Escape to the US Virgin Islands

Perfect weather, turquoise waters, a laid-back local vibe: The US Virgin Islands are a vacationer’s dream. Situated near Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea, this verdant island chain boasts some of the area’s most breathtaking scenery, and it’s absolutely buzzing with things to do. Snorkel through a coral reef on St. Thomas. Browse the bustling shops and restaurants on St. John. Whether you’re an adventurous eco-tourist or a true relaxation-seeker, this tropical hideaway has just the thing for you.

Not sure where to start? Put these spots on your itinerary, and you’ll be well on your way to an unforgettable island journey.

Magen’s Bay

First stop: St. Thomas’ most gorgeous seaside paradise. Located just a short drive from Charlotte Amalie, this crescent-shaped bay is famous for its white sand, coconut groves and crystalline water. Tourists have to pay a small fee to get in — the area is protected by the Nature Conservancy, after all — but trust us: The atmosphere is beyond worth it. Plus, if you travel with American Express, you might earn a few points on the transaction.

Mangrove Lagoon

If you’re interested in sneaking a peek at some Virgin Islands wildlife, head to Mangrove Lagoon. Perched on St. Thomas’ southern end, this wildlife sanctuary and marine preserve is a fantastic place to snorkel through coral reefs, see a spotted ray and bask in the majesty of the endangered brown pelican. Go early to unwind in the morning calm, and then spend the afternoon hiking through the mangrove forest.

Cruz Bay

Ready to explore St. John? There’s no better place to start than in Cruz Bay. Just a 20-minute ferry ride from St. Thomas, this dynamic village is packed with locally owned restaurants, quirky boutiques and waterfront bars. Wander through the winding alleys to catch a glimpse of the town’s pastel-hued buildings and bougainvillea-studded gardens, shop for handmade jewelry at Mongoose Junction, and then kick back with a rum-runner at the Beach Bar.

St. John Beaches

Of course, there’s more to St. John than shopping and eating. Nearly every corner of this island is a national park, and it features a stunning number of sugar-sand beaches and rocky coves. Our advice? Get the full experience by booking a guided tour. It’s the perfect way to hit can’t-miss sights like Annaberg’s iconic sugar plantation, and you’ll be able to snorkel, swim and stroll your way through the glittering Trunk Bay. Plus, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you can choose a tour that lets you kayak and hike in must-see Caneel Bay. Just be sure to keep your eyes peeled; you might spot a few dolphins playing in the cool, calm waters.