Andrew Bloem, the author of US Virgin Islands on a budget, standing on a cliff with a scenic ocean view

US Virgin Islands on a Budget (How to Do It on The Cheap)

I’ll be honest, by no means are the US Virgin Islands a true budget travel destination. There are too many mega yachts, mansions, and high-end resorts. Simply put, luxury dominates the tourist sections of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix. 

However, that’s not to say you can’t cut costs while you’re visiting. It is possible to take a vacation to the US Virgin Islands on a budget (or least on the cheap). You just need to be tactful, flexible, patient, and adventurous.

In this guide I’ll show you how: with money saving tips, cheap things to do and eat, and budget places to stay. Let’s dive in:

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10 Tips to Do the US Virgin Islands on a Budget

Take Advantage of the Safari System

People unloading their things on the Safari taxi in USVI
Unloading from a Safari Taxi

The Safari Taxi System on St. Thomas allows riders to hop on and hop off whenever they please for just a few dollars per ride (think of a colectivo in Mexico). The Safari Taxis follow a loop passing Red Hook, Charlotte Amalie, and the island’s resort-heavy East End. Utilizing these taxis are a cheap and fun way to save money by NOT getting a rental car.

🚙 Driving on the Left Side: The US Virgin Islands are the only place within US territory to drive on the left. So if you are thinking about a car or Jeep rental, be sure to check out my article on how to drive in the US Virgin Islands before you go!

Pack Food in Your Suitcase

The author's wife with their bags and suitcase
You’d be surprised how much frozen meat is tucked away in those bags

I know, this sounds absurd, but hear me out. Grocery stores are insanely expensive in the US Virgin Islands. And so one of the best ways to cut down on costs is to bring some food in your checked luggage! 

Personally, I’ve checked a cooler and suitcase filled with frozen meats including steaks, chicken, and ground turkey – an assortment that would have cost me hundreds on the island.

If coming from somewhere other than the US mainland, just make sure you’re customs-compliant. 

Rent a Place to Stay With a Kitchen

Aerial view of an island with private vacation rentals inUS Virgin Islands
Private vacation rentals are plenty in the US Virgin Islands

Along with high food costs in the grocery stores, restaurant prices are no better. It’s expensive to eat out in the US Virgin Islands, particularly for large families. 

That’s why I recommend renting a place to stay with a kitchen so you can cook meals at home (even better if packed some frozen meat on the plane with you). 

The best website to find vacation rentals with full kitchens is on VRBO!

Travel in the Offseason

The author with the scenic view from US Virgin Islands
If hurricanes stay away, you’ll be graced with an incredible amount of beauty (and cheaper prices!)

The US Virgin Islands experience heavy fluctuations of tourism traffic based on the time of year. The cheapest time to visit is in “the offseason” which coincides with hurricane season (August through October). Flight prices and hotel costs plummet – sometimes by more than 50%. 

Of course, you run the risk of encountering a hurricane. However, if the hurricanes stay away (which they often do), the islands are incredibly beautiful and budget-friendly with little to no crowds.

🏝️ When’s the best time to visit? Best deals, good weather, hurricanes, and crowded beaches. So many confounding factors contribute to finding the best time is to visit the US Virgin Islands

Island Hop via Ferry

The author driving onto the car barge going to St. John
Driving onto the car barge headed for St. John

A trip to the Virgin Islands wouldn’t be complete without island hopping. How else were you going to visit all the USVI’s amazing places on your trip? The cheapest way to get from island to island is via ferry originating in St. Thomas.

To get from St. Thomas to St. John, you’ll take either the car ferry or people ferry – depending on your situation. To get between St. Thomas and St. Croix, you’ll have to choose between flying with Cape Air, one of the ferries, or taking the seaplane. Obviously, the ferry is the cheapest selection by far.

Other islands accessible by ferry from St. Thomas are Water Island (an excellent day trip) and the British Virgin Islands of Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, and Anegada. However, those islands are best explored while staying on Tortola.

Arrive and Depart Mid-Week

People going inside an airplane in USVI
Flying during the week tends to be cheaper.

Weekends are huge turnover days in the US Virgin Islands with new travelers arriving and others departing for home. Chances are you’ll cut travel costs if you arrive at mid-week as opposed to the weekends. You can search for cheap and direct flights to St. Thomas (STT) or St. Croix (STX) using our favorite tool, Skyscanner.

Embrace Outdoor Activities

The author's wife posing for a photo in a secluded beach
My wife doing some mid-air karate on a secluded beach on St. Thomas

An adventurous spirit will take you a long way for a lot less in the US Virgin Islands. By embracing outdoor activities like hiking, snorkeling, and beaching, your vacation to paradise just became a lot cheaper. 

Consider Camping

Scenic view from the Cinnamon Bay
Wake up to the most affordable views at Cinnamon Bay by camping

A great way to cut costs on accommodation is by pitching a tent! Although campgrounds are sparse, St. John and Virgin Islands National Park is home to one of the best in the Caribbean at Cinnamon Bay Campground. As far as we can tell, it’s the cheapest place to stay in all of the US Virgin Islands (if you bring your own equipment).

Pack Your Own Snorkel Gear

The author snorkeling under the water of St. Thomas
Snorkeling on St. Thomas

Snorkel Rentals cost around $15 a day throughout the Virgin Islands. Snorkeling tours cost even more. Simply bringing your own snorkel gear will open up an immense amount of exploratory opportunities as you wade into the crystal blue waters from any of the best beaches in the islands. 

Drink at Happy Hour

The author and his wife having a toast with their drinks on can
Cheers from St. John!

Almost unsurprisingly, the most affordable thing in the Virgin Islands is alcohol. And if your ideal vacation is sitting on the beach with a rum drink in hand, even that can get pricey. Best take advantage of the many happy hours spread throughout the islands between 3 and 6 PM! 

7 Cheap & Free Things to Do in the US Virgin Islands

Hike in Virgin Islands National Park, St. John

The author's wife with the overlooking view from Ram Head Trail
Our favorite hiking trail on St. John is Ram Head Trail

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (340) 776-6201 | Website

Hiking is a fun and free way to explore the best scenery of the Virgin Islands on a tight budget. Although St. Croix and St. Thomas have a few, the best hiking trails are within Virgin Islands National Park on St. John. Our two favorites are Ram Head Trail and Reef Bay Trail – both which can be made into an entire day by themselves.

Relax on the Best Beaches

Palm trees on the shoreline of Neltjeberg Bay
View from Neltjeberg Bay on St. Thomas

All beaches in the US Virgin Islands are accessible to the public and only a few include entry/facility fees. Of the beaches on St. Thomas, only Lindquist Beach and Magens Bay require a facility fee. All of the stunning and secluded beaches on St. Croix are free admission. As for the beautiful beaches of St. John, you’ll incur a parking fee at Trunk Bay.

Snorkel with Sea Turtles Directly from Shore

The author's wife snorkeling with a sea turtle
It’s easy to snorkel with sea turtles right from shore

📍 Brewers Bay on St. Thomas | 📍 Maho Bay on St. John | 📍 Rainbow Beach on St. Croix 

Forget the expensive boat trip with promises of snorkeling with sea turtles. I’m here to tell you you can do that for free (and oftentimes with greater success) directly from shore! However, not all beaches are created equally when it comes to sea turtle encounters.

The best beaches to snorkel with sea turtles are Brewers Bay Beach on St. Thomas, Maho Bay Beach on St. John, and any of the beaches on the west end of St. Croix, specifically Sandy Point or Rainbow Beach!

Self-guided Historic Walking Tour of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

View of the Old Lutheran Church from the outside
The Old Lutheran Church in Charlotte Amalie

📍 Google Maps | Website

Prior to US ownership, the USVIs were controlled by the Danish. As such, many of the historical structures peppered throughout the islands are in the form of Danish Colonial Architecture. Charlotte Amalie, the territory’s capital on St. Thomas, is replete with churches, synagogues, forts, hotels, and watchtowers dating back to the 1600s. 

A nice way to spend an afternoon is strolling the main streets of Charlotte Amalie visiting all the historical buildings. You’ll find similar walking tours around the historic districts of Christiansted and Frederiksted on St. Croix. 

Hike to the Tide Pools on St. Croix

View of the tide pools on St. Croix
You can spend an entire day (for free) at the tide pools on St. Croix

📍 Google Maps | Website

On the northwest shore of St. Croix are a series of tide pools. These unique rock structures retain the clear waters of the Caribbean as the tide rolls in and eventually recedes. 

Admittedly, accessing the tide pools is a tough trek with many parts of the hike requiring scaling rock faces and other difficult climbs. However, if you’re up for the challenge, cooling off in the natural pool is a great way to spend your afternoon cost effectively.

Snorkel or Scuba Dive the Frederiksted Pier on St. Croix

A man snorkeling under the Frederiksted Pier on St. Croix
Beneath the Frederiksted Pier on St. Croix

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +1-340-718-9913 | Cane Bay Dive Shop | Hours: 8 am – 5 pm daily 

One of the best adventures on St. Croix is snorkeling around Frederiksted Pier. The sea life and biodiversity surrounding the pier is astounding. Sea turtles and sharks are not uncommon to make appearances while seahorses and octopus are also frequently sighted. 

For those more inclined to dive beneath the surface, the pier also serves as a unique dive site and a cheap way to do some scuba diving during your visit.

Explore Annaberg Sugar Plantation on St. John

The author checking out the Annaberg Sugar Mill ruins
Checking out the design of Annaberg Sugar Mill ruins

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (340)-776-6201 | National Park Service | Hours: 8 am – 5 pm daily | Entrance: free

For the few hundred years prior to US transfer, St. John was more well known for its sugar production than its tourism. Today, thanks to Virgin Islands National Park and their preservation efforts, the small island has the largest concentration of sugar mill ruins in the Caribbean.

Many of the ruins are easily accessed by roadway or hiking trails with the most impressive being Annaberg Sugar Plantation. The former estate has the best collection of ruins anywhere else on the island. With free admission, easy access, unique structures, and scenic views of the British Virgin Islands, it’s easily one of the best things to do on St. John!

Where to Stay in the US Virgin Islands on a Budget

Each island in the USVIs has its hotspots. If you’re looking to save on accommodation, you might want to look elsewhere.

Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas

Overlooking view of a neighborhood in Downtown Charlotte Amalie
View of Downtown Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas

👉 Best Area for Budget Stay on St. Thomas | ✨ Best Budget Hotel: The Green Iguana Hotel

The most popular areas to stay on St. Thomas are on the East End and the Southside of the island. However, for cheap hotels and guesthouses, consider staying in downtown Charlotte Amalie. These hotels tend to be cheaper than the resorts elsewhere on the island.

Not to mention, you’ll have easy access to dollar Safari Taxis to get around the island, affordable local eateries, and nearby beaches like Brewers Bay for awesome snorkeling opportunities.

Cruz Bay on St. John

Aerial view of the main town in Cruz Bay
View of Cruz Bay on St. John

👉 Best Area for Things to Do on St. John | ✨ Best Budget Hotel: Coconut Coast Villas

A private vacation rental on St. John might be the most expensive place to stay in all of the Virgin Islands. So if you’re wanting to stay on St. John, consider booking a room in Cruz Bay to avoid any additional cost. 

Not only is the town home to the largest collection of hotels on the island, it’s also within walking distance of the best restaurants, shops, and public transportation. You could easily stay here and get away without having to book any car rentals on your trip.

Frederiksted on St. Croix

Overlooking view of the Frederiksted town
View of Frederiksted on St. Croix

👉 Best Area For Slightly Cheaper Accommodation | ✨ Best Budget Hotel: Georges Royal Inn

The resorts lining the north shore of St. Croix will likely eat up your travel budget. That’s why rentals in Frederiksted seem to be slightly cheaper than others around the island. Additionally, you’ll have access to the town and its surrounding beaches.

Cheap Eats in the US Virgin Islands

Many of the top restaurants in the Virgin Islands are exceedingly expensive. If you’re not looking to pay so much money, check out these places during your visit:

Tap and Still on St. Thomas and St. John

Burgers and Chicken Sandwiches

The Tap & Still from the outside
Tap and Still in Red Hook

📍 Red HookHavensightCruz Bay | Website | Price Range: $

This is my go-to joint for tasty, yet cheap burgers and fries. Overall, it’s an excellent selection for couples or families looking to grab a quick bite to eat before or after a day of adventure on St. Thomas or St. John.

Ziggy’s Island Market on St. Croix

Caribbean

Salad on plate and drinks on glass with a view from the beach
The best Caribbean cuisine on St. Croix

📍 Google Maps | Website | Price Range: $

Ziggy’s Island Market is an unassuming local eatery hidden in a gas station. Amongst local options for Caribbean-style cuisine, it’s by far the tastiest for the best price.

Island Time Pub on St. Thomas

Pizza 

The Island Time Pub name on a surfboard displayed on the store
ITP is a great pub overlooking the islands

📍 Google Maps | Price Range: $$

Island Time Pub, better known as “ITP”, is a local Captain’s favorite happy hour spot in Red Hook after a day at sea. Not to mention, ITP serves the best pizza on St. Thomas for a decent price.

Skinny Legs in Coral Bay, St. John

Sandwiches 

People enjoying their meal in the patio of Skinny Legs
Patio at Skinny Legs in Coral Bay

📍 Google Maps | Website | Price Range: $$

Skinny Legs is the focal point of Coral Bay and easily the best place to eat (and drink) in the small village. Sandwiches and burgers are the staple of the menu.

Off the Wall on St. Croix

American

Scenic view from the Cane Bay during sunset
Cane Bay sunset from Off the Wall

📍 Google Maps | Website | Price Range: $$

This beachfront tiki bar sports beautiful views of St. Croix’s northshore while still providing a quality meal for an affordable price.

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FAQs About Traveling to the US Virgin Islands on The Cheap

What is the cheapest Virgin Island to stay at?

The cheapest Virgin Island to stay at is St. Thomas as it has the largest airport, most conveniences, public transit, and many options for stay. See our guide to where to stay on St. Thomas.

Is it expensive to visit the US Virgin Islands?

The US Virgin Islands is one of the most expensive Caribbean destinations for travelers. It is difficult to travel on a budget but read this full guide for helpful ways to save money. 

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Traveling to the US Virgin Islands isn’t cheap, but with these budget tips you should be able to save you some money! 

However, if these islands seem a little too expensive, check out our guides to Puerto Rico, which is much easier to do on a budget

I hope I’ve helped you figure out how to do the US Virgin Island on a budget you can manage! 

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