United States Virgin Islands
The United States Virgin Islands are a well kept secret. Located in the Caribbean approximately fifty miles away from Puerto Rico, this unique archipelago is a sunnier, more exotic version of Venice. Comprising of four islands named St John, St Croix, St Thomas and Water Island this collection of small havens is the perfect location for those hoping to relax and enjoy blissful temperatures. Discovered by Columbus in 1493, it was this explorer who named the islands, although locals have their own affectionate nicknames for the locations; Rock City, Twin City and Love City. Since the 15th century several different nations have seized control of the area, and thus the islands boast a rich, multicultural atmosphere.
The official national language is English, therefore all visitors from Great Britain can rest assured that they will have no problem making themselves understood. Other languages spoken less frequently are Creole and Spanish.
The national currency is the American Dollar. One pound is equal to approximately $1.9 and one Euro is worth around $1.3.
Heavenly temperatures abound on this idyllic set of islands. Sunshine can be found constantly throughout the different locations, although small rain showers may be a temporary inconvenience occasionally between May and November. Visitors should be sure to check weather reports before leaving as the area has frequently been affected by hurricanes.
United States Virgin Islands boasts a multitude of beautiful and serene white beaches. Favourites include Truck Bay and Magens Bay which are renowned for their blissful temperatures and turquoise blue waters. St John is home to a vast and unprecedented National Park which takes up over half the island. Coral reef abounds in the area and the island's volcanic terrain is sure to astound all who explore the natural landscape. Those who hope to appreciate it from a different point of view should tour the islands on horseback; several firms offer guided rides around several beautiful locations.
The oceanic surroundings provide visitors with the opportunity to sample some thrilling water sports. The Buck Island Reef National Monument is a world renowned snorkelling spot; the area is so beautiful that it is one of the two underwater national monuments in the entire of the United States. The National Park is also a special snorkelling location; visitors will all appreciate this once in a lifetime chance to explore a coral reef. Those who attempt deep sea diving will be taken aback by the stunning underwater sights. Caves and tunnels are fantastic hidden treats and all will find the experience of exploring shipwrecks unbelievable. Those hoping to stay above water may enjoy sampling some of the fishing opportunities which abound across the islands.
Golfers will find their Mecca within the United States Virgin Islands. Beginners and experts alike will find the perfect course to amuse and challenge them. Two renowned courses are the St Croix's Carambola Golf Course and the St Thomas' Mahogany Run.
When looking for something to occupy them, holidaymakers will find no better activity than a spot of retail therapy. Bargains galore will astound visitors, for the Islands are a duty free port; items can be purchased for up to 40% less than prices in the United States. Items such as watches, electrical goods, perfume and stunning examples of jewellery are worth investing in. Another purchase worth making is rum; alcohol can be up to 60% cheaper here. A favourite shopping destination is the Mongoose Junction on St John Island. Here visitors will find everything they could possibly desire; clothes, accessories and gifts abound in this fantastic location. The perfect place to treat yourself, Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas Island is an incredible shopping port. Not to be left out, St Croix Island also offers the ideal shopping trip; Christiansted's King's Alley is sure to satisfy all who visit.
After relaxing all day holidaymakers will enjoy letting off some steam in one of the Islands' hot spots. Multiple restaurants are scattered across the location for those hoping to wine and dine. The Agave Terrace at the Point Pleasant Resort offers fantastic cliff side views and delicious seafood dishes. Those searching for a quality tipple will enjoy sampling the restaurant's award winning selection of wines. Craig and Sally's also offer a fantastic array of more than two hundred wines. Those who prefer cocktails will love The Dining Room which is located in The Ritz-Carlton on St Thomas. Other establishments worth visiting are the Caribbean Saloon, Molly Malone's, XO Bistro and Duffy's Love Shack.
Drivers will love the experience of exploring the islands by car. Driving is on the left hand side and all should be wary of the tendency for the roads to have sharp curves and corners. Also, holidaymakers should be aware that all cars available for hire on the island are left hand drive. Speeds are generally slow; even the Islands' roads encourage all holidaymakers to relax and enjoy the stunning surroundings.
Food and Drink
The United States Virgin Islands possess a varied and delicious natural larder. Several different cultures contribute to the unique flavours present in every dish. African, European and Puerto Rican influences all ensure that each meal is a gastronomic adventure. Priority is awarded to those ingredients found upon the Islands; spices, vegetables and exotic fruits are all used frequently. Every different type of cuisine can be found in restaurants, yet all visitors should ensure that they sample some local, authentic dishes. Favourite items include sweet potato pudding, souse (a stock containing pig's head and tail with an essence of lime) and johnnycakes (deep fried unleavened bread). Fish dishes are particularly delicious due to the nearby ocean; lobster and tuna are both fantastic. Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy such sugary treats as rum cake and coconut tart. Favourite drinks include maubi, which is derived from the bark of the maubi tree as well as ginger and locally produced herbs. Other popular beverages include soursop juice and bush tea.