Table of Contents
It can be a bit intimidating to start planning a trip to the Virgin Islands with your family. There are so many islands. It’s hard to tell them apart, and it’s hard to figure out which one has the right vibe for you and your kids.
After several trips to the Virgin Islands, hunting for the best family-friendly hotels around the island chain, we can confidently say that we’ll keep going back.
The Virgin Islands sparked our adventurous spirit when we arrived, and will do the same for you. There’s something about these islands that leaves you wanting more.
So without further ado, let’s get you there! Here is everything you need to know to plan a trip the whole family will love.
What are the Virgin Islands?
The Virgin Islands are a collection of islands in the northern Caribbean Sea, not far from Puerto Rico. They are divided into two groups: the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.
The islands are all grouped together, with just an imaginary line dividing the American side from the British side. On a map, they look like one big cluster of islands.
There are some big differences between the two sides, but there are three main islands on the U.S. side: St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix. And there are four main islands on the British side: Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, and Anegada.
Does My Child Need a Passport to Travel to the Virgin Islands?
One of the standout features of the U.S. Virgin Islands as a top family destination is the convenience of traveling without a passport.
St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands has the primarily international airport in the region (STT) offering numerous direct flights from the US. Upon arrival, travelers are exempt from clearing customs, making it hassle-free, especially for families with kids.
This convenience often appeals to families embarking on their first international vacation, and earns the US Virgin Islands a spot on the list of best Caribbean islands for families.
However, if you choose to go to any of the British Virgin Islands during your visit, whether by plane or by ferry, everyone in your party will need a passport.
How to Travel Between Islands
Ferries are a popular way to get around the Virgin Islands. But they can be very confusing.
There are a number of different ferry companies that operate in the islands, and they offer a variety of routes on different days of the week. Some of the most popular routes include St. Thomas to St. John, St. Thomas to Tortola, and St. Croix to St. Thomas.
When planning your ferry trip, it is important to check the ferry schedules and book your tickets in advance, especially if you are traveling during the peak season.
You can find the ferry schedules and book your tickets online or at the ferry terminals. In our experience, VirginBooking.com is the best place to figure out the available ferry routes and buy tickets.
The U.S. Virgin Islands
Not sure which islands to visit? Here’s the thing about searching for the best Virgin Islands for families: All of the U.S. Virgin Islands make the list.
St Thomas, St Croix, and St John each have something different to offer parents traveling with kids to the Virgin Islands. It’s just a matter of which one suits your personal tastes.
Let’s help you hone in on the right island for you.
St. Thomas: Best For An Easy Vacation With Kids
Most visitors to the U.S. Virgin Islands land in St. Thomas, which has the biggest international airport (STT) and many direct flights.
Being the most developed of the islands, historically, it’s been a favored cruise ship destination. The capital, Charlotte Amalie, is renowned for its duty-free shopping and excursions.
St. Thomas offers a more Americanized experience than the other Virgin Islands, which may be a turn-off to some families. But it’s a great choice for those who prefer an easy and familiar Virgin Islands vacation environment – and direct flights! And it’s home to two great family friendly hotels, described in more detail below.
If you’re a beach lover, Magens Bay Beach in St. Thomas is truly one of the Caribbean’s best. It gets crowded on cruise ship days, but there’s enough space for everyone.
For families eager to explore other beaches, there are lots of other great beaches ideal for snorkeling and splashing around. You can also zipline up in the mountains, spend a day on a catamaran, snorkel with sea turtles, and visit Coral World Ocean Park, an open-air aquarium. There’s plenty of fun in St. Thomas to fill a week-long trip with kids.
One of the best parts of St. Thomas, though, is its frequent ferry service to other islands. From Charlotte Amelie, you can easily ferry over to spend a day on the remote Water Island. And from the Red Hook ferry terminal on the island’s East End, you’ll have easy access to St. John and Tortola, which in turn is a launch pad to the other British Virgin Islands.
So, while St. Thomas might not be everyone’s idea of a secluded Caribbean paradise and may arguably be among the less culturally rich Virgin Islands, it serves as a fantastic destination for a family vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands for two types of families: (i) first-time visitors to to the Virgin Islands who want direct flights; and (ii) those looking for a home base to do day trips to other islands.
Where to stay in St. Thomas
When searching for U.S. Virgin Islands resorts, we highly recommend that you opt for hotels at the East End of St. Thomas because of their proximity to the ferry services to other islands, and to the plethora of dining options in the Red Hook area of the island.
Luckily, that’s where you’ll find our two favorite family friendly St. Thomas hotels!
Mango Tree’s preferred St. Thomas hotel for families is Secret Harbour Beach Resort, a small gem of a hotel. It’s not a luxury or fancy choice, but it has everything families need to be comfortable: a fantastic beach for kids, two- and three-bedroom suites steps from the sand, and a great restaurant on site.
If a classic St Thomas family resort is more your speed, you’ll find luxury at the Ritz Carlton St. Thomas. It’s right on the East End of the island with views over to St. John–and its own boat to get you there. With a family pool and waterslide, and a kids’ club, it’s a complete resort experience.
The appeal of St. Thomas is manifold: from direct flights to establishing a comfortable base at a top-notch hotel, and then branching out on day trips, even extending to the British Virgin Islands.
Let me add a quick note here about something many families search for: all-inclusive family resorts in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The answer is that they really don’t exist, at least not the traditional “all-inclusive” model where all your room price includes all meals. (There’s one true all-inclusive in St. Thomas, Bolongo Bay, but it’s not one of our recommended hotels for families.). The Ritz provides a comparable vibe but meals are a la carte.
St. John: Best for a villa stay and outdoor enthusiasts
St. John, often hailed as the crown jewel of the U.S. Virgin Islands, captivates visitors with its pristine natural beauty, being primarily a National Park. Historically, its charm has led many to fall deeply in love with its serene landscapes.
Despite its secluded feel, St. John is easily accessible, being just a 20-minute ferry ride from St. Thomas. From the St. Thomas airport, it’s roughly an hour further to St. John, which includes a 25 to 30-minute taxi ride followed by the ferry journey.
While it has grown in popularity as a must-visit destination, St. John remains less commercialized and touristy than its sister island, St. Thomas. The island has few hotels, but numerous villas, making it an ideal spot for multi-generational trips.
The best way to approach a trip to St. John is to pick a home base – either a villa or a hotel – and then rent a car to explore. Spend your days exploring the various beaches, and don’t miss snorkeling at Maho Bay Beach and Trunk Bay Beach.
Where to stay in St. John
Villas dot St. John’s hills and shores, and are often the top choice for family travelers to St. John.
For hotels, travelers still mourn the loss of Caneel Bay, a much-loved resort that closed its doors after Hurricane Irma battered the island in 2017. Now, St. John resort options are few and far between.
Our current favorite for small families who prefer a hotel to a villa is Gallows Point, which welcomes kids age 6 and up. The great thing about Gallows Point, which combines condo-style rooms with hotel amenities like a pool, housekeeping, and a concierge service, is that it’s walkable from the ferry dock. And from the hotel, you can also stroll into Cruz Bay for dinner.
A walkable resort in the Caribbean is harder to come by than you think, and Gallows Point offers it. It’s one of our favorite kid friendly resorts in the US Virgin Islands for older kids.
St. Croix: Best for a laid-back vibe and fewer crowds
While many of the Virgin Islands are closely clustered, allowing for easy ferry-hopping, St. Croix stands distinctively apart. Located approximately two hours away from its neighboring islands, St. Croix boasts its own international airport and direct flights from the United States.
St. Croix is also the biggest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Its size and separation makes it a unique vacation destination within the Virgin Islands, and for most families will be a destination in and of itself.
So why go to St. Croix with kids? St. Croix offers a diverse landscape with rocky beaches and dense forests, making it ideal for those keen on hiking and land-based family-friendly activities. It’s also known for having great snorkeling reefs. Its two main towns – Frederiksted and Christiansted – feel quite colonial.
Its beaches may not be as stunning as those in St. John. But the charm of St. Croix lies in its laid-back atmosphere. In essence, St. Croix is one of the best Virgin Islands for families seeking a more secluded and tranquil Caribbean experience.
Where to stay in St. Croix
The most popular hotel for families in St. Croix is a bit of a fixture on the island: The Buccaneer. It’s a family–run resort with cottages designed specifically for parents traveling with kids. And it has all the amenities you need to relax, from golf to room service to beachfront massages. It’s one of the best family resorts in the U.S. Virgin Islands, hands down.
Water Island: Best for a unique day trip in the USVI
Water Island is the lesser-known fourth member of the U.S. Virgin Islands. In place of hotels, you’ll find an untouched serenity. Situated just a short 10-minute ferry ride from St. Thomas, visitors can rent a golf cart to explore the picturesque island. It’s the ultimate off-the-beaten path day trip in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
A notable stop on Water Island includes Heidi’s Hilltop Hideaway, a fish taco stand loved by anyone who knows it. Honeymoon Beach also is a must-visit, complemented by the ambience of Dinghy’s beach bar.
For a comprehensive day trip guide, reference our dedicated post on Water Island.
British Virgin Islands (BVI)
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) beckons, with a tapestry of over 60 islands and keys. Yet somehow, it seems more elusive than the US Virgin Islands.
Maybe that’s because a passport is needed to reach these islands’ sandy shores.
Maybe it’s because sailing and boat charters have been the traditional means of exploring the BVIs, which can seem daunting to families, especially with younger kids.
More travelers are looking to experience the BVIs from the comfort of rental homes, luxury resorts, and other land-based accommodations. And after exploring the islands ourselves, we can say with confidence that there are plenty of them to be found.
Here is a starter guide to a family vacation in the British Virgin Islands to help you figure out where to start your journey to this epic Caribbean island chain.
Tortola: Best for families who want to explore around
Until recently, you could only reach the British Virgin Island from the U.S. by flying to St. Thomas and taking a ferry or water taxi across. That’s no longer the case.
Now, you can fly directly to Tortola, the largest island in the chain. As of 2023, there are daily flights from Miami and Puerto Rico to Tortola’s Beef Island Airport (EIS). This airport is strategically located in the heart of it all, offering easy connections to ferries to nearby island resorts.
But, before you jet off on a ferry across the sea, consider whether Tortola might be the island for you. Tortola is a mountainous island. One road forms a loop around the island – on the south side, it’s flat and easy to navigate. But the north road takes you up switch backs, and back down steep hills leading to the beaches and coves below.
This mountainous island is known for its beaches, art, and hiking. Road Town, Tortola’s capital and a popular cruise ship port, is only about 20 minutes from the airport. It offers quaint shops,- art galleries, and local eateries to explore.
Drive deeper into lush Tortola – and brave the mountain roads – to discover Tortola’s best beaches, located on the north side of the island. You could spend several days hopping from Brewer’s Bay Beach to Cane Garden Bay to Long Bay Beach.
When you want a break from the beach, you have hiking opportunities too – Mount Sage National Park includes a dozen trails to choose from, and the highest point in the BVIs.
Where to stay in Tortola
We love the newly rebuilt Long Bay Beach Resort on Tortola’s West End. It’s on the opposite end of the island from the airport, meaning about a 45 minute drive to get there. But once you arrive, you’re just a quick drive to the island’s best beaches. It’s also very close to Tortola’s West End Ferry Terminal, where you can take daily ferry boats to other islands, including Jost Van Dyke.
Severely affected by Hurricane Irma in 2017, the resort has been recently renovated in 2023, boasting beach bungalows perfect for families. It’s a place to truly relax away from it all, with calming hues, a welcoming coffee bar, and excellent service.
Jost Van Dyke: Best for a secluded but vibey beach experience
Jost Van Dyke is a small island in the British Virgin Islands known for its beautiful beaches, including White Bay Beach. Most people know of Jost Van Dyke for one of two reasons:
First, Jost Van Dyke is where you’ll find the famous Soggy Dollar Bar, home of the Painkiller, and ultimate beach bar vibes. Second, it’s a bit “country music famous,” having been the island that Kenny Chesney fell in love with, and making several appearances in his lyrics.
Jost Van Dyke is for those who want a small island with an absolutely stunning beach – one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in the Caribbean – and delicious, casual food.
Spend your days swimming, snorkeling, diving, drinking and eating. Take a hike to the Bubbly Pool, and visit Foxy’s Tamarind Bar and the Soggy Dollar Bar. You’re in for total relaxation.
Where to Stay in Jost Van Dyke
The Hideout BVI is a newcomer to Jost Van Dyke in 2022. It has 7 perfectly appointed villas just steps from White Bay Beach. The Hideout features five 1BR villas and two 2BR villas. Each has a private deck and plunge pool. The best choice for families is the 2BR beachfront villa, with plenty of space to spread out, and direct ocean views and access.
Virgin Gorda: Best for a luxury resort and natural beauty
Virgin Gorda is a beautiful island in the British Virgin Islands that is perfect for a Virgin Islands family vacation. The island has stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a relaxed atmosphere. Some of the things you can do on Virgin Gorda with your family include visiting the Baths, going sailing or kayaking, hiking to Gorda Peak, and relaxing on a beach. The island also has a number of luxury family resorts that offer a variety of amenities, including kids’ clubs, pools, and restaurants.
Where to Stay in Virgin Gorda
Most families will choose to stay in Virgin Gorda at Rosewood Little Dix Bay Hotel, an iconic luxury hotel, and a destination in and of itself, with a stunning beachfront location. Just a short 20 minute ferry ride from the ferry dock next to Tortola’s airport, it’s an easy luxury getaway for families.
Between the Rosewood Explorer Kids’ Club (starting at age 3), the full suite of baby gear provided to new parents, and the calm beach and meandering pathways, there will be no doubt from the moment you arrive that kids are welcome at Little Dix Bay. This resort nearly perfectly captures the combination of family friendly + luxury.
AnegAda: Best For Those Wanting To Get Off The Beaten Path
Anegada, the fourth of the main British Virgin islands, is like St. Croix in a way: a bit off on its own. It’s about an hour ride by public ferry from Tortola to Anegada, longer on a smaller sailboat. Be aware that the public ferry does not run daily, but rather only a handful of days a week. There’s also a small airport so you could choose to arrive by puddle jumper.
Anegada is completely unlike the other islands in the chain, too. It’s a flat island, surrounded by shallow reefs that are treacherous for boaters, making the journey all the more of an effort. The reefs provide exceptional snorkeling, though, once you arrive.
Otherwise, Anegada is known for its long stretches of white sand beach, for being sparsely populated (just a few hundred residents year round) and for flamingos. As if you need more reason to make the trek to Anegada, it’s also known for its lobster dishes.
Where to Stay in Anegeda
There’s really only one place to stay in Anegada, and that’s the Anegada Beach Club. If your kids are older than 6, you can stay in a palapa right on the beach for a completely unique experience.
Private Island Resorts in the British Virgin Islands
In addition to the main islands, one thing that’s delightful about the BVIs is the option for private island escapes.
The British Virgin Islands have a number of private islands that offer families a more secluded and luxurious vacation experience, where you’ll really feel like you’re in your own world.
Some of the most known private islands in the BVI include Richard Branson’s famous Necker Island and Moskito Island. But there are two other private islands that are more accessible, more affordable and which offer families a delightful private island escape: Guana Island and Scrub Island.
Here’s what each has to offer families.
Guana Island is an exclusive escape for those seeking unparalleled seclusion and natural beauty. Sprawling over 850 acres, this unique island oasis welcomes a maximum of just 35 guests at any given time.
We spent our 10-year wedding anniversary at Guana Island. If you want barefoot luxury, we recommend this hotel wholeheartedly. But we also can’t wait to go back with our kids!
Strategically perched villas offer panoramic vistas from the island’s central ridge, while vast stretches of untouched terrain beckon exploration. With pristine beaches like White Bay, snorkeling spots, and hiking trails, visitors feel worlds away from the bustle.
More than just a retreat, Guana Island prides itself on offering all-inclusive luxury, serving fresh and sumptuous meals daily. Conveniently located near Beef Island airport in Tortola, this private island, while upscale, offers a more approachable price point than some of its high-end counterparts.
For those who wish to blend the familiarity of a renowned hotel chain with the allure of a private island experience, Scrub Island Resort, Spa, and Marina is the ideal pick. As a Marriott property, this Virgin Island resort offers both comfort and charm, albeit on a larger scale.
While not exuding the exclusivity of some smaller Virgin Island resorts, Scrub Island boasts a full-service marina, kid-friendly pools, and secluded beaches. Guests looking for a balanced blend of luxury and affordability will find it here. Plus, with its dedicated concierge services, off-island excursions are hassle-free.
Situated a mere 10-15 minutes ferry ride from Tortola’s main dock, Scrub Island is another effortlessly accessible piece of paradise.
Get Caribbean Family Travel Tips Right Into Your Inbox
If you found this post helpful, don’t miss our other Caribbean destination guides for families.
And for even more Caribbean and family travel inspiration, sign up for our newsletter! We feature new destinations, highlight our favorite hotels, and share family travel tips. Keep the travel dreaming coming all year long.