrict their stay to St. John (away from Cruz Bay) or to St. Croix, at least most of it.
The best time to visit is December-April—but that’s when everyone else goes, too.
The British Virgin Islands (often referred to as B.V.I.) may be only a few miles away from the U.S. Virgin Islands, but don’t expect the hectic tourist activity of St. Thomas. The British Virgin Islands have spectacular sailing waters and coral reefs that surround them, calm and tidy towns, luxurious accommodations and gourmet dining. For many, they are the perfect island getaway.
But, as with most things perfect and elegant, the British Virgin Islands don’t come cheap. The islands’ emphasis on small, upscale resorts and their desire to appeal to well-heeled travelers result in a relatively pricey paradise with an exclusive atmosphere.
Although some dozen or so cruise ships visit the islands—with the majority of the cruise vessels visiting Tortola—you’re more likely to see yachts. Sailors enjoy steady trade winds, short distances between islands, beautiful views and many sheltered coves where they can drop anchor. These are considered some of the finest sailing waters in the world. Scuba divers and snorkelers also relish the reefs, wrecks and clear waters off the islands.
For whatever reason you visit the British Virgin Islands, expect a slow and rejuvenating pace with plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. The panorama includes white crescent beaches nestled at the bottom of tall, green mountains and stunning views of neighboring islands from steep lookouts.