U.S. Virgin Islands National Parks
U.S. Virgin Islands National Parks protect an amazing amount of beauty, history, and biodiversity - all wrapped up in shimmering sapphire hues and warm sunshine. Come #FindYourPark in the Virgin Islands.
Virgin Islands National Parks
U.S. Virgin Islands
Table of Contents
5 National Parks in the U.S. Virgin Islands
Buck Island Reef National Monument
Buck Island Reef National Monument is one of three NPS Units on the larger island of St. Croix, and is just 1.5 miles away from the mainland. The National Monument encompasses over 19,000 acres of area, both on land and the surrounding sea, and protects tropical dry forests, manchineel beach forest, shoreline, and beaches.
The park also protects several types of wildlife including hawksbill, green, leatherback, and loggerhead sea turtles, and the St. Croix Ground Lizard. Diving, snorkeling, hiking, and picnicking are all popular activities in the park, but fishing is not allowed due to its status as a marine protected park.
Visitors to the park can take a ferry by one of the park's concessionaires leaving from Christiansted or nearby Green Cay Marina. Buck Island Reef National Monument was established in 1961 by John F. Kennedy and then later expanded by President Clinton in 2001.
Christiansted National Historic Site
Christiansted National Historic Site is an urban park on St. Croix that preserves many of the 18th-century buildings that were here during the height of Danish occupation. Fort Christiansvaern, the Danish West India & Guinea Company Warehouse, the Steeple Building, Danish Custom House, and the Scale House have all been preserved to help tell the story of Danish Colonialism on St. Croix. Tours are offered of Fort Christiansvaern, and self-guided options are available along with a bookstore and museums.
A prominent figure of Christiansted and St. Croix was Alexander Hamilton. While many may only be familiar with his early years from the hugely popular Broadway musical, it was in St. Croix where he first had success running a business. As America's first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton credits his time in St. Croix during his youth as a factor in his later accomplishments as a Founding Father and American statesman.
Christiansted National Historic Site was established in 1952 as the Virgin Islands National Historic Site and was renamed in 1961.
Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve
Salt River Bay is a living museum on St. Croix, encompassing 1,015 acres that are jointly managed by the National Park Service and the local government of USVI. Its estuary is one of the most important in the Virgin Islands and holds some of the largest remaining mangrove forests in the Virgin Islands. The submarine canyon and coral reef are also vital to the marine ecosystem. It is also the only known site where Christopher Columbus's expedition set foot on U.S. soil.
Salt River Bay is also important archaeologically. The human record here dates back to the days of Christopher Columbus in 1492 and proceeds through the Spanish extermination of the Kalinago (Caribs), European colonization, and West African Slavery.
Today, visitors can enjoy diving, hiking, snorkeling, and other water activities in and around the park, as well as visiting the other nearby NPS sites on St. Croix. It's also one of only seven bioluminescent bays in the Caribbean, drawing large crowds when the organisms are active. Salt River Bay National Historical Park was created by Congress in 1992.
Virgin Islands National Park
Virgin Islands National Park encompasses two-thirds of the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands and protects not only history and culture on the island itself, but also the surrounding waters, reefs, and beaches. Many people visit to bask in the warm sun and to peer out on to the emerald and sapphire waters of the Caribbean, but there is much more to this park than its stunning natural beauty. St. John, like many islands in the Caribbean, has a long, rich history of indigenous peoples, slave trade, European commerce, and stories from the sugar plantations. Many of these plantation ruins can be found all around the park, like the Annaberg and Catherineberg Sugar Mills. In other places, you can find traces of St. John's ancient past in the form of petroglyphs left long ago.
Today, Virgin Islands National Park has modern-day amenities and a private resort or two nearby, but also has more primitive camping sites if you just want to enjoy the solitude. Getting around the island by car is your best bet, as it will allow you to see more of the park in a day. Arriving by boat or seaplane is a must, so flying into nearby St. Thomas and taking a ferry across to island is the most common option. For our visit, we rented a car on St. Thomas and just took it with us on the car ferry over to St. John for the day, which worked out great.
Hiking and snorkeling are all popular activities at the park. You can't go wrong with any of the beaches here, but Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay are the most popular. For overnight camping, Cinnamon Bay is where you'll be headed. Virgin Islands National Park is open all year, 24-hours a day except for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July. The park preserves a total of 7,259 acres of land and water areas and was created in 1956. It has since been expanded several times.
See our guide for more information about visiting Virgin Islands National Park.
Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument
Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument protects over 12,000 acres of submerged land around the island of St. John and protects an amazing amount of biodiversity. Coral, mangrove forest, sea grass beds, and various other plants and animals thrive here. Hurricane Hole is popular place to visit, and as the name suggests, it offers boaters a protected refuge during storms and hurricanes. It also offers snorkelers an up-close look at the pristine mangrove habitat that so much marine life calls home.
Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument is always open and is managed by Virgin Islands National Park, which sits adjacent to the monument. Both share a Visitor Center at Cruz Bay on the island of St. John.