Soak Up the Sun: Your Guide to the Best Beaches in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Tourists strolling along the beach on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo Courtesy of Nelson Sirlin.



Beach lovers won’t regret visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands for the gorgeous aqua waters, sandy shores and sunny days. The U.S. territory’s three largest islands – St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix – promise long days of relaxation, recreation and rejuvenation in the Caribbean treasures. Sun bunnies will want to follow this must-visit list for the best beaches, including the most popular and more-secluded shores.  

St. Thomas

Magens Bay, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo Courtesy of SCStock

St. Thomas offers more than 40 beaches, and you’ll want to make sure the much-photographed Magens Bay Beach makes your list. Be sure to have your camera ready and snap images of the mile-long white-sand beach along a protected cove on the island’s north coast. Afterward, go snorkeling in the bright blue water and get up-close looks at fish and turtles swimming around you. Ride on top of the water in a rented paddleboat or kayak. When you get hungry, order a burger or pizza at the Magens Bay Beach Bar, Café, and Boutique. Thirsty? The rum punch gets great reviews. Insider tip: It gets crowded here if a cruise ship is in port, so time your visit accordingly.

Lindquist Beach in Smith Bay Park on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Those seeking solitude will love secluded Lindquist Beach in the 21-acre Smith Bay Park, a place protected from development on the island’s northeast coast. Stroll along the shoreline (it’s not your imagination; the sand has a light pink hue). Take a dip in the calm, clear water to snorkel. You’ll be surrounded by sea creatures such as crabs, stingrays and turtles. On land, admire seabirds, giant iguanas, coconut groves and sea grapes. Bring a lunch to eat under shade trees.

On the edge of Nazareth Bay, take in the views at the small Secret Harbour Beach. The calm water here makes it a favorite place to anchor sailboats just offshore of southeastern St. Thomas. The rugged coastline attracts snorkelers to see fish congregating around the rocks. You might opt for an excursion aboard a dive boat to go out farther and see more marine life. There’s no need to lug too many supplies for your day at Secret Harbour; simply rent lounge chairs, umbrellas and water sports equipment at the resort and nearby dive shops. Make sure you order ahi tuna nachos at the nearby Sunset Grille after your day in the water.

Lagoon at Brewers Bay on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo Courtesy of Sean Pavone.

Bonus Beach

The peaceful Brewers Bay Beach offers authentic slices of Caribbean island life. View coral beds while snorkeling in the clear water; go near the seagrass for the best chances to see sea turtles, colorful fish and rays. Collect shells along the shore and watch flights come and go from the nearby airport. Visit one of the roadside food trucks to order local favorites such as johnny cakes, fried chicken and rice, and fruit drinks. Brewers Bay’s a hidden gem nestled between green hills and the University of the Virgin Islands.

St. John

An aerial view of Trunk Bay Beach, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo Courtesy of Mike Mahaffie.

Go to Virgin Islands National Park and see for yourself why Trunk Bay Beach regularly appears on Condé Nast Traveler magazine’s lists of the world’s top beaches. Trunk Bay is known for its turquoise water, coconut palms and population of leatherback turtles. Arrive early, rent snorkel gear and follow 650 feet of the park’s self-guided Underwater Snorkeling Trail. You’ll likely see the big turtles in addition to blue bell tunicates (also known as sea squirts), coral reefs and fish. Trunk Bay can get crowded with cruise ship passengers coming from St. Thomas on guided trips. Walk west to find a stretch of beach with fewer people – it’s worth the effort.

Cinnamon Bay Beach, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

You’ll want to linger in nature at Cinnamon Bay Beach, Virgin Islands National Park’s longest beach. Of course, you’ll snorkel or paddle in the warm waters, but activities also include walking along that mile-long shoreline, going on an offshore boat excursion and taking a spin on a mountain bike. Hike shaded trails and visit historic plantation ruins and sacred mounds. Continue your stress-free visit by relaxing during meals on the patio at the on-site Rain Tree Café.

After the 10-minute walk on a graded trail from the parking lot to get to tranquil Salt Pond Bay Beach, cool off in calm, clear waters in the crescent-shaped cove near the southeast tip of St. John. It’s known as one of the island’s best places for snorkeling around four reefs and one seagrass bed – you’ll spot sea turtles, fish, rays and hermit crabs living in conch shells.

View of Salt Pond Bay Beach from Ram Head Trail on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Follow the Drunk Bay Trail around the nearby salt pond or hike the Ram Head Trail for sweeping bay views. Keep an eye out for roaming donkeys. Arrive at the beach early to beat the crowd, or come in the late afternoon when others are leaving, then stay to watch the sunset. Need a place to stay? Reserve a villa or tent at Concordia Eco-Resort. 

Bonus Beach

While you’re in the Salt Pond Bay area, go to the next bay north. Another crescent-shaped beach, Great Lameshur Bay, is an off-the-beaten-path place usually accessed via four-wheel drive vehicles. The shoreline at secluded Great Lameshur Beach is both sandy and laden with pebbles, so you’ll want to wear water shoes. Because the small pocket cove doesn’t get large waves, it’s an ideal playground for snorkelers who regularly see rays, sea turtles and coral reefs teeming with fish. Surrounding hiking trails lead to sugar mill ruins, and you can also take in views of Bordeaux Mountain, which is St. John’s tallest point at 1,277 feet. Bring a lunch to enjoy at one of the picnic tables.

St. Croix

The stunning turquoise sea at Sandy Point Beach on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo Courtesy of EA Given.

Two miles long. That’s the length of shoreline you can enjoy at Sandy Point Beach on the southwestern tip of St. Croix. It’s so special that you’ll need to plan your visit at specific times. The beach at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge is open only on weekends; additionally, it’s closed from April through August to protect nesting leatherback sea turtles. Be amazed at this beach’s natural state – just sand, sun, shells and the glorious blue hues of the Caribbean sea. The water gets deep quickly, but snorkelers still might spy turtles and rays. Landlubbers will want to look at the sky; over 100 species of birds live at the refuge.

Take a one-hour charter boat trip from Christiansted to reach Buck Island Reef National Monument. Discover a thriving marine life ecosystem in the elkhorn coral barrier reef, which stretches around two-thirds of the island. It’s a snorkeler’s dream to explore reefs where federally protected fish live in crystal-clear water. On land, follow trails through tropical forests and along the shore. Because this is a special place, there are some rules, including no fishing, not disturbing wildlife or plants, and don’t take home anything you find on land or in the water. Do take your trash to keep Buck Island as pristine as you found it.

East Cane Bay Beach, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo Courtesy of C. Brent.

A shallow reef at Cane Bay Beach makes for super sessions for snorkelers and divers to see juvenile green sea turtles, rays, squid and many fish species. Wear water shoes – the beach is soft and sandy, but you’ll encounter rocks and sea urchins while wading into the water. An unexpected surprise here, though, is an underwater trench known as “The Wall,” where divers can go deep just 200 yards from shore and see larger marine life such as sharks, dolphins and, just maybe, a humpback whale. After your adventure in the water, visit restaurants and bars just across the street for beach views, eats and drinks.

Bonus Beach

Secluded Shoys Beach just might be one of the loveliest (and quietest) stretches of shoreline on the north side of St. Croix. Get there by entering the gates of the Buccaneer Hotel, then drive to the crescent-shaped beach. Walk the path through a mangrove tunnel to reach the soft sand and clear water with gentle waves. Sit in the shade, go swimming or snorkeling, and watch sailboats and parasailers. Bring what you need for the day, as no services are offered.

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