The wind felt sweet against my face on an early morning, years ago when I was but a lad of a scant twenty years beginning my time in the United States Navy. It was 1978, and I was in awe of everything that of every new experience. The presence of the Pacific Princess cruise ship in the harbor of St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands brought visions of the Love Boat television show. I could see immediately that I was in the gem of U.S. possessions.
The islands that we now know as the United States Virgin Islands were inhabited long before the arrival of European explorers. These indigenous peoples were known as the Ciboney, Caribs, and Arawaks. The Spanish believed that the Caribs ate those that they defeated in battle. Thus, their tribal name became the basis for the term cannibal.
The islands did not have any remaining native habitation by 1625. Nearby Spanish colonies likely enslaved the population, and diseases carried by Europeans caused many deaths.
The Virgin Islands were controlled at various times by Holland, France, England, Spain, and Denmark. By the 1680s, Denmark established colonies on St. Thomas and St. John, with St. Croix added after being purchased from France in 1733. The islands were collectively known as the Danish West Indies.
The islands remained under Danish control until 1917, when the United States purchased them as a provisioning point for the United States Navy. Thus, the islands became known as the United States Virgin Islands. Today the United States Virgin Islands is a U.S. territory with an elected governor. All island residents are citizens of the United States.
Visitors to the Virgin Islands will find many similarities to those found in the continental United States. Your food choices will include both fast-food restaurants as well as local food.
The music you hear will vary from American pop to Calypso. The Virgin Islands is a melting pot of Americans with Caribbean locals who have mixed African and European ancestry, as well as Hispanics. These islands are truly the gem of U.S. possessions.
English is the main language, although Spanish and Creole can also be heard. The culture is a vibrant mixture of European and Caribbean elements. When you visit the islands, make it a Caribbean experience by sampling the local food and music.
St. Thomas has many excellent beaches to enjoy. Among these, some of the best are Honeymooners Beach, Brewers Bay, and Magens Bay.
For spectacular views, you should visit Mountain Top and Drake's Seat. Mountain Top sits at the highest point on St. Thomas and has excellent views of Magen's Bay and the nearby island of St. John. Drake's Seat provides a panoramic view of where the Caribbean Sea joins the Atlantic Ocean.
St. Thomas is an excellent place to visit. Your biggest problem will be finding enough time for all that it offers.
St. Croix has two towns, Christiansted and Frederiksted, filled with historic charms that create a perfect romantic getaway.
Frederiksted has many beaches, museums, and shops where you'll find the perfect gift or reminder of your time on St. Croix. Along the waterfront near the cruise ship terminal is Rainbow Beach. While you are on the beach, food and drinks are readily available. After you finish your time on the beach, Fort Frederiksted is nearby with its excellent views of the harbor.
Christiansted has many historical sites to visit, including churches and rows of restored townhouses. The town has excellent restaurants to enjoy while you are experiencing its many charms.
St. John provides a break from the quick paced life on the other islands. It has an extensive park and quiet beaches to explore. The island is reached by water taxi from St. Thomas.
Two thirds of St. John is land protected by the United States Park Service. This includes forest, shorelines and underwater lands. The park began as a gift of 5000 acres of land by Laurence Rockefeller in 1956.
It does not matter which island you choose to visit. They are all among the gems of United States possessions. The islands are full of fun things to do, whether you are drawn to shopping, swimming, eating, or even immersing yourself in the history of the islands.
If You Go
You can visit these islands either by booking a cruise ship or by making an extended visit.
We chose Royal Caribbean cruise lines for our trip because we enjoyed sailing with them, but the islands can be visited on many other cruise ship lines.
See our post on our visit to the Caribbean for information on our visit to St. Croix.
For more information on visiting these wonderful islands, check out their visitor website
St. Thomas – visitstthomas.com
St. Croix – visitstcroix.com
St. John – vinow.com/stjohn