RESORTS IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS OFFER DIVERSE BEAUTY
The first people arrived in the U.S. Virgin Islands in about 2000 B.C. Over the years, tribes, explorers, pirates, kings and queens have all sought the natural splendour of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and our Virgin Island resort’s the perfect place to experience it all for yourself. From the time Christopher Columbus arrived, seven different nations governed our land, leaving their influence on customs, architecture, art, music and cuisine. On March 31, 1917, the islands officially became a part of the United States. The result is a people with a tapestry of backgrounds. The one thing you’ll find they all have in common is a love for the place they call home and an eagerness to share it with everyone else.
And the landscape is as diverse as its people, with rolling hills, bays and turquoise waters. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, you will experience nature like never before. Each island has its own personality and activities that you can enjoy from music and dance at world-famous carnivals, to historic sightseeing, shopping, and ecotourism that allows you to interact with the environment while also contributing to its preservation.
HISTORY OF VIRGIN ISLANDS
According to historians, the Ciboney were the first group of people to inhabit the U.S. Virgin Islands. They arrived on the islands during what is considered the Pre-Ceramic Culture. Arawaks were the next to arrive, establishing sites on St. John and St. Croix around 100 AD. But the best-known inhabitants, and those to arrive next, were the savage Caribs and the more peaceful Tainos. Evidence of their time in the islands has been unearthed in recent years and includes stone griddles, zemis (small carvings depicting the faces of their gods) and petroglyphs, which are rock carvings visible on St. John’s Reef Bay Trail.
The Caribs had taken control of St. Croix when Christopher Columbus sailed into Salt River on his second voyage in 1493, claiming the islands for Spain. The battle between the Indians and Columbus is considered the first insurgence in the New World. After renaming the island Santa Cruz, Columbus headed north where he spotted a chain of islands. He proclaimed they would be called Las Once Mil Virgenes (11,000 virgins) in honour of Ursula, martyred by the Huns for refusing to marry a pagan prince.
It was the Danes who established the first settlement in St. Thomas in 1672, expanding to St. John in 1694. St. Croix was added to the Danish West India Company in 1733, and plantations soon sprung up all over the islands.
A treaty with the Dutch of Brandenburg in 1685 established St. Thomas as a slave-trading post. More than 200,000 slaves, primarily from Africa’s west coast, were forcibly shipped to the islands for the backbreaking work of harvesting cane, cotton and indigo. St. John and St. Croix maintained a plantation economy, while St. Thomas developed as a trade centre. Stripped of their dignity and freedom and fed up with the harsh conditions, in 1733 slaves attacked St. John’s Fort Frederiksvaern in Coral Bay, crippling operations for six months. In 1792 Denmark announced the cessation of the trade-in humans. Freedom was not granted to slaves until 1848 when Moses “Buddhoe” Gottlieb led a revolution on St. Croix, 17 years before emancipation in the United States.
After the freeing of slaves and the discovery of the sugar beet, agriculture in the islands declined. The industrial revolution ended the need for the islands as a shipping port. Little was heard of the islands until World War I, when the United States realized their strategic position and negotiated the purchase of the islands from Denmark for $25 million in gold.
Although the islands were purchased in 1917, it wasn’t until 1927 that citizenship was granted to Virgin Islanders. The Organic Act of 1936 allowed for the creation of a senate. In 1970, the U.S. Virgin Islands elected its first governor, Melvin H. Evans.
CULTURE & CUSTOMS
The U.S. Virgin Islands is a paradise with so much more to offer than the traditional beach vacation. Visitors wishing to immerse themselves in a profound cultural experience can enjoy historical tours, culinary encounters, artisan fairs, parades, storytelling and other special presentations.
Walking tours on St. Thomas and St. Croix features diverse architecture, evidence of nations that colonized the islands in the 17th and 18th centuries. If you’re feeling energetic, walk one of the many street steps, the most famous being the 99 steps on St. Thomas, a common way of getting to higher ground.
Your cultural journey continues with a look at the life and creations of artisans and crafters who earned a living creating functional and decorative pieces. Restored great houses now serving as museums, like Haagenson House on St. Thomas and Whim Museum on St. Croix, preserve this past, displaying masterfully created mahogany pieces, delicate linens and original art. Local craft cooperatives, art galleries and artist colonies present the works of today’s tradition-bearers. Annaberg Plantation ruins in St. John’s National Park offer daily cultural demonstrations, including cooking the old-fashioned way – on a coal pot over an open flame.
For an exceptional all-inclusive vacation in the best of St. Thomas, Virgin Island resorts and hotels, Sugar Bay Resort & Spa has the luxury accommodations and amenities you seek. For an unforgettable family vacation, romantic getaway or corporate excursion, experience the culture, beauty and excitement of St. Thomas in our incomparable resort.