St. John, USVI with kids

The 411 on the US Virgin Islands with Kids – St. Thomas & St. John

This feature is the second of two covering the US Virgin Islands with Kids. Click here to read part two: St. Croix with Kids.

Take a kid to a beach where sand flows through fingers like fine sugar and the sea is as warm and translucent as a bath, and he won’t ever want to leave. Add in a bit of pirate history and a chance to swim with kaleidoscope-hued fish, and the entire family will vote this the best vacation ever.

The United States Virgin Islands consists of three main islands—St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix—the first two located close enough to explore from one home base. Island hopping to St. Croix is easy, but the greater distance and varied attractions merits more than a day trip.

My advice? Enjoy the best of ‘both worlds’ and book a stay in each!

With this in mind, I’ve included hotel, dining, and attraction recommendations for St. Thomas and St. John in this post. Soon to follow, I’ll have  recommendations for a St. Croix-based stay, too.

Activity 1: Swim with the Fish at Coral World Ocean Park (St. Thomas)

Coki Point US Virgin Islands
Coki Point, right next to Coral World Ocean Park, is a great destination for novice snorkelers and those visiting the US Virgin Islands with kids.

Learn about the Virgin Islands’ ocean life and get up close and personal with the marine animals at Coral World Ocean Park. In addition to looking under the sea in the geodesic underwater observatory, you can get within kissing distance on the sea trek, snuba diving, sea lion swim, Nautilus submarine, of several see and touch tanks. Coki Beach, one of the best beaches to learn how to snorkel, is next door. Rentals are available, and if you bring a dog bone or bread you can literally have yellow-and-black-striped sergeant major fish eating right out of your hands.

Activity 2: Dive into the Blue in Magens Bay (St. Thomas)

Magens Bay, USVI
Magens Bay, believed by many to be one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, is ideal for young swimmers and not to be missed on vacations to the US Virgin Islands with kids.

Without a doubt, Magens Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The mile long crescent beach hugs a gentle stretch of sea that’s perfect for young and old alike. Magens does charge an entrance fee ($4 for non-residents, kids 12-under free,) but in exchange you get lifeguards, bathrooms, and showers. There’s also a snack counter, souvenir shop, and a shop renting kayaks, paddle boards, and lounge chairs. On the far end there’s an arboretum, mangrove, coconut grove, and nature trail. The Nature Conservancy also opened a hiking trail to Magens Bay from the hill road above, but it can be tricky to spot the entrance. If you do drive in, be sure to stop at Famous Delight (long-time residents know it as Udder Delight) for a liqueur-laced milkshakes—perfection after a day in the sun.

Activity 3: Kayak through a Mangrove on a Virgin Islands Eco Tour (St. Thomas/St. John)

Virgin Islands Eco Tours runs a number of hike, kayak, and snorkel tours on St. Thomas and St. John including a thrilling nighttime kayaking trip to “Pirates Point.” Probably the best adventure with kids is the one to Mangrove Lagoon where in between learning about nature’s coastal filter they may also see a variety of marine life—on a typical day guides may point out lobsters and barracudas—and an army of hermit crabs.

Activity 4: Hike a Nature Trail in the Virgin Islands National Park (St. John)

Trunk Bay, USVI
Trunk Bay at St. John, part of Virgin Islands National Park and just one of many reasons to scoot on over to St. Thomas’s tiny neighbor.

One of the smallest of the US Virgin Islands, St. John remains mostly as nature intended because more than half the island has been protected as the Virgin Islands National Park since 1956. Your best bet for making the most of a day on St. John is to get around by jeep (either on St. John or bring it on the car ferry from St. Thomas, but check that it’s allowed by your rental policy.) Otherwise, you can take a safari taxi either as a tour, or point to point, from Cruz Bay where the ferry docks. Check the calendar for park ranger programs, they’re all excellent but there are a couple of standouts: discover medicinal and other uses for tropical plants along the Reef Bay Trail on your way to seeing the ancient Taino Petroglyphs; learn about the sugar plantation at Annaberg Historic Site; and/or learn how seagrass inhabitants defend themselves on the Waters Edge walk at the Leinster Bay Trailhead next to Annaberg.

1 Great Place to Stay: Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Beach Marriott Beach Resort (St. Thomas)

Frenchman's Reef Marriott, USVI
Want a family-friendly resort smack dab in the middle of paradise?

Frenchman’s Reef is blessed with a great location. Set on Morningstar Bay, the main building is only a short path from one of the best beaches on the island—known for its gentle waves, Morningstar is a favorite with skimboarders–while satellite rooms and a couple of restaurants and bars are right on it. The resort itself is huge with everything you might want, and more. There are 4 restaurants, 4 bars, plus a café, deli, and well stocked convenience shop. Four pools (including 2 infinity pools and a swim-up bar,) a full-service spa, fitness center, a variety of watersport rentals, and available excursions include sunset sails and night kayaking tour. Plus, Frenchman’s Reef recently benefited from a $48 million renovation, which shows in the upscale and comfortable tropical décor.

1 Great Place to Eat: Iggies Beach Bar & Grill (St. Thomas)

Iggie's restaurant, St. Thomas, USVI
Eat at Iggie’s–then enjoy spiked milkshakes while your kids frolic on the sand.

Iggies Beach Bar & Grill has reasonably priced meals, cheap drinks, and kids can play in the sand. Go on Wednesday nights for the all-you-can-eat buffet and stay for a West Indian Carnival with steel pans, conga lines, mocko jumbies, and fire-breathing limbo dancers.

Ready to start planning part one of your visit to the US Virgin Islands with kids?

Don’t miss the Google map with my recommendations below. And don’t miss part two of this feature: St. Croix with Kids.

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Sandra Foyt

Storyteller + Photographer at Getaway Mavens & Albany Kid
Sandra Foyt is a storyteller and photographer. She is the founding editor of Albany Kid, a blog about enriching family travel, and co-founder of Getaway Mavens, a turnkey destination guide to the Northeast. A former education advocate and enrichment coach, she lived in Buenos Aires, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Southern California before settling in Northeast New York. Nowadays, she stars in her own version of “Where’s Waldo?” on serendipitous trips in the US, Caribbean, and wherever adventure beckons. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraFoyt, Instagram: Getaway Mavens, and on Facebook: Getaway Mavens.
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6 thoughts on “The 411 on the US Virgin Islands with Kids – St. Thomas & St. John”

  1. I am all in!! Beaches, hiking and kayaking? (plus no snow outside my window!!). I have not been to the US Virgin Islands in many years but would love to go back… What great tips!

  2. I agree with Elena! I can’t stop thinking about them–or stop picturing the green and blue when I close my eyes. I had no idea it’s that lush and pristine! Great tips and photos, Sandra!

  3. Thanks for this great taste of USVI! I had no idea it held such pristine beauty. This does look to be a lovely family vacation destination, with some good variety to be enjoyed.

    1. I am getting some great exposure to places I’ve never been myself through many of these amazing contributions–but my bucket list just gets longer! 😉 It’s good to be inspired…

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