Enjoy The Best Of Summer Outdoor Activities This Winter At These US Islands

As the days grow shorter and the months grow colder, there's nothing like planning a tropical getaway to warmer, sunnier, and — let's face it — happier places. And while a Mexican beach vacation or a Southeast Asia getaway might sound tempting, you don't need to go that far to enjoy a touch of summer during the winter.

Off the East Coast in the Caribbean Sea, the U.S. Virgin Islands are a prime spot for outdoor enthusiasts looking to unwind and reconnect with nature. Whether it's snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, swimming with turtles, or scuba diving, this collection of islands promises to deliver in terms of outdoor activities and fun under the sun.

Another perk why you should choose this destination: Americans can travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands without a passport. After the United States bought territory from Denmark in 1917, the islands became an official unincorporated territory. That said, U.S. citizens can travel freely and without major complications — all that's needed is a government-issued ID or birth certificate for younger travelers. To make things even more convenient, the U.S. Virgin Islands also use the U.S. dollar as their official currency, ultimately making transactions smooth and hassle-free for American visitors.

Exploring the best of St. Thomas

In terms of activities and adventures, St. Thomas stands out as the crown jewel among the U.S. Virgin Islands — and it's not hard to see why. As the most frequented destination in the archipelago, especially for travelers looking to indulge in some duty-free shopping, the island boasts a captivating blend of vibrant nightlife, cultural experiences, and natural beauty.

That said, St. Thomas won't disappoint when it comes to outdoor activities. First, local favorite Hull Bay is a top choice for some laid-back sunbathing and relaxing. Alternatively, for travelers looking for a little more excitement, Sapphire Beach is a prime spot for parasailing high above St. Thomas' turquoise waters. And if snorkeling is what you're after, a trip to Secret Harbor Beach or Coki Point Beach is calling your name. Away from the beach, other must-dos include the Skyride up to Paradise Point for panoramic views of the island, ziplining through the rainforest at Tree Limin Extreme, or signing up for one of the mangrove excursions that depart from Mangrove Lagoon Marina.

In terms of accommodation, St. Thomas caters to all types of travelers. For those on a budget, numerous cozy guest houses — like The Green Iguana — dot the island. Meanwhile, mid-range travelers have a plethora of boutique hotels to choose from, like At Home in The Tropics Bed & Breakfast. Lastly, luxury seekers will feel most at home at The Ritz-Carlton or the Secret Harbour Beach Resort.

The charms of St. John and beyond

The U.S. Virgin Islands isn't just about St. Thomas. Spread across 50 smaller islands and cays, as well as the larger islands of St. John and St. Croix, you're spoiled for choice. For instance, St. John, home to the Virgin Islands National Park, offers an untouched oasis of biodiversity and history. Open daily, this park preserves vibrant ecosystems and tells a story of decades past. Whether your plans include snorkeling the crystal clear waters of Trunk Bay (there's a $5 amenity fee to visit), hiking along the scenic Reef Bay Trail, or learning about the first slave insurrection in the Caribbean, St. John is a gateway to an unforgettable experience.

Meanwhile, over in St. Croix, the island comes to life with its own rhythm. Some of the top activities include walking along the Christiansted Boardwalk, hopping on a day trip to the nearby Buck Island, signing up for a rum distillery tour, touring Fort Christiansvaern, and visiting Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge. Then, there are always the beaches — with Turtle Beach, Jack's Bay Beach, Caraombola Beach, and Cane Bay Beach as the most popular sun-kissed destinations. Visiting during the winter also means a chance to enjoy the celebrations at the official St. Croix Crucian Christmas Festival, which celebrates long-standing traditions.

With its perfectly balmy weather and azure skies, winter in the U.S. Virgin Islands doesn't feel like winter at all. In fact, it's a tropical paradise at its peak.