Check out these top accommodations and activities for families planning a vacation to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
For children on vacation, seeing new sights isn’t enough. They want something to do. Yet for parents, getting away from it all usually means doing as little as possible. How does a vacationing family make everyone happy?
Plan a getaway to the U.S. Virgin Islands. The leisurely pace of island life is an ideal setting for grown-up quiet time, and many island accommodations offer an ever-increasing slate of kid-friendly activities.
St. John is the smallest of the three islands that comprise the U.S. Virgin Islands, and it is the least developed. St. John has great places to shop and dine, as well as activities like snorkeling, hiking and touring historic ruins. [Read more about St. John activities and St. John dining.]
Cruz Bay has tourist bustle, but a quick jaunt out of town places one in the Virgin Islands National Park, thick with pristine beaches and hiking trails. One easy hike that’s great for young families starts at the Cinnamon Bay Ruins and goes past markers spelling out various natural finds. Families with older kids should try the Reef Bay Trail.
Westin St. John Resort & Villas
With 47 beachfront acres along Great Cruz Bay, the Westin St. John Resort has roomy family suites and villas. Be sure to watch for the resort’s promotions that often let “kids stay free.”
I recommend the Westin Kids Club, which offers field trips and “dive in” movies. Children practically live in the Westin’s quarter-acre freshwater swimming pool, which has one of the biggest poolside waterfalls I’ve ever seen. Other activities include arts and crafts, sailing and tennis lessons, sandcastle construction, iguana feeding and crab races. www.westinresortstjohn.com
Caneel Bay Resort
The Caneel Bay Resort is set on 170 acres of former plantation land. The open-to-the-breeze resort rooms are sparse but restful. If you want accommodations with few interruptions of the modern sort, you’ll like Caneel Bay. No televisions or telephones mar the sounds of island life. If you’re worried about how your kids will fare with all that downtime, take heart: With seven beaches, 11 tennis courts and a host of other amenities, they’ll quit asking for the remote in no time. www.caneelbay.com
Maho Bay Camps
The Maho Bay campground is a great way to experience St. John. This seaside eco-camp will make your kids feel like they’re in an adventure movie. The Maho Bay cabins are elevated platform tents linked by wooden stairs and walkways. This way, campers can traverse the area without disturbing the terrain. A few of the tents have beds and electricity. An on-site restaurant—the Pavillion—and shower facility help ease the culture shock for kids. [Read more about Maho Bay Camps in USVI Camping.] www.maho.org
St. Thomas has a decidedly tourist feel, and enough attractions to keep families hopping. Be sure to check out Coral World Ocean Park, which is one of St. Thomas’ best attractions for families. Kids can get up close with the coral reef, pet a shark, hand-feed a stingray or swim with sea lions. [Read more about St. Thomas attractions.]
You can also fuel your child’s imagination by exploring Bluebeard’s Castle, which was reportedly built by the pirate for his true love. On St. Thomas, sailing lessons are a popular choice for teenagers, while younger kids like nothing more than to build sandcastles and explore St. Thomas’ intriguing beaches.
Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort and Spa
My top pick for a St. Thomas stay, the Wyndham Sugar Bay, has a Kids’ Club for children ages 4 to 12. Plus, the all-inclusive resort offers kid-themed fun like scavenger hunts, swim relays, tennis lessons or beach activities. With the help of counselors, kids can bake cookies or pizzas for a memorable treat. Mom and dad will like the Wyndham’s spa and world-class snorkeling and diving. www.wyndham.com
Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort
If accommodations that fit seamlessly with your stateside lifestyle work best for your family, consider the Frenchman’s Reef. Well-equipped with plenty of creature comforts, the Marriott overlooks the Charlotte Amalie Harbor. The resort hosts pizza and movie nights, and has an on-site spa for mom (and any little princesses). www.marriott.com
St. Croix is the largest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands and offers many of the comforts one might expect in a progressive locale.
From fine dining and spa treatments to boutique shopping and dive spots known throughout the world, St. Croix has a mass appeal. Families won’t want to miss the Whim Greathouse near the town of Frederiksted. The plantation, which has been restored to its original 1700s appearance, is an interesting find. [Read more about St. Croix attractions.]
The Buccaneer is St. Croix’s oldest family-owned and operated resort. Be sure to check out its special packages for families, which can include a rental car, champagne for mom and dad, and tennis for kids. Spacious rooms easily accommodate large families, and all the rooms have refrigerators. The Buccaneer’s setting, on 340 tropical acres, is ideal for snorkeling, kayaking, golf, tennis and free learn-to-scuba lessons for teens. Younger kids ages 4 to 12 can participate in the Kids’ Camp. www.thebuccaneer.com
Chenay Bay Beach Resort
I like the family cottages at Chenay Bay Beach Resort for their home-like comfort. There’s even a children’s playground with swings, slides and ladders. However, I especially appreciate the resort’s Cruzan Kidz program, where local counselors teach the history of the U.S. Virgin Islands in a hands-on, fun way sure to make a carefree vacation more memorable. www.chenaybay.com