Exploring the U.S. Virgin Islands: Part 1

There’s nothing better than knocking another destination of your bucket list. Sometimes however, life unexpectedly takes you to beautiful places that never really were on your list to begin with. That’s what I love about travel. You visit new places and meet new people… form bonds and make friendships… learn about new cities that you never heard of and learn about your hometown too in the process as you try to explain (or figure out) where you came from. Somewhere along the way those new friendships turn into lifelong bonds and before you know it, you’re having bunny chows off a small island called St Croix in the U.S Virgin Islands. Talk about a beautiful mix of culture!

The US Virgin Islands were never on my list of must-visit places but after some unexpected adventures one Sunday eve in 2017 that led me to find my heart somewhere in the middle of Cape Town, a casually talked about trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands went from a middle-of-the-night conversation to endless hours of excited planning to a full on much awaited vacation. Sigh! That crazy thing called life. You never know the unexpected direction she’s going to take!

Our trip to the U.S.V.I. soon ended up with an unexpected layover in New York City which, if I’m honest, turned out to be absolutely magical.

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Sure old New York is grimy, dirty and smelly but nothing beats the butterflies of flying across three continents to find the face of someone you love. With a few hours to spare during the early hours of Christmas morning, we went in search of Times Square and the all famous Rockefeller Tree. Cheesy? Yes. Christmassy? To the core.

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We ended our layover with warm hot chocolate and ginger flavored cookies in a friend’s apartment before catching an Uber back to John F. Kennedy Airport. From there, we boarded a connecting flight to Miami and then flew to the tropical island of St Thomas in the Caribbean!

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After arriving at Cyril E King Airport, we collected our luggage, booked a rental car and headed onward to check into our hotel. Despite being hit by two category 5 hurricanes in the preceding months, the island was still beautiful with lush tropical greenery and crystal clear blue waters layered with endless yachts all around us. After showering and taking close to a day to recover from all that traveling, we were ready to explore the island! But first, a second breakfast!

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After sipping on cocktails by the water, we wandered down the duty free streets of St Thomas and explored the nearby area around our hotel.

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The area was filled with open air bars, Turkish souks, tropical paintings and hidden alleyways.

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We did some random walking and soon decided that the next best thing to do would be a road trip around the island and since this is the Caribbean, why not go beach hopping as well! So we grabbed a local map, plugged in a few destinations into the GPS and headed off to the first beach!

Many of the beaches were still closed due to remaining destruction from the hurricane but onward we went in search of sun and sea and ended up at Bolongo Bay.

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The beach itself seemed closed to swimming but the beach side restaurant was still open so we opted for conch fritters, burgers and cocktails at Iggie’s Beach Bar and Grill. This place was actually recommended to us by a great local guy we met while waiting to fetch our car from Avis. He was pretty spot on about those delicious burgers!

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From Bolongo Bay we headed on to Cowpet Bay for a relaxing afternoon of laughs and splashing our toes in crystal clear blue waters.

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Nothing beats a resort that strategically places sundeck chairs in the water. Who wouldn’t want to read a book and have gentle waves lap at their feet?

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As the sun began to set and the sky turned its crimson reds, we headed back to the hotel for a shower and dinner. Our first day of exploring was done!

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Hi World! I'm Shal - an environmental microbiologist, writer, teacher and artist from Durban, South Africa. I've spent the last two years traveling and teaching Chemistry and English to young kids in Asia. Life of Shal was founded as a way to share travel experiences, tips and other worldly magic with you! Join me on my journey!

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