Start of 1,500-word article, pictures available


History tells us that, during his second voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus was lost in the Caribbean when he spotted a lush little island some 60 kilometres east of Puerto Rico. Met with a shower of arrows from hostile Indians, he and his men stayed ashore just long enough to claim the island for Spain and name it Santa Cruz. From there they moved on, finding themselves among a host of tiny islands and cays. So many in fact they reminded the admiral of St. Ursula's 11,000 followers who died defending their chastity. With such a parallel, what else could he call them but The Virgins?

After changing hands some half-dozen times, three of these Virgins were in 1917 purchased from Denmark by the United States. Now known as the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix (as the French renamed Santa Cruz) seduce visitors with silken beaches, balmy temperatures and surrounding waters so clear even non-swimmers can share the natural treasures they hold. Hospitality these days means vacation accommodation ranging from a simple tent in a national park to the plushiest of Caribbean resorts. And unlike Christopher C. you'll not get lost, since each is connected by ferry, seaplane or air services. Moreover, they are small enough and close enough, that each island can be explored in a day from the other two Virgins or Puerto Rico's San Juan.