Location: United States Virgin Islands (U.S. territory)
Park Tally: 20/59
Orientation: Virgin Islands National Park is a tropical gem found tucked away in the Caribbean. A short flight from Miami to St. Thomas will bring you to the beautiful United States Virgin Islands. The area is made up of 3 main islands (St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas) and numerous other minor islands. Virgin Islands National Park is located on St. John and can be accessed via a short ferry ride from St. Thomas. There is also a small section of the park found just off St. Thomas on Hassel Island.
On St. John, visitors have the choice to stay in the main towns of Cruz Bay or Coral Bay, or they can opt to stay within the National Park. Caneel Bay Resort is the perfect option for those after a more luxurious stay within the park, with beach front accommodation and numerous dining options. A more budget friendly option is the camping facilities at Cinnamon Bay, where we chose to call home during our 4-night visit. Cinnamon Bay offers bare tent sites, “glamping” style eco tents and cottages.
Most iconic view: People most commonly head to Virgin Islands National Park to swim in the famed turquoise waters and relax on glorious white sand beaches. Popular beaches include Trunk Bay, Maho Bay & Cinnamon Bay, Hawksnest Bay and Saltpond Bay. We thoroughly enjoyed waking up each morning, jumping out of our tent and running down to the warm yet refreshing water – definitely the best way to start every day!
Accessible activity: The park offers numerous relaxing and enjoyable activities for visitors to immerse themselves in. As mentioned above, floating in the crystal clear waters or lounging on the white sand beaches are both popular activities.
Snorkeling is another option for visitors who want to see vibrant sea life. Beginner snorkeling opportunities can be found at Trunk Bay, including the famous 225 yard Under Water Trail. More advanced snorkeling options exist around the park but be sure to check in with the park rangers for current conditions and safety information.
Virgin Islands National Park also prides itself on the 22 unique hiking trails available to visitors. Historic sites such as the Annaberg Sugar Mill and the Cinnamon Bay Nature Loop can be accessed via short walks.
For the adventurous: The Reef Bay Trail is a picturesque but challenging day hike for those looking to really stretch their legs. The trail traverses the island, passing by some of the oldest and tallest trees in the park, by sugar plantation ruins, a 40ft waterfall, and to a beautiful beach. This backcountry trail is 6-miles roundtrip and consists of 900 feet elevation gain if walked self-guided. Visitors can also opt to take a ranger-led hike and catch a boat one-way. We sadly missed out on the opportunity to hike this popular trail but it will definitely stay on our bucket-list for future visits!
Best photo opportunities: Get down by the water at sunrise and sunset for magical soft light and peaceful scenes. Check out the scenic overlook along North Shore Road for views of stunning Trunk Bay – best photographed in the late afternoon.
- Virgin Islands National Park was established on August 2, 1956.
- The park consists of 12,909 acres of land and 5,650 acres of pristine water.
- Human life on St. John dates back to between 1000 BC and 200 BC, and Spanish settlement was thought to be in the 1500s. Denmark then began settling on St. John in the 1680s and later transferred the land to the U.S. in 1917.
- Virgin Islands National Park has a diverse population of wildlife, including 302 fish species, 140 bird species, 7 amphibian species, 22 mammal species, and approximately 50 species of coral.
- The US Virgin Islands are the only place in America that you drive on the left side of the road.
- The islands have a diverse population, though 75% of the residents speak English as their main language.
- In 2016 the park had approximately 411,343 visitors.