Hi there,

The Virgin Islands. Deep in the heart of the Caribbean.
Overseas Territories of both the United States and the United Kingdom. Not part of their actual country, though, but somehow still a domestic trip from the US over to their island of St. Thomas.
Three islands form the US Virgin Islands in total plus many small to medium-sized islands that form the British Virgin Islands aka the “VIs”.

St. Thomas has been the first stop and base for this trip. 105,000 people live here and many in the capital Charlotte Amalie. It’s a US territory, not part of the actual US as said which I definitely had to learn. Why? Because coming back from the British Vis, it is a full immigration procedure back into the US.. The major airport is found here on St. Thomas and called after Cyril E. King (More about that airport) with a runway build partly onto the sea just long enough to have jet liners land or take-off. Landing is a direct touchdown followed by rather hard breaking, a somewhat new experience.

Gorgeous, beautiful, lovely, humid. Just that little bit less humid than Miami. Similar heat, just nicer and even easier to dive into the sea at a great beach. Be it on St. Thomas or St. John.
St. Thomas can claim to be the yachting base or capital of the world. Really easy to tell by, yup, all those boats and yachts and super-yachts and sometimes mega-yachts. So many rich people seem to come here frequently, well, it is beautiful.

Secret harbor had been the first beach stop which was awesome at that resort there to enjoy a tranquil part of St. Thomas. Especially for sunset or a party night, the so called Vessup Beach is liked by locals with views towards the marina and ferry landing of St. Thomas. It is also nearby my buddy Chris’ rental home where I was staying. Vessup Beach once again is an authentic party sunset place for the locals and surely worth checking it out. The everlasting perfect stop had to be Magen’s Bay. Long stretch of wonderful beach, many people hanging out or in the sea and enough chances for a drink by the see. A slightly pricey must that is worth it. As it is hilly, you can get to mountain tops by car in minutes and enjoy great views around the islands and onto all the bays easily. Give it a try.

The weather perspective again: it is generally humid and hot, as you’ll find yourself quite near the equator. Yet, I found it nicer than Miami to compare with my previous stop coming to the US this time. The sea has a super-nice temperature that allows for a quick dive or long-swim. Transportation is by car or boats here, so many boats, ferries and yachts.. It is recommendable to get a rental car, just keep in mind that they drive on the left here with left-hand driven cars that came from the continental US. I found that easy to adjust to right away, but some people might be challenged as also the road quality is rather second-world style to be honest. Also not first-world style is the management of garbage. Well, you have to collect your trash and toss it yourself into public containers which are found besides the main roads.

Food is ok to good, yet there is no special island cuisine to be found on the Virgin Islands. Banana peppers add to the taste on e.g. pizza. And their signature heavy drink called painkiller tasted amazing. Of course, tourism is the main income source so you can find all that you crave around the islands, with the given contrast of many rich or super-rich vs. locals that just make a living and all the guests in hotels or coming in daily from those big cruise ships. Prices are off the roof for the most part anyway. On St. Thomas, my buddy Chris brought us to the Island Time Pub that had all the drinks one craves and superb pizza (superb in the sense of outside Italy in the Caribbean).

People offer a lot here in order to make a living and share this paradise. Yet, they seem stressed or unfriendly sometimes for whatever reasons. Guess the contrast of rich to mega rich tourists vs. rather poor local people takes its share or something. St. John been way nicer than I felt on St. Thomas. As they say, St. Thomas is perceived to be “the city” of the Virgin Islands which might explain some things. The islands all have some minor flat parts and offer more super-steep hills plus small mountains which form the natural landscape. The native black population is mixed with whites of mostly American and also European background.

A ferry to St. John, the smaller island next to St Thomas, is an authentic ride connecting both locals, businesses and tourists. Two boats by the hour operate throughout the day. Just make sure to not miss the last ferry right before sunset. It is two companies operating the line and both do cost the same but vary in time tables. All starting early and also ending rather early, so plan ahead as mentioned before. Some ferries have small look-outs atop which are great for photos during the ride! I am photo addicted so I had to mention this.

The beautiful island of St. John: North Shore offers the best part. All worth exploring by car combined with solid hiking and swimming possibilities. It is the smaller but clearly more beautiful island of the US Virgin Islands with really many hikes to trail. With great beaches to ideally end those hikes by the way. The majority of this island is a protected national park which I found fantastic.
A good idea to end a trail or just for a beach stop and some swimming or snorkeling is Trunk Bay. A lovely bay with of course clear waters and some small cool rock islands that you can swim over to (“Titty Rocks”😉). Alternatively, there is also Cinnamon Bay: a very nice bay as it is a beach with sand truly like cinnamon! Amazing, even if not the best sand of the island. That is found on Honeymoon Beach and the best sand ever if you ask me. Really soft and crystal clear sand that can easily compete with the Maldives which impressed me. Also, you can spot wild donkeys here and there, some even on the street, so go slow and enjoy it all.

Do hike the Reef Bay Trail to the amazing early Petroglyphs! Ancient stone engravings nearby a small waterfall where you can spot really big iguanas, if you’re lucky. Not a massive site, yet always delivering a special experience to think back of our early ancestors that made a living on this island. The trail has a length of nearly 3 miles or 5 kilometers with plenty to see surrounded by jungle forests.
Ram Head is the ruff head with pure beach at open waters. Accessible by hiking down there as well, not crowded as rather secluded. For lunch on the way back do stop at Miss Lucy’s with superb views onto the sea. Later sweets for dinner and sunset on the hill can be enjoyed around the old mills. The Annaberg Historic Sugarmill Ruins to be exact provided for a classy scenery and good menu. St. John has some roller-coaster-style roads that feature super steep parts and sharp turns at 90 degree angles. Doable, but weird for city-people. You can do the island in like two days. Or take longer, I guess;) For food: Conch Fritters, soem fried fish balls as a tasty snack (not the balls of a fish, just formed into balls….).

The British Virgin island of Norman Island is a true Treasure Island, formerly. A premium snorkel spot that treated me well and offered amazing possibility to dive into caves. Caves that really served as pirate hide-outs back in the days.

Gorda island or to be correct Virgin Gorda has been the best British Virgin Island for me, as it offers rocks by the sea with cave formations that provided for some Seychelles vibe. It is found in the very east of all the Vis. A national park as well it is a preserved part of nature that I would describe as a must-see even though it is a touristy thing. I perceived it a bit more tidy over here – but interestingly, you do still pay in US dollars. Whilst the Americans drive on the left on their islands, funny global detail.

So yeah, the Virgin islands are also worth being checked out. Yet, it was stressful partly and especially in St. Thomas locals seemed stressed which did not make me relax often.
But of course, the sea, sea life and the beaches as that beautiful small stretch between the deep blue and the green of all the palms and jungle trees form a paradise on earth as a picturesque scene.

Yours, Sirk

Bonus: an abondoned sugarcane factory from the 1800’s in the jungle of St. John:

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