Located in the Caribbean Sea about 40 miles east of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), is known for turquoise waters, pristine beaches, and year-round water sports. This U.S. territory includes the three large islands of St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas plus 50 smaller islands and cays. While many people choose the Virgin Islands as a vacation spot, others have decided to make it their home and their workplace. In fact, the island of St. Thomas is a hot spot for travel nurses who like a little adventure with their nursing contracts! St. Thomas is the most heavily populated island of the USVI and offers an unmatched travel nursing experience.
Travel Nursing Hospitals in the Virgin Islands
St. Thomas’ only hospital, Roy Lester Schneider Hospital, is located mid-island on the south shore of Charlotte Amalie, the capital city. This 169-bed acute-care facility usually employs a fair amount of travel nurses as it serves St. Thomas as well as patients from throughout the Eastern Caribbean region and the over 1 million tourists the island sees annually.
Schneider Hospital is a Joint Commission accredited facility with a wide range of specialties including cardiology, emergency medicine, inpatient and outpatient surgery, medical oncology and rehabilitation services. As part of the Schneider Regional Medical Center, this health system also operates the Myrah Keating Smith Health Center on St. John and the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute on St. Thomas.
Another top USVI facility is Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center located in Christiansted, St. Croix. This family-centered facility has 77 beds and provides general medicine, labor and delivery, diagnostic imaging, emergency services and a full range of care to area residents. It is also home to the Virgin Islands Cardiac Center, a premier cardiac treatment facility in the Caribbean. Other facilities in the Virgin Islands include VA clinics on both St. Thomas and St. Croix, St. Thomas East End Medical Center and Charles Harwood Medical Center on St. Croix.
Nurses interested in working on St. Thomas should note that the RN licensure process in the USVI can take a bit longer than you’d experience in the states, so plan ahead. Check out the USVI board of nursing application for information on how to obtain a license for travel nursing in St. Thomas. You should also note that the application requires two letters of reference verifying your scope of practice.
U.S. Virgin Islands Travel Nurse Pay Rates
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May 2021 that registered nurses in the USVI earned an average wage of $35.92 and accounted for 4.5% of the territory’s workforce. Vivian has previously posted travel nurse jobs in St. Thomas starting at $1380 per week, for a gross income of $5980 per month. Although pay rates and travel contract opportunities will vary, remember that you’ll also receive the immeasurable benefits of living in an island paradise.
Where to Live in St. Thomas
As the healthcare hub of the USVI, St. Thomas offers the most opportunity for travel nurses. The island of St. Thomas is just 13 miles long and about 4 miles wide, so it would only take about 35-40 minutes to drive across the entire island. The island’s terrain is rugged and includes Crown Mountain with an elevation of 1,277 feet, plus beaches and coral reefs surrounding the island.
While most travel nurse agencies will offer fully furnished housing in lieu of a housing stipend, many travel nurses prefer to take the stipend and find their own housing. There are pockets of both luxury and poverty scattered throughout St. Thomas, but with a bit of research, you can select the perfect spot to book your stay in one of its four main regions.
Living downtown in the capital of Charlotte Amalie can be a bit overwhelming. The apartments are packed in close and it is the most densely populated area of the island with over 10,000 residents. Plus, when cruise ships roll into the harbor, the town can be inundated with tourists. There are a variety of accommodations available there, but you’ll probably want to avoid the tourist-laden hotels and resorts. Instead, look for rental homes and condos within a short commute of your work location. Branching out from the city center may provide a more peaceful island lifestyle while you are working as a travel nurse.
Charlotte Amalie West
Located west of the capital, this area is home to amazing beaches, the university and the airport. Charlotte Amalie West is also a more budget-friendly option with accommodations that are typically less crowded than other areas of St. Thomas. Villas and Airbnb rentals are abundant here, although you may need to book them in advance, so plan ahead.
Red Hook, also known as the East End, encompasses the easternmost part of the island. This area is known for quiet beaches and great snorkeling but can get a bit rowdy at night. As the sun sets Red Hook becomes a hub of activity with people filling up popular restaurants, bars and clubs. This is a great area if you are looking to be in the middle of the hustle and bustle, but if you prefer a quieter environment look elsewhere. Of course, if you are working the night shift, then you could take advantage of all the area offers during the day and then enjoy the nightlife on your days off.
Located on the north side of the island, Magens Bay is known as a great place for families. It also has the island’s most popular beach and is a favorite destination for locals. The calm waters and lack of currents make the bay a perfect spot for kids to play, for snorkeling adventures and a variety of water sports. You’ll find an easy breezy atmosphere in Magens Bay along with plenty of eateries, accommodations and attractions.
Finding Housing on St. Thomas
As a tourist mecca, finding affordable short-term housing on St. Thomas can be tricky without some research. The USVI Moving Center is a great place to learn what to expect before you arrive. There are also some popular Facebook groups where locals post their homes or apartments for rent, including Affordable V.I. Housing Rentals and U.S. Virgin Islands Apartments and Houses for Rent.
In addition, you can join Facebook community groups to get advice on specific areas for accommodations and find great resources for local and current events:
If you’re new to USVI, you may be surprised to learn that typical U.S.-style large apartment complexes do not exist in the Virgin Islands. Most apartments are part of a larger house, where you live on one level and the owner lives on the other. St. Thomas has a few multi-level housing units, but they are not common. Condominiums are also an option and may offer more amenities, a location nearer the beach and gated access.
On St. Thomas, an efficiency or single room typically starts at around $900 per month, and one bedroom apartments range from $1000 – $2000 per month. Two bedroom apartments can cost you anywhere from $1700 – $4000 per month, and condos will average $1500 – $3500 per month for a 2-3 bedroom unit.
Travel nurses can always check sites like Airbnb for housing on St. Thomas, but keep in mind this will often be the most expensive option. Since St. Thomas is so popular with travel nurses, it could be fun to link up with another nurse and split the cost of an awesome island home for your stay.
St. Thomas has numerous gorgeous beaches that highlight the island’s coast with white sands and crystal clear blue water. Magens Bay is the quintessential beach of St. Thomas, but take time to check out other local favorites that will soothe your soul. No matter which beaches you visit, you are guaranteed a perfect Caribbean breeze for some downtime in the sun. Many of the beaches are only accessible by hike or boat, so there is plenty of adventure to be had. You can rent a boat on your own or hire a guide to take you to some unforgettable spots.
For a change of scenery, see St. Thomas from above and enjoy the views! You can soar high above the jungle canopy on the island’s truly unique zipline experience. You can also take in the altitude in the jungle that’s inland from the coast, where there are plenty of fun hikes and outdoor adventure activities.
If you’re looking to get underwater for some up close and personal sea life encounters, St. Thomas has you covered. You can take a guided walk of the ocean floor with an “underwater scooter” helmet dive experience, or take advantage of one of the several SCUBA centers on the island. Coki Dive Center is the most well known and offers dives for all levels including first-timers.
St. Thomas Foodie Spots
Get a taste of local fare with a bite from Gladys’ Cafe, De’Coal Pot, or the Sugarcane Grille. These and other St. Thomas restaurants will have your mouth watering with authentic Caribbean food including jerk chicken, conch fritters, seafood pasta, Johnny cakes and fungi, the national dish of St. Thomas. (Don’t worry – these dumplings are made from okra and cornmeal.) The jerk spices will be a treat for your palate and give you a true island experience.
Other local favorites include:
Vinny’s Foodcart and Catering: This food truck is always parked on the road to Coki Beach. They serve takeaway Caribbean food that will have you wishing for leftovers.
The Twisted Cork Cafe: Fresh and local food perfectly paired with a variety of global wines. This gem sources its herbs from the on-site garden and the chefs pride themselves on flavorful, vibrant recipes.
Blue Eleven: Ideal for a special occasion, this restaurant uses local ingredients to create a seven, nine, or eleven-course tasting menu including fresh-caught seafood.
Some places like the iconic Iggie’s Beach Bar and Grill at Bolongo Bay were closed after hurricanes destroyed much of the island in 2017. However, these spots are rebuilding within the government’s plan for flood mitigation and protection of the coastal ecosystem, so keep an eye out for new or reopened restaurants.
Bars and Nightlife
St. Thomas has many varieties of clubs, whether you like live music, dancing, karaoke, or just hanging out with friends. The main clubs like Starz and The Rum Hut are located just east of the capital in Havensight. On the east end of the island in Red Hook, you’ll find smaller dance bars like Duffy’s Love Shack and Bernie’s Bar & Grill.
Day Trips and Exploring the U.S. Virgin Islands
While travel nurse jobs are found primarily on St. Thomas, one of the best parts about living in the USVI is being able to hop over to another island and explore the Caribbean. Travel to other islands is available via ferry or commuter plane, depending on the location.
St. John: Home to the Virgin Islands National Park, this largely unspoiled island does not have an airport, making it only accessible by boat. A short 20-minute ferry ride brings you to this tropical oasis. A visit to a sugar plantation or one of its immaculate beaches makes a visit to St. John a priority.
St. Croix: This island can be reached by plane or boat. It is the largest of the USVI at 82 square miles. Just off the coast of St. Croix is the nation’s only underwater National Monument, Buck Island. The island’s rolling hills and rainforest backdrop against the sparkling sea are an incredible sight to see. The boat ride from St. Thomas to St. Croix is approximately 2.5 hours.
Water Island: A quick 10-minute boat ride from St. Thomas, this island is the newest addition to the USVI. There are no large properties or food establishments on the island, only stunning scenery and winding roads to explore. Honeymoon Beach, one of the most beautiful in the USVI, is located on Water Island.
British Virgin Islands: The British Virgin Islands are renowned for their alluring beaches and laid-back vibes. Since they are not part of the USVI, you will need a valid passport to visit these islands. The British Virgin Islands can be reached by plane or a ferry ride lasting from 40 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your destination.
Getting Around St. Thomas
There are various methods for getting around St. Thomas, but walking isn’t one of them. Aside from downtown, the terrain and roads are rugged and not very pedestrian friendly, and hitchhiking is not recommended.
Car Rental: Renting a car is probably the most convenient and consistent way to explore St. Thomas. Price will depend on the size of the vehicle and the time of year. Travel nursing agencies may provide a rental car or stipend for one. Travel nurses should ask for a long-term rental discount if they are arranging the car without the help of their agency.
Taxis: Taxi rates are regulated by the Virgin Island Taxicab Division. There are also locals who run “gypsy” taxis with their own vehicles and are not subject to the rules and regulations of the registered cabs. Travel at your own risk in these vehicles. Whether taking a gypsy or non-gypsy cab, always agree to a rate with your driver that includes group and luggage fees before you enter the vehicle. There are also “dollar rides” or “dollar taxis”, which are open-air vehicles with bench seats in the back that travel shorter distances. This is a good option for travel around the downtown area.
Scooter and Bike Rentals: Due to the mountainous nature of the island, biking more than a short distance will be a tremendous feat for anyone who is not an avid cyclist. Scooter rentals are popular, but can become costly unless you can negotiate a long-term rental deal. Keep in mind though, if it rains, a scooter is not very practical.
Public Transportation: USVI’s public transit system is called VITRAN. Ride these public buses from Red Hook to downtown for $1 starting at 5:15 AM, and ending in Red Hook at 8:00 PM. VITRAN routes service Schneider Regional Medical Center between 6:15 AM and 8:00 PM. There is also a bus between the airport and town during the same hours as city buses.
St. Thomas Facts to Know
Climate: The weather on this tropical island is delightful year round, with maximum daytime temps of 82°F in January and 88°F in July. December through March is very pleasant, with daytime temperatures in the mid-70s to 80s, followed by breezy nights to cool things down. Rainfall averages 45 inches annually, and relative humidity is low for the Caribbean region. Hurricane season peaks from August through October, so there is always a risk of threatening weather during these months.
Language: English is the official language of the USVI. You will find some French speakers on St. Thomas as well as Spanish that’s spoken on St. Croix, due to the number of Puerto Rican immigrants on the island.
Ethnicity and Population: As of 2021, the total population of the USVI was 105,870. Nearly 75% of the USVI population is Afro-Caribbean or Black, 17% are Hispanic or Latino, about 15% are White and less than 5% are Asian or mixed ethnicity. Per Global Data, the infant mortality rate in 2021 was 7.81 per 1000 live births.
Economy: Tourism and related services are the foundation of the USVI economy. Nearly 20% of the islands are farmland, with St. Croix mainly producing its crops of sugarcane, fruits, vegetables and livestock. The islands’ rum distilleries and fishing industry are also well established along with several chemical manufacturing plants.
Consider Working in the USVI
Island life means slowing down and appreciating the beauty around you, and travel nursing offers such an amazing opportunity for you to experience this lifestyle. As a travel nurse, you have a special chance to work in this magical setting and also make a living! There is no place within the continental United States that can offer an opportunity like the U.S. Virgin Islands.