The U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) is an ideal location to have a crewed yacht charter vacation! No passports needed for U.S Citizens!
St. Thomas is the big city with endless shopping and dining opportunities.
St. John has the National Park and is comfortably laid back.
The US Virgin Islands are located about 40 miles east of Puerto Rico, 1100 miles southeast of Miami and 1500 miles from New York City.
St. Thomas has a wide variety of enticing options to offer, both on shore and off shore. Dining experiences range from the elegant Old Stone Farmhouse to the sand between your toes restaurant Iggie’s Beach Bar at Bolongo Bay. You can shop ‘til you drop in the downtown Charlotte Amalie, Havensight and Crown Bay shopping areas where you’ll find everything from jewelry and perfume to local island crafts and tropical clothing. There are informative island tours, unbelievably gorgeous white sand beaches like the famous Magen’s Bay Beach and attractions of all kinds from the Paradise Point Tramway to Coral World Ocean Park. As well, there’s snorkeling, world-class SCUBA diving, fishing and even whale watching from February through April when the humpback whales travel south into our waters to breed and raise their young.
On St. Thomas, most yacht crews pick up their guests at Crown Bay Marina located between the airport and the downtown Charlotte Amalie shopping district or at Yacht Haven Grande Marina just east of downtown Charlotte Amalie or American Yacht Harbor Marina in Red Hook on St. Thomas’ east end.
Just across from the east end of St. Thomas (across from Cowpet Bay) is the popular anchorage Christmas Cove off the small island of Great St. James. There is a rocky beach but the draw here is the snorkeling during the day and fishing from your boat at night. My son hooked a real whopper which we saw but it was too big to land. This can be a delightful lunch stop before heading across the Pillsbury Sound or a protected night stop.
Going further east around St. Thomas after passing through Current Cut into the often boisterous Pillsbury Sound, Red Hook will be off your port bow. This is the location of American Yacht Harbor Marina as well as several eclectic bars and great restaurants, a local favorite being Duffy’s Love Shack.
Two thirds of the island has been dedicated as national parkland since the 1950’s donation of lands by Laurance Rockefeller.There are invigorating hiking trails that take you from ancient petroglyphs etched into stone to sandy beaches and waters in which to cool your heels afterward. Ahhhhh! As the waters are protected, the reefs are pristine with vibrant corals and an abundance of fish.There is even an easy underwater snorkel trail at Trunk Bay with markers identifying corals and fish. The ruins of Annaberg Sugar Plantation and the fascinating archaeological dig at Cinnamon Bay give the visitor a glimpse of ages past on St. John.
A Sampling of North Coast Anchorages:
- Cruz Bay is a point of entry for Customs and Immigration and the main town on St. John. It’s a bustling little town with ferry service from St. Thomas and the BVI. There are unique shops of all kinds and many cozy bars and restaurants. This is a crowded anchorage with lots of activity and may not be comfortable overnight.
- Caneel Bay laps upon the shores of Caneel Bay Resort. Visiting yachts are welcome to anchor and go ashore during the day to enjoy the gift shop and upscale restaurant. It’s quite enjoyable just to walk the grounds and you may catch sight of a wedding being performed on the picturesque point. There are several hiking trails that are accessed from Caneel Bay. There is good snorkeling along the right side of the beach.
- Cinnamon Bay is also home to the Cinnamon Bay Campground operated by the National Park. There is a water sports concession on shore that rents snorkel gear, windsurfers, kayaks and mountain bikes. The archaeological dig is also here and they may let you pan for artifacts. The snorkeling is good and the palm trees provide ample shade.
- Maho Bay and Francis Bay are just east of Cinnamon Bay and, like Cinnamon, lovely anchorages when the waters are calm. A ground swell occasionally works in but you will likely be swimming or exploring ashore so it won’t matter. Mayo Bay has an ongoing list of activities from glassblowing and tie dying to snorkel tours and marine slide shows.
- Leinster Bay is a lovely, protected anchorage with views over to West End Tortola and Jost Van Dyke in the distance. There is an easy hiking trail that links to the Annaberg Sugar Plantation Trail and the restored ruins and there is great snorkeling on the fringing reef of Waterlemon Cay.
A Sampling of South Coast Anchorages:
- The south coast of St. John is less visited and can be a delightful departure from the more well-known north coast anchorages.
- Little Lameshur Bay is a protected anchorage except during a southerly breeze and offers excellent snorkeling. The Yawzi Point Trail, less than ½ mile with moderate inclines, begins on the eastern side of the bay.
- Coral Bay, the main harbor for St. John during the height of the sugar mill era, is now home to an interesting collection of local live-aboards and transient cruisers. Off the beaten path, it has a funky, laid back atmosphere. Ashore, there are numerous bars and restaurants, including Skinny Legs, a self proclaimed “pretty ok bar and grill”.
Located 40 miles south of St. Thomas, St. Croix is the largest of the four main islands. To get there from St. Thomas is an open water sail and few charter boats want to take the time (one day over, one day back) to go there. However, if you have time, you can take a ferry or seaplane over and rent a car to explore this relatively unspoiled and less touristy island. The island is surrounded by the largest island barrier reef in the Caribbean and thus is the destination for world class scuba diving. The Wall is a mere quarter of a mile offshore gently sloping at first to drop to thousands of feet.
Water Island, located just across Elephant Bay from St. Thomas, is almost entirely residential and one of the most peaceful and relaxing spots in the Virgins. The sand is white and soft under the feet, the waters are warm and gin-clear and when the visibility is good, you can see Puerto Rico’s El Yunque mountain to the west.
On the beach, there are two excellent beach bars, Heidi’s Honeymoon Grill and Dinghy’s Beach Bar and Grill. Heidi serves up lunches every day and truly gourmet meals each Saturday night for fine dining with your toes in the sand. Dinghy’s has great music, cold beverages and blender drinks to chill you out as well as delicious food. There are walking trails and Water Island Adventures offers an interesting bike tour of the island.