This National Park Is The Perfect Destination For Beach Lovers

The U.S. boasts a wide range of national parks, from the sandy dunes of White Sands National Park in New Mexico to the nearly underwater national park of Florida's Dry Tortugas. But if you're searching for one of the most picturesque and tropical US National Parks, you don't need a ticket to Florida, California, or even Hawaii. Instead, head to the Virgin Islands National Park, located in sunny St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The U.S. Virgin Islands, sometimes referred to as USVI, are a group of islands located in the Caribbean. They are a territory of the United States, but still have their own local government. The islands' namesake national park is one of the hardest to see, but not impossible to access by any means. With some simple planning, you can soon be in the warm, crystal-clear waters of Virgin Islands National Park, accompanied by turtles and a cocktail in hand.

Know before you go

Before you head off to your tropical paradise, there are a few things you'll need to know. While the most common way to travel is by airplane, visiting Virgin Islands National Park requires an alternative mode of transportation. You can fly to nearby St. Thomas from mainland U.S., with direct flights frequently departing from New York, Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, and Charlotte. However, there's only one way to get to St. John, where U.S. Virgin Islands National Park is located: you must take a ferry or boat from St. Thomas.

One of the best perks of visiting this national park is that U.S. visitors won't need a passport to get there. Because the U.S. Virgin Islands are technically a territory of the United States, a government ID will suffice.

You might be wondering what to bring on a trip to the Virgin Islands National Park. Of course, pack a swimsuit or two, but you'll also want to bring a waterproof camera such as a GoPro to capture some of the incredible aquatic life when snorkeling. Don't forget to include reef-safe sunscreen as using non-reef-safe sunscreen is illegal in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Although many shops on the island sell reef-safe sunscreen, the prices are often higher, with some travelers reporting paying over $20 for a bottle.

Best time to visit and what to do

The busiest time to visit Virgin Islands National Park is from mid-December to April, during peak tourist season. For those who prefer nice weather without the crowds, April through June are ideal months to plan a vacation.

Many visitors to the USVI stay on St. Thomas or St. Croix instead of St. John. If you find yourself in this situation but want to check out Virgin Islands National Park, it's still possible. From St. Croix, you can take a 25-minute flight or a three-hour ferry to St. Thomas, followed by a 30-minute ferry to St. John. If you're staying on St. Thomas, you just need to take a 30-minute ferry to the park on St. John. While St. Croix presents more of a challenge for getting to the park, it does have the best all-inclusive resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands that's also kid-free.

When you arrive at Virgin Islands National Park, there are certain things you won't want to miss. Honeymoon Beach and Salomon Beach provide some screensaver-worthy views. Speaking of views, the Viewpoint of Caneel Bay and Caneel Beach offer panoramic perspectives of the island. Since over 40% of Virgin Islands National Park is underwater, it's only fair to see it from a different point of view by snorkeling. The best spots to do so are at Henley Cay and Haulover.