What to see in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands?
Try to imagine an island with a luxurious vegetation, in a good part made of a group of high grounds sloping down spectacularly towards the sea. And a series of winding roads, sometimes steep, taking to – in traits completely soaked into the forest – some among the most suggestive viewpoints of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
Try to think about dream beaches, legends, tales and buccaneers’ stories, navigators and adventurers.
To the possibility to stay overnight in colonial period historic dwellings related to the pirates deeds and to an incredible experience of taste and savors offered by the most surprising ways of the most typical and authentic local cuisine.
Add a series of activities inevitably related to the sea and to shopping – like snorkelling, kayaking, scuba diving, underwater trekking, the “historic” promenades, the purchasing of local objects, diamonds and famous fashion brands (the U.S. Virgin Islands are tax free) – and at the end of your stay here you’ll realize how an only stay isn’t enough to enjoy full everything.
And you’ll wish you could come back – inevitably.
You arrive to St. Thomas with a direct flight from several USA airports.
The ideal thing would be to combine a stay on this island maybe after have spent a couple of days discovering one of the big cities of the East Coast – New York, Boston, Washington, for example, but also Miami – or of the South, like Atlanta.
The main city, that then it’s the U.S. Virgin Islands capital, too, is Charlotte Amalie.
Here daily the several cruise ships that explore the so-called “pearls of the Caribbean” berth. And it’s exactly from here that, in my opinion, the exploration of the island should begin.
Charlotte Amalie is a maze of cobbled paving little roads developing among the ancient Danish colonial buildings, packed with color, music, warm, savors and joie de vivre.
The best way to start discovering its old downtown and get in touch with its traditions and its cultural and gastronomic melting pot is certainly to take part into the Historic Main Street Tour.
It’s a path of about 2 and half hours allowing to discover the most important locations of the historic district and at the same time to taste typical dishes related to the several cultures and local traditions.
The discovering of the ancient Fort Christian and the Emancipation Garden, the place commemorating the freedom of the cane plantations’ black slaves.
And even the Danish mansions, the old warehouses, the famous 99 steps (an historic stairs of the early 1700s), the Blackbeard pirate’s dwelling – known as Blackbeard’s Castle where today it’s possible to stay overnight. The old Governor’s House and the precious B’racha V’shalom UV’gimilut Hasadim Synagogue, the most ancient one in the Caribbean, famous for the sand floor and the wonderful Ionic Columns.
Once ended the tour, my tip is to get lost – almost for a bit – into the colored and cheap stores of the Main Street.
Little far there’s the nice Frenchtown, home of the original community of Frenchie, the direct descendants of the French Huguenots arrived to the island at the end of the 1700s.
You arrive here to have lunch at one of the typical seafood restaurants overlooking the marina and you will remain (for hours) bewitched by the peculiar lifestyle of the local fishermen, the colored small houses and by the views of Charlotte Amalie and of Hassel and Water Island, two little near islands: you can explore them both alone and taking part into several excursions (refer to the excursions paragraph at the bottom of the post).
What to see in St. Thomas: going around the island
Give a day discovering the several historical sites and the landscapes of the island. You will never regret it!
The Mountain Top, the highest point of the island located on the St. Peter Mountain, from which it’s possible to have an amazing view of the American and British Virgins, of Magens Bay (the bay including the most beautiful beach of the island) and of a part of St. John. And don’t forget to taste right in the location on the peak what many people define the best Banana Daiquiri in the world!
Then a dutiful stop at the Drake Seat, the exact point where history, mixed with legend, tells Sir Francis Drake, the English buccaneer, used to stop and admire the passage canal among the islands he as first sailed in the 1500s: the Drake Passage.
And even the ascent on the Skyride Paradise Point, a 700m cableway allowing to admire another amazing view of the Island, from the Caribbean Sea side.
From Magens Bay Beach – according to the National Geographic it’s one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world – to Coki Beach, through Bluebird’s Beach, Emerald Beach and Bolongo Bay (and even many other ones) you can peek and choose.
My tip is to get a map and give a couple of hours relax and/or activities to each of them.
Actually, in almost all it’s possible to take part into kayaking or snorkelling, admiring turtles and other sea animals, having Diving Scuba sessions, renting surf or simply enjoying the life of the beach with a Cruzan cocktail, the rare local rum.
Among the several excursions and activities tested during my stay on the island, I recommend you the most suggestive and moving ones, in my opinion.
The Sea Trekking Excursion at the Coral World, near Coki Beach.
Literally a walk on the seabed next to the coral reef to get in touch with the hundreds of fishes and micro creatures populating it, thanks to the help of expert divers.
An exciting experience that then is added to the tour of the Coral World, a sort of a natural tropical sea life where to discover and admire the most surprising sea species, sharks and turtles included.
The Hassel island Kayak hike and snorkel tour is certainly one of the most complete and interesting activities to do in St. Thomas.
Kayaking, leaving from Frenchtown discovering Hassel Island, its mysteries and the old Fort Willoughby. The excursion includes kayaking among wreckages on the seabed, trekking on the island and snorkelling – or if you prefer simply swimming – at last on the side to the south, towards Water Island.
In St. Thomas, like in all US Virgin Islands, there’s the left-hand drive with left-hand steering.
It’s possible to rent a car or a small Jeep in Charlotte Amalie and move alone throughout the island or make use of alternative services like the Safari Bus (taking to every beach and every location of the island for $5/8) or the private Taxis.
Whether you don’t want to trouble about transit and decide to turn to private drivers following you during your stay on the island – giving you a series of info and curious issues on the several websites – I must recommend the Joseph Hodge’s Prestige Taxi.
In St. Thomas there are different typologies of accommodations, from the resort to the historical Inn to the B&B: a wide and a variegate offer allowing to satisfy the most different needs, both at a logistic level and economic one.
I stayed overnight in a nice B&B, run by an American couple, Mark and Jessica, right on the hill of the Charlotte Amalie old downtown: At Home in the Tropics Inn.
It’s the outhouse of the old Governor’s Palace from which 4 comfortable rooms with a view of Charlotte Amalie and the near islands were got. The Inn has all services, included a tasty breakfast prepared every morning personally by Jessica and the use of the swimming pool.
Absolutely to recommend for position, cleanliness and welcome.
Down here there’s a list of restaurants and typical locations tested personally that I feel to recommend for the variety of the traditional dishes, the savors and the quality.
Hook Line and Sinker: it’s halfway between a restaurant and a pub, the best way to go immediately into the Frenchtown atmosphere.
Directly on the harbor you can taste complete seafood dishes: not to be missed the Mai Mai just caught and grilled with rice and vegetables. Middle/low prices, about $17/20 for a complete meal.
Oceana Restaurant: located immediately behind Frenchtown, in a Danish colonial historic property, directly on the sea, this restaurant represents the top among the culinary offer of the island for location, quality and service.
Prices are middle/high but the variety of fish, the dishes’ composition and the location deserve the excess, at least for a special evening.
Glady’s Café: according to me it’s the best typical location of Charlotte Amalie – and maybe of the island.
You must come here if you want to taste the real dishes of the island’s tradition: portions are abundant, the staff is very kind and the gastronomic experience is incredible. Prices are middle/low.
Pasta Go Go – European Café: little far from Glady’s – actually few meters far from the exit – it’s also possible to taste a good Espresso, besides tasty fresh salads, dishes of pasta, wraps and sandwiches. Low prices.