If there’s one thing that The Virgin Islands are renowned for, it’s island hopping. So after finding myself located in St Thomas for a few weeks, I set my sights further afield (or a sea should we say) and discovered Water Island. It makes up 1/4 of the inhabited U.S. Virgin Islands and is just a 10 minute ferry ride from St Thomas – I soon decided that this would be my first island hop!
The U.S. Virgin Islands are made up of 62 islands but only four of them are inhabited (St Croix, St Thomas, St John and Water Island) The latter is the smallest of the four at nearly 2km² and is home to about 200 residents. With a few holiday homes and hostels on the island, you can decide to spend your holiday here but most people hop over on the water ferry for a day of exploring what it has to offer.
There is a small water ferry which brings visitors to the island every hour. It runs from Crown Bay Marina in St Thomas and is located opposite Tickles Bar. Make sure you arrive about 10 mins before and wait for the captain to announce boarding where you’ll buy your ticket from him before getting on. A return ticket costs $10 and you can find out the ferry times here.
WHAT TO DO
Honeymoon beach is arguably the most popular attraction on the island and the main reason for many people to visit. This stunning stretch of white sand combined with the crystal clear waters and busy beach bars make the journey across the islands worthwhile and I could easily spend a whole day soaking up the sun there.
Once being dropped at Phillip’s Landing on the ferry, a free shuttle bus heading to the beach was waiting. The journey was only a matter of minutes and it really wouldn’t have been hard to have walked but a ride on one of the USVI’s notorious ‘open air safari buses’ was a welcome adventure.
There are two beach bars on Honeymoon Beach: Dinghy’s Beach Bar and Heidi’s Honeymoon Grill. They are both very popular but I decided to base myself at Dinghy’s Beach Bar and take advantage of their free sun loungers (and I believe they’re free regardless of whether you’re actually a customer or not!) There’s even a floating bar in the water so you can always make sure your drink is on hand no matter where you are – now that is forward thinking at its finest.
Since arriving in St Thomas, I have been shocked at how many chickens I’ve seen EVERYWHERE (insert ‘look at all those chickens’ vine – if you get me then we’re already friends) It seems that chickens like to jump on the island hopping bandwagon too as I kept seeing lots wander up and down the sand which made me laugh.
It is a very popular spot and, as the day went on, more and more people began to arrive. Lots of visitors come purely for the beach and I wouldn’t blame them; if you think about it, you’re likely to be paying $5 entry on lots of the best beaches in St Thomas so the $10 getting to Water Island makes a day spent solely on the beach worthwhile. Regardless of if you’re spending the day or just a few minutes there, a trip to Water Island just wouldn’t be complete without checking out Honeymoon Beach.
As nice as Honeymoon Beach is, it is quite crowded and touristy. Limestone Beach, however, is the complete opposite.
To get there, follow the main road from the ferry drop off until you come to ‘Virgin Islands Campground’ and on the right you’ll see an entrance with a sign to ‘Limestone Beach’. There are two paths but take the one directly in front of you to get to the beach.
It wasn’t the easiest walk down and there were times I very much doubted whether I was going the right way. In true explorer style, I climbed under fallen tree branches and dodged sharp rocks underfoot but followed the sound of the waves and finally got to a beautiful EMPTY beach. My flip flops almost made it onto the tree of death located at the end of the path (my condolences to all shoes lost on the journey) but it was worth it!
This beach isn’t the same powder white sand found at Honeymoon Beach but is instead a bit rocky and sharp.
The water is SO clear and is sort of enclosed in a big pool. It goes super shallow for ages with no waves – it’s like a big hot tub! This does, however, make it not so good for swimming (unless you’re small enough to swim in shin deep water!) Past the ‘pool’, it gets very rocky and wavy so I’d firmly advise to stay away – stick to Honeymoon Beach is you fancy a proper swim!
I sunbathed on the sand and chilled in the water for ages and, come the end of my stay, there were a few more people there too (but when I say a few, I mean literally 2 families) The flip flop tree of death at the end of the path also show that this beach isn’t quite the ‘never seen before hideaway’ I’m making it out to be, but nevertheless, it is a whole lot more quieter than Honeymoon – why not test the two of them and (in true Hannah Montana style) get the best of both worlds?!
After spending my morning lazing around on the beach, I decided to head off in search of Fort Segarra – an underground fort built by the US during WW2 as a defence strategy but was never completed after the war ended. It was located about a 30 minute walk away from Honeymoon Beach and I loved walking past all the pretty houses to get there (it’s a bit of an up and down walk but nothing overly challenging)
There isn’t a great deal to do once you get there but it’s fun just to have a little look around and take in the amazing views. From the lookout tower, you could see all of the island and nearby St Thomas (a trip anywhere for me just wouldn’t be complete without a panoramic viewpoint!) There are also some underground tunnels you can go and have a little explore of but, as a young solo female traveller, I could just hear my mum’s panic in the back of my head telling me to steer clear. Had I been with somebody else, then I would have been straight in there!!
I wouldn’t put it down as your #1 priority when visiting Water Island but it is a nice little bit of historical culture to add onto your day.
Explore the island on a golf buggy
One of the most popular ways of getting around the island is by hiring a golf buggy. Even the locals seemed to be using them as there mode of transport and I think it would be so cool to rent one out for the day and just have a little explore. You can find ‘Rachael’s Rental’s’ on your right as you walk up the hill from the ferry drop off where you can hire a golf buggy for $40 a day.
One thing I did notice about all the golf buggy drivers is that EVERYBODY waves. And it’s not just the ‘raise of the fingers, nod of the head’ kind of greeting but like a ‘full on, arm moving’ affair. So if you wanna act like you know all the inside greetings (or just to generally be a nice person haha) then make sure to wave!
It was a short but sweet little hop across the pond but a trip to Water Island was the perfect way to start my island hopping adventures – so now the question stands…where next?