St. Thomas: The Shopping Mecca
The most lively of the US Virgin Islands, St. Thomas is 32 square miles packed with near-endless things to see, do, explore, and shop.
White-sand beaches, world-class shopping, calm aquamarine waters, even more shopping, green mountain peaks, historic sites, and…did you hear about the shopping? The island boasts glorious, duty-free, tax-free shopping for everything from gemstones and jewelry to crystal and china to linens and fragrances, with prices up to 60 percent less than retail prices on the US mainland.
It’s just a short taxi ride from the cruise terminal to Charlotte Amalie’s historic waterfront district. The heart of this shopping paradise is Main Street, sometimes referred to by its former name: Dronningens Gade. The small cobblestoned alleys that connect the waterfront with Main Street are lined with former pirate warehouses now filled to the brim with imported modern luxuries.
Of the five National Historic Landmarks on the US Virgin Islands, three are located on St. Thomas. Blackbeard’s Castle, the St. Thomas Synagogue, and the oldest-standing structure in the USVI, Fort Christian.
For panoramic photo ops, climb the 99 Steps to Government Hill to the lookout point or check out St. Thomas’ central mountain range. There are a handful of designated stops along Skyline Drive including Mountain Top, the oldest and highest attraction on St. Thomas, which also serves world-famous banana daiquiris.
Drake’s Seat, another great spot for pictures is surrounded by lush botanical gardens. The post, named after the 16th-century pirate Sir Francis Drake, serves as a viewing platform to relish the breathtaking views of St. Thomas’ northern coastline, the lauded heart-shaped Magens Bay beach, and the neighboring Virgin Islands.
Nestled in the hills near Mountain Top is St. Peter Great House and Botanical Gardens. The stunning 20,000-square-foot estate is surrounded by lush gardens, streaming waterfalls, tropical bird aviaries, fish ponds, and more than 400 species of Caribbean plants, fruits, and flowers. The setting has become an extremely popular venue for special events and destination weddings.
The St. Thomas Skyride to Paradise Point is a different way visitors can breathe in the beauty of the island’s panoramic vistas. Every seven minutes, a suspended cable car carrying up to 24 people ascends the 700-foot-tall Flag Hill. At the summit, guests are met by several retail shops, a small Ferris wheel, the Sky Jump trampoline, and a daily cultural carnival show with Moko Jumbie stilt walkers and fire dancers.
Shifting gears from the highest heights to the deepest depths, there’s just as much to explore below sea level. With abundant marine life, calm currents, and visibility that exceeds 100 feet, St. Thomas is a diver’s mecca. Top sites include Honeymoon Cove, Sapphire Beach, and Turtle Cove.
The best beach is at Magens Bay. Just a quick scenic ride from Charlotte Amalie on the northern coast, the public beach boasts a one-mile stretch of sand fringed by palm trees and surrounded by the calm, heart-shaped Magens Bay.
Sail on a pirate schooner to Buck Island, an uninhabited preserve. Drop anchor in beautiful Turtle Cove and snorkel. Then, celebrate your day in paradise with music, snacks, and tropical drinks.
Discover two unique islet destinations on this combo boating, snorkeling, and beach excursion.
Catamaran to Buck Island nature sanctuary and get ready to explore with National Geographic Snorkeler gear. Then, sip delicious rum drinks and munch on snacks as you sail back to the harbor.
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