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St Thomas Gem of U.S. Possessions
Charlotte Amelie in St. Thomas

I fondly recall the day of my first visit to the US Virgin Islands. A sea breeze tickled 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 every new experience and every new destination.

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 had arrived in the lands known as the gem of U.S. possessions.

History of the US Virgin Islands

The islands that we now know as the United States Virgin Islands were inhabited long before the arrival of European explorers. The 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.

There was no remaining native habitation by 1625. Nearby Spanish colonies likely enslaved the population, and diseases carried by Europeans caused many deaths.

At various times, the Virgin Islands were controlled 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 at the time 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. Then, 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.

Culture of the US Virgin Islands

When you visit the Virgin Islands, you’ll find many similarities to the continental United States. Food choices will include both fast-food restaurants as well as local food. A foodie walking tour in St. Thomas introduces visitors to the rich variety of local cuisine.

Visitors to the US Virgin Islands hear will vary from American pop to Calypso. These islands are a melting pot of Americans, Hispanics, and mixed African or European ancestry. The culture tour in St. Thomas provides a sampling of the local vibe with guides who are knowledgeable and friendly.

When visiting the US Virgin Islands, be aware that English is the main spoken language, although Spanish and Creole are spoken by residents interacting with each other.

US Virgin Island Highlights

Visit St. Thomas

St. Thomas has many excellent public 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.

Here are some beach experiences to consider when making your travel plans:

Cocktail Sunset Cruise from Sapphire Beach Resort

Parasail Experience

St. Thomas is an excellent place to visit. Your biggest problem will be finding enough time for all that it offers.

Explore St. Croix

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 at 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. To see the island from a different vantage point, consider a jet ski tour for an action-packed adventure.

Unwind on St. John

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 accessible by water taxi from St. Thomas.

Two-thirds of St. John is land protected by the United States Park Service. This includes forests, shorelines, and underwater lands. Laurence Rockefeller prompted the creation of the park with a gift of 5,000 acres of land in 1956.

Experience the entire island through the eyes of a local with a private guided tour of St. John Island from Viator. Learn all about the island’s culture and ecology while casually visiting the island’s famous beaches. The route also includes such other tourist attractions as Oppenheimer Beach, Hawksnest Beach, and the Annaberg Sugar Plantation.

It does not matter which island you choose when you visit the US Virgin Islands. 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 Visit the US Virgin Islands

You can visit the US Virgin Islands either by booking a cruise ship or by making an extended visit.

We chose the Royal Caribbean cruise line for our trips to the US Virgin Islands 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 websites:

St. Thomas – visitstthomas.com

St. Croix – visitstcroix.com

St. John – vinow.com/stjohn

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