St Thomas is the most important and arguably the most beautiful of the three major Caribbean islands which together form the United States Virgin Islands, an overseas territory of the US.
On St Thomas can be found the territory’s capital, Charlotte Amalie, a city known for its cruise ship port and extensive shopping, while around the island are many beautiful bays, beaches, and resorts.
St Thomas is a unique blend of spectacular, tropical Caribbean scenery and European influences. From the Danish and British to its current place in the United States, St Thomas has had a long, diverse and interesting history that has left the island with its peculiar mix of place names, customs, and traditions.
It’s a small island, but there are a lot of things to do in St Thomas USVI and it’s an excellent point from which to explore the rest of the surrounding Virgin Islands, British and American.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Caribbean Islands (Travel Guide)
Top 9 Things to do in St Thomas USVI
There are a great many things to do in St Thomas USVI, from sunning on the tropical beaches and exploring the dramatic bays and coastline to learning about the unique and diverse cultural history of the island in Charlotte Amalie. Here are the best things to do in St Thomas USVI.
1. Explore Charlotte Amalie
Charlotte Amalie is the capital of the US Virgin Islands and the first port of call for most travelers to St Thomas. It can be a busy place, especially when a cruise ship is docked in the harbor, but it’s a lovely, ramshackle port city to explore, with many quirky museums and points of interest.
Many people visit Charlotte Amalie for the extensive duty-free shops, however, once you have had enough of shopping, walk through the old colonial streets and admire the spectacular and beautiful harbor.
Look no further, this great Shopping, Sightseeing and Beach tour offers an entertaining guide who will show you the highlights of St Thomas. Visit Mountain Top for stunning views of Magens Bay and some of the neighboring islands. Peruse the shops for souvenirs in Charlotte Amalie. Upgrade your tour to add some time relaxing on a pristine local beach. Choose from five tour times for maximum flexibility.
2. Visit Blackbeard’s Tower
Visit Blackbeard’s Tower for a taste of the island’s pirate history in Charlotte Amalie. The watchtower was built by the Danish soon after they founded the city, but somehow it took on the name of one of the Caribbean’s most infamous pirates, Blackbeard.
3. Climb the 99 Steps
One of the most interesting streets in the Charlotte Amalie is, in fact, a set of stone steps. The 99 Steps – there are actually more than 99 and were built by the Danish and lead through the ramshackle streets, to the top of a lookout that offers incredible views over the island.
Combine sightseeing with foodie favorites on this guided tour of St. Thomas. The tour includes two rum cocktails, which you’ll learn how to make, as well as eat at popular spots in Charlotte Amalie.
Enjoy Caribbean classics like curried chicken, fish tacos, Creole “fungi,” island slaw, and more. Plus, learn about colonial history along the way.
This tour will lead you to 99 steps and challenge you to climb them!
4. Check out the Charlotte Amalie (St. Thomas) Synagogue
Found in the city is the unusual sight of a Jewish synagogue, a testament to the truly diverse and multicultural nature of the St Thomas’ wider history and population.
This is, in fact, the oldest synagogue that can be found in the Caribbean and the entirety of the Americas and it’s an interesting piece of history, even for those with no religious affiliations.
5. Soak up the sun at Magens Bay
Magens Bay is one of the most iconic stretches of sand in the US Virgin Islands. The beautiful, white sand beach is framed by the spectacular scenery of the surrounding bay, and it’s the most popular destination for first-time visitors to the island to see.
It can get crowded in peak season, but that doesn’t stop it from looking stunning. It’s as tropical as you can imagine and it’s easy to spend the day lounging on the sands and splashing in the shallow, clear water.
Visit Magen’s Bay Beach, consistently named one of the world’s top beaches. After pickup from your hotel or cruise port, hit the sand for fun, relaxation, and sunshine. Go swimming in the turquoise waters, or just relax on the beach and take in the tropical ambiance. You can also explore a nature trail to look for nature birds and plants.
6. Have fun at Coral World Ocean Park
Coral World Ocean Park is an incredible place to learn about the marine life of the Caribbean in beautiful surroundings. Found next to an idyllic white sand beach, Coral World gives visitors the chance to go underwater in the below seas observation deck, without getting wet.
The park runs conservation and education projects too, and it’s a wonderful place to see all the diversity of the surrounding ocean in one place.
Best Day Trips From St Thomas USVI
St Thomas is the perfect place from which to explore the rest of the nearby Virgin Islands, here are the best day trip opportunities in the area.
Don’t forget: DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Caribbean
7. Go to Water Island
Although just ten minutes by ferry from Charlotte Amalie, Water Island is a world away from the city. The main sight here is the long Honeymoon Beach, one of the best beaches in the US Virgin Islands. Imagine white sands and tropical palm trees swaying in the sun, that’s Water Island.
8. Marvel at Nature on St John
The closest points between St Thomas and St John island takes only twenty minutes to cross. St John is smaller than St Thomas but packs just as much natural beauty to explore.
The island is the site of the Virgin Islands National Park, an area of undeveloped natural beauty and home to many of the best bays and beaches in the Caribbean.
The Caribbean island of St. John is surrounded by federally protected seas. Book this awesome St John Snorkel Tour, which brings you to some of the best snorkeling spots by large powerboat, including stopping at an uninhabited island. Expert guides will provide instruction to first-time snorkelers, and equipment for all.
9. Take a trip to the British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands are incredibly close to the United States Virgin Islands. Tortola, one of the largest of the British islands, is just a few miles east of St John.
It’s easy to find boat tours which take in many of the most beautiful points on tours from one territory to the other or to travel directly to the British side from St Thomas for a unique day trip and a look at the different cultures.
Explore the British Virgin Islands during this full-day cruise from St. Thomas. During this excursion, enjoy a breakfast boat ride to Virgin Gorda’s Baths. Explore the grottoes, arches, and chain of tidal pools formed by eroded rocks along the beach, then head to Diamond Reef to snorkel among schools of tropical fish on the living coral reef.
St Thomas USVI Travel Planning Guide
How to Travel to St Thomas USVI
St Thomas USVI is the northernmost of the US Virgin Islands, found east of Puerto Rico and west of its neighbor St John. The city of Charlotte Amalie is the usual departure and arrival point on the island and for the US Virgin Islands as a whole.
Many travelers will arrive on one of the many, many cruise ships that call into the beautiful harbor there during the peak sailing season.
The island’s international airport mainly serves the US mainland and is well connected to US cities on the east coast such as Miami and New York, from where there are connections worldwide.
The airport also has routes to the other US Virgin Islands, as well as many other Caribbean islands in the area.
From St Thomas, there are regular ferries to the other US Virgin Islands. St Johns is just a short boat ride away, while St Croix, the largest and most remote of the US Virgin Islands is a good two or three hours away by ferry.
The British Virgin Islands are extremely close, and can also be reached easily by boat from St Thomas.
Check out this guide if arriving by cruise ship: Fodor’s Caribbean Cruise Ports of Call
Best Time to Visit St Thomas USVI
The Virgin Islands are hot all year round, and St Thomas is no exception. The temperature is subtropical, and the year can be divided into wet and dry seasons. The wet season is hurricane season when the weather is stormy, and hurricanes have been known to ravage the island, most recently in 2017.
Be careful if planning a trip between June and November. Prices will be lower and the cruise ships won’t be filling the harbor, but the weather may turn for the worse, very quickly. High season is the dry season when temperatures are hot and the skies are clear.
This is cruise ship season too of course when the island will be at its busiest. The high season generally runs from December to April.
Where to Stay in St Thomas USVI
Accommodation can be found spread out across St Thomas, with options available in the central area of Charlotte Amalie, as well in various, more secluded bays and coastal areas.
Many hotels were damaged in the recent 2017 hurricane season, and have been closed since for recovery, so always check the hotels are functioning at their best before booking. Even still, you can find great places to stay no matter your budget. Whether you are looking for something a little fancier like the The Ritz-Carlton or Point Pleasant Resort to something a little more low key and budget friendly like the Galleon House Bed & Breakfast or Midtown Guest House, St Thomas has accommodation to meet every traveler’s needs.
Travel Around St Thomas
The US Virgin Islands are unusual because they are the only US territory where vehicles drive on the left. If you are coming from the US this may be a surprise, so take care if renting a vehicle or when crossing roads in St Thomas.
The city of Charlotte Amalie can easily be navigated on foot, however hiring a vehicle is the most efficient way to see all the sights around the rest of St Thomas, and the island is small enough to be traversed in a day if you so desire.
If you prefer, there are plenty of tour agencies too, usually based in Charlotte Amalie, that can arrange either private or group tours to the major tourist spots.
Safety in St Thomas USVI
St Thomas is generally a very safe island to visit, however, the main city of Charlotte Amalie has been known to experience periods of crime against tourists.
This is fueled mainly by the huge quantity of tourists arriving on cruise ships, and unsavory characters taking advantage by attempting thefts and pickpocketing on unsuspecting visitors.
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