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USVI Dive Vacation - what do we need to know?

Discussion in 'Lesser Antilles' started by Alucard, Feb 4, 2020.

  1. Alucard

    Alucard Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Upstate New York, USA
    For various reasons I want to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands for 2 weeks this summer. There will be 6 of us, all certified divers (some with NITROX, others just OW). We have dove several Caribbean Islands over the years - Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Saba, Curacao, St Martin and would love to get a good amount of diving in while there.

    I know very little about the islands and about what to do to get the optimal diving experience, so am looking to the regulars on this boards for some tips about where to stay, what the diving is like, restaurants and other surface activities. We often like to do some shore diving, if its decent, but are happy to go out on boats (although getting up every morning for a 7:45 boat departure doesn't make it much of a vacation for some of my group). Mostly our goals are simple - coral reefs, interesting creatures, some photography - nothing extreme.

    I have searched the forum but can't find a lot of information - what sort of things should we be looking at?

    I appreciate whatever help you can offer.
    <*)))>< likes this.
  2. bmorescuba

    bmorescuba Divemaster

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Baltimore, MD, USA
    I've dived all the US Virgin Islands (and a few British ones) and my favorite by far is St. Croix. St. Croix doesn't have as many good or cheap flights as St. Thomas, but it's worth the small amount of extra trouble to get there. While there is a tourist base, St. Croix feels like a place where people live, rather than just catering to tourists. There are 2 main areas - Christiansted and Frederiksted. Christiansted is fancier, nice restaurants and shops. Frederiksted is less well off but still a cool place to hang out. There are scuba boat operators in both locations, but when I go, I prefer to do all shore diving. There is a pier in Frederiksted (just called the Frederiksted Pier) that is one of the most phenomenal, easy shore dives in the Caribbean. Last time, I dove this 5 times on one trip. It's great during the day, but fantastic at night/dusk. Expect to see more octopuses than you can count, seahorses, frogfish, nudibranchs, rays, turtles, squid, etc. It never disappoints. My friends just came back and in 3 days of diving the pier, counted 14 different seahorses. I also like diving Cane Bay on the north shore. The swim out is a little longer, but there's a dive shop right there as well. There will be lots of opinions and all the islands are beautiful. But consider St. Croix in the mix - they can use the dollars after the latest Hurricane as well.
    <*)))><, Alucard and KathyV like this.
  3. They call me Tater

    They call me Tater Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Wisconsin
    I would agree with Bmore....
  4. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    St. Croix Research Report Aug. 2017 - St. Croix Research Report Aug. 2017

    At the airport coming back fro St. Croix, turns out I needed to do the Customs thing (get my checked bags again from security, and give them back, still don't understand what that crap serves any purpose) - I probably discussed it in my report. Davis Bay has a fairly long swim out; Cane Bay has a ridiculously long swim out, but was my favorite reef dive of my trip.

    IIRC, there is a ferry that runs between St. Croix and St. Thomas. St. John is known more for snorkeling than diving, and has some nice beach (I visited one on a cruise ship stop).
    Alucard and KathyV like this.
  5. FettSolo

    FettSolo Divemaster Candidate

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Lebanon, NH, USA
    While St. Croix definitely has the better diving (Frederiksted Pier is one of my favorite dive sites ever), I enjoy being topside way more in St. John. It is three quarters National Park and is just beautiful. And you do see a lot while snorkeling in St. John - eagle rays, stingrays, barracuda, green and hawksbill turtles, nurse sharks, and even bottlenose dolphins if you are lucky (I've swam with them twice in 13 years, so don't count on it!).

    Skip St. Thomas.
    Alucard and KathyV like this.
  6. KathyV

    KathyV Orca

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Midwestern US
    We did a liveaboard in St. Croix years ago, followed by a week on St. Croix and we had a great time. I agree with others that our favorite dive is the Fredricksted Pier, you can spend your entire dive trip on that pier and find something new on each dive! You can't dive the pier when a cruise ship is in port, but they don't get a lot of cruise ships.

    There are 2 main towns (Christiansted and Fredricksted) and good roads. They drive on the left in the USVI. Christiansted is the larger, more developed area and Fredricksted is the funky, touristy area. My husband got an ear infection and we thought that they had good medical facilities in place.

    The Divi resort and casino is in a remote area if you want to spend some time gambling. We enjoyed the Cruzan Rum Tour - so many different, flavored rums!

    "U.S. residents 21 years of age and older can return to the mainland with four litres of liquor, duty free. Add a 5th litre duty free if it is a product made in the U.S. Virgin Islands (Captain Morgan and Cruzan Rum).

    Have fun!
    Alucard likes this.
  7. AdivingBel

    AdivingBel Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Missouri
    While I enjoy Frederiksted Pier, I found the boat diving out of Christiansted to be very good. Lots of wildlife including turtles and sharks as well as interesting topography. Very active "head on a swivel" dives. Have fun. :)
    Alucard and KathyV like this.
  8. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    By the way, St. Thomas is a major cruise ship port, and it's got lots of excursions catering to tourists. You might try Trip Advisor, St. Thomas, and 'Things to Do' to get a look. It's been my experience checking into the excursion scene elsewhere that cruises may essentially book up some things, so shoot some e-mails off to confirm availability of what you want.
    Alucard likes this.
  9. DarrynSami

    DarrynSami Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Bainbridge Island, WA
    Boat diving out of Christiansted, St. Croix is good. that is where I did my OW. Lots of turtles, sharks, coral....... lionfish if you want to spear. If you are into Rum don't miss the Cruzan factory tour. Plenty to do on the Island in off hours if you want more than diving. Jump Up Festivals in May and July. Turtle nesting throughout the summer. I enjoy the winter time more than summer. 3 Kings Day parade in January is a fun party.
    Alucard, AdivingBel and KathyV like this.
  10. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    Something to think about on that. I did 12 boat dives out of Christiansted with St. Croix Ultimate Blue Water Adventure; reef sharks showed up on a number of those dives, not just cruising by in the distance but coming around and checking us out. Nothing alarming (and one without a dorsal fin named 'Flat Top,' hey, you can't make this stuff up!), and no one was spearing. One of the guides told that that in the past the sharks stayed deeper, but in the wake of spearing back when people fed the sharks, in more modern times the sharks were hanging out shallower on the reef. That was unnatural so people had largely quit feeding lion fish to the sharks.

    My point here is, if a reef shark wants your lion fish, it can make your life interesting. As Art Penney found out in the Bahamas - see A Shark Tale in DAN's Alert Diver online. And on my first live-board trip out of Belize, a couple of reef sharks made life interesting for a guide who carried one around on a spear during one dive.

    A quick check online suggests some boat op.s will take you out to try it if you wish. I'm not knocking it, just saying be aware.

    Redfoot, Alucard and KathyV like this.

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