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By Oyster.com Staff

US Virgin Islands

The small collection of mostly arid islands that make up the US Virgin Islands has long been a seafarers stomping ground — from the pirates of yore to today’s more abundant cruise ship hordes and the occasional yachtsman. And as they have for the past 400 years, people come to the islands mainly to drink, relax on the beach, and bargain shop — often, in just that order. Traveling to the islands, considered “insular areas” or “unincorporated territories” of the United States, is in many ways analogous to traveling within the US — citizens don’t need a passport, the US dollar is the official currency, and English is the official language. But a trip to the Virgin Islands still feels like a getaway with its laid-back atmosphere and sunny weather.

The islands’ hotels are largely concentrated on the 3 main islands – St. Thomas (the only island with an airport), St. John, and, to a lesser extent, St. Croix. Since the islands are so small, anywhere you stay will be within about a 30-minute drive from anywhere else on the island. Hotels range from the low-key, no-frills, family-owned spots, to all-inclusive mega-resorts, to unplugged, natural luxury, like at Caneel Bay, a historic sugar plantation turned top-notch hotel visited by the rich and famous (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have stayed here). Even with a quaint pool and rustic rooms that lack TVs and phones, Caneel’s attentive service and unparalleled setting make it one of the Caribbean’s best resorts. On neighboring St. Thomas, the Ritz-Carlton is also a luxe option, located only 5 minutes from Red Hook’s fun dining and yacht scene. And those traveling with kids (and on a tighter budget) may consider the Sugar Bay Resort and Spa – a clean, modern, family-oriented resort with a full-service spa, an excellent snorkeling beach and tons of kids’ activities.

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