Last Updated on September 17, 2023
If you’re an outdoor adventure lover, then the U.S. Virgin Islands is a place you should put at the top of your travel list. St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix are the three islands that make up the U.S. Virgin Islands.
My family and I love visiting the Virgin Islands for many reasons, but getting out on the water and exploring the magnificent landscapes tops the list. Whether for hiking, kayaking or snorkeling, outdoor adventures here contain a little extra dose of magic.
How can it not feel that way when you’re surrounded by so much incredible natural beauty?
As we own a Marriott vacation club in St. Thomas, we try to get down here as often as we can and we have a list of our must-do outdoor adventures to share.
St. Thomas Zip Lining
Imagine zip-lining in paradise. That’s what happens when you head to the rainforest of St. Peter Mountain where Tree Limin’ Extreme Zipline Park features six adrenaline-pumping ziplines connected to eight treetop platforms.
After being outfitted with safety equipment, guests take an exhilarating truck ride to the top of the mountain in an authentic six-wheel drive Pinzgauer.
Now it’s time to travel through the tree line at up to 30 miles-per-hour with sweeping bird’s-eye views of stunning Magens Bay (if you can manage to keep your eyes open). Kids can zipline either tandem or solo, as long as they weigh at least 70 pounds.
Marine animal lovers can choose from various trainer-guided encounters at Coral World Ocean Park. Visitors can kayak alongside coastal bottlenose dolphins, see sharks, or set off on a Sea Lion Lost Treasure Adventure, an escape room-style hunt for clues around Coral World Action Park, followed by an encounter with a South American sea lion.
For the best snorkeling experience in crystalline waters with more colorful fish than you’ve ever see in one spot, head right next door to Coki Beach. Here’s an insider’s trick to really get everyone in your party excited (especially the kids): the fish love dog biscuits and will come right up to a moist biscuit and take some nibbles, so have those packed and ready!
St. John Snorkeling
Spellbound and moved by the island chain’s incredible beauty, Laurance Rockefeller, venture capitalist, financier, philanthropist, and conservationist, purchased then donated 60 percent of St. John to the United States’ National Park Service. In 1962, Congress expanded the boundary of Virgin Islands National Park to include 5,650 acres of submerged lands to protect and preserve the stunning coral gardens, seascapes and sleepy lagoons.
History and outdoor adventures merge at the Virgin Islands National Park where visitors can hike to historic plantation sites, see the Indigenous Taino’s ancient petroglyphs and snorkel magnificent coral all in one day. The area sports 30 hiking trails that meander through diverse landscapes, including a bay rum tree-filled forest, dry cactus-dotted scrubland, and postcard-worthy island vistas.
We absolutely love snorkeling the 650-foot-long Trunk Bay and Coral Reef Underwater Park Trail. Underwater plaques highlight all the fish, turtles, and plants you’ll see in the crystal-clear waters. A 225-yard Underwater Trail of Reefs of coral formations, colorful angelfish and striped sergeant majors offset pearly white beach sand and the aquamarine water perfect for swimming. It remains shallow for a good distance before gradually dropping off to deeper depths.
If you love sea turtles, head to the coconut palm-dotted white sands of Maho Bay Beach. Maho Bay features several large seagrass areas ideal for viewing turtles. Not only can you swim next to these beautiful sea creatures, but the beach and cove in this area of the bay are much less visited than the more popular St. John beaches closer to busier Cruz Bay.
Maho Bay Beach also has food and drink vendors just across the street from the beach, along with snorkeling, kayak and stand up paddleboard rentals.
For overnight stays on St. John, I prefer staying at the Westin in St. John.
St. Croix Sanctuary
Two-thirds of St. Croix’s Buck Island Reef National Monument is surrounded by a coral reef, providing a stunning and protected ecosystem for marine life.
Adventure lovers can dive or snorkel the stunning underwater trail where plaques showcase the 250 fish species that live in the 4,554-acre reef. An easy 45 minute hiking trail traverses the island from a low-lying beach forest to the island’s crest, where a stunning view of the coral reefs in the crystal-clear ocean awaits.
Annaly Bay Tide Pools are a series of large, naturally formed pools teeming with marine life on St. Croix’s North Shore. Pack your snorkeling gear and water shoes as the tide pool rocks can be slippery. Visitors hike about 2.5 miles through a lush, verdant rainforest before arriving at the impressive tide pools.
What an amazing experience it is to paddle the Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve at night to witness this mesmerizing bioluminescent bay. Rent a glass-bottomed kayak to be fully surrounded by this natural phenomenon. The kayak moving through the water makes the glowing organisms appear like tiny, floating stars. It’s absolutely incredible!
These outdoor adventures are just the start the amazing escapades we have found in the three U.S. Virgin Islands. With nature’s picture-perfect surroundings, one can’t help, but feel blessed being outdoors to enjoy these pieces of island paradise.