Discover the U.S. & British Virgin Islands

The colors are the first things you notice in the Virgin Islands. The shimmering sea is a palette of blue, green, and purple. Bright white sand and green coconut palms create a picture so pleasing to the eye it is difficult to look away. When the sun shines brightly from above, the tropical colors intensify until they dance beneath the light.

At other times of day, color is more muted, but no less beautiful. At dawn, curls of orange and pink glow from behind the mountains. After the sun drops below the horizon in the evening, the sky turns a deep, dark blue so pure it could swallow you. At night, the sky is black—the perfect backdrop for the extravagance of stars above.

Sun rising over St. Thomas harbor.
The sun rises over St. Thomas Harbor. St. Thomas is the second largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, but the most populous. Photo © Songquan Deng/123rf.

But the Virgin Islands are much more than beautiful. They are alive. Step off the plane and you are bombarded by the lyrical and seemingly indecipherable tongue of the islanders—an English awash with colorful phrases, colloquialisms, and a dialect that is part West African, part American, and part Caribbean. Study this language long enough and you have studied the Virgin Islands in their entirety.

One of the greatest things about the Virgin Islands is their sheer variety. Each island is distinct. You can immerse yourself in the pleasant bustle of St. Thomas’s Charlotte Amalie or choose to drop off the map on isolated Anegada. Pick your way through St. Croix’s museums and historic attractions, or set sail from Tortola to one of the British Virgin Islands’ remote cays.

Many visitors simply want respite and relaxation. And there is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, when the first travelers began “discovering” the Virgin Islands, emptiness and obscurity were their greatest attractions. Despite decades of growth, it is still possible to find the same quietude that so delighted the first visitors to the Virgin Islands. At the right places and the right times, there is a stillness so powerful it steadies your mind and heart. In the middle of the forest of St. John, on a quiet beach in St. Croix, or at the heart of a seaside village on Tortola the stillness surrounds you. Dust settles, no one moves, and the world pauses just long enough for you to notice.

Life exists in equal measure to this silence: comings and goings on the harbors, dancing under the stars, a delightful mélange of cultures, the exciting start of a regatta. The joy of the Virgin Islands is that you choose your proportions: two parts stillness, one part life, chill and serve. Yield: paradise.

So which island, out of all the great and stunning variety, is for you? If you’re interested in a weekend getaway try St. Thomas; if you want a full escape from it all, try Anegada. For beach bars, go with Jost Van Dyke, but for lounging on beaches and romance, Virgin Gorda should be your destination, while St. John is where you go for a nature-filled and family-friendly trip. St. Croix’s speciality is immersion in authentic island culture, especially if you’re a fan of delicious local foods. You’ll find excellent sailing and views in Tortola and the Out Islands.

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