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:
Table of Contents
- 10 Tips to Do the US Virgin Islands on a Budget
- 7 Cheap & Free Things to Do in the US Virgin Islands
- Hike in Virgin Islands National Park, St. John
- Relax on the Best Beaches
- Snorkel with Sea Turtles Directly from Shore
- Self-guided Historic Walking Tour of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
- Hike to the Tide Pools on St. Croix
- Snorkel or Scuba Dive the Frederiksted Pier on St. Croix
- Explore Annaberg Sugar Plantation on St. John
- Where to Stay in the US Virgin Islands on a Budget
- Cheap Eats in the US Virgin Islands
- FAQs About Traveling to the US Virgin Islands on The Cheap
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10 Tips to Do the US Virgin Islands on a Budget
Take Advantage of the Safari System
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
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
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 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
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
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.
🏝️ Want the Perfect Itinerary? Just follow my USVI 10 Days Itinerary!
Embrace Outdoor Activities
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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, and one of the top things to do on St. Croix in my opinion.
Snorkel or Scuba Dive the Frederiksted Pier on St. Croix
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
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
👉 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
👉 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
👉 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
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
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
📍 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
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
This beachfront tiki bar sports beautiful views of St. Croix’s northshore while still providing a quality meal for an affordable price.
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.
Traveling to the US Virgin Islands isn’t cheap, but with these budget tips you should be able to save you some money!
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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