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Relaxing in the Virgin Isles.

Deep in the Caribbean, but easily accessible from the United States, sit three beautiful Islands--St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John--known as the United States Virgin Islands (U.S.V.I.). Each has its own fascinating and distinct virtues, yet all can be explored in one warm vacation.

Charming St. Croix

Although it is the largest of the Virgin Islands (82 square miles), St. Croix possesses small town charm. Its citizens are friendly; its tourist sights and restaurants appealing. Cultural and historical diversity give the island its tropical splendor. From its native Arawak Indian and African slave roots to its colonial Danish history and American-backed government, St. Croix features a rich and varied heritage, seen in two enchanting old townships: Christiansted and Frederiksted.

Christiansted, on the north coast, remains a symbol of the island's past. Restaurants, stores, and pink and yellow 18th-century buildings line the streets. By day, locals and tourists shop at stores like La Parfumers or Simply Cotton. By night, they fill the eateries, then jump to the sounds of Calypso at clubs like the Calabash.

Frederiksted, on the west coast, is equally alluring. A quiet beach town, Frederiksted has fewer people and the pace is less hurried. On Sunday nights, the town is a mecca to islanders who come to catch a glimpse of the "Green Ray," an atmospheric phenomenon seen only as the sun sinks into the sea.

Cramer Park, Buccaneer and Sandy Point are among the most popular Crucian beaches. Nearby Buck Island has been named one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. On the surface, its satin, cafe-au-lait shores and clear, placid waters are warm and inviting. Below, its underwater park is a jewel of nature and an incredible snorkeling site.

St. Thomas: A Shopper's Paradise

Only a 20-minute island-hop by air is mountainous St. Thomas. Smaller, but more densely populated than St. Croix, it is the liveliest of the three Virgin Islands.

Though incredibly picturesque from overhead or from its harbor, St. Thomas, the "capital" of the U.S.V.I., attracts visitors who want to shop. Because of its "duty-free port," thousands of bargain-hunting tourists pour off cruise ships daily, jamming downtown Charlotte Amalie.

Perfume, liquor, jewelry and watches top the most-wanted list. Bargain-hunting is fun, but futile. Fragrance prices are regulated, so find a place you like (try Tropicana Perfume Shoppes) and settle down. Liquor shops abound, but supermarkets and Woolworth's offer the best rates.

But there is more to St. Thomas than shopping. Beautiful Magens Bay with its pristine sands and clear waters is ideal for sunning and swimming. And Coral World, adjacent to Coki Beach, is worth a side trip. Up above, Mountain Top, a peak at the highest point on the island, overlooks Magens Bay. In the evening, vista-searchers migrate to Paradise Point--once a pirate's lookout post, now a cafe with stores--for a dramatic view of Charlotte Amalie Harbor.

For dinner, head out to Eunice's for exceptional island cooking. Around midnight, Walter's in Charlotte Amalie is the place for a nightcap.

The Natural Wonders Of St. John

When you really want to get away from the crowd, the smallest Virgin Island becomes the greatest haven for solitude. Only a 20-minute ride by ferry from Red Hook Landing in St. Thomas is the unspoiled beauty of St. John. Two-thirds of the heavily forested island has been reserved as a part of the National Park system. The remaining third is sparsely populated. But, bring your insect repellent; mosquitos are not in short supply.

Rent a Jeep and take a drive around the island. The glistening, sapphire waters surrounding Trunk Bay have earned it a place on the list of the top 10 beaches of the world. It is also a fantastic snorkeling site. For a more private setting, venture to the quiet shores of Cinnamon Bay. A hike down Reef Bay Trail includes petroglyphs--Indian rock carvings from the island's pre-Columbian period--and take a short tour of a sugar mill ruin near Cruz Bay.

One trip, three islands and three different vacations. Few destinations offer as much as the U.S.V.I.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Caribbean Travel Guide
Author:Brown, Dwight
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:May 1, 1993
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Next Article:Jumpin' in Barbados.

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