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By Ted Alan Stedman

A week in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and I hadn’t dipped one toe in a pool. Nothing against pool-inspired frivolities on a Caribbean vacation. Truth is, I hadn’t had time. I’d come to explore the wilder side of America’s Caribbean and found no end to the energized fun.

On St. Thomas, visits are compulsory to Megans Beach –- a perpetual on many Best Beaches of the World lists. I began in the mountainous Megans Bay Nature Preserve. I saw historic landmarks, dazzling birds and lofty views during a 2-mile hike to the beach, where I cooled off with a refreshing swim surrounded by tropical fish. For a new twist on nightlife I signed on with Homer’s Incredible Night Snorkel Adventure and caroused with the undersea residents of Hull Bay under a brilliant full moon.

St. John has preserved two-thirds of its land and reefs as the Virgin Islands National Park. So it made good eco-sense to stay at visionary resort camps Maho Bay and Concordia, as "green" as they come and in spectacular locations. If you dive, hit the waters off Maho at Caraval Rock, where squadrons of tarpon make daily sorties. And to really see the island on its own terms, try kayaking Cruz Bay and mountain biking the interior through ace outfitter Arawak Expeditions.

I love St. Croix‘s laid-back, home-grown vibe. This authentic island serves up top-shelf diving, like the waters off Cane Beach that see regular visits of big denizens of the deep. About a mile from where I stayed at Carambola Beach Resort you’ll find the remote tide pools of Annaly Bay. By the time you’ve done the 1-mile hike you’re rewarded with a revitalizing dunk in a natural ocean pool beneath soaring rocky cliffs.

Another can’t miss is an excursion to Buck Island National Preserve with Big Beard’s Adventure Tours. I sailed aboard its 42-foot catamaran to the preserve’s Snorkel Trail and had a blast fin kicking to the underwater markers along shallow sun-lit grottos.

Here are a few photos from the trip:

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Related Orbitz resources:

By ski, bike, kayak, safari vehicle and on foot, Ted Alan Stedman has
journeyed in six continents and hopes to soon close in on number seven:
Antarctica. The Denver-based writer is a former ski journalist for the
Rocky Mountain News, and these days is a regular contributor to Sport Diver, Islands, Sunset, Outside and Outdoor Photographer magazines.

Tagged: Caribbean

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