St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know…?
- Blackbeard’s Castle is the Caribbean’s only 17th century fortified tower (and never saw a pirate).
- Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro was born on St. Thomas (1830) to a French Jewish father and Creole mother.
- Coral World Ocean Park has an underwater post office box.
- The 99 Steps, made with bricks, were built into the hillside to keep Charlotte Amalie’s orderly grid intact.
- The Danes named the original Charlotte Amalie settlement Taphus, which means beer halls.
Attention, shoppers …
One of three island destinations in the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas is particularly appealing to tourists who want to fish for the big one, perhaps competitively; sail the Caribbean’s blue waters; dive amidst shipwrecks and reefs, — and/or shop, shop, shop.
St. Thomas is wildly well equipped to serve anglers, divers and sailors. The island is just as wildly well supplied with stores selling duty-free products. There is a long history for this: Danish overlords declared St. Thomas a free port in 1724.
The shops, as well as a busy nightlife, good restaurants and luxury resorts, are generally concentrated in or near Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas’ main city and port as well as the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
St. Thomas has an east-west ridge of hills running through its center, and its shore is rimmed with pretty bays. The island’s colonial history took shape with Danish claims on it in the 1660s.
As a result, sightseeing on St. Thomas may include journeys into the hills for the scenery and lookout points over Charlotte Amalie and the coast. It may also include visits to Danish-built Blackbeard’s Castle and Fort Christian, as well as an appreciation of the surviving Danish colonial architecture.
Aside from the above, activities may range from swimming and kayaking to parasailing, surfing and windsurfing. Coming ashore, choices include cycling, hiking and the zipline.
In addition, at Coral World Ocean Park, visitors can take a shortcut to some of the diver’s experiences by signing up for its Sea Trek, a guided walk on the ocean floor while wearing a helmet that supplies oxygen.
Given the choices for things to see and do — and the duty-free shopping — Charlotte Amalie is the most-visited cruise port in the Caribbean area. It also proves handy for Americans that this is one place in the region where they don’t need passports.
When planning outings, especially for nighttime, be aware Charlotte Amalie has had problems with crime. Take advice from a reliable source about where to go, what form of transport to use and what to avoid.
Things to do for Venturers
- If serious about fishing, compete in the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament. First-timers are welcome to the August event. Alternatively, charter a boat for deep-sea fishing with friends.
- Come to St. Thomas in the spring for some part of the island’s monthlong Carnival.
- For divers, the area is rich with healthy reefs and shipwrecks (some intentionally sunk vessels) to explore.
- Surf the Atlantic waves on the north shore at Hull Bay. Or, head to Great Bay Beach for windsurfing.
- Climb for your views. Ascend the 99 Steps of Charlotte Amalie — essentially, a street, but a steep and stepped one — for a sweeping view of the Caribbean. There are more than 99 steps though.
For a different viewing angle, choose ziplining.
- Listen for live music. Ask the hotel concierge for advice on spots to hear calypso, jazz, pop, reggae or quelbe (traditional Virgin Islands folk music), whatever your preference.
Things to do for Centrics
- Book a kayak-centered ecotour, including some hiking and snorkeling in the bargain. Night kayak tours are available, too.
- St. Thomas is well equipped for sailing. Take advantage, choosing the option that fits your skill level.
- At Coral World Ocean Park, even if not a swimmer, you can take the marine park’s Sea Trek, a guided walk on the ocean floor. Your head stays dry in the helmet that supplies oxygen. Or swim with sea lions, or snuba (diving while connected to air hoses) in the park’s waters.
- Include the impressive Synagogue of B’racha V’shalom Uv’gimilut Hasadim on sightseeing rounds. Take a tour, or attend a service.
- At mealtime, sample regional specialties such as conch, curried chicken, fungi, johnnycakes, kallaloo, plantains and sour sop.
- Hop among islands. Take ferries to St. John or Water Island for a day’s leisurely diversions.
Things to do for Authentics
- Take a cable car, the Skyride, to Paradise Point 700 feet above sea level for spectacular views of Charlotte Amalie, the island and the Caribbean. For another view, head to Drake’s Seat, a point from which Sir Francis Drake reportedly kept watch on his fleet, and Spanish galleons if they came near.
- Get a look at area marine life without getting wet. Choose a submarine cruise or a glass-bottom boat trip.
- Fill that extra suitcase. Take advantage of the duty-free shopping. Also, buy local handicrafts in any of several marketplaces in Charlotte Amalie.
- Take up the challenge at Mahogany Run, a golf course on a cliffside setting sure to test most duffers.
- Drink a banana daiquiri. Or sample the rum drink in several places.
- Make the island’s Danish history the theme for a day. Tour the Seven Arches Museum, which offers a glimpse of the 18th century lifestyle of the island’s Danish residents, and Skytsborg, now called Blackbeard’s Castle. Also, Fort Christian accommodates the Virgin Islands Museum.
For more information, consult the Virgin Islands Department of Tourism at www.visitusvi.com