St. Thomas, one of the three islands that comprise the U.S. Virgin Islands, offers a tropical vacation within a cosmopolitan and sophisticated setting. From some of the Caribbean’s most stunning beaches to reveling in colonial culture, there are few places to rival St. Thomas.
About St. Thomas
St. Thomas is the second largest of the three islands within the archipelago that is known as the United States Virgin Islands, along with St. Croix and St. John. It is in the Lesser Antilles, just 70 miles from San Juan, and stretches across 32 square miles of sheer beauty. Many people consider St. Thomas the most stunning island destination anywhere. If nature were a Michelangelo, St. Thomas could be the result.
It is bordered by both the Atlantic and the Caribbean. Its capital, which serves as the capital for all the U.S. Virgin Islands, is Charlotte Amalie, which has one of the most incredible harbors in the world. It is the most visited harbor in the entire Caribbean, with fine dining, a soaring nightlife, and the duty-free shopping that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors worldwide. The perfect year-round weather doesn’t hurt, either.
After being discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, St. Thomas was initially colonized by the Dutch. It became prosperous when slavery was introduced to work the sugar plantations. In 1754, St. Thomas was acquired by Denmark, who made Charlotte Amalie the capital. Slavery was eventually abolished in 1848, and the U.S. purchased St. Thomas, along with the islands of St. John and St. Croix, in 1917 and established the U.S. Virgin Islands. They remain a territory of the United States.
St. Thomas is the ideal vacation destination for families, couples, and singles. Since it is a U.S. territory, no passport is needed for entry.
While there is much to see, the incredible beaches stand out. The island has over 40 amazing Caribbean beaches, two dozen of which are very easily accessible to visitors. Turquoise water, soft white sand, and soothing sunshine guarantee a blissful U.S. Virgin Island getaway. The gem of all U.S. Virgin Island beaches, St. Thomas’ Magens Bay, is known as one of the 10 best beaches in the world and a major wedding destination site.
Movie buffs will enjoy searching for the Magens Bay movie location where vampires Edward and Bella celebrated their wedding in The Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn. Rumor has it both actors spent the night sipping cocktails and waiting for the sun to come up.
Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett took over romantic Honeymoon Beach near Charlotte Amalie harbor to film a sunset scene for their movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Language Spoken in St. Thomas
English is the official language in St. Thomas, but much of the citizenry also speaks French and Spanish.
Currency Used in St. Thomas
The U.S. Dollar is the accepted currency in St. Thomas, but visitors should be aware that not all venues accept credit cards.
Things to Do in St. Thomas
Coral World Ocean Park
This aquarium near Coki Beach is one of St. Thomas’ most visited attractions. It provides an underwater view of important marine life, but, undoubtedly, for children, the best part is swimming and interacting with dolphins and sea lions. There is an extra charge for this, but the experience – priceless.
Rugged St. Thomas Jeep Tour
There is so much for visitors to see in St. Thomas once they have surfaced from the waters. A jeep tour through the island’s rugged landscape will hit all the important landmarks, such as Blackbeard’s Castle, Downtown Charlotte Amalie, Ft. Christian, plantations, the best beaches, and a few hidden surprises. It’s a wonderful way to learn about the island and its history in one day.
99 Steps in Charlotte Amalie
The 99 Steps is a great Charlotte Amalie landmark that’s achieved Instagram fame with its hangings of colorful florals. The Danes built this in the 1700s using bricks shipped from Denmark to make getting around the hilly city easier. The view from the top of the steps is stunning.
It is unknown whether Blackbeard set foot on St. Thomas, but pirates ruled the sea during Colonial times. Blackbeard’s Castle, also called Skytsborg Tower, was a Danish lookout for pirates. Visitors can enjoy the pirate re-enactments.
Shopping in St. Thomas
What bargain-lover can resist duty-free shopping? Fortunately, St. Thomas is a shopper’s haven. Charlotte Amalie’s Main Street is lined with boutiques selling art, jewelry, and much more. Vendor’s Plaza in Emancipation Park has booths offering clothing, jewelry, and souvenirs. Tillet Gardens on the east side sells local arts and crafts.
For upscale designer goods, visit the Yacht Haven Grande Mall for brands such as Coach, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Gucci, and more. Remember, these are duty-free bargains.
Visitors come to St. Thomas for the fabulous beaches; they stay for the stunning views. Drake’s Seat overlooks Magens Bay and even the British Virgin Islands. Sir Francis Drake came here to look for Spanish ships to attack. The lookout, which was rebuilt in the early 20th century, is breathtaking.
Pizza, Snorkel, and Party
It’s hard to go wrong with a pizza party. This cruise begins at the American Yacht Harbor and continues on Cruz Bay in St. John. The party ends up in the lovely Christmas Cove in St. Thomas. Guest can snorkel here while awaiting their pizza to be delivered by boat. Rum is served after the snorkeling. The party moves back to Cruz Bay before heading home to St. Thomas.
Best Regions in St. Thomas
Charlotte Amalie is the only town in nature-friendly St. Thomas. Main Street is where all the excitement is. Visitors will find Market Square on the western side. This is a collection of stalls selling the freshest farm products. Saturdays are the big market day.
Back Street, which runs parallel to Main Street, is lined with shops.
Emancipation Park, which celebrates the end of slavery, can be found in the eastern part of Charlotte Amalie.
For downtown dining, the Greenhouse Bar and Restaurant by the waterfront has something for everyone on its eight-page menu, from burgers and pizza to lobster tail and filet mignon. Tuesday evening attracts a young crowd that comes for the live reggae music.
Water Island is technically the fourth “Virgin.” It is a small island with only 200 people and can be accessed by ferry. There are no hotels, but there are villas for rent. It is an ideal getaway for taking time at the beach, fishing, and kayaking. Few things are more enjoyable and relaxing than joining the natives for the Monday night movies on fabulous Honeymoon Beach, then going to Heidi’s Honeymoon Grill for a delicious dinner.
A visit to Water Island’s Carolina Point Plantation will present an interesting side of colonial history. This plantation was owned by free slaves – a rarity in the Caribbean. It – or its ruins – provides a valuable history lesson.
East End – St. Thomas
The east side is where all the great St. Thomas beaches are. There are more beaches here than in any other part of the island.
Coki Beach has lifeguards, chair rentals, and restaurants surrounding the beach. It’s a favorite beach for snorkeling.
Sapphire Beach– named after the stunning blue water – is a popular wedding site because of its picturesque beauty, including the iguanas and ducks that wander through the sand. This is a particularly popular beach for windsurfing. There is a grill vendor for food and the Sapphire Beach Resort for luxury accommodations.
Secret Harbor Beach – is great for swimming and snorkeling. It is lined with hammocks hanging from tropical palm trees for just enjoying a lazy day in the sand. There is a floating raft where children love to play and jump into the water.
Secret Harbor Beach also has the fabulous Secret Harbor Resort. It won the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for the top 10 percent of hotels in the world in 2020 and 2021.
The Best All-Inclusive Hotel or Resort in St. Thomas
Bolongo Bay is a beachfront hotel with stunning ocean views. It is the U.S. Virgin Island’s first all-inclusive hotel, with great meals and premium cocktails included.
The Bolongo Bay provides every imaginable entertainment to its guest, including special catamaran cruises. Complimentary snorkeling, diving, and kayaking gear are available. The weekly Booze Hunt Snorkel has guests diving for hidden rum bottles in the ocean. Or they can swim with the turtles. For a bit of romance, there is the Harbor Sunset Cocktail Sail around Charlotte Amalie before returning to the Bolongo.
And still, the Bolongo Bay offers so much more.
The Best Resort or Hotel for Couples in St. Thomas
Secret Harbor Resort near the village of Red Hook has comfortable beachfront condos with exciting views. There are two onsite restaurants, a pool, tennis, and every type of watersports, such as snorkeling, diving, paddleboarding, and kayaking. The resort is near everything that Charlotte Amalie has to offer, and a ferry ride from its neighboring island, St. John.
Secret Harbor Resort is a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award winner for two consecutive years.
Best Resort or Hotel for Families in St. Thomas
Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove overlooking Pacquereau Bay has two and three-bedroom villas with fully equipped kitchens that are perfect for families. Guests can enjoy the infinity pool with a kids’ slide and fitness center, as well as the onsite restaurant, 24-7 market, and the children’s activity room.
The resort, located in bustling Charlotte Amalie, is close to shops, restaurants, stunning Magens Bay Beach, Drake’s Seat, and Coral World Ocean Park, ensuring entertainment and excitement for the entire family.