Charlotte Amalie, the main city in St. Thomas, is a cruise-ship hub, but amidst the jewelry stores and T-shirt sellers, there’s a colonial-era town, with a stone fort and European-style buildings worth exploring. Take the 99 Steps staircase (whoops, the steps actually number 103) up to a vantage point anchored by Blackbeard’s Castle, a 17th-century Danish watchtower that was supposedly used as a lookout by the infamous pirate. On St. Croix, pale yellow Fort Christiansvaem, overlooking the waterfront at Christiansted, is a beautifully preserved national park site that offers a peek at Caribbean colonial life more than 150 years ago, plus lots of cool historical cannons, dungeons, and military artifacts.
At Coral World Ocean Park, on St. Thomas, kids over 80 pounds can try the “sea trek” adventure, where you don a helmet and walk along a trail underwater to explore a coral reef; it’s like scuba diving without getting your hair wet. Younger kids can pet baby sharks, visit with sea lions and walk through a tropical bird aviary. Next door is Coki Beach, which has a festival flavor every day; you can get your hair braided, rent a Waverunner, go snorkeling or eat a snack at one of the huts that line the beach. On St. John, stop at the national park visitors center in Cruz Bay, the island’s main port, and kids can sign up to become a Junior Ranger, receiving a badge, certificate and lots of information about the national park.