St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands: Travel Guide

 

st thomas us virgin islands travel guide

St. Thomas, one of three islands in the US Virgin Islands, is one of the most beautiful and picturesque places in the world.  This lush tropical island is dotted with white sandy beaches, wrapped in warm turquoise water, and has a near perfect climate year around.  It is easy to see why it is one of the most desirable island vacation spots in the world. 

 

charlotte amalie overlook st thomas us virgin islands
View from the Charlotte Amalie Overlook.

Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the US Virgin Islands, is the most visited port in the Caribbean and is arguably one of the most beautiful harbors.  The city with its reputation for having the best duty-free shopping in the world, rich history, and vibrant nightlife and food scene brings in tourist from all over the world.  Its proximity to the US, and the fact that it is a US territory, makes it an easy vacation spot for any tourists (7 Important Things to Know Before Visiting the US Virgin Islands).

 

What to Do

History

 

blackbeards castle charlotte amalie st thomas us virgin islands
Blackbeard's Castle.

St. Thomas has about 18 sites across the island that are registered on the National Registry of Historic Places.  Many of these sites are grand estates and sugar cane plantations, but there are also a number that are forts and shipping hubs like on Hassel Island, historic districts like Charlotte Amalie and East End, Blackbeard’s Castle, or religious like Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas (the oldest synagogue building in continuous use under the American flag and second oldest in the Western Hemisphere).  Aside from these registered sites there are also a number of other sites like Bluebeard's Castle, 99 Steps, and a number of museums. 

 

Breweries

 

beer flight leatherback brewing company charlotte amalie st thomas us virgin islands
Beer flight at Leatherback Brewing Company.

St. Thomas has three breweries to visit while you are on the island; all of which are along the Charlotte Amalie Harbor.  Two of the breweries, Leatherback and Rock City, are located eastern end of the harbor and Frenchtown is located on the western end.  I really enjoyed Leatherback Brewing Company.  They have a lot of beers that are island inspired recipes and are very refreshing.  The taproom of the brewery also has great bar food appetizers and a nice atmosphere. 

 

Beaches

 

magens bay beach st thomas us virgin islands
Magen's Bay Beach

St. Thomas has over 40 beaches along its tropical coast so there is plenty to choose from.  Whether you are looking for a sandy beach to bum around and soak in the sun or a more happening place with beach bars and people, you are sure to find the beach for you. 

 

green iguana magens bay beach st thomas us virgin islands
Green iguana on Magen's Bay Beach.

One of the most popular beaches is Magen’s Bay Beach, located on the north side.  This beautiful mile long beach can get crowded near the eastern end, where there is a beach bar, but if you venture further west it becomes relatively empty.  The beach is part of a public park (costs $5/adult and $2 for parking), so you can explore the mangroves and tropical forest that surround the beach by trail.  You may even see some local wildlife like iguanas and mongoose that frequent the area.

 

Overlooks

 

drakes seat st thomas us virgin islands
View of Magen's Bay from Drake's Seat.

A great way to experience the island is to get out and explore.  St. Thomas has so many great beaches, reserves, parks, and views from all sorts of vantage points it is well worth a drive around the island just to take it all in.  By far, two of the best vantage points on the island are Drake’s Seat and the Charlotte Amalie Overlook; both located just down the road from each other.  Drake’s Seat sits on the northern side of a ridge overlooking Magen’s Bay and the British Virgin Islands in the east.  Whereas Charlotte Amalie Overlook sits on the southern side with an amazing view of Charlotte Amalie and the harbor it surrounds. 

 

Main Street Shopping

 

charlotte amalie shopping st thomas us virgin islands
Duty-free shops on the main street.

Dronningens Gade is the main street that runs through Charlotte Amalie just one block north of the harbor.  In its heyday of trade, the buildings on the south-side of the road would have been warehouses to store goods to be traded, whereas the north-side would have been shops and townhouses.  Today they are all duty-free shops for you get your souvenirs, Rolex watches, or engagement rings. 

 

Ocean Activities

 

Tropical islands in the Caribbean are known for their ocean activities and St. Thomas has a lot of them.  Whether you want to go scuba diving around picturesque reefs or explore shipwrecks, encounter the sea life with a snorkel, fly high in a para-sail, or charter a boat to island hop or fish, there is an activity for you. 

 

Where to Eat

 

cofffe sandwich shop charlotte amalie st thomas us virgin islands
My favorite little coffee and sandwich shop across from the hotel.

Whether you are looking for fine dining or finger foods, international cuisine or local favorites, there is a little of everything to be found in St Thomas.  There are many restaurants that focus on seafood – as you would expect on a tropical island – but there are just as many that also have simple entrees like burgers and sandwiches.  If you are looking for a dip into Caribbean cuisine, try some local favorites like fried fish with a side of fungi, appetizing conch fritters, a roti, or some delicious callaloo. 

 

How to Get Around

 

St. Thomas has a number of transportation options for exploring the island.  Each has its pros and cons depending upon your budget, time, and location.

 

Car Rental

 

Renting a car is by far the easiest option for getting around the island.  There are car rental agencies just outside the airport, near the cruise ship ports in Charlotte Amalie, and at some resorts.  A rental usually starts at around $80/day and up, depending on the vehicle.  It should be noted that the island is hilly with windy roads and the capital, Charlotte Amalie, can have a lot of traffic.  Remember: You drive on the left side of the road! The vehicles in St Thomas, and most of the Virgin Islands, are left drive train, meaning that the drive sits on the same side of the car as in the States.  This can sometimes be confusing when driving on the opposite side of the road. 

 

Taxi

 

Taxis in St Thomas are usually vans or safari trucks.  They can be found pretty much anywhere tourists usually hangout and are reliable.  Taxis have fixed rates that a per person.  This is good for sorting out how much it will cost, but it can also add up quickly.

 

Bus

 

vitran bus charlotte amalie st thomas us virgin islands
VITRAN bus route map.

St Thomas does have a public bus system, VITRAN, that operates five lines on the island.  The bus can be identified by its blue and white colors, has designated stops, and displays its route and destination on the windshield.  The bus fare is only $1.  Although a cheap option for transportation, the bus routes are limited in their destinations.

 

Walking

 

Most of the island does not have sidewalks, making walking hazardous on the winding roads.  Charlotte Amalie, though, can be walked safely and you can see most of the sites within the city by foot.  There is even a great boardwalk along the bay that can be walked from almost tip to tip. 

 

Where to Stay

 

The tropical island of St. Thomas has an array of different accommodation options in a range of budgets.  The most popular choice for most tourists is the beach front resorts with easy beach access and all-inclusive options.  There are also many other options like Bed & Breakfasts and guest houses, rental cottages and villas, and hotels and hostels.  All of which are located all over the island.  There is even a campground in Magen’s Bay.  Depending on your agenda while on the island may determine what accommodation and location you choose. 

 

midtown guest house charlotte amalie st thomas us virgin islands
Midtown Guest House

I have stayed in both Charlotte Amalie (the main city) and in Red Hook.  In Charlotte Amalie, I stayed at the Midtown Guest House; a cheap option for the budget traveler.  The room interiors were very nice and the central location allowed for easy access to the historical sites and shopping in town.  In Red Hook, we rented a house on AirBnB overlooking Nazareth Bay.  Although more exclusive and further away from city, we were close to a great beach and were able to borrow a car from the houses owner to sight-see on the island. 

 

How to Get There

 

St Thomas is the main and capital island of the US Virgin Islands and is home to its international airport.  Cyril E. King Airport (STT) serves major airlines like United, American, Delta, Spirit, and JetBlue, with direct flights from select cities.  Since St. Thomas is a US territory it is very easy for US citizens to visit; no passport needed! 

 

COVID-19 protocols are in place on the island and you will need fill out the USVI Travel Screening Portal and submit a negative COVID-19 test.  You can read more about the up-to-date COVID-19 requirements here. 

 

Once you arrive in St. Thomas you can catch a taxi to your accommodations.  For the taxis, upon exiting the airport terminal, walk to towards the end of the terminal to the left until you see a row of vans parked. You will be able to find a taxi there. The taxi to Charlotte Amalie should be $6 - $10 and should only take about 8 min or so.  

 

What is your favorite place in St. Thomas?

 

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