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St. Thomas was chanced upon by holidaymakers post WWII, and tourists have made a beeline for this tropical hotspot. It is a much sought after tourist destination in the Caribbean, and the Capital, Charlotte Amalie, offers the most varied shopping options in the region. St. Thomas is so popular with tourists because it has beautifully entwined nature with infrastructural progress. The vibe of this fairly youthful town is unbelievably infectious.
 
Several cruise ships make their way to the region every day, and the economic standard has risen considerably over the last few years owing to the tourist frenzy. The twelve mile long and three mile wide island has plenty to keep tourists on their toes. This island has witnessed the most development out of the entire U.S. Virgin Islands group. Other than the breathtaking natural beauty, it is the friendly locals, English language, and U.S. Dollar currency that have contributed to the tourism boom here.
 
There’s a bustling shopping and heritage center located in Charlotte Amalie, where the tourists can pick a variety of goods. More than half of the island comprises the well-preserved Virgin Islands National Park. The area is naturally stunning, and offers visitors a good opportunity to witness the joys of nature in the throes of concrete development. Numerous engaging activities await you on St. Thomas, and the shopping is marvelous. St. Thomas is safe, and the weather always great, which makes this a perfect vacation retreat for many.
 
Docking & Local Transportation
There are two main cruise ship piers: During particularly busy times (January through March), your ship will dock at Havensight Pier, the primary dock for cruise ships, or Crown Bay, which opened in 2007.
Havensight (West Indies Dock) on the east side and Crown Bay on the west side. In the center is the capital of Charlotte Amalie. On extremely busy days, ships may anchor and tender right into Charlotte Amalie. It is a mere mile and a half from the town center, and taxis can ferry you there for about $3.
 
Taxis are the main means of transport here, however make sure that since you fix up the rates in advance with the driver, or even short trips can turn out to be pricey affairs. Taxis are not metered here, so best to negotiate a rate in advance. The average charge for sightseeing comes to about $30 for two people for a tour of a spanning a couple of hours. The air-conditioned Vitran Buses, which are operated by the government, are air conditioned and comfortable. They ply passengers from Charlotte Amalie to different surrounding neighborhoods for about $1.
 
By Taxi: Though they exist, individual "cabs" are unusual. In most cases, you'll be shepherded to a van or safari truck that's heading to the vicinity of your destination -- and might make multiple stops on the way as locals ask the driver to let them off. You'll pay a set price per person. Tipping is recommended when a driver is particularly helpful or knowledgeable but is not required.Taxi drivers like to load up as many people as possible and travel to on-the-beaten-path tourist sites. If you want to veer off that path, you might have trouble finding a driver to take you. If this is an issue,  you may wanted rent a car.
 
By Car: At the cruise ship dock, Avis (340-777-8888) and Budget (340-776-5774) have outposts; reservations are recommended. In downtown Charlotte Amalie, try Dependable Car Rental, with free pick-up and drop-off services (800-522-3076). From Crown Bay, the nearest car rental offices are at the airport (a five-minute taxi ride); Hertz (340-774-1879), Avis and Budget have desks there. Discount Car Rental is next to the airport (877-478-2833).
 Remember, drive on the left. It takes a little while to get the hang of it. Also, hand use of cellphones while driving is against the law.
 
Attractions on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands
The Coral World Park and Underwater Observatory, nestled at Estate Smith Bay is nice family fun attraction. The entrance is shielded by a gorgeous waterfall. From the observatory windows, visitors can come up, close and personal with tropical fish, corals, and other spectacular marine life in their most innate settings. The park itself spans three and a half acres, and is a nice place to explore for wildlife lovers. The Marine Garden Aquarium showcases a staggering range of aquatics. The highlight here is a monstrous eighty-gallon tank that features indigenous Caribbean marine life. Another spectacular experience is the sea predator tank, which holds sharks.
 
For a slice of French life, visit Frenchtown, on the west of Charlotte Amalie. It is a vivid and charming colony consisting mainly of French descendants of early inhibitors. It is a peaceful town that features affable residents and nice local dining options.
 
If time permits, make a trip to Estate St. Peter Greathouse Botanical Gardens. It consists of eleven acres of the island, housed on top of volcanic peaks. A Mayflower descendant Howard Lawson DeWolfe, bought the entire land and was resolute about converting it into a tropical paradise. The Gardens boast of everything from tours, walking trails, rain forests, waterfalls, ponds, and a lush jungle. There’s a charming home on the premises, filled with a nice collection of art.
 
Your cruise vacation is booked and now you are wondering about sightseeing and what to do in St. Thomas?
You can explore some of the parks and reserves by taking a nature hike, or on a kayak excursion. How about zip lining in St. Thomas? You can learn about fascinating marine animals at Coral World. There is the butterfly garden, tramway to Paradise Point, and the Botanical Gardens. Beautiful vistas are plentiful and an island drive makes seeing them easy. Head to the hills on St. Thomas island for a stop at Mountain Top; or down towards the sea to the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie. Charlotte Amalie is filled with history -- old churches, historic houses, watch towers and a fort! It is also home to the winter wonderland, Magic Ice. Visit popular areas like Frenchtown and Red Hook for a lunch break, or a stroll. What are you going to see on your St. Thomas vacation?
 
Butterfly Garden
Take flight at the Butterfly Garden. Enter a lush tropical botanical garden home to butterflies from around the world. During your 25 minute tour, knowledgeable guides will entertain you with fascinating facts about the extraordinary life cycle of these beautiful creatures as they change from eggs to caterpillars to butterflies through the miracle of metamorphosis. Wear bright colors and perfumed lotions to attract the butterflies to you! Double the fun and take a stroll through the outside botanical gardens showcasing a wide variety of local plants and butterfly species. Located next to the Cruise Ship Dock in Havensight. Open 8:30am-4:00pm daily. Summer Hours May-October will vary; please call.

Tree Limin' Extreme Zipline Park
Soar through the rainforest on a gratifying 2 1/2 hour zipline canopy tour starting with a fun and exciting ride in a six wheel drive pinzgauer to the top of St. Peter Mountain. Be amazed by unbeatable views from eight aerial platforms, fly high above the forest on six exhilarating ziplines and soak up the sun on our breathtaking skywalks as our professionally trained guides lead you through the experience of a life time. Hang with us and you will also experience the only zipline of its kind in the Caribbean... the Yo-Yo! It's the only way to fly on the Island! Book online or call us!

Virgin Islands Ecotours
Every year Virgin Islands EcoTours receives Best of Awards such as: Kayak Tours, The Best EcoTour and Best Attraction by the readers of the VI Daily News. Kayak Hike & Snorkel Adventures are offered at three locations: St. Thomas Mangrove Lagoon; St. John Honeymoon Beach; and Historic Hassel Island. Professional guides lead ecological and historical tours where you kayak, hike and snorkel in one unforgettable adventure of fun and learning. VI EcoTours received the Certificate of Excellence by Trip Advisor. Wedding, corporate and private groups receive personalized service. Book online or call toll free.

Coral World Ocean Park
Spend the day at Coral World Ocean Park, one of St. Thomas's Greatest Attractions. Get up close and personal with the beauty and magic of Caribbean marine life in a stunning setting. View life on a coral reef from the unique Undersea Observatory. Pet a shark, hand feed a stingray or a rainbow lorikeet! There are several gift shops, cafes and shower facilities. Additional activities include Sea Lion activities, Sea Trek Helmet Dive, Snuba Diving, Shark and Turtle Encounters, and the Nautilus Semi-Submarine. Located next to Coki Beach. Open 9-4 daily, November - May. Summer schedule will vary.

Scenic Views (Drakes Seat & Skyline)
St. Thomas is mountainous and offers beautiful views. The most popular lookouts are Drakes Seat and Skyline Drive Overlook. Drake’s Seat was built in 1933 by Arthur Fairchild. In those days navigating the hills of St. Thomas involved traveling by horse or foot. He thought the spot where he put Drake’s Seat was a nice place for a rest. You too can take a break and enjoy the fabulous view from the famous seat! About 2 minutes drive away is Skyline Drive Overlook. It offers a panoramic harbor view including Charlotte Amalie, Hassel Island, Water Island and more! Both spots are popular with taxi tours. Bring your camera.
Mountain Top
Mountain Top is located on Signal Hill which is 1,480 feet above sea level. It is one of the highest points on the island; the highest being Crown Mountain at 1,556 feet. Signal Hill was used in the 1940s by the U.S. government as a strategic communications location. The spectacular view from the hilltop includes Magens Bay, Drake’s Passage and neighboring islands. It was once voted one of the top vistas in the world. To facilitate taking in the view is Mountain Top, a scenic lookout, large souvenir shop and bar rolled into one attraction.
West Indian Company Dock and Crown Bay Cruise Center

Colossal Cruise Ships
The scene within the Charlotte Amalie harbor on most days of the year includes large cruisers. From a distance these engineering marvels look pretty big; but stand close to one and you’ll surely grasp their huge proportions. The world's largest ships call on St. Thomas, including Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas; both measuring 1,187 feet! Visit the West Indian Company Dock in Havensight; or the Crown Bay Cruise Center in Subbase to get a closer look at these behemoths of the sea. While at the cruise ship docks you can grab lunch and do some shopping. For information on ships calling on St. Thomas visit: Cruise Ship Schedule.

French town
French town was settled by immigrants from the French Caribbean island of St. Barthelemy in the late 1800's through mid 1900's. The area became a fishing village. The French community has preserved a high degree of cultural identity including their fishing traditions. In the early morning you can watch fishermen coming in with their small fishing boats, or cleaning and selling their catches from the dock and from the Quetel Fish Market. In the middle of Frenchtown is a hill crowned by St. Ann's Catholic Church. The small French Heritage Museum in Frenchtown is worth a stop if it’s open. Frenchtown is a popular spot for its assortment of bars and restaurants, from casual to chic!

French Heritage Museum
The French Heritage Museum is housed in two small houses; both are fine examples of traditional vernacular architecture once common in Frenchtown; and to some degree still in use today. Look around the hills in Frenchtown and you will see an assortment of traditional houses mixed in with more recent designs. Step inside the museum and view century old artifacts like fishing nets, accordions, mahogany furniture, pottery, tools and photographs that tell the story of the French-Caribbean people of St. Barthelemy that settled in St. Thomas and of their descendants. The museum is run by volunteers; call to check hours.

Bluebeard's Castle & Frederiksberg
Local legend says pirate Bluebeard built the tower! History says the Danes built it around 1689 as a watchtower. It was called Frederik's Fort and is on the site of an earlier fortification project. Today the tower is incorporated into Bluebeard's Castle Hotel, as is Frederiksberg. In 1818 the colonial government sold the watchtower and surrounding lands to a merchant and in the 1820's the large residence of Frederiksberg was constructed. Despite changes to accommodate being used as the hotel lobby and offices; the columned portico, staircase and parts of the interior retain the original look. A lovely view of the Charlotte Amalie harbor can be enjoyed from the hotel’s restaurants and pool deck.

Caribbean Genealogy Library
The Caribbean Genealogy Library is a treasure trove for genealogists and historians. Its mission is: to identify, preserve, and provide access to Caribbean genealogy, history, and cultural heritage information resources for the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean, and to promote and encourage their use for family history documentation, education and scholarship. Resources include books (many on Virgin Islands history), Danish West Indies census records and passenger lists, St. Thomas cemetery database, funeral booklets, and more. If you have roots in the Virgin Islands this is the place to research them, or stop by to read some of the interesting books. The library conducts regular workshops and presentations.

Tillett Gardens
Silkscreen artist Jim Tillett opened this artists’ enclave on the site of a former Danish Farm in the 1960’s. While it has been changed in order to facilitate its current uses; it is one of the few old farm buildings on St. Thomas that is open to the public. Tillett described the garden as "a peaceful sanctuary of creativity and wonderment". In the shops at Tillett Gardens you will find silkscreen prints, paintings, jewelry, candles, photography and other local art products. There is a restaurant and bar on site. Local arts and crafts shows and music concerts, including classical, folk and jazz; are held at Tillett Gardens throughout the year.

Red Hook
Red Hook is the proverbial anchor of the East End of St. Thomas. The little hub packs in a lot! There is: a marina; fishing and boating excursions; ferries; island-style shops; restaurants and bars; offices; banks and more! Take a stroll along the marina to admire the boats or to peek at what anglers have caught and brought to shore. Stop at ‘A’ dock and snap a photo with the replica 1073lb blue marlin. The large fish earned angler Annette Dallimore a Women’s IGFA ‘All-tackle’ world-record for a blue marlin catch! Stroll, shop, have a drink or dine.
 
St. Thomas is always adding attractions to give veteran cruisers more entertainment options. A few that we've tried: Magic Ice is an 8,000 square foot "gallery" of ice statues and sculptures. You don a parka to get in and walk through the chilly atmosphere (the walls are made of ice, too). A shot of rum is included in adult admission. Sure, it's a little gimmicky, but a stop there cools you off on a hot day, and it's fun to watch adults skid down the ice slide. (Waterfront; 340-422-6000; open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; $22 adults, $12 children)
 
Zip-lining has come to St. Thomas, and the island's version, on St. Peter Mountain, is about the best introduction to this activity that we've seen. Safety comes first at Tree Limin' Extreme, and the wise-cracking employees do their best to make even the most nervous customers comfortable. The course comprises six lines, including one that is considered a "yo-yo," (where you swing back and forth until you stop) and two canopy bridges. Age and weight limits apply. (2C St. Peter Mountain Road; 340-777-9477; open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; $109 adults 18 and older, $99 children 8 to 17)
 
Flyboarding and jet-packing have joined the armada of water activities available on the island; both involve shooting up high above the water. Of the two, flyboarding -- introduced by St. Thomas Flyboarding -- requires the most effort. Essentially, you strap your feet into boots anchored onto a board outfitted with water jets. It takes coordination to maneuver yourself into standing position, and you need a sense of balance to avoid flopping back in the water. Once you master the moves, though, you can reach heights of 10 feet or more, where you're rewarded with the sensation of floating. Age and weight limits apply. (Island Beachcomber Hotel at Lindbergh Beach; 340-514-8654; tours 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, reservations are essential, $125)
 
Jet-packing offers the same experience, although the water flows through jet packs that are strapped to your back. St. Thomas Jet Riders operates on the beach near the Frenchman's Reef and Morningstar Marriott Beach Resort. Age and weight limits apply. (340-626-8500; open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; $149 for 20 minutes flight time, $199 for 30 minutes flight time)
 
The most interesting shops for quality art and crafts are located outside downtown. Must-visits for aficionados include Mango Tango, which has the island's best selection of original art as well as gorgeous teakwood furnishings -- and a humidor with a wide variety of cigars. (Al Cohen's Plaza, Raphune Hill; 340-777-3060; open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday.) The Color of Joy showcases work by a range of artists, including Jane Clemo's mocko jumbie dolls, Sloop Jones' hand-painted clothing and Doreen Walsh's batiks. (On Route 322 before Ritz-Carlton; 340-775-4020; open 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday to Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday.) If you're interested in serious arts and crafts shopping, rent a car or hire a driver for the day.
 
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. There's a snack bar on the premises, and a dress code applies. Tee-time reservations, for both 18 and nine holes, can be made up to 48 hours in advance by calling 800-253-7103 or 340-777-6006. Per-person cost includes green and cart fees (check your cruise line for special excursions) and range from $115 to $165 from December to May, $85 to $125 May to September and $100 to $150 from September to December. Golf clubs can be rented at the pro shop.
 
Go for a stroll -- before indulging in a gourmet lunch (see in-town restaurants) -- through Frenchtown (opposite the harbor from Havensight). This eclectic neighborhood was settled in the 18th century by French Huguenots from St. Barth's and is now a neighborhood of fishermen. It is still home to some original descendants, and you can occasionally hear locals conversing in French.
 For repeat visitors, nothing beats a day trip to St. John. Check out our St. John port profile for more details.
 
Beaches
The  Magens Bay often makes its way into the best beaches of the world lists. It is as gorgeous as its relaxing, and visitors can spend hours and hours here doing absolutely nothing. Since tourists love this beach, don’t expect it to be secluded. The only way to reach here is through a taxi or rental cars.
 
Coki Beach is great for snorkeling buffs, but again can be quite packed especially during peak cruise seasons. Renaissance Grand Beach Resort is also a much sought after option. It is the most popular beach for water sports lovers. Secret Harbour, is relatively less crowded and unaffected by St. Thomas’ touristy vibe. You’ll find the archetypal swaying palms and silver sand shoes, which is just perfect for those looking for peaceful, lazy relaxation.
 
Bolongo BayPlanner
Located on the south shore of the island at the Bolongo Beach Resort, this beach offers a variety of watersports and beach toy rentals.
Brewer’s BayPlanner
Located near the University of the Virgin Islands campus, Brewer’s Bay is a family favorite for weekend picnics and gatherings. Visitors can relax in the shallow waters or sunbathe on the wide shore.

Coki BeachPlanner
Located on Coki Point, this white sand beach with crystal clear water offers excellent snorkeling and diving. Beachside eateries serve picnic table fare including burgers, sandwiches and some local dishes. There is a dive shop, jet ski rental and several vendors renting snorkel gear, beach chairs and floats. Right next to Coral World Ocean Park, it’s easy to make a day of visiting both attractions.

Hull BayPlanner
A favorite beach for local fishermen, families and surfers. It offers the best surfing on St. Thomas when there is a north swell. Located on the north side, west of Magens Bay.

Lindbergh BayPlanner
Named after the famous aviator who landed nearby in 1928, this tranquil bay is flanked by three hotels, palm trees and sea grapes that line the shore.

Lindquist BeachPlanner
One of St. Thomas's most beautiful and pristine beaches, Lindquist Beach is situated on the east end of the island. The water is crystal-clear and typically calm. The left side of the beach is great for snorkeling.

Magens BayPlanner
St. Thomas's most popular beach, this beautiful one-mile stretch is a public park and was donated to the people of the Virgin Islands by Arthur Fairchild. The water is usually very calm in this heart-shaped protected bay. Beach chairs and floats are available for rent and burgers, pizzas and other snacks can be found at the snack bar. Lifeguards are on duty every day.

Morning Star BeachPlanner
Located at the Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Resort, this beach offers a restaurant and bar, watersports rentals and a scenic view of the cruise ships sailing through the harbor.

Sapphire Beach Planner
The sapphire-blue waters here are great for snorkeling, windsurfing, jet skiing and more. The beach is located on the east end at 


Secret Harbour Beach Resort
A calm, quiet beach located at Secret Harbour Beach Resort, this beach has a floating swim platform and beach chairs available for rent.
 
Eating Out
Beni Iguana's Sushi Bar, located at The Grand Hotel Courtyard is an upper crust Japanese restaurant on St. Thomas, which whips up a variety of fine Japanese dishes. Serving fish from the adjacent waters this local institution is popular with visitors wanting to tuck into fresh seafood. Greenhouse in Charlotte Amalie serves up a nice assortment of American and Asian grub. Lookout for their daily specials featuring the freshest catches of the day. Virgilio's at 18 Main St. is an authentic Italian restaurant, serving scrumptious pasta, and lobster ravioli. Seagrape, in the Doubletree Sapphire Beach Resort off Route 6 offers perhaps the classiest dining experience in St. Thomas. Their salads are to die for.
 
Shopping
St. Thomas is a shopping Mecca. Shopping in this duty-free zone could easily consume your entire time in port. Both terminals have adjacent shopping centers which open when cruise ships are in. Havensight has a much larger shopping area and there is a supermarket and Kmart down the road. For dining options in Havensight, there is a Hooters across the road and a Senor Frogs at the end of the pier. Downtown east of Emancipation Gardens is Vendors Market with outdoor stalls selling t-shirts and souvenirs. In Crown Bay, there is a small gourmet supermarket in the adjacent marina and a larger one towards the main road into town. A little to the north is a shopping plaza with some restaurants and a KFC.
 
Jewelry, perfume, watches, jewelry, china, crystal, linens, jewelry, liquor and tobacco are all offered at significant savings. Oh yes, did I mention jewelry! The advantageous custom allowance allowed for purchases made in St. Thomas make this a shoppers paradise. To accommodate transporting, liquor stores will even box and deliver your purchases directly to the ship.



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