By Luis Castillo
Like a lot of us in Florida, perhaps you’ve had your fill of winter guests and feel now’s your turn for a break. For a spring getaway that features lush hills rising out of the sea, white sand beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters, consider the U.S. Virgin Islands.
First, the basics: the U.S. Virgin Islands are a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean about 40 miles east of Puerto Pico and immediately southwest of the British Virgin Islands. St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix, as well as several dozen smaller islands, comprise this
U.S. Territory. Historic Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas is the capital. The USVI are in the Atlantic Time Zone (one hour ahead of Florida).
The main language is English, although American ears will have to adjust to the accent and speed of the Creole English. Because the islands are so close to Puerto Rico, you’re bound to hear Spanish and also French and French Creole. Currency is the U.S. dollar.
As with Florida and other Caribbean destinations, their peak tourist season is December through March. April is when the crush of tourists begins to abate and great travel deals abound.
Weather wise, April still feels comfortable. Steady trade winds from the east keep temperatures in the mid- to high-80s with lows in the mid-70s range. May through October is generally considered the rainy season.
Enjoy snorkeling, diving and boating in 80-degree waters in April. Some of the more well-known spots are Coki Beach and Magens Bay on St. Thomas and Trunk Bay on St. John. St. Thomas and St. John are only 15 minutes apart by ferry. The fare is a reasonable six dollars each way.
Those looking for unspoiled beauty will want to visit St. John; St. Thomas offers a more cosmopolitan vibe. St. Croix is the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. It lies to the south and has a flatter terrain and two towns to visit: Christiansted and Frederiksted. The architecture and historic interest of Christiansted has made it a National Historic Site.
2017 marks the centennial celebration of Denmark selling the islands to the United States. As part of this commemoration, travelers who spend at least three nights in St. Thomas, St. Croix and/or St. John will receive $300 in U.S. Virgin spending credits for tours and activities as long as they book before October 1 and stay within the 2017 calendar year. Check out their website (visitusvi.com) for participating hotels, travel packages, cruise deals, and a complete list of where to spend credits.
Spirit, Jet Blue, American and Delta provide service to St. Thomas and St. Croix. As far as boating and cruising goes, St. Thomas is known for its sheltered harbors and Charlotte Amalie is one of the busiest docks for cruise ships in the West Indies.
You’ll find American TV stations in your hotel, your cell phone will get a good signal, and St. Thomas is well known as one of the biggest tax-free, duty free shopping hubs in the Caribbean. If you plan on doing any driving, factor in sitting behind the wheel of an
American car on the left hand side of narrow, winding roads.
Check out April’s 65th Carnival celebration running all month long on St. Thomas. The most anticipated cultural event of the year, Carnival is filled with pageants, calypso shows, parades, food, fireworks and plenty of partying.