St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands Travel Guide
St. Thomas Summary
- St. Thomas has the only international airport in the Virgin Islands in its capital city, Charlotte Amalie.
- Excellent, duty-free jewelry shopping -- discount diamonds and rare gems -- in Charlotte Amalie
- Beautiful Magens and Sapphire beaches -- excellent sailing, fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling
- Lively party and yacht scene in Red Hook
- 86- to 91-degree beach weather, year round
- No passport required for United States citizens (though it's recommended)
- Tap water is safe to drink.
- In general, hotel service is less attentive than in most other Caribbean Islands, like Jamaica or the Dominican Republic.
- High incidence of robbery and harassment in Charlotte Amalie, especially after dark.
- Unreliable public transportation (mostly unmetered taxis available)
- Cruise-ship passengers crowd the best beaches, restaurants, and shops (most days).
- Overpriced food and drinks, just about everywhere
- Traffic jams in Charlotte Amalie
- Chance of hurricanes from June 1st until November 30th
What It's Like
St. Thomas is the bustling center of the Virgin Islands -- largely, because it has the only airport in the sprawling archipelago and the busiest cruise ship harbor in the West Indies. In the historic port town of Charlotte Amalie in particular, when the cruise ships dock, its bars, restaurants, and hundreds of duty-free perfume and jewelry shops can get very congested. But elsewhere on the island as well, including the revered Magens Beach, you can expect a crowd. Due to the economy's toll on the travel industry, crowding has been less of a problem this year than it has been in years' past. But the economy of St. Thomas is still very much connected to the cruise ship industry. Many shops, restaurants, and even bars don't stay open in the evening, or even after the cruisers reboard at 5 p.m., or even open at all when there's no a ship in town. Good restaurants, especially for breakfast, are scarce -- and the hotels typically jack up the price for subpar fare accordingly. But due to a more consistent client base of yachters and locals, the quaint town of Red Hook does offer some better food and nightlife options than you'll typically find along the narrow, cobblestone streets of Charlotte Amalie.
Where to Stay
St. Thomas is a small island, only 13 miles long and four miles wide, so wherever you stay you're never more than a 30-minute drive from the handful of bars and restaurants in Charlotte Amalie (central) or Red Hook (to the east). Most hotels, save the Holiday Inn, tend to be on a small patch of beach somewhere outside the major towns. Given the crime and crowds in Charlotte Amalie, staying closer to Sapphire Beach (just as nice as Magens beach, but less crowded) near Red Hook is typically the more attractive option.