U.S. Virgin Islands: Coakley Bay Wreck
The Coakley Bay wreck on St. Croix.
Of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas and St. Croix are more developed: You’ll find Coral World Ocean Park on St. Thomas, a casino on St. Croix and golf courses on both. St. John boasts 7,000 acres of national park, much of it underwater. But there’s variety on every isle. You’ll find secluded beaches on St. Croix, a craft-beer bar on St. John and mangrove kayak tours on St. Thomas.
For the Wreck Diver
The waters around St. Thomas are littered with wrecks — 20 and counting. Newer divers should aim for the Navy Barges, where nurse sharks, sea turtles and Atlantic spadefish are commonly sighted. Those with more training should request Miss Opportunity, a 200-foot-long Navy liberty ship in 90 feet of sheltered water. Thanks to frequent cutouts, one can enter through the stern, swim the length of the ship and exit a bow hatch, with exit points within reach all the while. St. Croix’s Butler Bay shelters five wrecks, best experienced as two separate dives and possible to reach from shore for very strong swimmers.
For the Wall Diver So steep you risk vertigo when looking for the bottom, the wall off St. Croix’s north shore satisfies both recreational and technical divers. It’s said to slope down to 3,000 feet at sites such as Rust Op Twist and Cane Bay; at several buoy-marked sites, the drop-off is near enough to shore that the swim won’t get you winded. Those keeping an eye to the blue can score encounters with sea turtles, free-swimming green morays, Caribbean reef sharks, dolphins and, rare but not impossible, humpbacks.
For the Snorkeler Keep your mask and snorkel handy: In the U.S. Virgin Islands, you’ll find reefs yards from where you eat dinner, steer your rental car and build sand castles. On St. John, Waterlemon Cay and Haulover Bay are two spots popular with locals. Stay until dusk when you’ll likely start to see barracuda, lobsters and octopuses on the prowl. St. Croix’s Frederiksted Pier is prime for spotting batfish, seahorses and juvenile fish.
For the Day Hiker All three islands offer scenic trails with stunning overlooks. Before you head to St. John, download a copy of the Trail Bandit’s guide. One of the best walks is the Tektite Trail, which weaves past rocky cliffs to views of the secluded south side. On St. Croix, start at Carambola Resort and hike to the Annaly Bay tide pools; hire a guide if you’d like to learn about flora and fauna. On St. Thomas, try the Magens Bay Nature Trail, or ferry to nearby Water Island for a hike ending at Honeymoon Beach.
For the Music Lover Grab a paper or ask the locals about which acts and venues deserve your money, because you’ll have plenty of options to hear live music just about every night. St. Croix has Sunset Jazz every third Friday of the month along the Frederiksted waterfront. If you’re serious about jazz, blues or reggae, time your visit with festivals celebrating these genres. If you just like a block party, St. Patrick’s Day and Mardi Croix won’t disappoint. — BM