As I’ve mentioned before, my recent gig with Oyster.com allowed me to travel extensively around the Caribbean (I know, I know) and explore off-the-beaten-path destinations that I would not normally have thought to go. When most people think of the Caribbean, they picture large resorts with rows of beach chairs, pina coladas, and nightlife by the ocean. While this image often results in a good vacation (those resorts are set up for purpose and convenience, after all), I found that it was the quieter, more out of the way places that were the most special and that I yearned to go back to once I was home.
Remote destinations require more planning and additional travel. However, if you are looking to get away from the tourist crowds and beach vendors, options DO exist, especially in the Caribbean. One of the places that I was fortunate enough to visit was Water Island in the US Virgin Islands.
The Definition of Getting Away
A gorgeous, remote island just off of St. Thomas, Water Island is known for its rugged beauty and spectacular views. With a population of barely 200, the island has no hotels, taxis, gas stations, shops, or a main town. There are only a handful of restaurants, so it’s a good idea to buy groceries in St. Thomas before coming over. Most visitors get around by renting a golf cart and driving it around the island. It reminded me a little of the Aran Islands of Ireland, just in a tropical environment.
At almost 500 acres, Water Island is the smallest island in the main USVI chain, which also comprises St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix. The island is accessible by a short, eight-minute ferry ride from St. Thomas’s Crown Bay Marina, a five-minute drive from the airport. The ferry is six bucks if you have a suitcase, and folks are plenty happy to help you into and out of the ferry. You can easily do a day trip from St. Thomas, but if you have the opportunity to spend a few days here, do it!
Where to Stay
I visited the island to review the Virgin Islands Campground, which I loved. It’s more “glamping” than actual camping – there are bungalows, a large shared kitchen, and even an apartment if you want to be fancy (I stayed in the apartment). There are also vacation homes and eco-cabins around the island that are available for rent; check a site like VRBO for more info.
Water Island was special and unique because of the lovely folks I met (both locals and travellers) who had a deep appreciation for the island, its remote nature, and natural beauty. The island is laidback and friendly – everyone knows each other and routinely participates in community events such as potlucks, movie nights, and cookouts on the beach. Water Island is also very safe; most folks don’t lock their doors.
This dude was just chilling on the side of the road. He was about the size of a football!
What to Do
Although it’s a small island, there is still plenty to do! As one person told me, you can do everything or nothing at all – it lacks the pressure you might feel at a larger destination or resort. The island has all the outdoor watersports you’d find in any tropical area including great snorkeling, diving, sailing, and kayaking. Here are some additional and unique attractions around the island:
The main attraction of Water Island, Honeymoon Beach is set in a gorgeous cove with plenty of shade, two beach bars/grills, and views of sailboats.
On the east side of the island, a rugged and secluded beach where you can dive and snorkel.
Built as part of the US’s defense strategy during World War II, Fort Segarra is an uncompleted underground fort. You can still explore the tunnels and the area offers beautiful island views.
Ruins from plantations from the post-colonization era are considered of great historical value to Water Island. Note that both Fort Segarra and the plantation ruins aren’t organized, operating museums, rather, visitors are welcome to explore these sites on their own.
More reading on Water Island and info for planning a trip: