Few places in the world are blessed with such an epic combo of bone-white beaches and translucent turquoise bays as the US Virgin Islands (USVI), where you could beach-hop for days and never see the same sands twice. 

In general, St John has the widest selection of the kind of virgin coves that give this territory its alluring name. If you want to wake up within stumbling distance of the sand, though, you’re more likely to end up on St Thomas, which holds the largest share of the USVI’s beachfront resorts and hotels. The coast of St Croix, meanwhile, tends to be longer and wilder, with some of the finest snorkeling and scuba diving in the Caribbean.

Whether you plan to worship the sun gods or swim with the sea turtles, below are some of the best beaches for all types of travelers.

Immerse yourself in the best experiences the world has to offer with our email newsletter delivered weekly into your inbox.

1. Camp on Cinnamon Bay, St John 

Trunk Bay may be splashed across all the publicity for the Virgin Islands, but Cinnamon Bay (which has no entrance fee) boasts a nearly identical stretch of powdery sand with the same amenities as its more famous neighbor. A cafe, store and water sports facility (with kayaks, paddleboards and snorkels) make it perfect for families. Better still, it’s one of the only places in the Virgin Islands where you can camp on the beach, thanks to the Cinnamon Bay Beach and Campground, which offers everything from bare sites to eco-tents and cottages. Make sure to walk across North Shore Road to check out the 18th-century ruins and self-guided nature trail.

2. Take a long walk on the sand in Isaac Bay, St Croix 

Fans of wild beaches and long solitary strolls have a passionate love affair with Isaac Bay. Because it’s accessed via a 20-minute hike – and has very little shade – it’s almost always devoid of tourists, which means you’ll have one of the most beautiful stretches of sand on St Croix all to yourself. The snorkeling offshore is excellent with prismatic brain corals, though you’ll want to keep an eye on the strong current. Between July and December, the greater Jack and Isaac Bay Preserve (managed by The Nature Conservancy) is also a favorite nesting site for green and hawksbill turtles.

3. Getaway from the hubbub on Honeymoon Beach, Water Island

Languid little Water Island, marooned just off the southern coast of St Thomas, is a laidback getaway from the hubbub of Charlotte Amalie with just 200 residents, a handful of cars and three fantastic beaches. The best is Honeymoon, where perky palms line a small cove. There are several bars and restaurants with tables atop the sand, making it an ideal spot for a long lunch that segues into an early happy hour as you day-drink under the shade of a coral-colored umbrella.

A Caribbean beach with a lifeguard stand in the US Virgin Islands
Spend some time at picturesque Magens Bay for a day on the beach with all the amenities © Jennifer Stanford / Shutterstock

4. Play all day on Magens Bay, St Thomas

Magens Bay is the pride and joy of St Thomas, with bath-like waters and a sugary beach that stretches wide enough to accommodate the throngs of tourists who visit each day. This Northside hub is a perennial family favorite since it’s one of the rare spots in the USVI that has lifeguards, picnic tables, changing facilities and food vendors. Plus, since it’s located at the end of a broad bay, you feel as if you’re surrounded on all sides by emerald-green forests. Of course, views this good come at a price, and it’s one of the few beaches to charge for entry. 

5. Swim with turtles in Francis Bay, St John

There are so many stunning beaches on the drive across the North Shore of St John that few visitors have the patience to make it to the end of the road, where Francis Bay is just a quick detour away. It’s a shame. This well-shaded beach is not only a serene spot for sunbathing; it offers one of your best chances to swim with turtles, who are drawn to the swaying seagrasses, or barracudas, who ply the rocky northern edge near Mary Point. Just back from the beach, birders love the Francis Bay Trail, which circles a mud-brown salt pond over to the ruins of an old estate house.

Aerial view of the turquoise water and white sand crescent at Lindquist Beach in St.Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Thanks to its calm waters, Lindquist Beach is a great family option © CD Wheatley / Getty Images

6. Take the kids to Lindquist Beach, St Thomas

In general, the beaches of St Thomas tend to be less protected than those of neighboring St John, but Lindquist is the rare exception. Located within the 21-acre Smith Bay Park, this narrow crescent of virgin sand is a peaceful haven for families thanks to its shallow waters, picnic tables, a lifeguard and a bathhouse with showers. Best of all are the sweeping views of several cays snaking along the horizon. 

7. Snorkel among elkhorn coral at Turtle Beach, Buck Island

The Buck Island Reef National Monument, just off the northeastern coast of St Croix, lures snorkelers away from nearby Christiansted with its marked underwater trail along a fortress-like barrier reef made of elkhorn coral. There’s also an above-water trail that circles the west end of Buck Island to a hilltop observation deck, from which the offshore corals appear like dark blue amoebas in the turquoise sea. After snorkeling and hiking, visitors invariably end up on the white sands of Turtle Beach.

8. Get cozy on the secret Gibney Beach, St John

Extremely limited parking and near non-existent signage make Gibney Beach the best secret on St John’s North Shore. Hidden behind a wrought iron gate – and set against a backdrop of coconut palms – its small size and secret allure have long attracted artists and intellectuals from abroad. Named after an old Vogue editor who relocated here from New York in the 1940s, many locals know it instead as Oppenheimer Beach. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, maintained a home here where his daughter, Toni, died in the 1970s, deeding the family’s land to the people of St John.

Aerial view of Cane Bay Beach, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, with the coral reefs visible beneath the water
Cane Bay Beach is an excellent place to break out the dive gear © Darwin Brandis / iStock / Getty Images Plus

9. For the best diving, head to Cane Bay, St Croix

The water lapping this palm-lined beach isn’t always gentle, but few people come here for a leisurely dip. Cane Bay is known across the Caribbean for its coral-lined seawall, which drops thousands of feet within a quick swim from the coast, making it one of the best places in the USVI for both shore dives and snorkeling. This long, thin strand contains dive shops, kayak rentals, hotels and restaurants – and is within easy reach of St Croix’s “Rain Forest” (really a dense tropical woodland) – making it an epic base for an active vacation.

10. Hull Bay, St Thomas has surfing when the time is right

The Virgin Islands aren’t exactly revered as a surfing destination, but when there’s a northern swell (typically between November and March), locals race to Hull Bay on the north coast of St Thomas for the best action. The rest of the year, this beach at the end of a harrowing downhill drive is known for its lively bar, shady seagrape trees and slightly rocky seafloor, which makes it more of an adults-only playground. Many of the fishing boats bobbing out in the bay belong to the community with French-St Barts ancestry that arrived in the area in the early 19th century. Come in the afternoon to watch as the sun turns sails into silhouettes on its slow plunge into the sea.

Explore related stories

Soufriere, Saint Lucia - May 12, 2016: The tourists swimming at the Sulphur Springs Drive in volcano near Soufriere on 12 may 2016 at Saint Lucia island


The top 10 things to do in the Caribbean

Dec 21, 2022 • 11 min read