Mary Steele is an avid cruiser and writer hailing from the Port of Boston. She primarily covers cruise port destinations and helps her readers decide what to see, what to do, and best of all – what to avoid.
St. Thomas is one of the premier destinations for cruise ships in the Caribbean. With the island’s perpetually welcoming weather, friendly people, and spectacular beaches, it is easy to see why.
If you have a day to kill on the island, these are some attractions you shouldn’t miss:
Magens Bay was named by National Geographic as one of the top ten beaches in the world for its postcard-perfect scenery. The one-mile beach is the island’s most popular attraction. Arrive early and stake your claim for a good spot, as it fills up quickly. There is a small entry fee to the public park (around $4), which subsidizes the maintenance of the beach and related facilities. The water is calm with no waves, and crystal clear, suitable for non-swimmers, and there are lifeguards on duty. However, it’s not a good spot for snorkeling as the bay deepens gradually, and you won’t see many fish. You can rent beach toys such as paddle boats, kayaks and such, along with beach chairs and floats. A note for the fair skinned — there’s also very little shade on the beach, so be sure to bring heavy-duty sunscreen. A bar and restaurant are located there as well. Restroom facilities are available and taxis are plentiful.
If hitting the beach isn’t your thing, St. Thomas is a duty-free shopping mecca that allows visitors to take home up to $1,200 in goods duty free. Take a short cab ride to downtown Charlotte Amalie, the island’s capital city. There are over 400 shops around Main Street that sell crystal, high-end jewelry, watches, table linens, cigarettes, and perfume. Prices are competitive and many, but not all shops, are reputable. If you make a large diamond or jewelry purchase, make sure you leave the store with an appraisal in-hand. When you return home, immediately have the item appraised with a local jeweler. If their appraisal doesn’t match or exceed the original appraisal, you will have credibility with your credit card company when you dispute the charges.
If you are a cruise ship passenger, many of the same goods offered downtown can be found at Havensight Mall located directly in front of the cruise ship terminal. If multiple ships are in port, the traffic into downtown can be brutal so the mall offers a good duty-free alternative and gives you more time to spend on the beach.
Paradise Point Skyride
Take in island and ocean vistas while ascending 800 feet above Charlotte Amalie harbor by cable car. The entrance to the skyride is walking distance from the port in St. Thomas. Once at the top of Paradise Point, the overlook has a bar and gift shop. On a clear day you can see several of the British Virgin islands and Puerto Rico. The cable car is a 15 minute ride and $21 per person, roundtrip. If the cost of the skyride ticket sounds a bit too steep, you can also take a quick, cheap cab ride to Paradise Point to sip a cocktail and soak up the views.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of what you can do on St. Thomas. The island not only offers the most breathtaking scenery, but there’s also golfing and deep-sea fishing, or you can even take a ferry to the neighboring island of St. John to snorkel. If history is your thing, take an island tour and hear the legend of the infamous pirate, Blackbeard. It’s all up to you, but with so many options you might have to come back to St. Thomas another time.
Featured Image: Aerial view and rainbow over St Thomas (Shutterstock.com)