The U.S. Virgin Islands are located in the Caribbean and consist of three main islands – St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John – and other minor islands. The U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) were originally part of Danish West Indies, but were purchased by the United States in 1916. With influences from European, American and African cultures, the U.S. Virgin Islands offers a variety of historical sites and cultural activities for visitors to enjoy. The islands are also known for white-sand beaches and clear blue water, so make sure you enjoy fun outdoor activities like swimming and snorkeling, too. To learn more about the U.S. Virgin Islands, visit www.visitusvi.com.
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Add some local history to your cultural exchange experience by visiting a nearby historical site or tourist attraction when living and working in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The St. George Village Botanical Garden features events, exhibits and collections about the history, culture and natural resources of St. Croix. The garden has over 1500 species of plants and was built around the ruins of an 18th century Danish sugar plantation and an Amerindian archaeological site. Guided tours are available when booked in advance.
Visit the Annaberg Sugar Plantation at the Virgin Islands National Park to learn about this former sugar mill and plantation and what life was like in the USVI in the 18th and 19th centuries. Walking tours, hikes and history demonstrations are available, and visitors can also enjoy beautiful views from the plantation.
Coral World Ocean Park allows visitors to see marine life from the Caribbean, including turtles, stingrays, fish and sharks at exhibits, an undersea observatory and special activities like swimming with sea lions.
Magic Ice on St. Thomas is a unique tourist attraction featuring large ice sculptures and exhibits about life in the 18th century. Visitors receive warm clothing to wear on the tour and can also enjoy a drink at an ice bar.
- Arawak Expeditions, St. John
- Coral World Ocean Park, St. Thomas
- Hike St. John
- Island Tours, St. Thomas
- A list of nature tours on St. Croix
- Water Island Adventures, St. Thomas
The United States offers a wide variety of cultural learning opportunities through the arts. Dance, music, theater, opera, art museums and festivals are just some of the options available to international visitors who wish to learn more about the U.S. and its culture.
The St. Croix Landmarks Society manages many museums and historical sites on St. Croix, including the Whim Plantation, the Christiansted National Historic Site and the St. Croix Heritage Trail. The Society also hosts special events like concerts, educational programs, house tours, art shows and much more - see the event page for more details.
Other art and culture highlights in the Virgin Islands include:
- Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts, St. Croix
- Mango Tango Art Gallery, St. Thomas
- Sloop Jones, St. John
Get a glimpse into a part of American culture by watching or participating in a favorite U.S. sport or recreational activity in your local area.
In November, NCAA men and women’s college basketball teams play in the Paradise Jam basketball tournament. Watch top teams compete before the college basketball season starts in the United States.
The Choice Wireless VI Open Tennis Tournament (formerly the Chrysler Cup) in February takes place at the St. Thomas Yacht Club. Players from the United States, Europe and the Caribbean compete in men and women’s single and double competitions.
The United States is home to a variety of landscapes and climates to suit all types of outdoor activities. The courageous traveler can find extreme sports and outdoor adventure tours, while others may want to keep both feet on the ground in a national park or forest. Whatever your interests, take advantage of the many outdoor activities available during your time in the United States.
The U.S. Virgin Islands is known for its white-sand beaches, which are all free to the public (except Magens Bay on St. Thomas which charges a small fee), though some beaches can only be accessed through a hotel resort. Snorkeling is a popular activity on the beaches thanks to the clear water and sights like coral reefs and sea turtles! Other water sports include windsurfing, sailing, kayaking and scuba diving.
Virgin Islands National Park is a 7,000-acre protected area on St. John that includes rainforest, swamps, beaches, tropical plants and animals, coral reefs and much more. Visitors can enjoy many outdoor activities, like hiking, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, sailing, kayaking, camping or just enjoy the beach! Guided hikes are also available through the park – check the Events page for more information.
One of the best ways to experience cultural exchange is through food and cooking. Visitors will enjoy exploring the regional specialties and local cuisine during their time in the United States.
The cuisine of the U.S. Virgin Islands is a mix of Caribbean, African, European and indigenous cultures. Kallaloo is like a gumbo and the most famous dish from the islands. Red grout, a dessert dish borrowed from the Danish but now made with guavas, demonstrates the mix of European and Caribbean cuisine. Another common food is fungi, but this is no mushroom! It’s a favorite traditional food made from cornmeal and usually eaten with fish.
Agrifest is a three-day agriculture and food fair held in February on St. Croix. The festival features kid’s activities, cooking contests, food demonstrations, cultural activities, music, dancing and more.
For a unique and local perspective on American culture, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program location. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.
The USVI is known for its Carnival celebrations and its one of the biggest events of the year. Each island has its own event at different times of the year to celebrate Caribbean culture with elaborate costumes, parades and weeks of activities and fun. A “jouvert” is the name of the street parties that can be found at all Carnival celebrations.
The St. Thomas Carnival lasts for an entire month after Easter and includes cultural activities, music, dancing, family activities, street festivals, pageants, parades, water sports and much more!
The Crucian Christmas Festival on St. Croix is a holiday event with music, costume contests, children’s events, parades, fireworks, food and plenty of fun. Festival activities begin in October and last through January.
The St. John Festival begins in June and continues until July 4th, which is also an important national holiday in the United States – Independence Day! At the St. John Festival, fireworks, dancing, music and a parade marks the end of the carnival and the celebration of the 4th of July.
Employers may be able to assist with housing during your time in the United States, but this is not always possible for all participants. When looking for housing during your cultural exchange program, consider the cost of the accommodation, the distance to your work place and the amount of time you will be in the United States.
It's also important to avoid fraudulent housing. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. Never give your financial information to a stranger over the Internet. Browse the Housing Information guides for InterExchange participants below for more tips and advice.
General Housing Information
- Housing information for Work and Travel USA participants
- Housing information for Career Training USA interns and trainees
U.S. Virgin Islands Housing Resources
Some examples of housing and accommodation resources for participants in the U.S. Virgin Islands include:
Accommodation resources for any participants traveling in other areas of the United States:
Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options.
Car rentals are available, but there may be age restrictions, depending on the car rental agency. Note: Unlike the United States and other U.S. territories, cars drive on the left side of the road in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Rent a bike in St. Croix from Freedom City Cycles
Travel between islands by plane or water taxi.
Learn more about getting to and around the islands on the U.S. Virgin Islands tourism website.
Participants in the U.S. Virgin Islands can use the following resources in case of an emergency or extreme weather event in their area:
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) www.fema.gov and www.ready.gov
- U.S. Virgin Islands FEMA updates on Twitter @femaregion2
Interact with others and expand your skill set by volunteering in your local community. Volunteer organizations are often looking for short-term volunteers or for individuals to help with a single event, making it a great option for InterExchange participants who wish to add to their cultural exchange experience during their time in the United States.
Interested in the environment? Volunteer at the Virgin Islands National Park! Contact the park for more information on how you can help.
You can also support the natural and cultural resources of St. John with the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park. Volunteers can help clean up beaches and hiking trails, work in the office or visitor center, work at a special event, or help with many other tasks.
The Humane Society of St. Thomas rescues cats and dogs and needs volunteers for many types of activities, including working with the animals, helping out at events, working in the office and other tasks.