U.S. Virgin Islands destination wedding guide - WSPA.com

U.S. Virgin Islands destination wedding guide

Updated: Aug 17, 2011 04:26 PM EDT
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By Jill Fergus

Looking for a hassle-free tropical ceremony or honeymoon locale? You'd be hard-pressed to find a sun-drenched destination more convenient than St. Thomas, which along with St. John and St. Croix make up the U.S. Virgin Islands. It's a quick plane ride to Charlotte Amalie, you don't need a passport, everyone speaks English, the beaches are plentiful and there's to-die-for duty-free shopping.
 

St. Thomas

Wedding Requirements: To get married in the U.S. Virgin Islands, go to visitusvi.com to download an application, which must be filled out (typed) and submitted to the Territorial Court eight days prior to your arrival on St. Thomas. Once on the island, couples must pick up the license (application/license fee is $100) in person at the courthouse (photo ID is required).


Wedding Venues 

St. Thomas has a plethora of choices for scenic weddings, including the Villa Botanica, a former sugar plantation where nuptials take place on the stone terrace overlooking St. Thomas harbor or beside a historic sugar mill. Adventurous types can take the Skyride aerial tram up to Paradise Point to swap vows in a hilltop gazebo offering panoramic island views. If you've always had your heart set on a beach wedding, there's crescent-shaped Magen's Bay, one of the world's top strands.

Shopping 

Start bright and early, because there's a lot of ground to cover! Most shops are clustered around Main Street (Dronningen's Gade) and Waterfront Highway, and along the side streets like Palm Passage and Drake's Passage. There's everything from his-and-her watches (Rolex, Tag Heuer), perfume and electronics to fine jewelry with precious stones and crystal from Baccarat and Waterford (and don't worry, all stores ship). If you're more interested in handicrafts, you'll find good deals at the Native Arts and Crafts Cooperative on Tarbor Gade, which sells straw bags and wood carvings from local artisans. 

Restaurants 

One of Charlotte Amalie's most popular spots -- and a good choice for a post-shopping meal is Cuzzin's; housed in a former 18th-century stable replete with original red brick walls and modern artwork, it serves authentic Caribbean like curried chicken, stewed conch and mauby, a drink made from bark and spices. Just west of the capital in the village of Frenchtown are several fine restaurants including Craig and Sally's, whose daily-changing menu might include baked yellowtail snapper or paprika-dusted duck, and the waterfront Oceana, serving Caribbean lobster and bouillabaisse in a historic home. 


Off the Beaten Path:
Water Island

Sign up for a biking tour on tiny Water Island (a five-minute ferry ride from St. Thomas) where there are no traffic lights, hotels or even a main town -- residents get around via golf cart. Cycle along tree-lined paths (watch out for iguanas), passing the remains of an old fort and a 17th-century plantation, then finish up at the appropriately named Honeymoon Beach for a refreshing dip. 


St. John

If you love the ease of the U.S. Virgin Islands — no passport needed, English speaking, driving on the right — but want the feeling of disappearing, then nature-rich St. John is the place for you. Expect crystalline beaches, residents who seemingly don't have a care in the world and an eco-friendly vibe.

Wedding Requirements: To get married in the USVI, go to visitusvi.com to download an application. Fill it out (it must be typed) and submit to the Territorial Court eight days prior to your arrival. Once you land on St. Thomas, arrival point for flights, you must pick up the license (application/license fee is $100) in person at the courthouse (photo ID is required). Many couples opt to go straight to the office from the airport before catching the ferry to St. John.


Nature 

Quite simply, St. John is a nature-lover's paradise; two-thirds of the island is a national park. Hikers can choose from 22 trails — our pick, Reef Bay Trail, a three-mile downhill trek that passes through lush forests, old Danish plantation ruins and Amerinidan petroglyphs before winding up at Reef Bay, a pretty swimming beach. Birders can watch for parrots, hummingbirds and pelicans along the Francis Bay Trail, and snorkelers can lose themselves ogling the colorful fish, rays and turtles at Cinnamon, Hawksnest or Trunk Bays, (the latter features a 225-yard self-guided, signposted underwater trail). There's also fishing, biking and horseback riding. 


Sailing


Island-hopping through the uninhabited cays, romantic coves and coral atolls of the USVI and neighboring BVI (British Virgin Islands) falls in the not-to-be missed category. Hire a sailboat and the captain will charter a course for just the two of you, or sign up for a catamaran cruise with snorkeling stops and a visit to Jost Van Dyke, a BVI favorite that's home to two legendary sailors' bars — Foxy's on Great Harbor, where Foxy himself croons calypso tunes, and White Bay's Soggy Dollar Bar, birthplace of the painkiller cocktail. 


Cruz Bay Restaurants 

For such a small isle, St. John has a number of good dining options, all of which are located in the ferry port of Cruz Bay. At Morgan's Mango, enjoy coconut shrimp with a banana dipping sauce and grilled mahi mahi with a Cruzan rum-and-mango sauce along with frozen drinks like margaritas and pina coladas. Long-time favorite Lime Inn, in the center of town, has a surf and turf menu (Caribbean lobster, catch of the day, stuffed filet mignon). Late-night choices are pretty much confined to Woody's, a tiny dive bar with a happy hour that starts at 3 p.m. (hey, it's the Caribbean!) and The Quiet Mon, an "Irish" pub with beer on tap and darts.


Off the Beaten Path:
Coral Bay

The little-visited eastern portion of the island is worth a drive for the spectacular scenery and its edge-of-nowhere quality. High in the hills is funky little Coral Bay, with its old Moravian church, a few grocery stores, and a handful of cafés and craft shops selling handmade jewelry, silkscreened fabrics and watercolors from local artists. Further on is Hurricane Hole, a breathtaking protected bay.  


St. Croix

Sister islands St. Thomas and St. John may be more well known, which is part of the charm of this former Danish colony. 

Wedding Requirements: To get married in the USVI, go to visitusvi.com to download an application, which must be filled out (typed) and submitted to the Territorial Court eight days prior to your arrival on St. Thomas. Once on the island, couples must pick up the license (application/license fee is $100) in person at the courthouse (photo ID is required).


Christiansted
 

St. Croix's capital is dominated by the mustard-yellow Christiansted Fort, built by Danish sugar plantation owners in 1774. Tour the Old Scale House, where goods were weighed, and the Danish West India Company warehouse, where molasses and rum were stored. (Even today, cannons line the ramparts.) The city is also the heart of the island's growing arts scene. Dozens of artists live here, working in mediums ranging from woodcarving to watercolors, sculpture to photography. A few notable galleries include Danica Art Gallery, Mitchell Larsen Studio and D&D Studio. Pick up one of the signature Crucian "hook" bracelets, and wear the hook facing in to show you're taken.


Museums and Tours
 

Get a sense of what life was like during the 18th century with a visit to the Whim Plantation Museum, an 11-acre former sugar plantation. Tour the restored Great House with antique furniture and china on display and explore the old stone factory ruins housing sugar-making tools. Periodically, candlelight concerts are held on the grounds. Afterward, it's time for a little rum tasting at the Cruzan Rum Distillery where you can see first-hand how the island's most popular spirit is made. You'll want to get a few bottles to go; we recommend the orange and coconut flavors.   


Kayaking, Biking and Golfing 

There are plenty of activities to keep even the most adventurous busy. Take an ecological kayak in Salt River Bay National Historical Park; Christopher Columbus sailed into this bay in 1493. Rent a bike for a tour around Frederiksted, a sleepy town on the west coast full of historic buildings and churches and dominated by a large fort. Golf-lovers will want to play a round on the Robert Trent Jones-designed Carambola course.


Off the Beaten Path:
Snorkeling 

Take a snorkeling cruise to uninhabited 880-acre Buck Island, designated an underwater national monument due the three-mile long coral reef off its eastern edge. Follow the 200-yard underwater snorkeling trail where signs indicate the various fish (parrotfish, angelfish) and coral (brain, fan) you're likely to spot along the way. Other nautical critters to look out for include multi-colored sponges, blue-streaked rainbow runners, triangular-shaped trunkfish, baby squid -- even the occasional sea turtle and moray eel.


More on the USVI:

Ultimate U.S. Virgin Islands Brides looking for a beach wedding flock to the USVI, and it's no wonder why. Three sun-soaked isles provide endless possibilities for wedding-day bliss.

10 Caribbean Islands Perfect for Weddings: USVI The USVI is a triple threat: three isles, three styles, all accessible without cracking open your passport.

The Ultimate Beach Wedding Guide Planning a beach wedding? We found ideal beach destinations, perfect for exchanging vows, plus expert advice from wedding planners to make sure you enjoy your day in the sun.

Best of the USVI One of the best places to have a beach wedding in America is on one of the three sun-drenched islands that make up the USVI — St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix. We've found some of the best wedding locales, restaurants and resorts on each island.

Guide to the U.S. Virgin Islands St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John are sister islands, but each has its own special character.

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