One of the world’s most widely visited cruise ports is St. Thomas. It’s great popularity probably stems from the fact that the island offers something for just about everyone.
- Golfing by the sea
- Snorkeling in crystal aqua water
- Mangrove Lagoon
- World-famous Magens Bay Beach
- Wonderful dining in Frenchtown
It can also accommodate a huge, daily influx of cruisers, and its duty-free shopping scene is relatively unparalleled. The most popular sites include the world-famous beach at Magens Bay and a scenic tram ride to a mountaintop. For a great island view and excellent photo opportunity, take the St. Thomas Skyride to Paradise Point, across from Havensight. It climbs 700 feet to Paradise Point.
It’s also pretty easy to avoid the crowds by exploring St. Thomas’ quieter, more undiscovered side, including a lovely historic district, trips to Water Island (the 4th, and youngest, Virgin Island), north shore beaches and fabulous restaurants in Frenchtown.
It is an easy trip on a 20-minute ferry to tranquil St. John. Even Red Hook, traditionally thought of as nothing more than the jumping-off point for the far more stunning St. John, has local character (you’ll see residents of St. Thomas engaged in everyday activities) that’s a far cry from Charlotte Amalie’s shopping mall vibe. Just taking local transportation to the eastern end of the island will give you a modicum of emotional distance from the hectic pier.
Besides shopping, a walking tour of the main port town, Charlotte Amalie, should include a visit to Fort Christian (on the waterfront, across from Vendor’s Plaza), a national historic landmark that dates back to the 17th century; you can climb the tower for great harbor views. Climb the 99 Steps (Kongens Gade/Government Hill, next to Hotel 1829) to experience historic downtown’s finest neighborhood with lovely 19th-century plantation homes.
Adjacent to the steps is a worthy pit stop: Haagensen House, an 1820s townhouse that’s a museum and garden with a great gift shop selling antiques.
The St. Thomas Synagogue (Raadets Gade and Crystal Gade), which is the Western Hemisphere’s second oldest (the oldest is located in Curacao). It was built in 1833 by Sephardic Jews and is open for tours. The floor is covered with sand symbolizing the flight of the Jews out of Egypt and across the desert.
Coral World is one of those well-hyped tourist attractions that actually lives up to expectations. Located at Coki Beach (cab ride required), it’s a 4.5-acre marine park whose highlight is an underwater observatory with 360-degree views of fish and other sea creatures — the only way to see fish without getting wet.
At Mahogany Run Golf Course, not only do you get to play golf but you also get to spend time in one of the island’s most gorgeous settings. The highlight? The 13th, 14th and 15th holes in “Devil’s Triangle” border cliffs that overlook the Atlantic. Per person cost includes green and cart fees (check your cruise line for special excursions). Tee times range from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. for 18 holes (you can also play 9), and you can rent golf clubs at the pro shop. There’s a snack bar on the premises. Tee-time reservations can be made up to 48 hours in advance by calling 800-253-7103 or 340-777-6006.
For comprehensive details and information regarding St. Thomas and all that it has to offer, check with the Cruise Critic.