Like hand-in-glove, yacht charters from the U.S. Virgin Islands traditionally include stops in the British Virgin Islands. The BVI’s closed borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted charter companies and crews to come up with USVI-only charter itineraries. Even after the beautiful BVI re-opens, USVI-only itineraries are perfect for U.S. residents that don’t have a passport and thus can’t travel to the BVI or for those who’d like to experience a few off-the-beaten-track anchorages.
“The USVI’s may be overlooked for their neighbor, the BVIs, but you’ll find that familiar Caribbean welcome and impressive beaches in the USVIs too,” says Dan Lockyer, vice president of global tourism for Annapolis, MD-based Dream Yacht Charter, which opened its USVI base at St. Thomas’ Compass Point Marina in June 2020. “St. John is renowned for its beautiful coastline and fine snorkeling among coral reefs, vibrant colored fish, turtles and rays. There are some fun dining options too that cater specifically to charter boats. It’s an ideal destination for any sailor.”
In addition to exceptional snorkeling, fishing, sailing, world-class beaches, and laid-back beach bars and restaurants, the USVIs feature easy access not found in nearly any other Caribbean island, adds Ian Pedersen, senior marketing manager for the Clearwater, FL-headquartered The Moorings and Sunsail, which opened a base at IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande Marina on St. Thomas in March. “Featuring non-stop flights from multiple major East Coast hubs, St. Thomas is just a quick (and relatively inexpensive) flight away, and being a U.S. territory, no passport is required for U.S. citizens. Aside from Puerto Rico, no Caribbean destination is as convenient a getaway as the USVI.”
7 Day Charter Itinerary in the U.S. Virgin Islands
A typical 7-day itinerary for the USVIs features charter stops in St. Thomas, St. John and the territory’s surrounding rocks and cays. St. Croix, located 40 miles to the south, could be a bit ambitious to reach given the distance, but there are ways to include the nicknamed ‘Twin City’ island’ into an itinerary (see Sidebar).
Day 1: Christmas Cove & Red Hook, St. Thomas.
Cast off en route to St. Thomas’s east end. “Visit Christmas Cove on Great St. James, then try the floating pizza restaurant Pizza Pi – delivery and pick up options available. Before picking up dinner, snorkel the bay and get close to the variety of marine life,” suggests Dream Yacht’s Lockyer. Or, in the evening, dinghy around to Red Hook. There are several restaurants and bars here, as well as clothing, jewelry and watersports shops.
Day 2: Magens Bay, St. Thomas.
Sail around the northeast coast of St. Thomas to the Atlantic Ocean and then west to Magens Bay. “Magens Bay is one of the most popular beaches in the USVI and was voted one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world by National Geographic,” says The Moorings and Sunsail’s Pedersen.
Day 3: Cruz Bay, St. John.
Head east, across Pillsbury Sound, to St. John. Pick up a mooring off Honeymoon Beach, then dinghy into Cruz Bay. “Discover the Virgin Islands National Park, which has its Visitor’s Center in Cruz Bay. There are many bars, restaurants and shops in Cruz Bay,” says Lockyer.
Day 4: North Shore Beaches, St. John.
Spend the day exploring St. John’s north shore beaches. “The crown jewel of the Virgin Islands National Park, Trunk Bay, is an unbelievably photogenic paradise. Featuring 650 feet of underwater trails, this is the perfect place to snorkel,” recommends Pedersen. Then, go to Francis Bay to overnight. “Maho Bay Beach is a great place to spot turtles and rays in the seagrass and shallow waters. If you want to try the local atmosphere, get lunch at Maho Crossroads – a pop-up village with food and bar,” adds Lockyer.
Day 5: Waterlemon Cay & Leinster Bay, St. John.
Located east of Maho Bay, this small uninhabited cay and surrounding bay feature plenty of healthy coral. Look out too for starfish, conch and turtles. “If you are in the mood to explore, walk to the Annaberg Plantation sugar mill ruins. For lunch, head over to Hansen Bay to taste the tacos from the floating restaurant Lime Out. You can dine sitting at their seats and tables in the water,” suggests Lockyer.
Day 6: Coral Bay, St. John.
It’s just a short sail away from Leinster Bay to this easternmost settlement on the island. There are several bars and restaurants here, many of which offer live music on the weekends, as well as a mail service, grocery store and souvenir shops. Historical sites include the Emmaus Moravian Church and ruins of the 18th-century Danish fort, Fortsberg. To explore further, sail southwest to Salt Pond Bay for a quiet overnight.
Day 7: Water Island.
Prepare for a half-day passage to Water Island and Honeymoon Beach, located just off St. Thomas Charlotte Amalie harbor. “Listen to live music and dine at Heidi’s Honeymoon Grill or Dinghy’s Beach Bar & Grill. Or you can overnight in Lindberg Bay and dine at beachfront Emerald Bay Resort,” says Lockyer. St. Thomas’ Cyril E King Airport is across the street from this resort. Or the Moorings base is a 30-minute motor sail away and Dream Yacht’s Compass Point base is a 1-to-2-hour sail east. These 7 days of itinerary suggestions make the perfect way to see the USVI by sea.
St. Croix should be part of Every Charter Itinerary
Editor’s Note: Here’s some suggestions on Visiting St. Croix
For Rates, Please Contact the Charter Companies:
- Dream Yacht Charters: https://www.dreamyachtcharter.com/destination/us-virgin-islands/
- The Moorings: https://www.moorings.com/destinations/caribbean/st-thomas-yacht-charters
- Sail Caribe Yacht Charters: https://sailcaribe.com/
- CYOA Yacht Charters: https://www.cyoacharters.com/