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The Virgin Islands - pristine beaches and crystal clear waters

Updated on January 26, 2014
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The American Virgin Islands (red), The British Virgin Islands (blue) and Puerto Rico (green) are located on the border of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
The American Virgin Islands (red), The British Virgin Islands (blue) and Puerto Rico (green) are located on the border of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. | Source
Cruise ships that dock daily at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas in U.S. Virgin Islands.
Cruise ships that dock daily at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas in U.S. Virgin Islands. | Source

The Virgin Islands

Another set of beautiful islands to vacation or honeymoon on just a couple of hours by air from Miami, Florida are the Virgin Islands. Named so by Christopher Columbus when he founded them on one of his later voyages (1495), the islands are named after St. Ursula and the 11,000 virgins.

I was fortunate enough to see them on my honeymoon when our cruise ship stopped at
Charlotte Amelie, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The port/harbor and the sights were just stunning and the water so crystal clear we could seed to the bottom of the sea with all its marine life and coral reefs.

The Virgin Islands actually form a border between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and are the western group of the Leeward Islands which are the most northern part of the Lesser Antilles.

The Virgin Islands are divided into two two sets of territories: the eastern islands are the British Virgin Islands, an overseas territory of the UK. They are comprised of the islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Vanb Dyke, and Anegada.

The western islands are the United States Virgin Islands and are comprised of St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas and Water Island and are a territory of the United States.

The Virgin Passage, a body of water, separates by approximately sixty miles the U.S. Virgin Islands from Puerto Rico (also known as the Spanish Virgin Islands of Vieques and Culebra)

Both the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands use the currency of the U.S. dollar as well as the Puerto Rican islands do.

Both sets of islands were originally inhabited by the Arawak, Caribbean, and Cermic Amerindians who all died during the colonial period of the islands. They died through enslavement, disease and mass extermination all brought on by European armies and colonists.

The European colonists arrived after Columbus and established sugar and tobacco plantations, and purchased slaves from Africa. Today, the plantations are gone and the descendents of slaves remain the bulk of the native population. They share a common African-Caribbean heritage with the rest of the English speaking Caribbean islands.

Today, tourism is the chief business and the economies of both sets of islands and there is also quite a retirement community on the islands as well as the tourists and cruise ships that dock daily.

Interestingly, on both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, cars are driven on the left hand side of the road, but steering wheels are still located on the left side of cars as they are here in the U.S.

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The U.S. Virgin Islands

Three main islands comprise the U.S. Virgin Islands and they are St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Croix. St. Thomas is the more populated island and is the home of the capital city, Charlotte Amalie. This city is a bustling port town that formally began as an important trading port in the Caribbean. Today, the busy downtown area is filled with classy and casual restaurants, night life, shopping and hotels. The downtown buildings are pastel colored and offer a colorful sight to be sure.

There are duty-free shops galore for all kinds of products, one of them being for rum, which is the top product of the Caribbean islands. The jewelry stores are to die for and specialize in South American emeralds and diamonds. This is also where the cruise ships dock when they arrive in the Virgin Islands.

St. John is the smallest of these three main islands and is filled with great beaches and a lush forest surrounded by tranquil waters. This island is seventy-five percent National Park. St. John's is home to Caneel Bay, Cruz Bay, Trunk Bay and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The water is crystal clear. It is here on St. John's that you will find the exquisite private villas, resorts and hotels. There is a marina for docking the many sailboats and yachts that come to the islands.

St. Croix is the more secluded and private of the islands and is a popular place to stay for scuba diving, snorkeling and fishing. There are loads of beaches to relax on, coral reefs for diving and snorkeling and historic ruins to see. There are plenty of hiking trails for the athletic crowd. The Virgin Island National Park is located on St. Croix and offers hiking, camping, scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing and fishing.

Beach resort on the British Virgin Islands.
Beach resort on the British Virgin Islands. | Source
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The British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands are comprised of the islands of Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Anegada. The largest island is Tortola and the capital city of Road Town is found on this island. Twelve by three miles, this island is full of white sand, green mountains, ruins and rum distilleries.

The great beaches are on the island of Jost Van Dyke and boat tours of the British Virgin Islands are offered here.

On the island of Virgin Gorda the underwater caverns and baths fascinate tourists as well as natives. and the island of Anegada is full of pristine beaches, crystal clear sea water and is a coral island. Great to scuba dive and snorkel here also.

Theses four islands are the largest of the British Virgin Islands and here is where the beach resorts, hotesl and private homes are found.

The British Virgin Islands.
The British Virgin Islands. | Source
Both sets of islands celebrate Carnival each winter.
Both sets of islands celebrate Carnival each winter. | Source
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Popular fish dish of the islands.
Popular fish dish of the islands. | Source
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The Culture of the islands

Although the British and U.S. Virgin Islands are politically separate and belong to two different countries, they are culturally close. The culture is syncretic, which means the islands carry the influences of Western Africa, Europe and the Americas. The Danish owned and controlled the present day U.S. Virgin Islands for many of the early years, but there is very little to no influence from the Danes on the islands.

The greatest influence on the Virgin Islands is from the African nations of today of Nigeria, Senegal, both Congos, Gambia and Ghana. The Africans came from this part of Africa originally as slaves to work in the sugar cane fields from the 17th to the mid-19th century and brought their African traditions with them.

The dominate language on both the U.S. and British islands has always been an English-based Creole from the 19th century. The official language to today is English but Creole is the dialect spoken by the natives at home. There have been brief times of Dutch and French influence to the island culture also.

Today, immigrants come from the Arab world, India and other Caribbean islands. The Virgin Islands continue to undergo creolization, which is an inter-Caribbean migration and cultural contrast with other islands and with the U.S.

In the British islands one-half of the population is of foreign origin, mostly from other Caribbean islands. The U.S islands are mostly native born residents that can trace their ancestry to other Caribbean islands and early European settlements or Afrtican slaves.


Cuisine of the Virgin Islands

The native traditional food of both sets of islands is spicy and hearty with many foods being imported. Naturally, because they are islands, fish is the staple of their diet. All different types of fish from the Caribbean Sea are made into delicious fish dishes.

Fungi (fun-gee) is another main staple of the Virgin Islands diet. It is cornmeal that has been boiled and cooked to a thick consistency and cooked along with okra. It is usually eaten with boiled fish or saltfish.

Callaloo is a soup made from the callaloo bush/leaf that is native on the islands and is somewhat like spinach. It also includes various ingredients of meats and okra used and boiled to a thick stew consistency.


Bush tea is a herbal tea made from native plants to the Virgin Islands. It also includes lemongrass. This is the hot beverage of choice in the Virgin Islands.

Pate is a fried dough filled with various meats including beef, chicken or saltfish stuffed inside and is a popular snack on the islands. Johnnycake is also a pastry made with fried dough and quite popular on the islands.

Because of inter-Caribbean migration the Virgin Islands have adopted the dish of roti which is of Indo-Trinidadian origin. This is a curried vegetable and meat wrapped in paper thin dough and quite popular also.

Fruits available in the Virgin Islands are sugar apple, mango, papaya, soursop, genip, sea grapes, tamarind and gooseberries. All of these fruits can be stewed together with sugar for a sweet snack or dessert.

Rum is the traditional and native alcoholic drink of the islands and there are rum stores on every corner in the cities of the islands. Duty free rum and other alcoholic beverages may be purchased in duty free stores and taken home.

Along with these native foods to the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean islands, there are also first class restaurants that offer international cuisine.

What ever your culinary delight, it can be found in the Virgin Islands along with the pristine beaches, and crystal clear water. The idyllic Virgin Islands are a great place to visit!


St. John Island part of  the U.S. Virgin Islands.
St. John Island part of the U.S. Virgin Islands. | Source
View from a balcony in the Virgin Islands.
View from a balcony in the Virgin Islands. | Source
Popular white sand beach in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Popular white sand beach in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. | Source
U.S. Virgin Islands.
U.S. Virgin Islands. | Source
Underwater caverns and baths on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands.
Underwater caverns and baths on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands. | Source
Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands.
Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands. | Source

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    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      2 years ago from Taos, NM

      Thanks for the website. It has been a while since I have been to the Virgin Islands so it is good to know about the latest beaches!

    • VillaMargaritaSTX profile image

      Villa Margarita St Croix USVI 

      2 years ago from St Croix, USVI

      here's our list of Top 10 Beaches on St Croix USVI: http://villamargarita.com/best-st-croix-beaches-us... Comments welcome!

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      rdsparrowriter: Thank you for reading this and for your kind comments. I appreciated your visit and I'm glad your enjoyed reading this. I guess we can dream or visit these virtually if we can't get there now.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      LKMore: Thank you so much for your wonderful comments. I am so glad you enjoyed this. Yes, I guess we need to know the lovely vacation islands that are out there in case we ever want to go on vacation. Thanks so much for your visit and for taking the time to read this. Most appreciated.

    • rdsparrowriter profile image

      rdsparrowriter 

      5 years ago

      Great trip so beautiful. Thank you for giving me this experience through written words and lovely pictures. Voted up and awesome :)

    • LKMore01 profile image

      LKMore01 

      5 years ago

      Paradise! What a fabulous feature. You inspire us to dream and plan our exotic vacations Suzette. Fantastic article both verbally and visually. Voted up, useful and beautiful. The photo's are stunning. The food looks tempting. The whole HUB feast is a delicious treat.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Deborah: Your wedding must have been beautiful with the islands as a backdrop! I was here on my honeymoon - we took a cruise of the eastern Caribbean. My favorite island is St. Croix and Virgin Gorda, also. To sail around the islands on your honeymoon sounds wonderful. Thanks so much for your comments and I'm glad you enjoyed reading this.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      5 years ago from Iowa

      Terrific hub. I got married in the Virgin Islands, on St. Thomas, and have been there a few other times as well, including a week spent on a 51' yacht sailing around the islands. My favorites are St. John, Virgin Gorda, and Jost Van Dyke.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      mary: Thanks so much for your visit and for your comments. Most appreciated. Yes, I was there on a cruise ship stop myself . Oh, so lovely!

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      carter: Isn't it lovely here? I know, I just want to hop a plane and fly away to paradise! LOL

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      5 years ago from Florida

      Beautiful Hub from start to finish! My daughter just went on a cruise that stopped at these islands. She had a wonderful time. I've never been, and now these islands are on my "bucket list".

      Voted UP and shared.

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 

      5 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Wow your photos of the islands are fabulous! longing and desire are wrapped into one reading this Suzette..got to love the idea of sunshine and crystal clear water anytime!! Great hub, cheers

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Martie: Thanks for your visit. I am glad you enjoyed this. I hear there are beautiful beaches in S. Africa, too. Thanks for your comments - most appreciated!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      5 years ago from South Africa

      Beautiful pictures and most interesting history. Thanks, Suzette :)

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      mckbirdbks: I know what you mean! I could use a little island time myself. Glad you enjoyed this and that it added some delight to your Sunday evening. Thanks for the visit.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 

      5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      What a perfect little Sunday evening getaway. You have carried off my imagination....I am set for the evening. I am going to search for my straw hat right now.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Sunshine: By all means get to Clearwater. You and hubby need a relaxing day or two at the beach right about now! Glad you enjoyed this - I just love the beaches there. I have been to Clearwater, too, and the beaches there are lovely also. Thanks for your visit - always appreciated.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      srsddn: Thank you so much for reading this and for your kind comments. I just love the islands so this was easy to write. The beaches are gorgeous and I wish I was there right now! lol Glad you enjoyed this.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      The water is crystal clear and so serene! Reminds me I am over due for a road trip to Clearwater Beach!

      I enjoyed my virtual vaca to the Virgin Islands! Thanks Suzette! :)

    • srsddn profile image

      srsddn 

      5 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      suzettenaples, I believe it could not have been presented in a better way than this. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing lovely beaches. Voted up.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Thanks so much for reading and for your comments. Ah, you escape to the islands also? Aren't the Virgin Islands beautiful? Thanks for viewing the pics. The island is so stunning there is no bad photo of the Virgin Islands! lol

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Thanks so much for reading and for your comments. Ah, you escape to the islands also? Aren't the Virgin Islands beautiful? Thanks for viewing the pics. The island is so stunning there is no bad photo of the Virgin Islands! lol

    • Elias Zanetti profile image

      Elias Zanetti 

      5 years ago from Athens, Greece

      A beautiful hub and one of my favorite destinations! Your photos are amazing!

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Thank you Bill. I'm glad you enjoyed reading and viewing this. The water really is that crystal clear - hard to believe - at least they are conserving nature here! lol. Thanks for the comments - most appreciated.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      The pictures are unbelievable. I'm not much of a tropical kind of guy, but I see pictures like that and I want to visit those places badly...just once, and not for long, but I definitely would love to see them. Thanks for the tour.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Eddy: Thanks so much for your comments. I'm glad you enjoyed reading this. Yes, these islands are beautiful and gorgeous. Can you believe that clear water? Takes my breath away!

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Thanks so much Nell. Glad you enjoyed reading this. Yes, the British Virgin Islands are just enchanting as the U.S. island. Believe me, I'd love to park myself in that resort on the water in the British Virgin Islands. That place must be heaven. A little bit of Britain on this side of the pond! Lol.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      5 years ago from Wales

      Oh how beautiful Suzette; this one is a masterpiece and your obvious hard work paid off.

      Voting up and wishing you a great day.

      Eddy.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 years ago from England

      Wow! I never really think about the Virgin Islands, so I never realised just how beautiful they are! how amazing, I just want to get on a plane and go there now! lol! fantastic hub suzette, voted up and shared, nell

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Londonlady: No crystal clear waters even in Naples, FL. But, these islands are intoxicating with their beauty. I love it here and when you get off the beaten path and away from the cities it is truly heaven!

    • Londonlady profile image

      Laura Writes 

      5 years ago

      There aren't any crystal clear waters where I'm from so seeing pictures like this makes me jealous haha, but beautiful hub.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Hi Faith. Yes, these islands are gorgeous and one of my favorites in the Caribbean. The sea is so lovely here and it is heaven on earth. There is so much to do and see on these islands, too. So glad you enjoyed reading this. I'd love to stay at that resort in the water in the British Virgin Islands. Just heavenly! Lol.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Thanks you! The crystal clear water just amazes me. You can see the floor of the sea. Just beautiful. These islands are heaven on earth. So glad you enjoyed reading this and viewing the photos.

    • Bercton profile image

      Bercton 

      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Brilliant photos of a beautiful Island. Great stuff!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      5 years ago from southern USA

      Oh, my goodness, suzette,

      This looks like a bit of heaven right here on Earth! Just look at that blue water, stunning!

      I hope to one day visit such beauty here on the planet.

      Thank you for such a beautiful and informative hub here on the Virgin Islands.

      Voted up ++++ and sharing

      Blessings,

      Faith Reaper

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