To preserve the forested hills of St. John, Laurance Rockefeller acquired nearly two-thirds of the island in the 1950s before donating it to the National Park Service, making it the easiest Virgin Island on which to spot Caribbean hummingbirds and iguanas. See them on the ranger-led hike to Reef Bay Trail, a downhill trek to the sea past native Taino petroglyphs, bay leaf trees, and sugar mill ruins. A launch whisks hikers back to Cruz Bay, eliminating the uphill trek back.

For some of the sea's best snorkeling, leave Trunk Bay to the cruise ship crowds and make for Waterlemon Cay. It's a healthy swim from shore to isle, but worth the effort to view tangs, rays, and starfish.

Tidy, tiny Cruz Bay does its best to lure nature lovers into town with unique shops and good restaurants, including the convivial Fish Trap and romantic, hillside Asolare.

DETAILS: U.S. Virgin Islands tourism, (800) 372-8784, www.usvitourism.vi. Caneel Bay, from $300, (888) 767-3966, www.rosewoodhotels.com. Maho Bay Camps, $110, (800) 392-9004, www.maho.org. Virgin Islands National Park, (340) 776-6201, www.nps.gov/viis.

ELAINE GLUSAC is a Chicago-based writer and contributing
editor for American Way magazine. Her work has appeared in
National Geographic Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Shape, and numerous other national magazines.
OFF THE BEATEN PATHS
Even the most-touristed Caribbean isles secret secluded corners. Find them on:

Guadeloupe, in lush Parc National de la Guadeloupe in the less-developed Basse-Terre wing of the island, where rainforest trails reach mountain highs. (410) 286-8310, www.franceguide.com