St. Thomas—the second largest and most developed of the US Virgin Islands—is known as the gateway to the Caribbean. Its port city of Charlotte Amalie often serves as a popular jumping-off point for travelers to destinations elsewhere in the Caribbean. Those who opt to stay and explore this once Dutch- and Danish-occupied outpost, however, will discover a tropical wonderland that boasts jaw-dropping hilltop views, hidden coves protecting sugary white beaches and crystal-clear waters that call like a siren to snorkelers, divers, and boaters.
Whether you just have a day to explore this US territory—or can afford to linger a little longer—this guide will help launch your adventures in St. Thomas, USVI.
Secret Harbor Beach Resort
You’ll find relaxing beachfront seclusion—and some of the best sunset views anywhere on St.Thomas—at this boutique, all-suite resort featuring 73 self-contained studios, 1- and 2-bedroom condos. Each has its own fully equipped kitchen and private patio or sundeck; many of the units overlook a tranquil, palm-shaded curve of beach shared by all guests and residents. Both couples and families will enjoy the freshwater pool, fitness center and on-site PADI dive center with excursion boats, water sports, and sailing.
Marriott Frenchman's Reef
Set into a headland overlooking Charlotte Amalie (and the daily migrations of visiting cruise ships), Marriott Frenchman's Reef is a recently renovated 478-room super-resort is the largest anywhere in the Caribbean. With such a substantial footprint comes equally extensive amenities, including 3 pools (plus a splash zone for kids), a new full-service spa and fitness center, 9 restaurant and bars and the most essential feature of all: a large and well-groomed private beach. All-inclusive food and beverage packages are available.
No expense was spared or detail overlooked during this Mediterranean-style luxury resort’s complete overhaul in 2007. Today, hotel guests can stretch their legs as they stroll along the nearly 1/2-mile long beach, immerse themselves in quiet tranquility at the hotel’s infinity pool, or bliss out with a spa massage in a seaside cabana. Those staying in one of the 55 club-level rooms also enjoy the attention of a dedicated concierge.
You may have to hunt to find this eatery tucked down a quiet pedestrian alley in Charlotte Amalie, but it’s well worth the search. Gladys—who keeps her eponymous café open for breakfast and lunch only—makes her hot sauces from scratch and uses them to season some of the meatiest, sauciest wings found anywhere in the Caribbean. Other menu standouts include conch chowder and jerk pork chops.
Cuban and Pan-Asian flavors meet the sexy nightlife scene of South Beach at Havana Blue, a sophisticated oceanfront restaurant framed with billowing white curtains and bathed in soft blue light. Talented chefs turn out inspired “experiential” entrees including pan-seared and yucca-encrusted Mahi Mahi, mojito-glazed skirt steak and sofrito marinated chicken breast.
As the name implies, this romantic al fresco steakhouse offers unobstructed views of the sun sinking into the calm waters of Nazareth Bay (be sure to request a table at the water’s edge when making reservations). Choose from a surf n’ turf menu that includes local Mahi Mahi, bone-in ribeye and Caribbean-grilled lobster tail, then select a bottle from restaurant’s extensive international wine list.
If you’re Caribbean-bound with one thing on your mind—seeing beautiful beaches—you’re in luck: St. Thomas boasts some of the best in the region. The long curve of diamond-white sand and gentle waters of Magens Bay are ideal for sunbathing and swimming, while Coki Beach Point and Secret Harbor are renowned for excellent snorkeling. Catch a wave at Hull Beach, known as one of the best spots on the island for intermediate- to advanced-level surfing.
Spend a 1/2-day exploring the capital of the US Virgin Islands, home of Blackbeard’s Castle (a 1679 relic named for the legendary pirate), the 99 Steps (built from bricks used for ships’ ballast in the 1700s), Saint Thomas Synagogue (the second oldest in the United States) and ample duty-free shopping opportunities. At Yacht Haven Grande, you’ll find upscale stores including Bulgari, Ferragamo, Coach, BCBG and more.
After dark, locals and travelers alike descend upon the eastern end of the island known as Red Hook to eat, drink and dance the night away at several waterfront bars (Iggy’s, Fish Tails, Duffy’s Love Shack) and taverns (Island Time Pub, Molly Malone’s). The late-night vibe favors revelers in their early 20s, but earlier in the evening the area is ideal for a casual, family-friendly dinner.
A short ferry ride from both Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook, St. Thomas’s sister island, St. John, offers lush natural tranquility in the form of national parkland—nearly 10,000 acres of it—donated in the 1950s by the Rockefeller family. After exploring the quaint village at Cruz Bay, take an open-air taxi to the beach at Trunk Bay, which consistently ranks as one of the world’s most beautiful waterfront spots.