The Virgin Islands of the United States (commonly called the United States Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, or USVI) are a group of islands in the Caribbean that are an insular area of the United States. The islands are geographically part of the Virgin Islands archipelago and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.
The U.S. Virgin Islands consist of the main islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas, along with the much smaller but historically distinct Water Island, and many other surrounding minor islands. The total land area of the territory is 133.73 square miles (346.4 km2). The territory's capital is Charlotte Amalie on the island of Saint Thomas.
As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population was 106,405, mostly composed by those of Afro-Caribbean descent. Tourism is the primary economic activity, although there is a significant rum manufacturing sector.
The Virgin Islands were originally inhabited by the Ciboney, Carib, and Arawaks. The islands were named by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1493 for Saint Ursula and her virgin followers. Over the next two hundred years, the islands were held by many European powers, including Spain, Great Britain, the Netherlands, France, and Denmark-Norway.
The Danish West India Company settled on Saint Thomas in 1672, on Saint John in 1694, and purchased Saint Croix from France in 1733. The islands became royal Danish colonies in 1754, named the Danish-Westindian islands (Danish: De dansk-vestindiske øer). Sugarcane, produced by slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries, until the abolition of slavery by Governor Peter von Scholten on July 3, 1848.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are in the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, about 40 miles (64 km) east of Puerto Rico and immediately west of the British Virgin Islands. They share the Virgin Islands Archipelago with the Spanish Virgin Islands (administered by Puerto Rico) and the British Virgin Islands. The territory consists of four main islands: Saint Thomas, Saint John, Saint Croix, and Water Island, as well as several dozen smaller islands. The main islands have nicknames often used by locals: "Twin City" (St. Croix), "Rock City" (St. Thomas) and "Love City" (St. John). The combined land area of the islands is roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are known for their white sand beaches, including Magens Bay and Trunk Bay, and strategic harbors, including Charlotte Amalie and Christiansted. Most of the islands, including Saint Thomas, are volcanic in origin and hilly. The highest point is Crown Mountain, Saint Thomas (1,555 ft or 474 m).
Politics and government
The U.S. Virgin Islands are an organized, unincorporated United States territory. Even though they are U.S. citizens, U.S. Virgin Islands residents cannot vote in presidential elections. U.S. Virgin Islands residents, however, are able to vote in presidential primary elections for delegates to the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention.
The main political parties in the U.S. Virgin Islands are the Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands, the Independent Citizens Movement, and the Republican Party of the Virgin Islands. Additional candidates run as independents.
At the national level, the U.S. Virgin Islands elect a delegate to Congress from their at-large congressional district. However, the elected delegate, while able to vote in committee, cannot participate in floor votes. The current House of Representatives delegate is Donna Christensen (D).
Tourism is the primary economic activity. The islands normally host 2 million visitors a year, many of whom visit on cruise ships.
The manufacturing sector consists of mainly rum distilling. The agricultural sector is small, with most food being imported. International business and financial services are a small but growing component of the economy. Most energy is also generated from imported oil, leading to electricity costs four to five times higher than the U.S. mainland. The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority also uses imported energy to operate its desalination facilities to provide fresh water.
The official language is English, although Virgin Islands Creole, an English-based creole, locally known as "dialect," is spoken in informal situations. The Virgin Islands Creole spoken on St. Croix, known as Crucian, is slightly different from that spoken on St. Thomas and St. John. Because the U.S. Virgin Islands are home to thousands of immigrants from across the Caribbean, Spanish and various French creole languages are also widely spoken. As of the 2000 census, 25.3% of persons over the age of five speak a language other than English at home. Spanish is spoken by 16.8% of the population and French is spoken by 6.6% 
As in most Caribbean countries, Christianity is the dominant religion in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Protestantism is most prevalent, reflecting the territory's Danish colonial heritage. There is also a strong Roman Catholic presence. There are some Jews living in the Islands, and a significant Muslim population, primarily of Palestinian descent.
The Virgin Islands Department of Education serves as the territory's education agency, and has two school districts: St. Thomas-St. John School District and St. Croix School District.
The University of the Virgin Islands provides higher education leading to associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees, with campuses on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Places to Visit in U.S. Virgin Islands:
- Waterlemon Cay, Virgin Islands National Park
- Second Wind, St. Thomas
- Maho Beach, Cruz Bay
- Salomon Beach, St. John
- Maho Bay, Virgin Islands National Park
- Lindquist Beach, St. Thomas
- Hawksnest Beach, Virgin Islands National Park
- Isaac Bay, St. Croix
- Magic Ice, Charlotte Amalie
- Francis Bay, St. John