Overview | What to Do | Other Attractions | Get Around | Eat & Drink | Stay in Touch | Shopping
St. Thomas is the most developed and cosmopolitan of the US Virgin Islands. It's a small island at only 32 square miles, yet it remains one of the most popular cruise destinations in the Caribbean and the busiest in the West Indies. Known for its great shopping, St. Thomas also has many historical sites and excellent beaches. The cruise ships dock in one of two docks in Charlotte Amalie, which at one time was a haven for pirates! It’s about a 10 minute ride to the center of St. Thomas, known as Downtown Charlotte Amalie, from the cruise ship docks.
English is the official language of the US Virgin Islands. The many locals speak Creole, Spanish and English with a strong Creole accent. The US Dollar is the official currency of the US Virgin Islands. There are more than 50 ATMs on the island and most are conveniently located in Charlotte Amalie, where the cruise ships dock. When you are making your way around the island, remember that everything works on "island time" on St. Thomas—nothing runs on schedule, or gets done in a hurry. Just relax and enjoy the scenery and eventually everything will be taken care of. Being polite always helps, so be sure to greet everyone with "hello" or "good morning," etc. before getting down to business, whether ordering a drink at a bar or just passing people on the street.
Coral World lets you examine sea life of all varieties, swim with sea lions, take a guided tour of the ocean floor, and even (safely) encounter sharks! Coki beach is nearby if you want to soak up some sun afterwards.
St. Peter Great House and Botanical Gardens
St. Peter Great House and Botanical Gardens, situated 1000 feet above Hull Bay and world famous Magens Bay in the volcanic peaks of St. Thomas, offers spectacular views of neighboring islands, including St. John, Tortola and Jost Van Dyke. The outdoor observation deck offers breathtaking views and great photo opportunities. It covers 11 acres and has several self guided nature trails and over 200 varieties of tropical plants and trees.
How to Get There: Located about five miles northwest of the port (see map), this is about 10 minutes away by car.
St. Thomas Skyride
The St. Thomas Skyride to Paradise Point will take you by tram 700 feet above Charlotte Amalie and give you breathtaking views of the harbor and neighboring islands, even Puerto Rico. Only minutes from the docks and running every 7 minutes, this is a must do attraction that can be easily fit in amongst other great things to do in St. Thomas.
How to Get There: The Skyride is about a 25 minute walk from the dock, or a very brief cab ride (see map).
Check out this video of the ride down on the St. Thomas Skyride from Paradise Point:
As you might expect, St. Thomas features beautiful beaches with white sand and turquoise waters. Even better, the beaches are all open to the public and most are within a few miles of Charlotte Amalie.
Magen Bay, located north of the port, is the best beach for a half day trip. It has a well deserved reputation as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. There is a small admission fee of $3.
How to Get There: Magen Bay is a 20 minute taxi north of the port (see map).
Sapphire Beach offers stunning views of St. John and the British Virgin Islands. Every type of water sport is available from kayaks to jet skies. This is also an ideal location for snorkeling and scuba diving.
How to Get There: Located on the east side of St. Thomas, about a fifteen-minute drive away (see map).
Coki Point Beach
Coki Point Beach is a nice beach though often quite crowded. It is an excellent beach for swimming. Snorkeling is also very popular here because of the abundance of colorful fish and beautiful corals. Water sports such as water skiing and parasailing is also available.
How to Get There: Coki Point is located northeast of the port (see map) near Coral World. A cab will get you there in fifteen minutes.
Due to it’s small size, St. Thomas doesn’t have a wide selection of golf courses. Nevertheless, the scenery provides an unbeatable backdrop and your skills will be put to the test by the “devil’s triangle.”
Carambola Golf & Country Club
Carambola Golf & Country Club sports the Mahogany Run Golf Course, a 6022 yard, par 70 course designed by George and Tom Fazio. Greens fees range from $65-$100 for 9-holes and $100-$165 for 18-holes, depending on the time of day and time of year.
How to Get There: The course is a 15 minute drive north of the port area (see map).
Diving in St. Thomas offers a wide variety of dive sites and marine life for the enthusiast. Since St. Thomas is a US territory you will have the added peace of mind of knowing that all dive companies are coast guard inspected and certified. Below are a couple of the dive centers that serve St. Thomas:
Blue Island Divers
Blue Island Divers will pick you up from your dock site, take you on a two tank dive and drop you back off at no extra charge. Blue Island Divers specialize in dive sites all throughout the waters south of St. Thomas.
How to Get There: Blue Island is next to the Crown Bay Marina, about three miles west of the West Indian Company docks (see map).
Aqua Action Dive Center
Aqua Action Dive Center operates out of the Secret Harbour Beach Resort, Aqua Action Dive Center currently offers dives at 40 different locations, both on the north and south side of the island.
How to Get There: The center is located six miles east of the port (see map), or about 20 minutes by car.
The Champagne Sailing Adventure
The Champagne Sailing Adventure is an all day (7 hours) tour on a 61' classic sailboat. This tour comes complete with breakfast, lunch, an open bar, and two snorkeling stops on the way to St. John, BVI. E-mail the tour operator for more information.
How to Get There: Located directly on the West Indian Company docks.
Blackbeard's Castle Tour
Blackbeard's Castle Tour boasts pirate hideouts, historic manor houses, botanical gardens, archaeological sites, sparkling pools, waterfalls, museums, bars, shops and much more. Self-guided tours are $14 for adults and $5 for children under 12. For more information contact the office at (340) 776-1234.
How to Get There: The castle is located in the heart of Charlotte Amalie, less than two miles from the dock (see map). A cab ride will take less than five minutes.
The Water Island Adventures Tour
The Water Island Adventures Tour begins with a ferry ride from the cruise dock to Water Island, while passing several little islands and the scenic coastline. Upon arrival at Water Island, you will board a bike bus that will take you up to Fort Segarra, where the bike tour begins. You would then follow the trail down, while taking in the natural beauty and wildlife that Water Island has to offer, and arrive at Honeymoon Beach for a refreshing dip. From there you will board the ferry which will take you back to the cruise ship dock. Contact the tour operator by phone at (340) 714-2186 or (340) 775-5770; or by email.
How to Get There: Located right on the Crown Bay Marina, three miles from the West Indian Company docks (see map).
Before you begin to explore what St. Thomas has to offer, remember that driving in St. Thomas is England style (on the left), even though the steering wheel is on the left as in the United States. The roads are not in the best condition, so use caution when merging or pulling out onto the road.
Use caution when walking on the island since cars may be approaching from the opposite direction than expected. St. Thomas is a safe island, but exercise the same common sense that you would in any city, particularly after dark.
There are ferries available for travel to each of the main Virgin Islands and also to Puerto Rico from St. Thomas.
Taxis are available at the cruise ship dock. Most are open air and are not metered. Rates are set per person and per destination. Getting to the popular shopping and eating spots in Charlotte Amalie will cost about $7-15 for one person and $4-10 per person for two or more passengers.
Safari Buses are open on the sides and are similar to caravan vehicles. They offer a tour around the island which takes about two and a half hours and will cost about $20-30 per person.
There are numerous car rental agencies located at the airport, which is within walking distance from the docks:
- Dollar Rent a Car has a location at the airport in Charlotte Amalie. For more information contact them at (340) 774-0111.
- Thrifty Car Rental has a location at the airport in Charlotte Amalie. For more information contact them at (340) 776-1500.
- Hertz Rental Car has a location at the airport in Charlotte Amalie. For more information contact them at (340) 774-1879.
Scooter Rentals are popular on the island as an easy way to get around. Bicycles are available for rent but expect a tough workout from the hilly terrain.
Johnnycakes are fried unleavened bread, a local delicacy. They are sold by vendors and at local restaurants.
Seafood is emphasized in the local cuisine. Without much good soil to cultivate, most food ingredients are imported to St. Thomas. However, you will find seafood in abundance. There are several good restaurants throughout the island, especially in Charlotte Amalie. The Greenhouse Restaurant is a casual favorite among locals and conveniently located right across from the seawall in the center of town (see map). The friendly bartenders pour a decent beverage and prices are good, at least by island standards. It’s less than a five-minute cab ride from the port.
Rum drinks You can find just about any kind of rum drink in St. Thomas. Try a BBC, made with Banana rum, Bailey's Irish Creme and Banana liquor with pina colada mix and fresh bananas in a blended frozen cocktail. Big Kahuna Rum Shack is renowned for their BBCs, and located on the waterfront less than two miles west of the port (see map). A cab ride usually takes about five minutes.
The Crew Hub is an Internet cafe located in Havensight complete with telephones, phone cards, faxes and internet service. Contact them at (340) 715-2233.
Beans, Bytes & Websites Cafe is located in Havensight at the Royal Dane Mall (see map), a five minute cab ride from the port.
St. Thomas provides duty free shopping throughout the island. If you are looking for something in particular, make sure you know the price back home before looking for a deal on the island; at times the "discounts" aren't what they are cracked up to be. Although not as much as other islands, bargaining is a part of the shopping experience, so don't be afraid to haggle a little, especially with the higher priced items like jewelry.
Where to Shop
Dronningens Gade in Charlotte Amalie, also know as Main Street, has stores and vendors selling every item imaginable. The commercial district extends to the surrounding streets of Back St. and Waterfront, and they alleys between these streets contain even more shops and boutiques (see map). The stores in Charlotte Amalie are in historical buildings, meaning you can shop and sightsee simultaneously.
Vendors Plaza in Charlotte Amalie is a market of booths, tables and tents from which vemdors sell an assortment of souvenirs. Vendors Plaza is located across from Emancipation Park and Fort Christian (see map). Common items include silver jewelry, t-shirts, tropical print wrap skirts, shirts and dresses, imitation bags and watches, trinkets and more.
Havensight is the location of the second large agglomeration of stores that cater to visitors. It is right next to the primary cruise ship dock (see map) and the shopping area is made up of Havensight Shopping Center, Buccaneer Mall and Port of Sale. Long buildings house some 60+ stores. Shop for jewelry, clothes, perfumes, liquor, electronics, music, sunglasses, hot sauces and souvenirs. You can have lunch in Havensight also, there are several good restaurants to choose from.
Cruzan Rum is a particularly appropriate souvenir from your visit to the US Virgin Islands. You are allowed to bring back six bottles duty-free, and they will package it for you for flying. Just have the ship store the rum until you arrive at your home port.
Porcelain, especially imported patterns, can be purchased duty-free and at a substantial discount on St. Thomas. You will not find better prices in the entire Caribbean.
Emerald jewelry can be purchased at excellent prices on St. Thomas. There are many good jewelry shops in Charlotte Amalie and at the Havensight Mall. Once again, don't be afraid to bargain with vendors.