Target St. Thomas for wrecks, St. John for reefs and St. Croix if you can’t choose — or better still, choose to island-hop between all three. The south side of St. Thomas shelters nearly 20 wrecks, including a 350-foot bulk carrier, 300-foot hospital ship and 400-foot freighter with five levels to explore. Most reef dives off St. John are shallow, with Byzantine canyons and dramatic rock formations.
St. Croix packs a trinity of experiences — walls, wrecks and reefs — spread across two shores. Find the most drama on the north coast, where the sheer wall is easily accessed from several beaches. For an added thrill, get dropped one or two buoys away from Cane Bay and drift-dive back to this central location. Out west, the shore slopes gradually; Butler Bay is home to five wrecks nestled close together. For a night dive on the Frederiksted Pier, go with a guide or nab specific directions to spot the seahorses and frogfish.
The U.S. Virgin Islands offer an easy getaway for Americans: Not only is no passport required, but many comforts are just like home. It’s also every bit an island getaway, with rainforests, white-sand beaches, steel-drum music and coconut palms. St. Thomas and St. Croix are busier, with casinos and plentiful night life. St. John is quieter, with two-thirds of the island designated as a National Park.
Half the brag comes from finding the Montpellier Domino Club in the heart of the St. Croix rainforest. Treat one of the enormous resident pigs to a can of nonalcoholic beer — but be ready for the spray. If you’re not driving, try the moonshine along with the delicious West Indian cuisine, including roti, ribs and kingfish. Note that Sunday brings the biggest gathering of locals.
"From the beginning of the trail, it’s only a 15-minute hike to Hams Bluff lighthouse on the west end of St. Croix. Start at the V.I. National Guard building on a little dirt road. It’s a phenomenal vista — you can see way down the coast." -- Sue Bacallao, manager at Polly’s at the Pier cafe