These islands are the only US territory in the Caribbean, and offer the traveler a chance to experience life island style with an American touch. Located only 80 miles east of Puerto Rico, the US Virgins are near the “top” of the Caribbean chain, and some of the shortest air flights from Miami or other stateside departure points.
The US Virgins consist of three main islands: St. Thomas, which is the capital; St. Croix and St. John. Travel between the three islands is easy and inexpensive; both tourists and residents frequently use water or air taxi services for shopping and business.
The waters around the islands are so clear that snorkeling is extremely popular. For divers, there are over 200 dive sites, caves, coral reefs, drop offs and lots of colorful fish to see, although be careful of short sighted barracuda if you swim into murky water. There are several wrecks of ships and even a wrecked plane to explore. Some divers go to the British Virgin Islands dive sites like the famous RMS Rhone wreck.
Best Diving Destinations in US Virgin Islands
Scuba diving is good around St. Croix, with forests of elkhorn coral, black coral, brain coral, sea fans, a multitude of tropical fish, sea horses under the Frederiksted pier (great day or night dive for novices, an easy shore dive and one of the best in the USVI), walls and drop offs, reefs and wrecks. The wrecks are varied, some 40 years old and some recent, with marine life slowly growing on the structures and schools of fish taking up residence. They range from 75-300ft in length and 15-110ft deep, providing something for everyone, from the beginner to the experienced, and should not be missed. Butler Bay off Frederiksted is home for six shipwrecks. Nearby in Truck Lagoon there are the remains of around 25 old truck chassis that were sunk by Hess Oil to promote marine growth and create an artificial reef. The wrecks of the North Wind, The Virgin Islander Barge and Suffolk Maid are close together, but usually done as two separate leisurely dives otherwise you have to swim rather briskly to get round them all. There are also the Rosaomaira, the deepest of the wrecks, and the Coakly Bay, the newest, while in between them is the Sondra, a shallow dive which can even be snorkeled, although there is not a great deal remaining on the site. Just behind the Sondra is the wreck of a small sailing boat.
At Buck Island there are underwater snorkeling trails, the two main ones being Turtle Bay Trail and East End Trail, but the markers are in disrepair. The fish are superb, but much of the coral is dead because of hurricane damage; it is hoped that it will come back and some regrowth has been noted. The reef is an underwater national park covering over 850 acres, including the island. Hawksbill turtles nest on Buck Island and, during a 1993 Buck Island National Monument Sea Turtle Research Program, Sandy Point Leatherbacks were also observed nesting there. Half day tours to Buck Island, including 1¼ hours snorkeling and 30 minutes at the beach can be arranged through hotels or boat owners on the waterfront at Christiansted. Another attraction is the Salt River coral canyon.
A playground for tropical fish and slow flying sting rays. Depths from 17 to 70ft make this an ideal dive site for experienced divers to snorkelers.
Grottos, overhangs and crystal blue water make this an ideal habitat for tons of tropical, pelagic and reef fish. Occasional turtles and sharks add to the wonderment of this 30ft to 70ft dive.
Large coral-encrusted fingers starting at 50+ft, reaching shoreward to 10ft make this dive seem like a walk in the park. Enjoy the wildlife as you slowly weave through the rows of coral.
Picture frame swim throughs, billows of coral, make this a wonderful dive. With the average depth of 40ft, it’s a memorable experience.
A sea mound laying in 80ft, is home to a bevy of sea life, from the tiny bassets to a shy Jewfish. Often times you may be greeted by turtles, free-swimming eels, eagle rays, sharks and all the wonderment mother nature has to offer.
With ribs reaching upward like the very skeleton of an extinct dinosaur “The Navy Barges” provide a home for an array of tropical fish and colorful coral. The 45ft depth allows plenty of bottom time for your voyage into the past.
A derelict freighter that was moved from Charlotte Amalie harbor and set near Buck Island Cove, was broken into three parts by hurricane Hugo and rolled into 45ft of blue water. Now a home to countless tropical fish, eels, rays and occasional sharks, it’s a great dive for the novice to experienced diver.
Corporate yacht that fell victim to a squall and ended up on the rocks in the late 60s. Time and hurricanes have reaped their toll and have scattered the remains among the colorful reef, with swim-throughs, a large population of tropical fish, lobsters, occasional sharks and turtles, making this 50ft dive a beautiful and exciting dive.
A 300ft plus hospital ship that was used as an office complex now lies 3/4 upside down in 90+ft. Home to a huge Jew fish, and other pelagics, make this an adrenaline-pumping dive.
The premier dive of the Virgin Islands. 400+ft freighter, laying upright in 90+ft of crystal blue water. Home for large Jewfish, snappers, roaming pelagics, turtles and tropicals. A photographer’s dream, as light penetrates the holds and passage ways. Penetrate the ship by entering the smoke stack openings, enter the very soul of the W.I.T. Shoal.
Grain barge, W.I.T. Concrete, Aaron’s barge, Kennedy, Tow boat, and others.
When to Visit US Virgin Islands
Visibility is normally in the 60 to 100ft range, with occasional days of 120ft at some dive sites. The water temperature stays between 80 and 84°F most of the year, dropping to around 77°F in the winter. Dive skins are the favorite apparel here but a shorty wetsuit will probably keep you comfortable any time of the year.