We’ll never get used to how quickly the summer months draw to a close. It seems like only yesterday that we were planning beach holidays and pool parties with friends and now those happy times have become memories on our Instagram feeds.
But the calendar needn’t have to dictate when you’re permitted to experience warm weather and paddles in turquoise blue seas – thankfully there are many destinations that make for the perfect escape from a rainy fall or the cruel winter months. One of the ‘hottest’ tickets on the list this year are the often-overlooked US Virgin Islands.
Situated in the north of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles, where the Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean, the USVI (US Virgin Islands) consists of three main islands, Saint John, Saint Croix and Saint Thomas. Puerto Rico is only 50 km to the west and the British Virgin Islands immediately to the east, you can expect impossibly blue waters lapping at bright white palm fringed sandy shores.
The best way to see everything the USVI has to offer is undoubtedly to travel by sea. And chartering your own yacht or catamaran is a lot more viable than you might first think.
Aggregating websites like borrowaboat do all the heavy lifting for you, putting you in touch with over 45,000 boat charters in over 60 countries worldwide. You can filter results by region, budget and size of vessel to pin down exactly what you’re looking for.
Skippered and crewed boats are available so you rest assured that everything will be taken care of, but you can opt for a bareboat charter if you want to handle those provisions for yourself. Broadly speaking, yachts are one hulled vessels with a cabin intended for overnight use – so you can sleep on board – and catamarans have two hulls, with a deck that spans between them.
Because of the dual hull construction, cats can be much wider than conventional yachts so they tend to be more roomy inside and boast expansive decks for sunbathing and even dining. They’re also much more stable on the water so better suited for beginners and those finding their sea legs.
Of the three main islands, Saint Thomas and Saint John are a stone’s throw from one another so are ideal to skip between on a ship. The largest of the three, Saint Croix is due south and requires a more involved journey, taking advantage of the easterly trade winds.
There are, however, approximately 50 additional islands, islets and cays that surround the USVI so it’s perfectly reasonable to plan on finding your own private paradise – something that wouldn’t be possible if you stick to package excursions.
Saint Croix is home to two distinct towns Frederiksted and Christiansted, the latter was the capital of the former Danish West Indies and is steeped in history. Drop anchor in the harbor and absorb the 18th century architecture before finding a waterside grill to sample the national dish, Fish & Fungi.
Frederiksted Pier on the western side of the island offers some of the best diving opportunities suitable for beginners in the USVI. The depth is manageable and you can experience unique and diverse habitats of seahorses, frogfish and batfish.
Lush Water Island off the south coast of St Thomas must be included on the itinerary of any wildlife lover. Once you’ve disembarked, you can navigate the 500 acre hilly island by golf cart or bicycle. Catch glimpses of turtles, exotic bird species and iguanas in their natural habitat and finish up with a stroll across Charlotte Amalie Harbor’s soft beaches.
If you’re an angling enthusiast, the USVI has some great offshore and inshore spots to catch Permit, Jack, Barracuda and many more. The IGFA world record for Blue Marlin was caught in the area weighing in at 1073lb!
If you’re a US citizen, the USVI is a US Territory so you don’t need a passport to travel there. Plus the currency is the US dollar so you don’t need to worry about complicated exchange rates before you leave.
It’s best to avoid the July to October months since these are the islands’ hurricane season and the weather can be a bit unpredictable. Peak season coincides with much of the rest of the Caribbean and begins approximately in December, and winds down by the end of March.
Expect a little precipitation in November but you can also find some great deals while tourism hasn’t quite ramped up. You can also enjoy a more peaceful trip with the absence of long queues or fights for a sunbed and makes for an enticing factor for those really wanting to unwind.
Thankfully, evenings are not uncomfortably hot and the locals refer to the cool breeze as the “Christmas Winds” which keeps things pleasant.
Start planning your yacht or catamaran charter from the USVI today and experience something truly unique and truly unforgettable.