Watersports, adventure abound in U.S.V.I.

     U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS -The U.S. Virgin Islands offers a variety of outdoor activities and watersports to satisfy the sense of adventure for active travelers. Whether diving into the clear-blue waters or exploring the fertile, green landscapes, St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas have much to offer. Experience the beauty and wonder of the U.S. Virgin Islands by actively touring the islands.
     Discover the beauty of the territory's underwater paradise for a close-up look at the some of the Caribbean's most beautiful coral reefs, tropical fish and rare aquatic life. While snorkeling is a popular watersport throughout the Caribbean, vacationers are sure to be amazed at uniqueness of the colorful marine world. Buck Island Reef National Monument, located off the shores of St. Croix, is one of only two underwater national monuments in the United States. Water enthusiasts can expect to encounter tropical fish, beautiful coral reefs and exotic underwater flora and fauna in a dramatic array of colors during an unparalleled snorkeling experience through the monument's 700 acres of protected national park. St. John's Trunk Bay, protected by the Virgin Islands National Park service, is also known for its self-guided snorkeling trails - complete with underwater plaques that describe marine life in the designated areas. The heart-shaped Magens Bay on St. Thomas is also a favorite among sun worshippers and snorkelers alike. The white-sand beach lined with lush green palm trees was named one of the most beautiful beaches in the world by National Geographic.
     For those who want to venture a little deeper below the surface, snuba is a unique watersport activity available on St. John and St. Thomas. Snuba combines the techniques of snorkeling and scuba diving without the heavy dive gear and extensive training courses. Personalized instruction, equipment and guided underwater tours are all provided. Snuba divers can reach depths of up to 20 feet to discover the wonders of the aquatic world. No prior experience is required.
     Scuba Diving
     The experienced water enthusiasts will love the scuba diving available in the USVI. St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas offer some of the best dive spots in the Caribbean. St. Croix's best known diving is found on its north side. Cane Bay Reef, Davis Bay and Salt River Bay are popular diving spots known for the 13,000-foot deep sub-sea canyon and steep diving walls. Divers off the coasts of St. Croix may also experience close encounters with rare species of sea turtles that nest seasonally on the island's beaches. The waters of the Pillsbury Sound between St. Thomas and St. John offer several popular shipwrecks, encrusted with brightly colored sponges and coral. On the northwest point of St. John, large boulder and rock formations such as Carvel Rock and Congo Cay offer interesting dive opportunities through unusual coves at varying depths.
     Kayakers will observe nature in its utmost perfection, witnessing exotic birds and tropical marine life in their natural environments. This eco-friendly activity will challenge your physical endurance, while learning about the islands' ecology. Experience the serenity of the Caribbean outdoors while paddling through the protected mangroves. Kayakers can catch a glimpse of snowy egrets, hundreds of juvenile fish traveling in schools, great barracudas, dwarf herrings, spotted eagle rays, jellyfish, mangrove crabs and even breeding nurse sharks. Salt River on St. Croix, the only documented landing site of Christopher Columbus' voyage in 1493, is also a popular area for kayaking. This ecological reserve, protected by the National Park, is a natural wildlife refuge.
     Visitors can capture a birds-eye view of all three islands from hundreds of feet in the air. Parasailing combines the experiences of hot air ballooning, hang gliding and parachuting all in one smooth ride. Professionally trained crews provide pick-ups by boat at most seaside hotels, cruise ship docks and along the waterfronts in some of our towns. U.S. Coast Guard-approved vessels provide smooth take-offs and landings.
     The USVI's consistent trade winds and calm waters provide ideal conditions for windsurfing. Many major hotels and resorts offer on-site rentals and personalized instruction. The most popular sites for the sport include Morningstar Beach, Sapphire Beach and Bluebeard's Beach on St. Thomas and Chenay Bay on St. Croix. Advanced windsurfers will enjoy the challenge of crossing the Pillsbury Sound, which stretches from the shores of St. John to St. Thomas, as they balance the propulsion of the trade winds and the ocean currents.
     Submarines and Glass-bottom Boats
     For visitors who cannot swim or who just want to observe the islands' underwater beauty without getting wet, the USVI offers submarine cruises and glass bottom boat rides for their enjoyment. The Atlantis Submarine and other semi-submersible vessels provide underwater exploration in a comfortable, air-conditioned environment to depths of up to 150 feet below sea level. Passengers come face-to-face with sea turtles, exotic schools of fish, beautiful coral formations, wrecks and more, as knowledgeable crews narrate their underwater adventure. Both day and nighttime tours are available to explorers of all ages. Visitors can also catch a glimpse of aquatic life just beneath the water's crystal-clear surface aboard glass-bottom boats. These boats provide a unique look into the natural habitat of hundreds of species of colorful marine life, while providing a fun daytime activity for groups or individuals.
     Marine Parks and Aquariums
     Coral World Marine Park & Observatory, located on St. Thomas' northeast shore at Coki Point, is a popular tourist attraction. The 4.5-acre park consists of an underwater observatory tower, a tropical nature trail, a marine gardens aquarium and an 80,000-gallon coral reef tank. The circular, glass-enclosed tank offers visitors a glimpse of the Caribbean Sea and its underwater inhabitants. The aquatic panoramic view provides visitors with an up-close look at beautiful species of coral, tropical fish, stingrays, barracuda, tarpon, moray eels, sea horses, crabs, nurse sharks, sea anemones and more. The open-air shark pool features daily scheduled feedings with a narrated introduction to sharks and their habits. Kids particularly enjoy the touch pond, which allows interaction with a variety of gentle sea creatures such as starfish and sea cucumbers.
     The St. Croix Aquarium, located in the Caravelle Arcade in Christiansted, consists of a series of small aquariums showcasing local marine life in the region. The owner and operators of the aquarium dive daily to provide fresh food for the aquatic animals housed there. Guided tours are available Tuesday through Saturday.
     Soft Adventure on Land
     Bike tours are a fun way to explore the beautiful scenery of our islands. Take a ride through the lush, green rainforest, ascend to the mountaintops, coast down the hills and ride along the shorelines for some of the most breathtaking vistas in the Caribbean. Guided tours are available off of St. Croix's west end and on Water Island, the fourth U.S. Virgin Island located off the coast of St. Thomas. Many tours include historical and ecological lessons for a different perspective of the territory. Full- and half-day equipment rentals are also available for those who want to explore the island on their own. Horseback riding is another interesting way to explore the islands' typography. Donkey tours are also available on St. John.
     Explore the beauty of the Caribbean outdoors with a hike through the rainforests and other lush areas. Led by experienced herbalists and naturalists, hikers can learn about the indigenous plants, flowers, herbs and their medicinal uses. National Park rangers on St. John also provide bird watching tours. Popular areas for hikes include Reef Bay on St. John and Annaly Bay, Jack's Bay, Isaac's Bay and Estate Mount Washington on St. Croix.
     St. Thomas and St. Croix also offer some of the best greens for teeing off in the Caribbean. St. Thomas' Mahogany Run, boasting 18 of the most beautiful and challenging holes in the Caribbean, is known for its signature trio nicknamed the Devil's Triangle. The Buccaneer resort on St. Croix also features a 18-hole golf course which sprawls across much of the property's 340 acres with a par-70 course encompassing 5,810 yards of sloping fairways, deceptive bunkers and water hazards. St. Croix's Carambola Golf Course, designed by legendary golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, also features 18 beautiful holes, which have served as the site of many LPGA tournaments.
     Beautiful pristine beaches and glistening turquoise waters are abundant and easily accessible. All beaches are open to the public and are a natural means of fun for everyone. Whether looking for adventure or a relaxing retreat on the shore, the beaches provide the perfect landscape for an unforgettable vacation experience. St. Thomas alone has more than 40 beaches along its shoreline. Visitors will find that many of the aforementioned activities are available right off the beach. Tour operators, boat rental agencies and numerous beachside watersports centers on each island provide equipment rentals and daily tours to make it easy for vacationers to enjoy the islands' crystal-clear waters. Rental of snorkeling gear, lounge chairs, lockers, floats and towels are oftentimes available at a minimal charge. Many beachfront properties also provide complimentary watersports and equipment rentals with their accommodations packages. Changing facilities and showers are available on-site at some of the more popular beaches. This may be important when planning to go into town after an activity. Swimwear and abbreviated attire are not permissible within city limits.
     A Few Safety Tips
     To ensure the preservation of the U.S. Virgin Islands' beautiful marine environment, visitors should be aware of a few rules. Removing sea fans and living coral is against the law. Driving on the beaches is not permitted to avoid accidentally destroying the nests of endangered sea turtles. Visitors should also refrain from touching living organisms and stepping on live coral because some can cause injuries. Gathering shells that have washed up on the beach is acceptable, but collecting shells from the sea is discouraged. Adherence to these simple rules will ensure safety and protect the islands' delicate ecological balance.
     For personal safety, the use of sunscreen is recommended at all times, even on overcast days. The sun usually peaks around mid-day. To protect the skin, reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming. Also consider wearing a t-shirt to protect your back during extensive snorkeling. "Reef walkers," (shoes designed to protect feet from possible underwater hazards), are also recommended when enjoying watersports in some areas. For land-based activities, sunglasses and a hat will provide protection from the sun. Drink plenty of water to maintain hydration.
     For more information about the U.S. Virgin Islands, call the Visitors Center at (800) 372-USVI.