The 10 most beautiful dream beaches in the Virgin Islands
There are few places in the world blessed with such a combination of bone-white beaches and turquoise bays as the US Virgin Islands (USVI), where you can hop between beaches for days and never see the same sand twice.
St. John generally has the widest selection of pristine coves, which give this area its alluring name. The St Croix coastline, on the other hand, is longer and wilder and offers some of the best snorkelling and diving in the Caribbean.
Whether you want to worship the sun gods or swim with the sea turtles, you’ll find some of the best beaches in this exclusive charter destination.
Cinnamon Bay, St. John
Trunk Bay may star in Virgin Island publicity, but Cinnamon Bay offers an almost identical sandy beach with the same amenities as its more famous neighbour. A café, shop and watersports facility (with kayaks, paddleboards and snorkelling) make it perfect for families. Be sure to drive along North Shore Road to see the 18th-century ruins and nature trail.
Isaac Bay, St Croix
Fans of wild beaches and long solitary walks have a passionate love affair with Isaac Bay. With only a 20-minute walk from land and little shade, it’s almost always free of tourists, meaning you’ll have one of St Croix’s most beautiful sandy beaches all to yourself. The snorkelling off the coast with its coral is excellent, though you should always keep an eye on the strong current when swimming. Between July and December, the larger Jack and Isaac Bay Preserve is also a popular nesting site for hawksbill turtles.
Honeymoon Beach, Water Island
Small, tranquil Water Island, off the south coast of St Thomas, is a relaxing retreat from the hustle and bustle of Charlotte Amalie with just 200 residents, a handful of cars and three fantastic beaches. The best beach is Honeymoon, where palm trees line a small cove. There are several bars and restaurants with tables on the sand, an ideal spot for a long lunch that turns into an early happy hour while you sip a drink under the shade of an umbrella.
Magens Bay, St Thomas
Magens Bay is the pride of St Thomas, with bathtub-like waters and a sugary beach wide enough to accommodate the throngs of tourists who come every day. This Northside hub is a perennial favourite for families, as it’s one of the few places in the USVI with lifeguards, picnic tables, changing facilities and beach restaurants. And because it’s at the end of a wide bay, it feels like you’re surrounded on all sides by emerald green forests. Of course, this view comes at a price, and it is one of the few beaches that charges a fee.
Francis Bay, St. John
There are so many stunning beaches on the drive across the north coast of St. John that few visitors have the patience to drive all the way to the end of the road, where Francis Bay is just a short diversions away. This shady beach is not only a tranquil place to sunbathe, but also offers one of the best chances to swim with turtles attracted to the swaying sea grasses, or barracuda cavorting on the rocky northern edge near Mary Point. Just beyond the beach, birdwatchers will find the Francis Bay Trail, which leads around a salt pond to the ruins of an old manor house.
Lindquist Beach, St. Thomas
Generally, St. Thomas beaches are less protected than those of neighbouring St. John, but Lindquist is the rare exception. This narrow, pristine sandy beach in the 21-acre Smith Bay National Park is a peaceful haven for families thanks to its shallow waters, picnic tables, a lifeguard and a bathhouse with showers. Best of all are the sweeping views of several bays that meander along the horizon.
Turtle Beach, Buck Island
Buck Island Reef National Monument off the northeast coast of St. Croix beckons snorkelers from nearby Christiansted with a marked underwater trail along a fortress-like barrier reef of elkhorn coral. There’s also an overwater trail that circles the western end of Buck Island and leads to a viewing platform on a knoll from where the offshore corals look like dark blue amoebas in the turquoise sea. After snorkelling and hiking, visitors inevitably end up on the white sandy beach of Turtle Beach.
Gibney Beach, St. John
Extremely limited parking and almost non-existent signage make Gibney Beach the best insider tip on the north coast of St. John. Hidden behind a wrought-iron gate – and set against a backdrop of coconut palms – its small size and secret allure have long attracted artists and intellectuals from abroad. Named after a veteran Vogue editor who moved here from New York in the 1940s, many locals know it more as Oppenheimer Beach. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, maintained a home here, where his daughter Toni died in the 1970s, bequeathing the family land to St. John residents.
Cane Bay, St. Croix
The water lapping at this palm-fringed beach is not always gentle, but few people come here to take a dip. Cane Bay is known throughout the Caribbean for its coral-lined boardwalk that drops thousands of feet from the shore, making it one of the best places in the USVI for shore diving and snorkelling. This long, narrow beach is home to dive shops, kayak rentals, hotels and restaurants – and St. Croix’s “rainforest” (in reality a dense tropical forest) is easily accessible from here – an ideal base for an active holiday.
Hull Bay, St. Thomas
The Virgin Islands aren’t exactly known as a surfing destination, but when the swell is northerly (usually between November and March), locals flock to Hull Bay on the north coast of St Thomas for action. The rest of the year, this beach at the end of an arduous downhill drive is known for its lively bar, shady lily trees and slightly rocky seabed, making it an adults-only playground. Many of the fishing boats bobbing in the bay belong to the community of French-born residents of St Barts who came to the area in the early 19th century. Come in the afternoon and watch the sun silhouette the sails as they slowly make their way out to sea.