|Americans who visit these islands find it hard to believe that this exotic wonderland flies the Stars 'n' Stripes; its beauty is just too otherworldly. Not that it's undiscovered - far from it. But St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John are perpetual favorites for a very good reason: they occupy some of the Caribbean's bluest waters and are blessed with terrific beaches. |
St. Thomas - seat of the capital, Charlotte Amalie - and St. Croix have both been thoroughly developed, but most of that development is tasteful and attractive. Numerous ultramodern hotels and condo complexes have been thoughtfully designed to please travelers who are highly discriminating about their aesthetic surroundings. And though Hurricane Hugo - the most unwelcome guest of '89 - reduced these two islands to rubble and mayhem, their valiant refurbishments have actually led to many delightful improvements. Shop-till-you-droppers may indeed drop when they confront Charlotte Amalie (the Caribbean's biggest duty-free port), and those in quest of a hotel where no sport or luxury's left unindulged will also meet their match on these shores. As serene antidotes to all that bustling chic, St. Thomas offers up its mountainous emerald interior (at 32 square miles, a pleasantly negotiable island), and St. Croix flaunts the handsome architectural legacy of Christiansted, its 18th-Century Danish capital, where intimate alleys meander among festively colored houses with curvaceous roofs. St. Croix's interior, 84 miles square, is also a scenic respite from buzzing Jetskis and sizzling coconut oil: an antique greathouse, sunken grove, or clifftop vista lurks around every bend in the road.
All three islands offer excellent snorkeling and diving, but St. John thrills the outdoor enthusiast as few other tropical islands can. Thanks to the foresight and bank account of Laurance Rockefeller, most of St. John's 16 square miles are national park - and what a park it is. Gregariously blossoming jungle trails weave gaily through the hilly interior, revealing picturebook views of the undulating coastline, where beach after unspoiled beach slips gently into aquamarine shallows that contain the area's most beautiful - and accessible -reefs. If your client is an avid camper, this is the number-one destination to suggest, for in addition to a handful of genteel resorts, St. John offers an array of alfresco options, from queen-size-bedded tent with fan to a barebones (but breathtaking) waterfront campsite with grill.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are an excellent choice for a family vacation (outdoors or in), a sophisticated honeymoon, or a beach lover's fitness getaway. Then, too, Americans who'd rather not fuss with an alien language and currency can't do much better than this.