5 Things to Do in St. Thomas on Your Next Family Vacation

The gateway to the US Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, is known for its shopping, beaches, and snorkeling. And no passport is required for US citizens.

Visitors flying in will land on the west side of the island. But cruise ship passengers are lucky enough to have the most beautiful entry imaginable: Port Charlotte Amalie, with its blue waters lapping against a mountainous coastline dotted with houses and their red tiled roofs, is truly spectacular.

When you come into harbor, if you look to the right you’ll see Blackbeard’s Castle. There’s no proof that the actual Blackbeard built the fortress. Most likely that credit goes to the Danish who controlled St. Thomas from the 1600’s until the mid 19th century. However, the pirates did use the island as a location to attack merchant ships.

Once anchored, you’ll have a view of yachts belonging to rich executives, as well as modest boats that are homes to people who sail the world. Sit back on deck and take it all in, and if you’re really lucky, you might catch an afternoon shower followed by a rainbow.

Whether you’re looking for R&R or want to hit up all the best beaches, make sure that once you’re actually on the island, you set aside the time to check out these five fabulous to-do’s.

Swim Coki Beach

Ready to swim with the fishes? Then this is your spot. Step into the water and it will gradually deepen out to about 100 feet. Get ready to be surrounded by fish—barracuda, parrotfish, and tarpon to name a few.

The beach has a funky vibe with hair braiders, a gift shop, and food trucks selling a local specialty—fried ground beef turnovers. There are also lifeguards, taxis, changing rooms, showers, and bathrooms. And Coki Beach also has umbrella rentals and a service to help you if you’re looking for watersport rentals like snorkeling gear or paddleboards.

Feel the Love at Magens Bay

You’ve probably seen pictures of this beautiful heart-shaped beach. Anytime there’s a list of the world’s most beautiful beaches, Magens Bay makes the cut. This beautiful bay is located just three miles from Charlotte Amalie.

Magens Bay is quieter than Coki Beach, especially if you come early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Since the bay is shallow and flat, it doesn’t attract many fish so don’t plan a day of snorkeling. But you can rent sailboats, kayaks, and paddleboards. Also for rent are umbrellas and beach chairs to make your day more comfortable.

Take note: the bar makes a yummy adult milkshake with a shot of rum.

The beach has an admission fee of $4 for adults. Kids under 12 are free. There are lifeguards on duty and a taxi stand. You’ll also find changing facilities, showers, and bathrooms.

Find Anything with Duty Free Shopping

Did someone say “shopping”? St. Thomas has the best shopping in all of the Caribbean. Diamonds and emeralds. Perfume and watches. China and crystal. Cameras and electronics. Alcohol too! Six bottles allowed—as long as one is made in the Virgin Islands. Prices are generally 30% - 60% less than what you’d find in the United States. Plus, you pay no tax or duty on these items. But as always, do your homework ahead of time so you know if you’re really getting a good deal.

Each US citizen, including kids, is allowed to bring back $1,600 in merchandise. That’s twice what you’re allowed on other Caribbean islands. You’ll be required to fill out US customs forms—and hang onto your receipts. You might be required to show them.

Traveler Tip: If possible, avoid shopping on Fridays. That’s when the most cruise ships are in port.

Explore Coral World Ocean Park

This is your opportunity to see fish without even getting wet. The park is 5 acres of fun—outdoor pools and nature trails; indoor exotic aquariums. You’ll have the opportunity to get up close to sea lions, stingrays, turtles, and yes, you can even pet a shark. The park also has scheduled feeding times each day.

Coral World Ocean Park offers some fun underwater activities as well. You always wanted to scuba dive but never got certified? Snuba might be for you. It gives you the sensation of diving—you explore underwater, breathing through an air hose that’s attached to an air tank on the surface of the water.

Sea Trek is another offering. It’s a guided, walking tour along the ocean floor. You wear an air helmet that allows you to see and breathe while checking out the fish and reef.

The park also boasts its Undersea Observatory, which lets you go three stories under the water and has a 360 degree view.

Tree Limin’ Extreme

For the thrill seekers, try out Tree Limin' Extreme, the only ziplining park in the US Virgin Islands. Limin’ is local slang for “hanging out.” So you’ll be looking to hang out with the trees here.

The park has 6 lines, 2 sky bridges, and 8 aerial platforms. Once you’re in your gear, expect the adventure through the rainforest to last about two hours. And you’ll reach speeds of up to 35 mph. From the platforms you’ll have spectacular views of Magen’s Bay and the neighboring islands of St. John and Tortola.

After all that excitement you may want to hit Tree Limin’s rum bar. They make all sorts of Caribbean cocktails and have over 30 rums to choose from. How’s that for “hanging out?”

Planning a trip to St. Thomas? What’s on your list?

Tags : travel   Virgin Islands   St. Thomas   

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