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A Caribbean experience you will never forget
By Patricia Caldwell
(photos in this article courtesy of the U.S. Virgin Department of Tourism and Minority Golf Magazine)
A most enchanting excursion awaits the visitor to the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is an experience you will never forget and will yearn to repeat. Pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, charming local culture and centuries of intriguing history all contribute to the allure of the three beautiful Caribbean gems: St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas. There are actually 50 islands in all, some merely rocks or islets jutting out on the shimmering turquoise waters. While St. John and St. Thomas lie between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, St. Croix lies entirely in the Caribbean.
Historically speaking, for nearly 3,000 years the Taino and Carib Indians inhabited these islands but most were killed off during European occupation. Christopher Columbus discovered these islands on his second voyage to the New World, landing on St. Croix in 1493. Denmark purchased them in 1733, bringing St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas under Danish rule. The slave trade flourished in the islands at this time, as indigenous people of West Indian and African descent were used to maintain the islands’ sugar cane industry. When the slaves were freed in 1848, the population of St. John plummeted and the sugar cane industry died off. By the early 20th century, cattle and subsistence farming and bay rum production were the main industries. Today’s native populations include people from Africa, the West Indies, Europe, North America, India, the Middle East, and the Orient.
The U.S. Virgin Islands is an “official American territory,” governed by U.S. laws. Anyone born on in the USVI is an American citizen. All currency is the U.S. dollar and mail is delivered via U.S. mail services with the same postage rates. Although English is the native language, most island residents enhance it with a charming lilt called “Calypso.”
What better place to spend a vacation than where fun and adventure are abundant and the activities are endless? Sports include golf, tennis, horseback riding, biking, hiking, and sportsfishing. The capital of watersports, the USVI boasts numerous places to scuba dive, snorkel, sail, windsurf, parasail and “snuba.”
A golfer’s paradise, the U.S. Virgin Islands are home to several superior courses–designed by such renowned architects as George and Tom Fazio and Robert Trent Jones–which challenge golfers of all skill levels. There are no courses on tiny St. John, but its two sister islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix are home to interesting links which rival top courses elsewhere in the world. St. Thomas’ Mahogany Run Golf Course and Resort recently underwent a multimillion-dollar course renovation. The 18-hole, 6,022-yard, par-70 course is known for its sheer beauty and exciting play, especially on the 13th, 14th and 15th holes. This signature trio, known as the legendary Devil’s Triangle, turns an already ambitious round of play into a real cliffside drama, where golfers must overcome a formidable stretchy of the Caribbean Sea that sprawls between the tee and the green.
Along with eight tennis courts, three beaches, four restaurants, and other full-service amenities, the Buccaneer resort on St. Croix also boasts a spectacular 18-hole golf course which sprawls across much of the property’s 340 acres. Known as the island’s most scenic course, this challenging par-70 course encompasses 5,810 yards worth of sloping fairways, deceptive bunkers, and water hazards. In addition to fabulous views of the Caribbean, on clear days select holes offer glimpses of St. Thomas and St. John, lying 38 miles across the sea. Designed by Bob Joyce, the course also provides magnificent panoramic vistas of Christiansted harbor to the west and world-famous Buck Island National Park to the east.
Another set of 18 beautiful and challenging holes awaits on the north shore of St. Croix at the Carambola Golf Club. This Robert Trent Jones-designed course, set in a valley of storybook design, is the site of the annual LPGA Golf Tournament. The lush fairways of Carambola’s championship course roll past shimmering lakes, brilliant bougainvillea, and stately palm trees.
Each island has its share of fabulous accommodations (i.e., the Westin St. John, St. Thomas’ Marriott Frenchman’s Reef Resort and the Divi Carina Bay Resort at St. Croix), and many, many great restaurants, such as St. Croix’ famous Duggan’s Reef, Craig and Sally’s and Lillian’s Caribbean Grill on St. Thomas, where we feasted on local dishes like Fungi, conch, yellowfin snapper and Kallaloo (a stew of spinach, okra, and seafood). Special tours abound, such as the kayak tour of Magens Bay, the amphibious tour on the Caribbean Pelican Ride, and a tour of the delightful Coral World Marine Park and Underwater Observatory (St. Thomas).
Thousands of vacationers who visit this tropical American paradise each year return home feeling invigorated, relaxed and refreshed after days spent indulging in the luxuries of Caribbean hospitality that is native to the US Virgin Islands. There are countless opportunities for recreation, adventure, and discovery, from shipping and sightseeing to scuba diving and snorkeling, it’s all in a day’s play!
Make your plans now for a 2019 season of joy you’ll never forget.