The United States Virgin Islands, located in the Caribbean, are an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States purchased from Denmark in 1917. They’re part of the larger Virgin Islands archipelago, which includes territories owned by the United Kingdom and Puerto Rico (itself a U.S. territory). The U.S. Virgin Islands consist of three large islands—St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas—and about 50 smaller islands and keys. The capital and largest city, Charlotte Amalie, is located on the island of St. Thomas.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are one of the most popular tourism destinations in the Caribbean, and tourism plays a significant role in the islands’ economy. Visitors come for the climate, scenery, fishing and diving opportunities, and free-port status; Charlotte Amalie in particular is a common port for cruise ships. Natural attractions include six national parks and a collection of bio-diverse reefs ideal for underwater wildlife viewing. If you’re considering a vacation to the U.S. Virgin Islands, make sure to purchase U.S. Virgin Islands travel insurance in case your plans go awry.
As it’s a U.S. territory, U.S. citizens do not need a passport to travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, as always, make sure to bring a government-issued photo ID. The official currency of the territory is the U.S. dollar. Be aware that if you’re driving, it’s customary there to drive on the left side of the road—although, because most cars are imported from the U.S., the steering column is still on the left side of the vehicle. Also, it’s illegal to drive while talking on the phone.
St. Croix is the largest of the islands at just 22.7 miles long and 8 miles at its widest point. It’s best known as a destination for honeymooners, cultural tourism, and scuba divers. Featuring activities like beaches, fine dining options, casinos, and golf resorts, as well as cultural and historical sites in the towns of Christiansted and Frederiksted, the island is a tranquil, tropical paradise ideal for a relaxing getaway.
Christiansted, situated on the island’s north coast between steep hills and a shallow harbor, is the largest town on the island and the Virgin Islands’ former capital under Danish rule. As such, it offers the ideal glimpse into the islands’ past. The Christiansted National Historic Site features five classic colonial buildings including the Customs House and the Steeple Building. Walking through the streets, one is apt to see pink and gold buildings in a Neoclassical architectural style. The Salt River Bay National Historic Park is an ecological reserve and a popular kayaking spot, and it’s the only confirmed spot where Christopher Columbus stepped on U.S. soil. The Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge features a two-mile stretch of beach and is a haven for leatherback sea turtles.
The St. Croix Heritage Trail is a 72-mile driving tour that passes through many of the island’s historical and natural attractions. The route includes Hamm’s Bay in the west and Point Udall, the easternmost point in the U.S., and takes you through everything from tropical forests to cattle fields. It also leads you to attractions like the Estate Whim Plantation Museum, St. George Village Botanical Garden, and Fort Frederik.
Buck Island, about 1.5 miles northeast of St. Croix, is one of the most popular attractions of the island. It’s the site of the protected Buck Island Reef, a must-visit scuba destination featuring elkhorn coral grottoes, blue tang fish, barracudas, shipwrecks, and more. U.S. President John F. Kennedy named the reef an underwater national monument in 1961. The island itself offers hiking trails, beaches, picnic sites, and plenty of cooking grills for an outdoor barbecue.
If scuba diving is on your itinerary, you should purchase a hazardous sports travel insurance plan. The risk of scuba diving and other adventurous sports is usually too great to include in a base travel plan, but if you purchase this additional rider, you’ll have coverage for any unexpected injuries or illnesses that may occur underwater.
St. John, the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands at about 9 miles long and 5 miles wide, is known for its largely untouched natural beauty. Virgin Islands National Park, established in 1956, covers about two-thirds of the island and features hiking trails, protected bays, beaches, underwater gardens, and petroglyphs (rock carvings) from the islands’ oldest inhabitants. The park and all of its attractions are free of charge to visitors; the only exception is Trunk Bay Beach, the most scenic spot on the island. Just off the coast lies the Trunk Bay Underwater Snorkeling Trail. Other popular beaches in the park include Cinnamon Bay, Hawksnest Bay, Honeymoon Beach, and Maho Bay.
The Reef Bay Guided Hike is a popular walking tour through the park and the best way to catch a glimpse of the island’s ecological diversity. The park contains more than 800 plant species and 30 tropical bird species, as well as wildlife like iguanas, geckos, hawksbill turtles, and marine life off the coast.
Cruz Bay acts as the “downtown” area of St. John. Its harbor is packed with yachts, and the city streets offer numerous options for shopping and dining. The town includes the Elaine Ione Sprauve Library & Museum, located in a restored plantation house, detailing the history of the island.
St. Thomas is a volcanic island about 40 miles east of Puerto Rico. It’s branded as the most cosmopolitan of the U.S. Virgin Islands, especially as the location of their capital, Charlotte Amalie.
One of the most popular cruise ports in the Caribbean, Charlotte Amalie offers a wide variety of restaurants, entertainment, boutiques, jewelry stores, and other shopping opportunities. Tourist attractions in the city include Coral World Ocean Park, an interactive marine exhibit featuring turtles, sea lions, sting rays, and a Sea Trek helmet dive; Blackbeard’s Castle, built in 1679; Fort Christian; and St. Thomas Synagogue, the second-oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. Also, don’t miss the 99 Steps, which actually consist of 103 steps and lead to wonderful, panoramic views of the city.
If you’ll be visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands as part of a cruise, we recommend purchasing cruise travel insurance in case you need to cancel or have any difficulties.
Magens Bay has been named one of the most beautiful beaches in the world by multiple travel publications. The calm sea allows for water sports like snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, and more. The Tropical Discovery Hike is a popular activity that takes you through diverse habitats from forest hilltops to mangrove wetlands.
The U.S. Virgin Islands have seen significant damage from tropical storms. Hurricane Hugo struck in 1989 and Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, the latter of which killed eight and caused more than $2 billion in damage. More recently, in 2017, Hurricane Irma devastated St. John and St. Thomas while Hurricane Maria blew through St. Croix two weeks later. The combined impact of both storms damaged or destroyed 90% of buildings in the Virgin Islands, and 13,000 of them lost their roofs. If your trip is planned during hurricane season, we recommend that you investigate travel insurance coverage for hurricanes in preparation for the worst.
U.S. Virgin Islands Cuisine
Native cuisine of the Virgin Islands, like much of the Caribbean, is a blend of West African, European, and American flavors. Food is traditionally spicy and hearty and incorporates imported flavors. One Virgin Islands staple is fungi—not the mushroom, but dumplings made from salted cornmeal and okra, usually served with boiled fish or saltfish. Callaloo is a soup or stew made with meat, okra, and leaves from the callaloo bush. Johnnycakes are deep-fried or baked biscuits that can be eaten hot or cold. Pates are deep-fried pastries containing spiced meat, fish, or vegetables. Rice and beans are a common staple, flavored with local herbs and spices. Curried goat, chicken, oxtail, or fish are popular options, as well.
U.S. Virgin Islands Travel Insurance
As you’re planning your trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands, we highly recommend that you purchase insurance to protect you from accidents and other mishaps. The right type of insurance depends on your citizenship and residence country.
Whether you’re a U.S. Citizen, U.S. resident, or non-U.S. resident traveling to the U.S. Virgin Island, you can search for suitable coverage for your needs in travel insurance. Travel insurance primarily provides coverage for prepaid, non-refundable expenses like emergency medical care, trip interruption, lost luggage, emergency cash transfers, rental car coverage, and flight accidents.
International Medical for U.S. Citizens and U.S. residents only
U.S. citizens and U.S. residents in search of international medical coverage have limited plans to choose from in travel health insurance, only the Safe Travels Outbound and Safe Travels Outbound Cost Saver plans are available when the destination is the U.S. Virgin Islands.
International Medical for Non-U.S. residents only
Visitors medical insurance provides medical insurance to non-U.S. residents travelling abroad. Standard benefits for visitors medical insurance usually include coverage of trip interruption, emergency medical evacuation / repatriation, return of mortal remains, accidental death & dismemberment (AD&D), and ancillary benefits like ID theft assistance, terrorism, and natural disaster relief.
If you have any questions or would like assistance selecting the appropriate insurance, our licensed, experienced representatives are happy to help you select the plan that fits your needs.