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Experience A Cultural Vacation In The US Virgin Islands

Hawksnest Bay, St. John, US Virgin Islands
St. John [Image by Reinhard Link/Flickr]
While the US Virgin Islands are an American territory, it feels like another world when you are lying on those pristine beaches. However, the islands aren’t just about the idyllic beaches and aqua waters, as there is so much more to do. Here, you can taste the Caribbean cuisine, sip on spiced rum and dance to reggae rhythms and generally get into the island vibes.

While there are around 50 islands, most travelers end up on the main three, St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas. St. Croix feels like the real Caribbean and less touristy. Meanwhile, St. John is mostly protected from development by the Virgin Islands National Park. This makes the island a haven for hikers and snorkelers alike.

On the other hand, St. Thomas is a lively island, offering all the dining and shopping experiences you would expect from a Caribbean port of call. Here, we have a look at some of the best cultural things to do in the three main US Virgin Islands.

Explore the history of the islands

Fort Christian at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
Fort Christian [Image Wikimedia Commons]
Over the years, the Virgin Islands changed hands regularly, with the Spanish, French, English, Dutch and Danish all claiming their turn. However, the US eventually purchased the Virgin Islands in 1917 for US25 million in gold.

However, the history of the islands remains to be explored, including historic forts in Christiansted, St. Croix, and Charlotte Amalie, on St. Thomas. In fact, in Charlotte Amalie’s harbor stands the red-brick Fort Christian that dates back to 1672.

Ford Christiansvaern, St. Croix
Fort Christiansvaern [Image Wikimedia Commons]
Meanwhile, in Christiansted, the yellow Fort Christiansværn stands over the harbor and dates from 1738. Both forts are both now museums, telling the story of the enslaved Africans who built them, as well as the European armies that stayed over there.

Visit the ruins in Leinster Bay

Leinster Bay, St. John, US Virgin Islands
Leinster Bay [Image Wikimedia Commons]
Heading to St. John, Leinster Bay hosts the most intact sugar plantation ruins in the Virgin Islands. The Annaberg Plantation once held more than 600 slaves captive. However, now it is part of the national park and offers information panels describing its complex history.

Annaberg Plantation, Leinster Bay
Annaberg Plantation, Leinster Bay [Image Wikimedia Commons]
This includes the displacement of indigenous people to European settlements. It also outlines the slave trafficking of African people in the 18th and 19th centuries. While there, explore the Leinster Bay Trail to Waterlemon Cay to cool off and relax.

Visit the art galleries in Cruz Bay

St. John VI Pottery
St. John VI Pottery [Image @mangotango3000/Instagram]
On a totally different note, those who love art will truly appreciate St. John and the art galleries in Cruz Bay. Visit St. John VI Pottery in Coral Bay or the galleries at Coconut Coast Studios. Alternatively, visit Mango Tango across the bay in St. Thomas. Head to Bajo el Sol in Mongoose Junction to explore its art gallery, displaying work by local painters and potters. While there, browse the hybrid bookstore and have a glass or two at the rum bar.

Coconut Coast Studios, St. John
Coconut Coast Studios [Image @coconutcoaststudios/Instagram]
On your next Caribbean vacation, do more than just soak up the sun and drink ice-cold cocktails. Enjoy exploring the many cultural attractions of the US Virgin Islands for a unique Caribbean experience.

Be sure to check out our vlog The Go To Family. Connect with us on InstagramTwitter, and Pinterest !

Anne Sewell

Freelance writer and travel writer who has lived in Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa, now living happily on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain.

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