St. John, USVI
St. John has it all, from picturesque hiking trails to calm, dazzlingly clear water in a spectrum of blue hues. The sleepy hamlet of Cruz Bay is home to most of St. John's 3,500 residents, not counting the 350 or so feral donkeys that stake their own claim. When you max out on serenity and need to shop, visit Mongoose Junction, a lovely collection of boutiques and galleries in Cruz Bay, or catch a quick ferry ride west to the duty-free frenzy of St. Thomas, also a U.S. territory. Likewise, the mellow British Virgin Island of Tortola is just a 15-minute ferry ride away.
Before You Go: Need-to-know info
Passport, or photo I.D. and original birth certificate
4 hours from NYC; 11 hours from Los Angeles; 8 hours from Chicago; 7 hours from Dallas (plus a 20-minute boat ride)
When to Go: St. John at its best
February to August. Year-round temperatures range from 69 (winter evenings) to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Rainy season runs from September to January.
What To Do
Of the island's 22 trails, Reef Bay Trail is one of the best, with a relatively easy three-mile descent through forest and cactus woodlands. Along the way, you'll see haunting sugar mill ruins and pre-Columbian carvings. Bring your bathing suits: The trek peters out at Reef Bay, perfect for a refreshing dip. The Virgin Island National Park Service offers guided hikes and boat rides.
Beautiful Trunk Bay, on the north shore, offers a snorkel "trail" and "SNUBA" diving. Both are hybrids: The underwater "hike" displays 15 plaques that point out coral and identify fish, while SNUBA combines snorkeling and diving (you draw air via a hose from the boat instead of from a tank strapped to your back). Tip: Inquire about cruise ship schedules and go in between dockings to avoid crowds.