How to Plan a Romantic Honeymoon in the U.S. Virgin Islands
Pristine beaches, superior sailing and snorkeling, and duty-free shopping await in this no-passport-needed American paradise.
The U.S. Virgin Islands checks all the boxes of a dream Caribbean island honeymoon. Picture year-round tropical warmth, sugary beaches, crystal clear water, bustling coral reefs, postcard-worthy scenery, hikes through jungles, palm-dotted shorelines for sunrise strolls, and sunset sails. Combine that with amazing duty-free shopping, high-end beachfront hotels, well-spiced stick-to-your-ribs cuisine that relies heavily on fresh seafood, homemade hot sauces, jovial steel-drum jam sessions, and a seemingly endless supply of boozy punch, and you've got the ingredients for the perfect Caribbean honeymoon. And the best part? Unlike Jamaica, St. Bart’s, or the Bahamas, America’s Paradise and all the rum-soaked R&R it provides can be accessed by U.S. newlyweds sans passports.
“As a U.S. territory, the Virgin Islands offers the glamor and sexiness of a Caribbean vacation with the ease and simplicity of domestic travel,” says Alani Henneman, the assistant commissioner of the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism. “And thanks to the warm climate and warmer hospitality, and breathtaking beaches that are beyond reproach, the islands are a fantastic choice for a honeymoon all year long.”
Alani Henneman is the assistant commissioner of the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism.
Related:The 50 Best Honeymoon Destinations in the World
Ahead, find expert tips for how to enjoy this veritable paradise during the romantic trip of a lifetime.
Planning Your Virgin Islands Honeymoon
While the territory encompasses upwards of 50 distinct landmasses, there are three main islands: St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas, each offering “a distinct experience” according to Henneman. St. Thomas is the most visited and “most cosmopolitan” and offers tourists “more than 40 beaches, fine dining, bar-hopping, luxury shopping, and historic monuments,” she says. St. John is a 19 square-mile “tranquil world of fish-filled waters, stunning beaches, quaint towns, and protected national park.”
The largest of the three St. Croix (STX) “boasts gentle hills, historic towns, sandy beaches, the greatest cultural diversity, pastel buildings, and the Cruzan Rum Factory. She continues, “This is the ideal island for those looking for a little quiet and tranquility.”
St. Thomas is by far the most popular of the three for international travelers and cruise ships, especially in December and January, and no matter what time of year, it’s likely to be busier than the other two. To compensate, it also has the most flights and the largest number of accommodations and tour outfitters to choose from. Henneman strongly recommends visiting during the April-June shoulder season. “This offers ideal weather without the crowds and is not as expensive as high season,” she says.
The most convenient and best way to explore the whole of the islands is to rent a car from places like Lionel Jeep Rental in St. John or Jonel or RentAmotion, which also stocks scooters, motorcycles, and jet skis, in St. Thomas. Cars with high clearance or four-wheel drive are recommended if you plan to adventure on unpaved trails. Also important to note that despite this being a U.S. territory, they drive on the left like in England. However, unlike the U.K., the vehicles have steering wheels on the left like in the U.S.
Here are the U.S.V.I basics to know before you go:
Currency: U.S. Dollar
When to Go: To avoid the biggest crowds (December through March is the high season) and rainy season, target mid-April through June. If you like to party and dance, go for Carnival. Each island has its own.
How Much Time To Spend: One to two weeks depending on how many of the main three islands a couple wants to visit
Getting There: Fly directly from numerous mainland cities including Miami, Boston, Minneapolis, New York, and Dallas, or other Caribbean countries like Saint Kitts, the British Virgin Islands, or Dominica to St. Thomas (Cyril E. King Airport). American, Delta, and Spirit Airlines also offer non-stops from a few cities to the smaller Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix. Numerous cruise companies (i.e. Princess, Norwegian, and Virgin Voyages) port in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, or Frederiksted, St. Croix.
Transportation: Rental cars, taxis, inter-island ferries, water taxis, and resort-hosted ferries and shuttles are the best ways to get around.
Must-Pack: Swimsuits, mineral sunscreen (it’s the law in the U.S.V.I.!), water shoes, cotton clothes, sunglasses, reusable water bottles, and a hat because the Caribbean sun is unforgiving.
Where to Stay During Your Virgin Islands Honeymoon
Lodgings in the U.S.V.I. span the hospitality spectrum from eco-friendly safari tents and quirky boutiques to brand-name resorts on the beach and polished properties where privileged patrons like the Rockefellers and the Kennedys have sought refuge for decades.
Lovango Resort & Beach Club
Tucked into the trees on a private island a short ferry ride from St. Thomas and St. John, Lovango is a dreamy playground that gives off big Tulum energy. It likely has something to do with the tranquil neutral color scheme, the heavy use of natural woods, and the indoor-outdoor one-with-nature aesthetic of its luxury treehouses and glamping tents. If you are strong enough to pull yourself away from the mesmerizing aquamarine expanse that lies just off the expansive decks, you can take advantage of the almost daily water shuttle to Honeymoon Beach, visit the infinity pool at the beach club (where they serve the parent company’s line of spirits infused with Caribbean flavors like tamarind), explore hiking trails, pop into trendy shops, and discover secluded snorkel spots.
The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas
Begin your happily ever after on Great Bay at this posh 30-acre property that recently finished a $100-million renovation. Spoil your inner child with a few trips down the waterslide at the family pool, splurge on a full-day private cabana rental at the plunge reserved for grown-ups, or soak in the sun-warmed shallows of Coconut Cove beach. Bookend your stay with a selection of well-curated experiences including day trips on the house catamaran, seaside massages, and private sunset dinners in the sand with bespoke chef-created menus tailored to your tastes.
A $425-million rebuild and reimagining has given a St. Thomas classic a new lease on life. Opening in the spring of 2023, two reliable brands—Westin and Autograph (the Buoy Haus Beach Resort)—will be housed on one giant clifftop plot. With pools, restaurants, a full-service spa, cabanas, bars with panoramic views, beach access, on-site water sports services, and a market, guests can experience a very full and satisfying sojourn without ever stepping outside the grounds.
This collection of individual-owned condos, or as they call them, “one-bedroom villas,” inhabits five lush acres on a St. John peninsula surrounded by cerulean waters. It’s an easy five-minute stroll to the main town of Cruz Bay for dinner, which the concierge can book for you. Recuperate from included Tuesday and Saturday fitness classes in the hot tub.
Funky art, bright colors, and mix-and-match splashy botanical patterns characterize the beachfront quarters at this adults-only boutique in the heart of downtown Frederiksted on St. Croix. Its double-decker bar and pool scenes are energetic but slowdowns can still be had under an umbrella or with some self-care time at the spa.
Things to Do During Your Virgin Islands Honeymoon
Between seafaring, outdoorsy and sporty exploits, historical and cultural attractions, festivals, and shopping until dropping, there’s never a dull moment in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Unless of course, that’s exactly what you’re looking for after a year or more of wedding planning. For you, there are hammock naps and plenty of space on the sand for you, an umbrella drink, and a good book. For further help achieving tuned-out, calmed-down nirvana, turn to Spa to Go, a mobile provider of pampering who comes to you with aromatherapy oils, hot stones, strong hands, and champagne.
But for those who crave a faster pace and a filled itinerary, here’s a list of must-dos broken down by island:
First and foremost, hit the beach as St. Thomas has more than 40 pristine white beaches including Magens Bay. With its steady winds, gentle currents, and a bevy of secluded bays, St. Thomas has been a sailor's delight since the pirate days, so couples should definitely book a boat tour to get out on and in the water. Some are all-day parties while others are romantic sunset sails or have a scuba/snorkel focus to explore some of the smaller U.S. Virgin Islands like the uninhabited Water Island, where couples will find the breathtaking and aptly named Honeymoon Beach, or Buck Island, which is home to endemic lizards, endangered turtles, and the Buck Island Reef National Monument, one of the most pristine barrier reef systems in the Caribbean. Henneman says, “Buck Island makes for a fantastic day trip to see incredible biodiversity, an almost mile-long sandy beach, and an underwater snorkel trail.”
Many outfitters will even ferry you to another country, the nearby British Virgin Islands. Seas The Day Charters and Ocean Surfari offer a wide range of full- and half-day sails for small groups and private parties. The waters around St. Thomas are also teeming with marlin, wahoo, and other tasty creatures. Wannabe anglers should hook up with Captain Red on the Abigail III for a day of sport fishing.
Spend at least an afternoon in the capital city of Charlotte Amalie, which also happens to be the shopping capital of the Caribbean thanks to the concentration of high-end shops and big-name brands along Main Street and in luxury complexes like Yacht Haven Grande and the duty-free port designation. (U.S. citizens can return home with $1,600 worth of souvenirs, booze, watches, and jewelry.) Within the city limits, honeymooners can also get historical, cultural, and architectural fixes by visiting Fort Christian (completed in 1680), the second-oldest synagogue in the western hemisphere, museums such as the shipwreck showcase Pirates Treasure or climbing the 99 Steps (there are actually 103!) up Government Hill. Danes built these and other sets of stairs around the hilly downtown in the mid-1700s. Couples can also get high, as in 700 or 1,500 feet above sea level, at scenic lookout points Drake’s Seat and Valdemar Hill and on the Paradise Point Tramway.
St. Thomas also has the most nightlife opportunities. Scout bars, restaurants, and block parties in Charlotte Amalie, Frenchtown, Red Hook, and Havensight to find out where you can drink, dance, and enjoy live music while you are on the island.
Nature lovers should make a bee-line to the Virgin Islands National Park, a 5,500-acre preserve that encompasses two-thirds of St. John and nearly all of Hassel Island and is filled with snowy beaches like Trunk Bay Beach and Cinnamon Bay Beach, calm-water bays perfect for kayaking, top-notch snorkel sites (colorful fish fancy the coral reefs while seagrass beds attract turtles and rays), mangrove-covered coastlines and more than 20 hiking trails of various skill levels that deliver wanderers to ancient Taino petroglyphs, plantation sites, lush hilltops with panoramic views and salt ponds for fantastic birdwatching.
Henneman adds, “Reef Bay Trail is the must-do hike for exquisite views from the Danish sugar plantation, stone walls, and pre-Colombian rock carvings. During the rainy season, its waterfall can be spectacular.”
Once you’ve had your fill of the salt air, seawater, and flora and fauna, pop into Jolly Dog for souvenirs and sundries and Bajo el Sol, an art gallery, bookstore, café, and rum bar in Mongoose Junction that puts on exhibitions from local artists, movie screenings, book signings, concerts, and creative workshops.
This island will appeal equally to history buffs, sun worshippers, and leisure lovers thanks to its collection of golf courses, casinos, beaches like Cane Bay, Columbus Landing (yes that Columbus.), and Davis Bay, ruins of sugar and cattle empires like the Estate Whim Museum, Christiansted’s 18th-century red-roofed buildings and stone streets and Frederiksted’s fort. Point Udall, at the east end of the island, is the easternmost point in the U.S. and therefore the first place the sun rises on U.S. soil. This is likely why the Millennium Monument that tops the point is a sundial. Plant moms and dads should visit the blooms at St. George Village Botanical Garden. Annaly Bay has tide pools while both Salt River Bay and Altona Lagoon are bioluminescent are great for kayaking. Adrenaline junkies will be lured by the Carambola Zipline, which sends passengers flying down a mountain and 200 feet above the rain forest for 4,373 feet. Although the famous Cruzan Rum distillery remains closed to tours for the time being, imbibers can swap spirits and learn how Mutiny Island Vodka is made from breadfruit (and more importantly taste test the goods) at the Sion Farm Distillery.
In addition to the numerous year-round activities and attractions, timing your trip in order to attend carnival or an annual festival could add an extra level of fun. The U.S.V.I. is the only Caribbean destination that hosts three separate carnivals yearly. St. Thomas Carnival takes place in April and features calypso bands, parades, and a dance party at dawn called J’ouvert. St. John’s July event celebrates the end of slavery on the islands in 1848 and the founding of the U.S. in 1776. Mini carnivals called Jump Ups happen four times a year on St. Croix in Christiansted. The island also hosts the Crucian Christmas Festival from late December through early January in Frederiksted. Other worthwhile events to consider include Mango Melee (a food and mixology festival), Caribbean Music Festival, Taste of St. Croix, various international regattas, and a range of fitness competitions including triathlons.
Where to Eat During Your Virgin Islands Honeymoon
With a good mix of beachside shacks and casual eateries serving local specialties like Johnny cakes, pates (deep-fried savory hand pies filled with beef, chicken, salted cod or vegetables), and fish soup (which is served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and farm-to-fork/sea-to-spoon fine dines, which often serve fancier take on the same dishes, Virgin Islands visitors are never at risk of starving.
“Foodies have come to the right place,” says Henneman who also encouraged people to add fungi (Caribbean-style polenta with fried fish) and callaloo (soup made with leafy greens, okra, and island herbs) to the must-try list. “No meal is complete without a Cruzan Rum signature cocktail.”
Another drink of choice is the banana daiquiri, which, according to local legend, was invented on St. Thomas 50 years ago when someone improved the original Cuban recipe by adding Cruzan and homemade banana liqueur at Mountain Top, which still serves the frozen concoction atop the highest point in the islands.
Two restaurants inspired by regional flavors and favorites are found within the Yacht Haven Grande complex. Blue 11 offers decadent seven-, nine-, and 11-course tasting menus with optional wine pairings that rely heavily on ingredients either grown or caught in the U.S.V.I. Twistt340 comes up with creative tapas takes on traditional Caribbean cuisine like honey-drizzled Johnny cakes or curry chicken sliders. Head for the hills above Charlotte Amalie to dine in Old Stone Farmhouse’s 200-year-old plantation barn. The rock arches, copious amounts of candles, painted fireplace and patio pond ramps up the romantic vibe while elegant entrees like foiejitas and bacon-wrapped monkfish please the palette. Gladys’ Café is a longtime lunch stop where one can also purchase bottles of her hot sauce which comes in four flavors (mango, mustard, tomato, and oil and vinegar).
It’s also easy to stuff your face on St. John. Go for the Mediterranean food at Extra Virgin Bistro and stay for the stunning open-air ambiance and the Cruz Bay setting. Sushi rolls and seafood fill the tables at Mongoose Junction’s effortlessly chic 18° 64°, named after the isle’s geographical coordinates. Opened in 2021, Meada’s Garden is a dinner-only spot that takes your taste buds on a trip around the world with its global fusion menu that incorporates the chef’s Ghanian heritage and West Indian staples like oxtail.
STX is no slouch in the culinary department either. To taste the greatest hits of Crucian cuisine like lechon (wood-fired roasted pork), ginger coconut sugar cake, and banana benye while learning about island agriculture and livestock, time your visit to coincide with the annual Ag Fair. Savant lures seafood junkies with fish bought on a nearby dock directly from the folks that reeled it in and then serves it, often in the form of a daily crudo or egg roll, on a twinkly terrace. AMA Cane Bay is so close to the ocean that you might feel the sea spray on your face while digging into lobster fettuccine or rum bread pudding should a big enough wave crash on the rocks below its deck. Put on your finest flip-flops and post up at Colorado and Ohio import Goat Soup & Whiskey for booze, beef, and bands. Juicy rotisserie from the beloved institution La Reine Chicken Shack makes from great beach picnic food. Meat-free just-marrieds should swing by Ital In Paradise for well-rated vegetarian vittles pineapple ginger beer, fruity lemonades, and green juice.
Budgeting for a Virgin Islands Honeymoon
According to the Department of Tourism, the cost of a Virgin Islands vacation is on par with trips to the most popular Caribbean islands. Depending on what part of the country you are flying from, flight prices are usually similar to those you can find to nearby Puerto Rico and cheaper than most to America’s other tropical island paradise Hawaii. St. Thomas is generally considered to be the most cost-effective of the Virgin trio because it has the largest airport with the most daily flights from the mainland and a wider range of accommodations and dining options at various price points.
Rates fluctuate throughout the year for a variety of reasons but are traditionally highest from December to March (and surrounding big annual events) and lowest during the June-November hurricane season. (The most reliably active period for storms is September and October.) The last time the U.S.V.I was struck by a major hurricane was in 2017 and there’s a good chance you could score a great deal without suffering any weather-related hiccups but Henneman warns to proceed with caution. “As with any Caribbean destination, traveling during hurricane season can be a risk,” she says. “If you wanted to get a good deal around that time, be sure to take out travel insurance and aim for a flexible date.”
Other cost-saving measures the department recommends include using “safari taxis” which transport riders across the island for a couple of dollars, camping at the national park, or partaking in the destination’s free activities like snorkeling off the beach or hiking.