If you take a Caribbean cruise, chances are that you’ll spend at least a day in St. Thomas. It’s the busiest cruise ship port in the region. And no wonder. With convenient air service, great shopping, beautiful views, and good beaches, what’s not to like?
But there are lots more things to do in St. Thomas than just shopping and dining. The island has an interesting history, and there are places where you can relive the days when pirates sailed here or when the Danish ruled the islands in the 17th century.
The top attraction on the island is Coral World Ocean Park. If you’ve also wanted to have personal encounters with sea critters, this is your best bet. A series of interactive exhibits lets you feed stingrays, touch sharks and starfish, or swim with sea lions. Those who don’t like to snorkel can don a special helmet and go for a stroll on the sea floor. You can also walk through an aviary with tropical birds and flowers, explore the 80,000-gallon coral reef aquarium, or take a semi-submersible submarine ride.
For views above the water line, the Skyride to Paradise Point is a must-do. The modern gondola speeds you up above the harbor for breathtaking views of Charlotte Amalie and the surrounding Virgin Islands. If you enjoy hiking, a rocky trail leads to a gorgeous panorama that includes St. Croix.
If you’re spending a few days here, make sure to get out on the water. Snorkeling trips to The Baths at Virgin Gorda and Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke leave from Red Hook. You’ll need your passport to visit these British Virgin Islands.
If you have less time, head to Red Hook and take the ferry to Cruz Bay on the island of St. John. There are plenty of good restaurants and shops within walking distance of the ferry dock. There are also a couple of St. John resorts where you can have lunch in a beautiful setting.
These waters are some of the best in the world for sailing, so if you know how to sail, don’t miss the opportunity to test your skills here. Yacht Haven Grande outside the main town of Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook have sailboats you can charter. The marina’s worth a visit even if you’re not looking for a boat. There are half a dozen good restaurants right on the waterfront, and upscale shops when ships are in port.
Kayaking trips are available, and there’s a wildlife sanctuary and marine preserve where you can paddle or snorkel.
On the north side of the island, St. Peter Greathouse & Botanical Gardens has more than 200 kinds of West Indian flora. Set on 11 acres 1,000 feet above sea level, the estate has self-guided hikes, an impressive collection of orchids, and views of more than 20 islands.
Most people who visit the Virgin Islands come for the beaches, and St. Thomas has some fine ones. The most beautiful – and most crowded – is Magens Bay. You’ll have a better experience at this crescent of white sand if you go on a weekday when there are no cruise ships in port. The beach has all the facilities including changing rooms, bathrooms, and a snack bar.
1) Coral World Marine Park
2) Paradise Point Skyride
3) Red Hook
4) Yacht Have Grande
5) St Peter Greathouse & Botanical Gardens
6) Magens Bay Beach