Finding the perfect destination can be a daunting task. Even finding the perfect destination in the Virgin Islands can be overwhelming. How many islands exactly make up the Virgin Islands? There are seven main islands that are popular for tourists, but there are about 90 small islands making up the chain. Not sure which one to pick based on your travel group, budget and other preferences? We got you covered! We’ve gathered the basics you need to know about each island to make your destination decision.
British Virgin Islands vs. US Virgins Islands: Whats the Difference?
The British Virgin Islands are a British Overseas territory consisting of four larger islands (Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda, and Jost Van Dyke), while the U.S. Virgin Islands are a territory of the United States consisting of three larger islands (St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas), meaning you will find the culture and customs of the two island groups similar but distinctive.
The British Virgin Islands are known for being laid back and relaxed, whereas the U.S. Virgin Islands are generally considered more family friendly.
Nonetheless, you will find welcoming locals, delicious food, luxurious accommodations and a wealth of leisure and entertainment options no matter which island paradise you decide to visit.
Once you have settled the USVI vs. BVI question, you will then be left with the small matter of choosing an island based on your travel group, budget and other preferences. The following guide will familiarize you with the wonderful basics of each island so you can make an informed destination decision.
St. John vs. St. Thomas
The St. John vs. St. Thomas matchup is an intriguing one since both of these islands are extremely popular with American tourists, and a U.S. passport is not required to visit. They are also close enough together to make island hopping – not just possible – but highly recommended, too.
While St. Thomas covers an area of just 32 square miles, it is packed with things to do and places to see. Also known as Rock City because of its rugged terrain, St. Thomas is the most visited and cosmopolitan USVI and home to the territory’s capital, Charlotte Amalie. The island offers the tranquility of a Caribbean island combined with all of the comforts of home. Here, you will find family restaurants and fine dining establishments, exciting nightlife, pristine white-sand beaches and manicured golf courses surrounded by unspoiled natural beauty. If you like a bargain, you may also want to visit some of the many duty-free shops on the island. Explore St. Thomas vacation rentals
St. John is even smaller than St. Thomas, and most of its approximately 19 square miles is taken up by a breathtaking national park. This is the place to come if you want a quiet vacation surrounded by nature, but remember that the entertainment and nightlife of St. Thomas is just a short ferry ride away. On St. John’s many nature trails you will see amazing plants and wildlife, ancient rock carvings and abandoned sugar mills, and there is even an underwater trail for the total island experience. If you have a more relaxed vacation in mind, you could spend your days exploring some of St. John’s many coral reefs and soaking up the sun on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Explore St. John vacation rentals
St. Thomas vs. St. Croix
U.S. Virgin Islands visitors who are looking for excitement as well as relaxation usually find themselves engaged in a St. Thomas vs. St. Croix mental tug-of-war. Both Caribbean islands offer an amazing vacation experience, but they deliver their thrills in very different ways.
The big advantage that St. Thomas has over St. Croix is that it is very close to St. John and the British Virgin Islands. This means that you will be able to take day trips to nearby attractions and really spread your wings. St. Thomas also has more dining and entertainment options than St. Croix, but it is not as culturally diverse or historically interesting as its larger sister
St. Croix is the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands and is located about 42 miles south of St. Thomas. The island has been influenced by the French, the Dutch, the British, the Spanish and even the Knights of Malta, which could explain its rich cultural diversity. Rum distilleries, sugar mills and once majestic plantation houses can be seen all over St. Croix, and arts, crafts and music festivals are held throughout the year. While not as glamorous as St. Thomas, St. Croix still has plenty of entertainment options including a casino, amazing restaurants, several golf courses and, of course, stunning beaches. Explore St. Croix vacation rentals
Tortola vs. Anegada
American visitors will need a passport to visit the British Virgin Islands, but that is a small price to pay to experience all that these incredible islands have to offer. Tortola and Anegada are two islands that are as different as St. Thomas and St. Croix, but they both have a lot to offer.
Tortola is by far the largest of the two islands, and it may be the ideal choice if you just want to relax and unwind. You won’t find any chain restaurants or big-box retailers on Tortola, but you will discover dozens of boutiques, gift stores and craft shops tucked away on the island’s many cobbled streets and winding paths. Tortola has botanic gardens to explore and dozens of beaches to stroll or sunbathe on, and the island’s many protected anchorages are perfect places to go fishing or enjoy some water sports. You could even grab a surfboard and catch some waves at Cane Garden Bay! Explore Tortola vacation rentals
Anegada is to the BVI what St. John is to the USVI. While a lot flatter than its American counterpart, Anegada matches St. John in many ways. The other Virgin Islands were formed by volcanic activity, but Anegada is made out of coral and limestone. Its numerous reefs are considered some of the best scuba diving spots in the Caribbean, and the island is also home to a dizzying array of wildlife including flamingos and rare rock iguanas. If you want to experience nature and don’t fancy waking up St. John’s steep hills, Anegada could be just what the doctor ordered.
Virgin Gorda vs. Jost van Dyke
Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke are a study in contrasts. One is known for luxury and sophistication while the other has a reputation for being a party paradise. If you decide to visit the BVI, you may wish to stay on Virgin Gorda and let your hair down on Jost Van Dyke.
Virgin Gorda is the third largest BVI, and it is where you will find the tourist mecca’s most luxurious resorts and exclusive yacht clubs. Known for its fabulous beaches, secluded coves and meandering nature trails, Virgin Gorda attracts both the adventurous and those who just want to rest and soak up the sun. If you fall into the latter category, you may want to set aside a day or two to hike up Gorda Peak and visit the Baths. The top of Gorda Peak offers up some of the best views in the Caribbean, and the Baths are a natural wonder featuring picturesque grottos formed by massive granite boulders. Explore Virgin Gorda vacation rentals
Jost Van Dyke
Only 300 or so people call the tiny island of Jost Van Dyke home, but what the island lacks in size and population density it more than makes up for in fun factor. The most popular destination on the island is Great Harbor. Here the waterfront is surrounded by small restaurants and bars that make Jost Van Dyke one of the Caribbean’s most famous party spots. Halloween and New Years are especially popular. Jost Van Dyke is known for both its beaches and legendary bars like Foxy’s in Great Harbor and the Soggy Dollar Bar in White Bay, which is where a famous rum cocktail known as the Painkiller was invented.
USVI vs BVI: Both Are Great
The U.S. vs. British Virgin Islands debate has been raging for decades, and it is unlikely to end any time soon. If you want to know more about these amazing islands, you can contact the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board or the U.S. Virgin Islands tourism hub. Once you have settled the BVI vs. USVI quandary, please contact us to find the perfect place to vacation in the Caribbean.