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by Kristin Young | Updated On: January 26, 2022 | USVI
This delightful gem of an island welcomes travelers with a tropical escape that’s packed with adventure, steeped in history, and soaked in sunshine.
Begin your journey on the island by visiting the vibrant town of Charlotte Amalie to marvel at the colorful, colonial architecture. Stroll through a wonderland of local flora and fauna and meet some of the friendly critters of the jungle.
Sail along the waters and feast on only the freshest produce served right from the waters. Get ready for some fun spent embarking on excursions that allow you to kayak with dolphins or walk on the seabeds. You can even go on an adventure searching for the famous Pizza Pi Boat.
Whatever your reason for visiting the island is, making your most of your time is what a vacation is all about.
We’ve included some of our favorite attractions that aren’t so well-known amongst travelers. And of course, we’ve included some of the iconic St. Thomas attractions for those new to the island.
BEST TIME OF YEAR FOR ST. THOMAS ATTRACTIONS
Each season has its time and place and brings upon its own unique sense of adventure. But in St.Thomas, the pearly shores, warm turquoise waters, and jungly landscapes are so spectacular, that you’ll want to make the most out of the good weather.
The sun tends to shine on most days in St. Thomas. However, you can expect to experience tropical thunderstorms from September through to November.
The peak season of the vibey island runs from December to March, where you’ll be met with a pleasant climate and very little rainfall.
Top travel tip: Traveling outside of peak season means you might save on holiday packages and excursions. Off-peak also means you’ll encounter private beaches with few crowds.
GETTING AROUND ST. THOMAS PORT: OPEN-AIRED SAFARIS AND RENTAL CARS
Getting around St. Thomas is an adventure in itself. Renting a car on the island, preferably a Jeep for driving through the mountainous paths, allows you to explore the island at your own pace. You can even rent scooters for quick trips to the beach. If you’re planning to go to St. John or head out to any off the beaten path locations, we still recommend renting a Jeep.
There are several major rental car companies located in Charlotte Amalie, but we opt for renting from local companies. Their service is amazing! There are several, but last time we opted for Paradise Rental Car and it was the best and easiest car rental experience I’ve ever had. The jeep was waiting for us in the parking lot at the airport(our flight was delayed several times and we arrived very late- normally they pick you up at the airport). To return the Jeep, we pulled up to the ticket counter area and were met by someone to hand the vehicle off to. It was SO easy!
But the fun is not lost for those who rely on public transportation. Safari buses are the next best thing. They’re these incredible little trucks that have been converted into open-aired safari taxis. With comfortable benches for gazing onto the outside world, it’s an unconventional way of getting from A-Z.
The safari trucks have gained the nickname, the ‘dollar rides’ given how affordable they are. Just make sure you know where it’s going before hopping on for your island adventure.
While discovering the island, you’ll notice a couple of bicycle rental stores. These aren’t designed to get around the island. The hilly landscapes are quite a challenge to cycle around. Rather, they’re rented for mountain biking and for short day trips.
INSIDER BEST THINGS TO DO IN ST. THOMAS
Finding an adventure on the island is as easy as performing a Google search. While you’re bound to find some of the more popular tourist attractions online, there is an incredible array of unusual activities that aren’t so well-known.
So if you’re looking for something a little different from the norm, these fun things to do on St. Thomas are sure to leave you with exciting holiday memories.
Hike to Mermaid’s Chair
While St. Thomas is a popular vacation destination, it still features some hidden gems. The reason Mermaid’s Chair is one of the best-kept secrets is that it’s hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
During low tide, on the western side of the island, a unique strip of double beach creates a divide between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
To get the strip, you’ll need to park your vehicle at the Preserve at Botany Bay, and journey by foot to the beach. Be prepared for a 1.45-mile walk, which can be quite challenging at times.
Pizza Pi Pizza Boat
The story behind the Pi Pizza Boat goes like this. A couple, made up of a programmer and teacher, decided to drop everything and run away to the Caribbean to open up a pizza restaurant.
And it’s a good thing they did because now they own one of the most successful restaurants on the island.
The pizzeria on a boat serves up NY-style pizza that you can feast on in between snorkels and sailing trips. You can get to the floating pizzeria either by swimming, a charter boat, or a dinghy – depending on their location as they’re always sailing around the island.
Brunch at Hotel Mafolie
Hotel Mafolie offers a magical brunch experience that takes place on their balcony overlooking the bay. Although they call their brunch ‘brunch’ it’s more like a feast you’d expect on Thanksgiving.
Omelets, cooked in whichever way you like, prime rib, turkey, pancakes, the classic eggs benedict, and a generous selection of desserts can be found on the menu.
For the foodies looking to taste something native to the island, the callaloo soup (the chef’s special) is a Caribbean-styled soup made with indigenous ingredients.
St. Thomas Excursions: Snorkel Trips
Snorkeling is one of the island’s main attractions. What makes St. Thomas one of the best snorkeling spots is the incredible sea life, and bays fit for all levels of experience.
With sea turtles making a friendly appearance, sea caterpillars, and a thriving undersea ecosystem, what more could a beach bum ask for?
Half-Day Swim with the Turtles, Sail, and Snorkel
Embark on a sailing excursion from Charlotte Amalie to learn about sea turtle behavior and discover underwater habitats as you snorkel around the island. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to hop off the boat and paddle in the warm waters.
Shore Excursion from St. Thomas Cruise Port
Along with snorkeling, kayaking is a fantastic way to explore the island. This excursion allows you to see the inner parts of the island and snorkel through mangrove lagoons. Follow your adventure guide through the water as they point out all the interesting sea life along the way.
Swim with Turtles at Brewer’s Bay
After your fair share of trips to the usual beaches, explore the hidden gem of Brewer’s Bay that is known as a haven for Green Sea Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles, and stingray communities. The calm, gentle waters are a little slice of paradise that is free from crowds of people and other snorkelers.
Besides being an escape from the hustle and bustle of the tourist beaches, Brewer’s Beach offers newbie snorkelers the chance to discover the ocean life without needing much experience.
The sandy ocean grounds provide a gentle descent into deeper waters, where you can swim alongside tropical fish and local sea turtles.
Visit During Carnival
Each year, the buzzing island of St. Thomas hosts a month-long Carnival that features everything you could ask for from a carnival. Expect to see several elegant calypso shows, pageants, fireworks, food villages, and parades.
During the month-long extravaganza, Carnival Village celebrates the culture and traditions of the island. Explore the attractions by foot as you walk around the fairs, or choose to watch the fireworks and light shows by boat.
Day Trips from St. Thomas: St. John and BVI
Day trips from St. Thomas cruise terminal mean hopping on a boat and cruising to one of the neighboring islands, like St. John or the British Virgin Islands. The journey to the islands is half of the fun, as you sail along the waters, stop for snorkels, and feast on a delectable meal onboard.
Depending on your preference and budget, you have many options for getting from one island to the next. A Passenger Ferry runs from St. Thomas to St. John and is your cheapest option. Alternatively, hop on a private water taxi and cater the trip towards your liking.
You can also consider chartering a private boat to take you to the island. This can either be a sailing boat or speed boat, it all comes down to the kind of adventure you plan on having. High-speed trips or luxury cruising?
Another great option for those who are renting a car is to take the Car Barge. Then you can easily zip around the islands and explore them according to your own whims.
St. Thomas Things to Do on a Day Trip: Water Island
From the south of St. Thomas lies the tiny Water Island; it’s so small you probably haven’t ever heard of it. As well as being the smallest of the US Virgin Islands, it’s also considered a residential island, which makes it all the more charming.
Instead of seeing busy restaurants and tourist attractions, you can experience picture-perfect beaches and a lazy atmosphere.
A cool way of getting around the island is to rent a bike and cycle through the idyllic island and stop at the quaint beaches. Honeymoon beach is as magical as it sounds. With crystal waters and tree-lined shores, the beach is its own little paradise.
In terms of getting to the island, it’s highly recommended that you book a tour. A tour gives you the chance to explore all of the iconic parts of each of the islands, and to see Water Island and Honeymoon Beach without fretting about the logistics.
Secret Harbor Sunset Grille for a Sundowner
After a day filled with adventure, mandatory sundowners at Secret Harbor Sunset Grille is in order. The grille is set right along the waters, providing you with uninterrupted sunset views and an assortment of island-inspired, creative cocktails. Secret Harbour Resort is also one of our top picks for places to stay on St. Thomas.
Cocktails aren’t the only thing on the menu. You’ve got the chance to experience island dining at its finest, with a modern menu featuring creative twists.
And to make it even better, everything is in line with leading a sustainable future. Their produce is sourced from local farmers, while their fish is line-caught by local fishermen.
Surf at Hull Bay
As with many of the Caribbean Islands, you can expect to find small communities of surfers who spend most of their time riding waves and catching sun rays. While places like Hawaii (where big wave surfing is all part of the fun) might seem intimidating for the everyday surfer, you have nothing to fear at St. Thomas!
One of the more popular spots in St. Thomas is Hull, given its easy access to the beach and consistent swell. If you’re traveling to the island during the spring, you’re in for a treat of clean breaks that hold up for longer rides.
With help from the friendly surf-tourism industry, you can grab yourself a board and hang 10 in some of the smaller bays. Other than Hull Bay, St. Thomas shows off 6-7 prime surfing spots for both newbies and pros, depending on the swell and season.
Hike the Magens Bay Trail
If you’re a hiking enthusiast who can’t wait for the next chance to wander through the tropics, Magens Bay Trail offers rock climbing, twisty turvy paths, and wooden look-out points.
Other than the usual expectations of hiking, the trail is loved by local critters and colorful lizards. As well as by larger critters, such as the island iguanas. You can catch them hanging from the canopies or lurking on a rock formation.
Oh and to top it off, your halfway point in the trail is a stop at Magens Bay Beach. The beautiful strip of beach is your chance to cool off from the sun and refresh after exploring the mangrove forests.
Overall, the trail is rocky and rather steep. However, good hiking boots and a sense of adventure can top it off as the best hike you do on the island.
Tree Limin’ Extreme Zipline
Although this quaint Virgin Island has a dreamlike atmosphere, that’s not to say that it lacks excitement. And nothing screams excitement louder than ziplining through the luscious tropical forest canopies on St. Peter Mountain.
Tree Limin’ Extreme is an award-winning zipline park on the island and allows visitors to see St. Thomas from above the trees. Zip your way around on 6 six exhilarating lines where you can gaze off of the aerial platforms, and marvel at the landscape from one of the two sky bridges – which will take your breath away.
WHAT TO DO IN ST. THOMAS: THE USUAL SUSPECTS
You have the option of taking the road less traveled. But that’s not to say that seeing some of the more iconic parts in St. Thomas are any less magical. For those of you looking to tick everything off of your St. Thomas bucket list, we’ve got the perfect starting points.
We’ve mentioned the Magen’s Bay Trail, but have unforgivably not given Magen’s Bay the credit it deserves. The sublime beach is considered to be one of the most beautiful spots in the Caribbean. It encompasses rolling green hills and palm trees swaying along the coast, along with funky snack bars and all the amenities you could ever dream of.
For marine lovers, simply rent some snorkel gear and visit chummy sea creatures in the clear waters. Daydreamers can spend their day watching the fisherman cast their reels as you lounge on a deckchair. Adventurers can wander through the coconut groove or venture into the small forest.
Coral World Marine Adventures
Get up close and personal with the local residents on the island with an eco-friendly marine experience that’s both educational and entertaining. The indoor-outdoor aquarium is beaming with marine life, and you can expect to say hello to curious sea lions, shy stingrays, and small sharks.
What’s great about visiting Coral World is that you can cater your experience to include things that attract you the most.
Experience the excitement of exploring the underwater from the ocean floor with a Sea Trek Tour. With a helmet and oxygen tank, you can walk alongside swimming fish as your guide walks you through a magical underwater trail.
99 Steps (Technically There Are 103 Steps)
The thought of climbing 99 steps might not sound too appealing to you if you have yet to hear of the 99 steps in St. Thomas. As one of the most distinguishable landmarks of the island, the staircase once solved the issue of getting from one place to another on Charlotte Amalie’s hilly terrain.
Today the staircase is lined with bundles of gloriously colored flowers and arching palm trees. Take a gentle stroll for the sake of walking, or use the staircase to reach Blackbeard’s Castle before starting your next activity.
Drake’s Seat: A Delightful Lookout Spot
Of course, there’s always the option of keeping things mellow and simply soaking up the beauty of the island from a lookout deck. Drake’s Seat earned its name from Sir Francis Drake, who was said to watch over the harbor from this enchanting lookout point.
With just a 5-minute drive from the cruise port of Charlotte Amali, the mountainous lookout point is a beloved spot for tour groups. Soaring 2,100 feet above sea level, on clear days your eye can see as far as the British Virgin Islands.
Banana Daiquiri at Mountaintop
Mountaintop is the highest point of St. Thomas, which means that you have the chance to experience panoramic views of the neighboring island of St. John and the British Virgin Island.
Coupled with the incredible view is the island’s most spectacular cocktail bar that tells the story of the island. As it’s been told, in 1953 George Soule sailed to the paradise island of St. Thomas with the quest of finding the perfect island beverage.
And he did just that. By pairing Cruzan Rum, local sugar cane extract, and ripe bananas, with a splash of fresh lime juice and secret banana liquor, he created the most cherished drink on the island. The banana daiquiri.
Around 3 million visitors get to taste the fruity drink from the mountaintop, and now that you know about the tale, you can enjoy it for yourself.
Skytram to Paradise Point
As one of the ‘must-do’ attractions on the whimsical island, the Skytram can whisk you above Charlotte Amalie, showing you the best views of the town and bustling harbor. The views at sunset are particularly beautiful, as you watch the island capital twinkle at twilight.
The aerial tramway transports you to Flag Hill. And if you’re in the mood, you can turn the quick trip into an afternoon spent lounging on the terrace and soaking up the views. Before journeying in the sky,n treat yourself to a coffee-flavored rum cocktail, known as the Bushwacker by locals.
For a change of scenery from the pearly shores and crystal waters, visit the Phantasea Tropical Botanical Garden and explore the local flora and fauna. Get lost discovering a variety of plant life that’s native to the island, as well as some of the most incredible flower species.
The gardens bloom with a thousand orchids, bromeliads, and tillandsia (a magnificent air plant). During your visit, you can simply stroll around the premises. The average time spent here is around an hour or rest on the peaceful gazebos and benches that line the trails.
AN EXOTIC PARADISE: THINGS TO DO IN ST. THOMAS US VIRGIN ISLANDS
Whether private tours, hidden gems, or the plethora of natural wonders has stolen your heart, St. Thomas is an extraordinary place for any kind of traveler. It offers thrill-seekers a number of fantastic excursions but also gives the relaxed being a chance to do absolutely nothing but hang out on the beach.
Easy to discover, with a number of natural parks, beaches, and day trips, it’s safe to say that you can’t be disappointed with this cherished island.