New Virgin Islands Guidebook Offers Real and Opinionated Travel Advice

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“Moon Handbooks Virgin Islands” guidebook cover.

For the traveler who wants to do a little research before going on vacation, there are numerous places to go for information — travel brochures, Web sites, magazines and more.

Moon Handbooks has taken a different approach to travel guides in its third edition of “Moon Handbooks Virgin Islands,” written by Tortola resident Susanna Henighan, who adds her own opinions and analysis to the guide.

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Susanna Henighan

“It really caters to independent travelers,” said Henighan, who has lived in the Virgin Islands since 1999, including a year on St. Thomas. “It’s for people who will take the time and the trouble to buy a book and do some research — that’s the kind of traveler who wants to know about the place they’re coming to.”

Context, History of VI
The book provides more than the usual places to stay, restaurants and tourist attractions in-formation, explained Henighan.
“It’s for people who don’t just want to get off the plane or boat and go to their hotel,” she said. “They want to know the context and who these people are that live here, why they are here, what they do, and what kind of history this place has.”

Henighan put her honest opinions into the book in an effort to paint a real picture of the Virgin Islands, she explained.

“I really tried my best to tell it like it is, and I tried to be true to facts and not necessarily make it sound like a tourist brochure, because I thought that would make the ultimate experience of the visitor better,” said Heni-ghan. “I felt honesty and being truthful was important. The guide is for people who want to take a thoughtful vacation.”

“Moon Handbooks Virgin Islands” is the first book for Henighan, who had previous journalism experience, she ex-plained.

Journalism Background
“I’d been living here for awhile and I just happened to be online and saw that Moon Hand-books was looking for someone to rewrite their Virgin Islands guidebook,” said Henighan. “I thought, ‘well, that’s right up my alley.’ My background is in journalism and I knew I could write.”

Henighan was challenged by the scope of the project, she explained.

“What was new for me was a project of this size,” said Henighan. “It’s really different than writing an article because of the scope — you just have to cover a lot more territory. In terms of organizing myself to get it finished on time, it was a challenge, but it was a lot of fun.”

Henighan spent nearly two years traveling around the Virgin Islands and doing research, she explained.

Researching Inns, Guest Houses
“Living here, I could do a little bit of travel at a time,” said Henighan. “I could take a long weekend to travel to the other islands, and then living on St. Thomas and Tortola, I was pretty familiar with the attractions and places to eat and those sorts of things. I did have to spend a little time looking at hotels and inns and guest houses, because as a resident, you don’t always look at those in great detail.”

After experiencing each of the Virgin Islands, it is difficult for Henighan to choose her favorite one, she explained.

“What I found most remarkable about the Virgin Islands is that each island is so different,” said Henighan. “You look at the map and think, ‘okay, all these islands are pretty much the same,’ but really and truly each island is so unique.”

Communicating Love for Islands
“I love St. Croix for its history and culture and the diversity of the landscape; I love St. John for the National Park and the beauty, peace and serenity you can find there; I love Tortola, because it’s a unique kind of place — a little bit funky, a little bit backwards and a little sophisticated all at the same time,” Henighan continued. “I really love each island, and I tried to communicate that to the readers.”

The Virgin Islands offers a vacation for just about anyone, Henighan explained.

“Whether you like camping or gambling, you can find it here,” she said. “You can find the perfect vacation here. You can really find something that is you, and I think that’s something.”

Henighan encourages other Virgin Islands residents to vacation throughout the USVI and the BVI, she explained.

Selective, Opinionated Guide
“I traveled to each of the islands, and I had a blast,” said the author. “I recommend it to anyone who lives in the Virgin Islands. Instead of going to the states or Europe, go to your own backyard.”

Through her travels, Henighan was able to create a guidebook that takes a traveler from the beginning to the end of their vacation.
“It takes your trip from the very beginning to the very end, from planning where you can go to get a nice meal, all the way from the smallest detail to the biggest issue,” said Henighan. “At the same time, it’s selective and opinionated. I don’t just list all the restaurants, hotels and places you can go.”

“I have opinions about things in the guide,” Henighan continued. “I’ll say, ‘if you’re interested in this, this is where you should go.’ I try to give people the information they want.”

A copy of “Moon Handbooks Virgin Islands” is at the Elaine I. Sprauve Library in Cruz Bay, and the guide book can be ordered from amazon.com.

Henighan welcomes questions, comments or feedback at shenighan@surfbvi.com.