Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which we receive financial compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). However, the credit card information that we publish has been written and evaluated by experts who know these products inside out. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse. This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers that are on the market. See our advertising policy here where we list advertisers that we work with, and how we make money. You can also review our credit card rating methodology.

The Ultimate Guide to Virgin Islands National Park — Best Things To Do, See & Enjoy!

Amar Hussain's image
Amar Hussain
Amar Hussain's image

Amar Hussain

Senior Content Contributor

769 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 63U.S. States Visited: 9

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
Keri Stooksbury's image

Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

31 Published Articles 3100 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 45U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

We may be compensated when you click on product links, such as credit cards, from one or more of our advertising partners. Terms apply to the offers below. See our Advertising Policy for more about our partners, how we make money, and our rating methodology. Opinions and recommendations are ours alone.

Virgin Islands National Park is a tropical island park located on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This national park is teeming with breathtaking wildlife, historical landmarks, a rich cultural history, white sand beaches, and turquoise waters just waiting for you to explore. Each year over 300,000 visitors come to Virgin Islands National Park to discover the beauty and wonder of the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

How To Get to Virgin Islands National Park

Where Is Virgin Islands National Park?

Virgin Islands National Park is located in the Caribbean Sea. The majority of the park is located on St. John, the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, but a small portion stretches into the nearby island of St. Thomas. This national park covers 7,259 acres of land and 5,650 acres of submerged land. 

Nearest Airports to Virgin Islands National Park

When visiting Virgin Islands National Park, most visitors will fly into St. Thomas. After arriving in St. Thomas, guests will need to take a ferry for the final leg of their journey. Take a look at the most popular airport option when visiting Virgin Islands National Park. 

Cyril E. King Airport (STT)

Cyril E. King Airport is where most guests fly into when visiting Virgin Islands National Park. This airport is located on the southwestern side of St. Thomas. 

This airport offers direct flights and connecting flights to and from many U.S. cities and cities in the Caribbean, such as Antigua, Atlanta, Boston, the Dominican Republic, Miami, New York, and Orlando. The airlines serviced by Cyril E. King Airport include American, Delta, Frontier, Cape Air, and United. 

Driving to Virgin Islands National Park

It is not possible to drive to the Virgin Islands National Park. Those who visit this national park must arrange a flight and take a ferry to the park. A car is needed to explore the park, so visitors must rent a vehicle in the Cruz Bay area. 

Taking the Train to Virgin Islands National Park

There is no train service available to Virgin Islands National Park.

Public Transportation to Virgin Islands National Park

VITRAN is a bus service that provides transportation around St. John. For those who don’t want to worry about the stress of renting a car and navigating, this transportation is a great option. Not only is it less stressful to take the bus, but it is also affordable, with all fares costing a dollar or less. 

Taking the Ferry to Virgin Islands National Park

Visitors coming to Virgin Islands National Park will need to use the ferry service. Ferries run from Cruz Bay St. John to Red Hook St. Thomas on an hourly basis from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. With these long hours and hourly trips, the ferry is a convenient way to make it to Virgin Islands National Park. 

Getting Around Virgin Islands National Park

The best way to get around Virgin Islands National Park is by private vehicle. There are 2 roads that make their way through the park and lead to all the fun. Another way to explore the park is on foot, but you may end up getting tired after a bit of hiking. Bicycles are not recommended as the roads are steep, narrow, and winding.

The National Park Service offers interactive and printable maps to help you plan your adventures at Virgin Islands National Park. 

What To See and Do in Virgin Islands National Park

Virgin Islands National Park is an incredible island park with an abundance of activities and sights to enjoy. Whether you prefer spending a day soaking in the rays of the sun, hiking to historic sites, or snorkeling, there is something for every adventurer to enjoy at this national park.

Beaches

Salomon Beach
Image Credit: Anne Finney via NPS

The U.S. Virgin Islands have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, so while you are visiting Virgin Islands National Park, spending time on the beach is a must. The beaches at this national park are pristine with white sand and turquoise water and surrounded by lush forests, making it a perfect place to relax in a tropical paradise. 

Some of the most popular beaches in Virgin Islands National Park are Trunk Bay Beach, Hawksnest Beach, and Cinnamon Bay Beach. Each beach offers something unique such as coral reefs, exceptional snorkeling, a campground, restaurants, excellent areas for wildlife viewing, and picnic areas.

Bottom Line:

Spending a day on the sandy shore, taking in the sights of the mesmerizing wildlife, and soaking in the warmth of the sun is the perfect way to spend a day at Virgin Islands National Park.

Boating

It’s no surprise that boating is a popular activity at Virgin Islands National Park. Kayaking and paddling opportunities also abound at this island park.

Boating is one of the best ways to explore the park and take in outstanding views of the turquoise waters and the wildlife below the surface. Sea turtles and tropical fish happily dance below the boat, making a wonderful show for you to enjoy above. 

Whether kayaking, paddling, or riding in a motor boat, this national park is a perfect one for enjoying the sights from the water.

Fishing

Virgin Islands National Park is a paradise for anglers. The waters of this national park are home to several exciting species, including Nassau and goliath groupers, mackerel, tuna, conch, and Caribbean spiny lobster.

There are strict guidelines for fishing in these waters, so be sure to check the fishing guide before venturing out. Permits for fishing are required and can be obtained at the National Park Service offices, which are located in Cruz Bay. 

Hiking

There are over 20 hiking trails at Virgin Islands National Park, from leisurely strolls to strenuous treks. Hiking through this national park is one of the best ways to discover the natural beauty and wonder of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Some of the most popular trails include the Peace Hill Trail, the Cinnamon Bay Nature Trail, the Ram Head Trail, and the Reef Bay Trail. Hikers are able to enjoy wildlife views, historic landmarks, and uninterrupted views of the sea and surrounding landscapes. It doesn’t matter if you are brand new to hiking or a pro; you will find a trail that is perfect for you at Virgin Islands National Park.

Historic Sites

Peace Hill Sugar Mill
Image Credit: Susanna Pershern via NPS

There is a rich history on the island where Virgin Islands National Park is located. Today, guests can explore a significant number of historic sites, including ruins of old plantations, windmills, and factories.

The leading historic site is Annaberg Plantation. Long ago, this plantation was the largest sugar-producing estate on the entire island of St. John. Over 600 enslaved people lived and worked on this plantation. 

Today, this area is featured on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, as many of the enslaved people used the nearby Leinster Bay waterfront to escape to freedom. The remains of an ancient windmill and animal mill can be toured today. Visitors can learn about the history of this plantation and the nearby factories and the iconic waterfront that led so many to freedom. 

Reef Bay Sugar Plantation, Annaberg Plantation, America Hill, and Peace Hill Windmill are some of the top historical sites that visitors can tour at Virgin Islands National Park. Not only is this national park a wonderful place for outdoor fun, but it is also educational and teaches about a difficult time in American history.

Snorkeling

Virgin Islands National Park offers some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean. This is one of the top activities for visitors to participate in when visiting this national park.

Snorkeling at Virgin Islands National Park provides an up-close look at the tropical fish, sea turtles, coral reefs, and sharks that make their home in the waters surrounding this park. There are several different areas that offer excellent snorkeling opportunities. Francis Bay is a great option for beginners who are just learning how to snorkel. Leinster Bay, Waterlemon Cay, Brown Bay, and Salt Pond Bay are some of the other popular areas throughout the park.

Hot Tip:

Be sure to respect the wildlife, including the coral reefs, so that you do not damage their ecosystem. It is wise to read up on the snorkeling regulations before setting out for your adventures.

Visitor Center

The Cruz Bay Visitor Center is one of the best places to visit before starting your adventures at Virgin Islands National Park. This visitor center is small but very informative. It features exhibits about the park, park rangers who are eager to answer any questions you may have, maps and resources, and a gift shop for buying souvenirs.

There are also excellent exhibits about the nearby Coral Reef National Monument. You won’t want to miss out on this visitor center when visiting Virgin Islands National Park. 

Best Times To Visit Virgin Islands National Park

Virgin Islands National Park is a remarkable place to visit any time of the year, but there are some times that are better than others if you are hoping to experience a particular event or activity. Whether you want to visit for snorkeling or hiking, relax on the beach, or to learn from historical sites, there are best times to visit for each of these activities.

Best Time To Visit Virgin Islands National Park in Winter

Many people choose to visit the Virgin Islands National Park in the winter months. The best month to visit in the winter is in December. The temperature is comfortable, with the highs reaching 80 degrees and lows dipping into the upper 60s. There is also a lower chance of rain in December, which can help you make the most of your visit. If you are planning a winter trip, plan to come in December for a fantastic experience. 

Best Time To Visit Virgin Islands National Park To Avoid the Crowds

A national park vacation without crowds is a dream come true for most travelers. If you are hoping to experience a less-crowded park, plan to come in the month of November. This is the month before peak season begins, so you will be able to explore the park at your own pace without worrying about crowded situations. Plan your trip in November and enjoy a solitary experience at Virgin Islands National Park. 

Best Time To Visit Virgin Islands National Park for Ideal Weather

Little Cinnamon Beach
Image Credit: Anne Finney via NPS

Weather can enhance or dampen a trip, no matter where you are visiting. If you want to experience ideal weather at Virgin Islands National Park, plan for a trip in March. This is the month with the lowest amount of precipitation for the year. The weather is also enjoyable, with temperatures in the low 70s and 80s. A March trip is best if you want to visit Virgin Islands National Park and enjoy the best weather of the year. 

Cheapest Time To Visit Virgin Islands National Park

Saving money while traveling is possible with proper planning and research. If you want to save money when visiting Virgin Islands National Park, plan to come in the month of September. Once Labor Day has passed and students have returned to school, the park sees a dip in numbers.

Flight and accommodation rates are typically lower at this time of year, making a trip to the Virgin Islands National Park much more affordable. Not only will this help your budget, but saving money while traveling makes the trip even more fun.

Annual Events in Virgin Islands National Park

Virgin Islands National Park has a regular schedule of programming throughout the year, but there are also several events that take place on an annual basis that visitors love to attend. There’s an event for everyone, from swimming and cycling races to cultural festivals. Let’s take a look at some of the top annual events at Virgin Islands National Park. 

Beach Power Swim

The Beach Power Swim is an annual event that takes place in Virgin Islands National Park each year in May on Memorial Day weekend. This event is sponsored by Friends of Virgin Islands National Park and has been taking place for 20 years

Participants in the Beach Power Swim can choose their preferred distance and swim from Maho to Cinnamon, from Maho to Trunk Bay, or from Maho to Hawksnest, which is the complete course and 3.5 miles long.

Bottom Line:

The Beach Power Swim is an event that locals and visitors look forward to each year at Virgin Islands National Park. If you enjoy swimming in tropical waters, you won’t want to miss this exciting event.

Folk Life Festival

Folk Life Festival
Image Credit: Friends of Virgin Islands National Park

The Folk Life Festival is one of the most significant events that takes place in Virgin Islands National Park. This event takes place in February and celebrates the cultures and traditions of the original people of the park. The festival features craft demonstrations, music and stories, dancing, traditional food, and events for locals and visitors of every age. This celebration helps to teach about and preserve the culture of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Paddle the Park Race

The Paddle the Park Race takes place at Maho Bay in Virgin Islands National Park each year in November. This paddle-boarding event is sponsored by Friends of Virgin Islands National Park. 

Visitors of all ages enjoy the Paddle the Park Race. There are 3 courses to choose from, depending on age and ability, and each of them starts and ends on Maho Bay Beach. Courses range from 1 mile to 5 and a half miles. 

The Paddle the Park Race is an event that is loved by locals and visitors of all ages. Participating in this event is a special way to enjoy the beauty of Virgin Islands National Park. 

Where To Stay in Virgin Islands National Park

There are many places to choose from when it comes to planning where you will stay when visiting Virgin Islands National Park. There are lodging options within the park boundaries and close by as well. Let’s explore the different places most visitors stay when visiting Virgin Islands National Park.

Inside the Park

The only option for lodging within the boundaries of Virgin Islands National Park is to camp in the developed campground. Sleeping under the stars is an extraordinary way to experience the beauty and wonder of this national park. Check out the one and only campground at Virgin Islands National Park and see if this is where you want to make your home base during your national park vacation. 

Cinnamon Bay Campground

Cinnamon Bay Campground
Image Credit: Cinnamon Bay Campgrounds

Cinnamon Bay Campground is a beachfront campground that offers a wonderful place to settle during your visit to Virgin Islands National Park. Cinnamon Bay Campground offers a lovely mix of camping and paradise.

Visitors can choose from camping in an eco-tent that accommodates 2 to 4 visitors. These tents offer electricity, a comfortable bed and linens, picnic tables, and cooking kits. For campers traveling in a group, there are group areas available for camping altogether. 

There are also bare sites where visitors can pitch their own tent or rent a tent from the campground. This is for more traditional-style camping, and visitors will need to provide their own bedding, cookware, and sleep gear.

One other option for camping at Cinnamon Bay Campground is to rent a cottage. The cottages offer a more traditional style stay with walls and a roof. They offer comfortable beds and bedding, indoor and outdoor dining areas, and electricity. These cottages accommodate 4 guests. 

Breakfast and dinner are served at the on-site restaurant, and lunches are available at the food truck on the property. When guests aren’t dining, the restaurant area is used for socializing.

Towns Near Virgin Islands National Park

There are 2 areas that are popular for guests who want to stay outside the boundaries of Virgin Islands National Park. Each of these towns offers a wonderful place for a home base during your national park vacation.

St. John

St. John is the most popular area for guests to stay during their trip to Virgin Islands National Park, as it is the island where the park is located. This town has many options for lodging, dining, and recreation. 

The town has several options available for a home away from home while vacationing. From campgrounds to luxury hotels, from all-inclusive resorts to private rentals, there is something for every traveler on this island. 

Food enthusiasts are in for a treat when staying in St. John. There are dozens of locally-owned restaurants, delis, cafes, and bars. Whether you crave freshly-caught seafood or authentic cultural cuisine, you can find exactly what you crave on this island. 

St. John is an incredible place for recreation. This island offers the best snorkeling in the Caribbean as well as opportunities to spend the day on the white sands of the beach and watch wildlife under the sea and on the coast. There are many artisan shops and boutiques for those who enjoy shopping and historic places to explore, like Annaberg Sugar Plantation.

Bottom Line:

With its close proximity to the Virgin Islands National Park and endless opportunities for fun, food, and lodging, St. John is an ideal location to set up a base camp while visiting this national park.

St. Thomas

St. Thomas is an island near Virgin Islands National Park, and many visitors with family or on a budget choose to stay here during their trip to this national park. There are many accommodations, restaurants, and activities available. 

Accommodations are plentiful and include both chain and locally-owned hotels, beach resorts, bed and breakfasts, and private rentals. No matter the experience you seek, you will find the perfect lodging solution in St. Thomas. 

There is no shortage of places to eat, with gourmet restaurants for fine dining as well as casual spots such as pizza parlors, pubs, cafes, bars, and diners. With so many places to dine in St. Thomas, you may find yourself having a hard time choosing where to dine each day, but one thing is for certain: you will not be disappointed in your selection. 

St. Thomas has plenty to offer when it comes to recreation and entertainment. From white sand beaches to kayaking, and from charted boat tours to visiting aquatic dive centers, there’s something for every visitor to enjoy. 

Where To Eat In and Near Virgin Islands National Park

There aren’t many places to grab a bite to eat within the boundaries of Virgin Islands National Park, but there are several options near the park. No matter what you find yourself craving during your visit to this national park, there’s a restaurant that will hit the spot.

1864 The Restaurant

1864 The Restaurant
Image Credit: 1864 The Restaurant

If you are in the mood for a luxurious dinner experience during your visit to Virgin Islands National Park, plan to dine at 1864 The Restaurant. This fine dining establishment serves lunch and dinner daily.

The menu features fresh, local seafood, a raw oyster bar, hand-rolled sushi, and a long list of wines and signature drinks. Some of the most popular menu items include the New England Style Clam Chowdah’, the fresh oysters on the half shell, and the Caribbean-spiced mahi mahi. 

1864 The Restaurant has an amazing atmosphere, excellent customer service, and dishes that will leave you wanting to come back again and again. Be sure to add this remarkable restaurant to your itinerary when visiting Virgin Islands National Park.

The Beach Bar

The Beach Bar is a landmark on St. John and is located on Cruz Bay Beach. This restaurant is open daily from 10 a.m. to late at night, with brunch offered on Saturday and Sunday. 

The menu includes dishes with freshly-caught seafood like conch fritters and crabmeat wontons, as well as juicy burgers, tacos, and crisp salads. The menu also has an exciting drink menu featuring classic favorites and signature drinks. Popular drinks at The Beach Bar include the Bushwacker, Painkillers, and the Bloody Mary.

When visiting Virgin Islands National Park, you won’t want to miss The Beach Bar. It’s a great way to unwind and enjoy a delicious meal after a long day of exploring the park.

North Shore Deli

North Shore Deli is located on St. John, just 1 minute from Virgin Islands National Park. This restaurant serves breakfast and lunch daily and offers unmatched customer service. 

The menu features signature Caribbean dishes made with slow-roasted meats, fresh-cut salads, and desserts that will take your breath away. Popular dishes include Asian peanut noodles, curry chicken salad, and signature salads. There are also several options for diners who have a vegetarian or gluten-free diet. For a quick and delicious meal while visiting Virgin Islands National Park, stop by North Shore Deli. 

Sun Dog Cafe

Sun Dog Café is the top restaurant in Cruz Bay and only 1 minute from Virgin Islands National Park. This open-air restaurant serves brunch, lunch, dinner, and drinks daily, with live music twice weekly.

The menu offers a mix of classic favorites and original dishes with options for gluten-free and vegetarian diners. Customers rave about the coconut shrimp tacos, the Shrimp Vera Cruz, fish tacos, and the Caribbean jerk chicken quesadillas. 

Not only is Sun Dog Café a top restaurant in Cruz Bay, but it also goes above and beyond to provide stellar customer service to each of its diners. Amazing food, unbeatable customer service, and convenience to the Virgin Islands National Park make Sun Dog Café the perfect place to grab a bite to eat. 

Virgin Islands National Park Facts

Leatherback Nesting
Image Credit: Caroline Rogers via NPS

1. A New National Park

Virgin Islands National Park was established in 1956 as the 29th U.S. national park. 

2. Orignal People of the Park

Humans originally arrived in the U.S. Virgin Islands 2,500 to 3,00 years ago, but it was about 1,000 years ago when the islands really grew in population. The original settlers of the park were nomads who relied on hunting and gathering. Later, the Taino people settled the area.

They established villages in many different areas of the park, including Cinnamon Bay, Caneel Bay, and Coral Bay. Today, petroglyph carvings and artifacts can be seen at the archeological sites in the park. These artifacts are clues to the past and tell the story of the original people of the area.

3. A Pirate Place

Long ago, pirates moored their ships in the inlets and near the shores of the beaches of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Some of the noteworthy pirates that operated in this area years ago included Captain Kidd, Black Sam Bellamy, Tempest Rogers, and Jean Hamlin.

4. Discovered by Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus discovered the U.S. Virgin Islands on his second voyage to discover the New World.

5. An Abundance of Animals

The Virgin Islands National Park is home to a wide variety of animals. This national park has 22 mammal species, 140 kinds of birds, 302 kinds of fish, and 7 types of amphibians. Some of the animals that are often seen at Virgin Islands National Park include deer, donkeys, sheep, mongoose, pigs, bats, pelicans, and iguanas.

6. What’s in a Name?

Christopher Columbus originally named these islands Las Once Mil Virgenes after Saint Ursula’s 11,000 Virgins. Later, the name was shortened to Las Virgenes or The Virgins.

7. Celebrity Status

There is an island off the east of St. John named Norman Island. This island is where the infamous book Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is set. 

8. Endangered Species

There are several animals that live in Virgin Islands National Park that are listed on the endangered species list. Some of these animals include the leatherback turtle, green turtle, and hawksbill turtle. These turtles nest on the beaches of the park, which are protected to help the turtle population. Another endangered animal that lives in Virgin Islands National Park is the Virgin Islands tree boa. These snakes are typically found in the coastal forest among the rocks and soil. 

9. Ready for a Close-Up

Virgin Islands National Park has been used in several blockbuster hits as a setting. Some of the well-known movies filmed in this area include “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” “The Bold and the Beautiful,” a popular American soap opera, has also been filmed in this area since 1987. 

10. Highs and Lows

The highest point in Virgin Islands National Park is Bordeaux Mountain. This mountain reaches 1,277 feet in elevation. The lowest point in the park is at 0 feet above sea level, which is the Atlantic Ocean. 

Final Thoughts

Virgin Islands National Park is one of the most breathtaking parks in the National Park Service. From snorkeling in the turquoise waters to exploring ancient ruins, and from hiking incredible trails to relaxing on the white sand beaches, there’s no shortage of excitement at this national park. Book your trip to Virgin Islands National Park and discover what brings in over 300,000 people each year from around the world come to this island park.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to enter Virgin Islands National Park?

For general entry, there is no fee at Virgin Islands National Park. Fees are collected for different areas and activities, including visiting Trunk Bay and overnight mooring.

How many days should I plan to stay at Virgin Islands National Park?

It is recommended to stay a minimum of 3 days when visiting Virgin Islands National Park. This length of time allows for hiking, snorkeling, boating, and relaxing on the beaches.

What is the weather like at Virgin Islands National Park?

It is typically for the weather to be hot, windy, and cloudy at Virgin Islands National Park. The temperature varies from 74 to 89 degrees.

What is the busiest time to visit Virgin Islands National Park?

The busiest time at Virgin Islands National Park is from December to April.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

INSIDERS ONLY: UP PULSE

Deluxe Travel Provided by UP Pulse

Get the latest travel tips, crucial news, flight & hotel deal alerts...

Plus — expert strategies to maximize your points & miles by joining our (free) newsletter.

We respect your privacy. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA. Google's privacy policy and terms of service apply.

Deluxe Travel Provided by UP Pulse
DMCA.com Protection Status