St. Thomas, USVI
Sapphire Beach, St. Thomas, USVI
Language and Currency
What is St. Thomas Like?
What is the Weather Like?
Where Does the Ship Dock?
Where is the Shopping?
What is There to Buy?
What is There To Do?
Is There Anything of a “Don’t Miss Quality?
Are There Any Great Restaurants or Bars?
English is spoken in St. Thomas and the currency is the US Dollar.
St. Thomas, the shopping hub of the Caribbean, is the capital and major port of the US Virgin Islands. This picturesque island, measuring 13 miles in length and less than 3 miles at its widest point, is 75 miles east of Puerto Rico. Part of the lesser Antilles chain of the West Indies, the hills of St. Thomas are alive with color. The red hibiscus, purple bougainvillea, orange tree blossoms and red roof tops contrast with the lush green hillside to create a vibrant panorama. The island architecture is an eclectic mix of Spanish patios, French iron gates and grillwork, Dutch doors, and Danish rooftops. Crystalline white sand and calm turquoise waters provide a backdrop for some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Granted the narrow streets have become overdeveloped, but it remains one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean.
St. Thomas enjoys pleasant weather all year. The temperature is fairly constant with an average year round temperature of 78 -88°F. Temperatures range from a low of 65 to high of 95°. Fall is the rainy season, but even then, occasional showers not an all day rain, is the norm.
Most cruise ships will dock at the Havensight Pier about a 5-10 minute taxi ride outside of downtown Charlotte Amalie. However, some cruise ships tender in the Charlotte Amalie harbor, and if it is a very busy day in port, the overflow must dock a bit further out at Crown Point Marina, west of Charlotte Amalie. Taxis are plentiful at the Havensight Pier and a ride into downtown will cost about $3. Be advised that this port can get very crowded and traffic can get exceedingly congested. If a number of ships are in port and you are downtown, allow plenty of time to return to the pier.
St. Thomas is a shopping Mecca. Shopping in this duty-free zone could easily consume your entire time in port. The main shopping area is along the harbor and Main Street in Charlotte Amalie. Within this 4 block radius there are numerous narrow alleys and alcoves lined with more stores than one can imagine. These narrow streets can become very congested when a number of ships are in port, and it is easy to become overwhelmed by the shopping frenzy. If crowds are something you like to avoid, the Havensight Mall is located directly at the Havensight Pier and offers retail outlets of many of the same stores you will find downtown.
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.
Shopping and beaches are the main attractions in St. Thomas. I have already expounded on the shopping, so let me spend some time sharing your beach options.
Magen's Bay, St. Thomas, USVI
Magen’s Bay is located on the north coast of the island, about a 25 minute cab ride from the pier. At one time this was given the distinction of being one of the 10 ten most beautiful beaches in the world. Personally, although still quite nice, I believe it has lost some of its luster. Coki Beach is about 15 minutes away from the port and provides good snorkeling. Its location next to the Coral World Marine Park at Coki Point, with its underwater observation chambers and 80,000 gallon reef tank, make it a popular beach on the cruise circuit. However, on the island, my favorite beach, hands-down, is Sapphire Beach. Located about 15 minutes away from port, not far from Red Hook, it is a perfect Caribbean Beach. Snorkeling is excellent and it is a favorite of windsurfers. Non-motorized water sport rental is available, as is an open-air restaurant/bar with awesome views of St. John. You can also venture off island and enjoy a sail and snorkel (or scuba) trip to Turtle Cove on Buck Island. Your beach opportunities do not end there, however. A 20 minute ferry ride from Red Hook will deliver you to Cruz Bay in St. John. If you decide to venture to St. John, Trunk Bay has an excellent underwater snorkeling trail (snorkel equipment can be rented at this national park). Another St. John alternative is Honeymoon Beach. Here is a tip: Trunk Bay tends to be very crowded in the morning, as that is when most cruise ships schedule their excursions. If your port schedule allows, catch one of the early afternoon ferries and it will be much less crowded and obviously much more pleasurable. If you don’t want to spend the day shopping, lounging at a beach or snorkeling, the Atlantis Submarine is a nice way to enjoy the undersea marine life. A short cable car ride on the Paradise Point Tramway, across the street from the Havensight Pier, provides a great view of the harbor, 700 ft. below. Finally, you can always visit St Thomas’ oldest structure, the Danish Fort Christian. It houses the Virgin Islands Museum in one of the dungeons.
It is hard for me to pick just one “don’t miss” in St. Thomas. It is probably why I have chosen to return to this island frequently, not only as a port of call on a cruise ship, but to spend extended time lounging on Sapphire Beach, snorkeling at Trunk Bay, and eating (and drinking) at two of my favorite Caribbean stops (see the next section), not to mention the requisite jewelry purchase (s) every time I visit.
One of my favorite dining experiences is Hervé Restaurant and Wine Bar on Government Hill, next to Hotel 1829 in the heart of town. You can choose to dine in the large open air terrace or the more intimate wine room. The menu is extensive and quite eclectic. Although the main courses are outstanding, save room for dessert (the cheesecake is “to die for”). At the complete opposite end of the spectrum, is my favorite bar in St. Thomas, Duffy’s Love Shack in Red Hook Plaza, near the Red Hook ferry terminal. Full of local color, Duffy’s is definitely “party central”. Although food is served at this open air restaurant and bar, the emphasis is on the bar. Beware of some of the potent rum concoctions; they have been known to have people dancing on the tables.
8 users found this review helpful.
Charlotte Amalie is (basically) a big store. Jewelry, cameras, jewelry, watches, jewelry, perfumes, jewelry. Oh, and in case you missed it …. jewelry. You can’t...read more
10 users found this review helpful.
Fantastic experience with a shore excursion through Virgin Island Ecotours that offers a kayak/snorkel adventure in a protected lagoon. Reasonable price, staff is...read more
10 users found this review helpful.
This was Immigration morning, and it was the smoothest we’ve ever been through. NO long lines, and we didn’t have to report until almost 8:30. We had breakfast in the...read more
29 users found this review helpful.
We just got back from our cruise which was January 16-23, 2005. St. Thomas was our first stop. We took a taxi from the port to Sapphire Resort and Beach. A tip for...read more
26 users found this review helpful.
Wonderful informational tour for a cheap price. For only $20, you are picked up by a van at the ship, taken to downtown Charlotte Amalie to shop for 2 hours, picked...read more
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