Destinations: Hawaii vs. US Virgin Islands

Yesterday on Instagram (be sure to follow us!), we posted a photo of our recent trip to Maui.

The folks at St. John Fun commented on the photo of the beautiful Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, asking us how Hawaii compares to the US Virgin Islands. Although we’re far from experts on either destination, we’ve had the good fortune of spending a fair amount of time exploring Hawaii (Big Island), Maui, Oahu, Kaui and Lānaʻi, as well as the 3 main islands of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.

So how do they compare? there are some similarities; both destinations are warm and tropical and US Citizens don’t need a passport to travel to either location. And, both destinations are comprised of several different islands to choose from – each with it’s own personality and attractions. But, both Hawaii and the USVI have their differences and their own distinct vibe. We love both destinations, but which one would suit you better?

In considering the two, remember that Hawaii is a 4-5 hour flight from California, so the travel time is shorter from the Western US. The USVI (St. Thomas), on the other hand is less than a 3 hour flight from Miami, making a shorter travel time for those in the Eastern US – not that travel time should be the sole reason to consider each destination.

Here are a few other things to consider though, and we’ve listed them as the things we love about each of the destinations. See if any of them match your interests!

Maui, copyright Rum TherapyMaui, Hawaii

What we love about Hawaii
Flowers & Foliage – from the lei you frequently receive upon arrival to the airport or hotel, to the lush and aromatic landscaping, Hawaii is known for its beautiful and proliferous flowers.
Surfing – let’s be honest, the North Shore in the winter rocks for surfing. Also being honest – we prefer to watch!
Coffee – Maybe it’s the tropical air, or that coffee beans are just happier in the Aloha State, but coffee grown in Hawaii is delicious. Kona Coffee is exclusively grown on the big island, where the rich volcanic soil is abundant. Tour a coffee plantation and find out how the beans are harvested and processed. If you love it, be sure bring a bag or two home.
Waterfalls – Spectacular waterfalls, made even more spectacular after a good rain, can be found on many of the islands. Some of the most spectacular we’ve seen are on the island of Kauai – one of which, Wailua Falls, was used in the filming of the opening scene of Fantasy Island.
Golf – Hawaii could be described as a golfer’s heaven. With more than 70 courses to choose from, there are plenty of options – some with spectacular signature holes that hug the rugged shoreline. You may want to bring some extra golf balls.
Humpback Whales – We only spotted one on our recent trip, but apparently during the height of whale season, there are hundreds of whales swimming, breaching and playing in the waters surrounding the islands. One local on Maui told us it looks like whale soup!
Rugged scenery – because the Hawaiian Islands are volcanic, much of the topography is rugged, severe and extremely scenic.
Volcanic Mountains – go from a warm sunny beach to the summit of  a mountain in just a few hours – and yes, they do get snow occasionally in Hawaii!
Pineapple – a symbol of Hawaii, pineapple is still grown on several islands and can even be found in the landscaping in areas. Take a tour of a pineapple farm on Maui or Oahu and taste it fresh from the field.
Abundance of fresh seafood – from Ahi to Uku, and from upscale restaurants to food trucks, you will find deliciously fresh seafood everywhere.
History – Hawaii became a US state in 1959, but its history dates back centuries to when the first Polynesians set foot on Hawaii. You can feel the Polynesian influence everywhere and learn more about it at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu and experience Polynesian traditions during an island luau.

St. John - copyright Pamela OttSt. John, USVI

What we love about the US Virgin Islands
Boating & sailing
– the USVI and BVI are a playground for those who enjoy boating and sailing. With fairly calm waters and a variety of islands in close proximity, you can easily explore multiple islands via excursion or by chartering a sailboat or catamaran for the week.
Island hopping – the ferry system in the USVI and BVI also provide excellent opportunities for island hopping. From St. Thomas, it’s only a short ferry ride to St. John and a car barge is also available. There is talk of re-starting the ferry from St. Thomas to St. Croix, but at this time, we recommend taking the short hop over on a seaplane!
Beaches – the beaches of the USVI are top notch. Each of the US Virgin Islands has its share of beautiful, white sand beaches with St. John having more than its fair share! Oh and that water…turquoise, clear and warm…ahhh…
Rum – Rum is king in the VI and bottles can be purchased at a very reasonable price. Take a tour of the Cruzan Rum Distillery on St. Croix (with a tasting bar at the end of the tour!) and experience the Captain Morgan Visitor Center (also on St. Croix) for a historical overview of the rum industry – and more rum tasting, of course!
Beach bars – beach bars abound in the USVI and offer a great relaxed place to enjoy the sunshine, some conversation, live music at times and a Painkiller or frosty Bushwacker or two..
Caribbean lobster – ohhh….the buttery taste of fresh Caribbean lobster! Delicious, but only served in lobster season – between November and June each year.
Hiking – while some people wouldn’t think of hiking as an activity to embark on during a tropical vacation, it’s a great way to experience the USVI – especially St John, where a National Park covers approximately 60% of the island which is crisscrossed with great hiking trails.

What do you love about Hawaii or the US Virgin Islands? Leave a comment for us below! If you have an specific questions on each destination, feel free to contact us at [email protected] and we’ll try our best to advise.

For more information on these and other island destinations, be sure to check out our Island Blog Directory

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  1. Rex A Porter says:

    Been to both give me USVI anytime! Born to be a rum bum 😇