Summer in the Virgin Islands

Planning a Summer trip to the USVI? An insiders guide to to St. Thomas or St. John's.

Summer in the Tropics?  Are you Crazy?

As the warm breezes of summer begin to swirl, the allure of a tropical getaway becomes irresistible. Nestled in the heart of the Caribbean, the U.S. Virgin Islands offer some of the most breathtaking landscapes, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant cultures in the world. Among these islands, St. Thomas and St. John stand out as prime destinations. Whether you're a seasoned traveler or a curious explorer, choosing between St. Thomas and St. John for a summer vacation can be a delightful dilemma. In this review, we will compare these two islands in terms of accessibility, attractions, beaches, and overall vibe to help you decide the best fit for your summer escape.

Weather in Summer

Both St. Thomas and St. John experience similar weather patterns in summer, marked by warm, tropical climates with an average temperature ranging from the low 80s to high 80s Fahrenheit. It’s important to note that summer also marks the beginning of the Caribbean hurricane season, although major storms are rare this early in the season. Occasional rain showers are common, usually brief and refreshing, making any day a good day to explore.

Accessibility and Transportation

St. Thomas: As the gateway to the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas is home to Cyril E. King Airport, which accommodates flights from many major U.S. cities. This makes St. Thomas highly accessible for travelers. Once on the island, taxis, buses, and rental cars are readily available. St. Thomas's well-developed infrastructure makes navigating the island relatively straightforward.

St. John: St. John offers a more secluded feel, primarily accessed via ferry from St. Thomas. This extra step might be a minor inconvenience but also adds to the island’s charm and exclusivity. Public transportation is less prevalent here, so renting a car or using taxis is recommended for those looking to explore extensively.


Beaches and Natural Beauty

St. Thomas: St. Thomas boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, such as Magens Bay, known for its heart-shaped bay and serene waters. The island also offers more developed tourist facilities and water sports options, from jet skiing to parasailing. Snorkeling and diving are excellent, with vibrant coral reefs accessible directly from the shore.

St. John: Approximately 60% of St. John is protected as part of the Virgin Islands National Park, offering untouched natural beauty that is a bit harder to find on its more developed neighbor. The beaches, like the famous Trunk Bay, are stunning and often less crowded. Hiking trails abound, leading to old sugar plantation ruins and breathtaking views of the Caribbean.


Attractions and Activities

St. Thomas: St. Thomas is bustling with activity. Beyond the beaches, you can explore Charlotte Amalie, the capital city, known for its historic architecture and vibrant shopping scene, including duty-free shops. For a panoramic view of the island, a visit to Skyline Drive or a ride on the Skyride to Paradise Point is a must. St. Thomas also offers a lively nightlife and culinary scene.

St. John: St. John is more laid-back, focused on nature and relaxation. It’s perfect for those who want to disconnect and immerse themselves in tranquility. Hiking, snorkeling, and enjoying the pristine environments are key activities. For cultural insights, visit the Annaberg Plantation or join a guided tour of the national park.

Start Early: Aim to start your days early. Not only will you enjoy cooler temperatures, but you'll also have the added benefit of experiencing popular beaches and attractions like Trunk Bay in St. John or Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas before they become crowded. Early mornings are peaceful and offer the best light for photos, plus you'll have plenty of time for a midday rest or siesta when the sun is at its strongest.

Plan Around Cruise Ship Schedules: Especially in St. Thomas, which is a popular port for cruise ships, knowing the cruise schedule can greatly enhance your experience. On days when fewer ships are docked, popular tourist spots are less crowded, giving you a more relaxed and personal experience. Websites and local tourism offices can provide cruise ship schedules.

Hydrate and Protect: Always carry water with you and stay hydrated. The Caribbean sun can be deceptively strong, especially when you’re out snorkeling, hiking, or exploring coastal areas. Use reef-safe sunscreen, wear a hat, and consider UV-protective clothing to protect your skin from sunburn.

Explore Beyond the Beaten Path: Don't hesitate to venture beyond the well-trodden tourist paths. Each island offers hidden gems that many visitors overlook, such as secluded beaches, local eateries, and unique cultural spots. Ask locals for recommendations; you'll find that many are eager to share their favorite spots with respectful visitors.

Final Thoughts

Choosing between St. Thomas and St. John in summer depends largely on what you seek from your vacation. If you prefer a vacation with easy access, plenty of amenities, and a variety of activities, St. Thomas is your go-to. However, if you're looking for a quieter, nature-centric getaway where you can unwind and enjoy the beauty of the environment, St. John will be more appealing.

Both islands offer the beauty and warm hospitality of the Caribbean, making them perfect destinations for a summer getaway. Regardless of your choice, the U.S. Virgin Islands will provide a memorable escape filled with stunning views and unique experiences. Enjoy your trip, and don’t forget to bring your sunscreen and your T-Shirt!

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