Posted on August 10 2018
The most cosmopolitan of the United States Virgin Islands, St. Thomas pulses with life and beauty. Whether you want beach-side relaxation, exceptional shopping or extraordinary snorkeling, St. Thomas has something to delight everyone.
Below, we’ve gathered some of the most popular shopping and adventure destinations on St. Thomas. From pristine beaches to exquisite watches, St. Thomas offers new and enchanting experiences for every vacation.
Why stay on land when you can enjoy the sea? Explore St. Thomas with these fun water activities:
1. Boat Rentals
St. Thomas basks in the heart of the Caribbean and beckons to the outdoor-enthusiast in us all. Escape the bustle of the island and rent a private boat for a relaxing and exhilarating day trip. Enjoy the sun, wind and waves while venturing out to nearby locations like St. John or the Baths at Virgin Gorda. Choose your itinerary and relax for a day of swimming, marine life encounters, exploring and island hopping, all removed from the rush of crowds.
One way of enjoying the vibrant landscape of St. Thomas is through an ecotour. Ecotourism refers to environmentally responsible travel and combines beautiful, secluded scenery with conservation.
You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy a kayaking ecotour to Bird Island. Suited for both beginner and seasoned kayakers, the tour includes exploration of the Mangrove Lagoon Wildlife Sanctuary and Marine Reserve and ends with a spectacular view of a Caribbean sunset.
Explore a desert island first-hand by joining a hiking and snorkeling ecotour of Cas Cay. The tour will lead you to tidal pools, volcanic cliffs and other rare geological landmarks. Enjoy snorkeling through pristine reefs and walking along shell-laden beaches, all while supporting efforts to preserve the stunning, fragile landscape for many generations.
The waters of St. Thomas are clear, blue and brimming with gorgeous aquatic landscapes. With world-class reefs and beaches, it’s no mystery why snorkeling is one of the island’s main attractions. To swim alongside schools of vibrant fish in flourishing coral reefs, try either a self-guided trip or a professional snorkeling tour for an expert-guided experience.
You don’t need prior experience to enjoy a day at one of the easily-accessible reefs of St. Thomas — simply pick up a mask and some fins and start swimming. Numerous shops will provide rentals for the necessary equipment — mask, snorkel, fins and optional life vest. However, before any snorkeling trip, research safety protocols and water conditions before diving in. Many excellent snorkeling sites are accessible from public beaches. Some of the loveliest places include Secret Harbor, Sapphire Beach and Coki Beach. Sea life is generally most active during the early morning and evening, so be sure to plan your in-shore trips accordingly.
If you want a hassle-free snorkeling trip, consider a snorkeling tour. Tours include high-quality gear, professional instruction and charter boat service, so you can enjoy the water without worrying about the details. They also offer more opportunities for seasoned snorkelers — powerboat tours provide intermediate and advanced snorkelers a chance to safely explore difficult-to-access areas. You can also experience snorkeling from a sailboat. Relax in the warm Caribbean winds before slipping into the waves. After a refreshing day on the sea, sail home while watching the sunset with a cocktail in hand.
Whatever way you choose to snorkel, you can expect to see incredible aquatic life in the waters of St. Thomas. Look for sea turtles, stingrays and countless schools of vibrant fish. The reefs themselves are living works of art brimming with life and color, and are sure to enchant you on every swim.
4. Scuba Diving
The sea around St. Thomas is known for clear visibility and eerie wrecks. Excellent dive sites are easily accessible, making St. Thomas a perfect place for both experienced and first-time divers.
In addition to reefs, look for striking volcanic landscapes including tunnels and boulders. The most popular sites include Cow and Calf, Congo Cay, Mingo Cay, and Tunnels and Arches at Thatch Cay.
For a unique dive experience, try the Coki Beach Night Scuba Dive. Although it requires scuba certification, this dive allows you to witness the nightlife of a thriving reef. Look for eels, octopuses, stingrays and the occasional tarpon as you enjoy the peace of a nocturnal ocean.
The island has plenty to offer if you'd rather stay on land:
The beaches of St. Thomas are world-renowned, and no visit to the island is complete without experiencing their soft sands and blue waters. The most popular beach is dazzling Magens Bay, a mile-long paradise with access to food, drink, watersports and anything else you could need for a perfect day.
Because of its beauty, Magens Bay typically overflows with visitors. For a less-crowded beach experience, visit quieter areas such as Coki Point, Brewers Bay or Secret Harbor.
2. Walking tours
If you’re tired of guided tours, try a self-guided walking tour through Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas’ historic district and the capital of the United States Virgin Islands.
The 99 Steps are stairs built by the Danes in the mid-1700s. The staircase actually contains 103 steps. Constructed with bricks shipped from Denmark, enjoy a lovely view of the island after climbing the weathered steps. Another popular tourist destination is Bluebeard’s Castle, a Danish fortress built in 1689 and named after the mythical pirate Bluebeard, who was rumored to have imprisoned his wife within the tower.
The white-terraced Government House serves as both the home of the governor and a graceful example of neoclassical architecture. Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral is another architectural achievement. Built in 1848, the cathedral is filled with beautiful paintings and murals that will enhance any downtown trip.
In 1796, Sephardic Jews built the St. Thomas Synagogue, making it one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Anyone is welcome to visit and admire the historic building. For a close encounter with St. Thomas history, visit Fort Christian, a National Historic Landmark built in 1676 by the Dutch governor Jørgen Iversen.
3. Gardens, Observatories and Breathtaking Views
One of St. Thomas’ newest additions, the Phantasea Tropical Botanical Garden is a stunning achievement 20 years in the making. The lush gardens feature extensive collections of many tropical species, including a vast array of orchids. Tortoises, peacocks, parrots and other tropical birds are also on display. Don't forget to check out the gift shop for delightful, unique souvenirs.
If you’d prefer to experience the beauty of the ocean without getting wet, visit Coral World Ocean Park, the only Caribbean undersea observatory. Built over a coral reef, the observatory offers unparalleled views of marine life and coral ecosystems. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can sign up to swim with South American sea lions. You can also go underwater with a guided helmet dive, or simply watch schools of fish drift by the observatory windows.
For the best views on the island, stop by Drake’s Seat, which provides a striking panorama of Magens Bay and distant islands. The overlook earned its name from popular legend, which claims that British privateer Sir Francis Drake used this vantage point to spy on enemy Spanish ships.
For another breathtaking view, climb Mountain Top. Standing 1,500 feet above sea level, the site gives a gorgeous view of St. Thomas and the bay. If the trip makes you thirsty, grab a daiquiri from the Mountain Top Bar.
The Caribbean charm of St. Thomas has attracted a diverse array of local and international businesses. A visit to the island wouldn’t be complete without stopping by one of the many shops. However, the endless options can be overwhelming on a first trip, so we’ve selected some of the best St. Thomas establishments for you to check out.
- Mango Tango Art Gallery: If you collect international art, consider stopping by Mango Tango Art Gallery. For over 20 years, the gallery has featured works from local artists as well as international creators who have spent time in the Caribbean. Mango Tango offers more than paintings — their extensive collection includes sculpture, photography, ceramics, textiles and ironwork. At Mango Tango, you’re sure to find a beautiful and unique addition for your gallery.
- Native Arts and Crafts Cooperative: A quick walk around St. Thomas will reveal that it is home to many talented artisans. To support these local creatives, visit the Native Arts and Crafts Cooperative. Inside, browse goods from over 150 artists ranging from oil paintings to hand-carved calabash bowls. Proceeds support more than artisans, but also contribute towards care for schoolchildren, senior citizens and people with disabilities. At the Native Arts and Crafts Cooperative, your purchase will have a positive impact far beyond a beautiful piece of art.
2. Gifts and Specialty
- O.S. Antiques: Besides its glistening beaches, St. Thomas is also known as a wrecker’s sanctuary. Explorers still find various artifacts littering the sea floor, and many are available at S.O.S. Antiques. Here, “S.O.S.” is not a distress signal, but instead stands for Shipwrecker’s Ocean Salvage. Inside the quaint shop, you will find all types of maps, charts, sextants, pistols and authentic treasure coins. To celebrate the history and eccentricity of St. Thomas, stop by S.O.S. Antiques and pick up a piece of pirate gold.
- Bones Rum: Nothing quite captures the Caribbean like bold, dark rum. For authentic Virgin Island spirits, look no further than Bones Rum. Bottled on St. Thomas, Bones Rum uses a centuries-old recipe along with small-batch distilling and oak barrel aging to create a truly high-quality product. Taking its name from Robert Louis Stevenson’s notorious pirate, Billy Bones, Bones Rum offers a menu of specialty rum cocktails you can purchase in-store, as well as bottles to pack away for later. Whatever you choose, Bones Rum is a St. Thomas institution that is sure to sweeten any visit.
3. Fashion and Jewelry
- Bella Vera: Numerous boutiques line the streets of St. Thomas, but Bella Vera stands apart with the sheer variety of its selection. Locally owned, the chic shop features both local and name-brand designs, and their products range from casual staples to elegant cocktail dresses and handbags. Bella Vera provides the perfect piece for any occasion, so whether you’re bound for a beach party or suave cocktail hour, you’re sure to find what you need.
- Zora of St. Thomas: For a truly unique purchase, stop by Zora of St. Thomas and select from an array of custom-made leather footwear and handbags. The one-of-a-kind goods range from strappy sandals to sleek backpacks perfect for both urban and outdoor settings. For a souvenir with true island flare, invest in a pair of long-lasting, locally-made shoes and take a piece of the island home with you.
- Cariloha: The Caribbean is inarguably stunning, but it can also be hot, especially in the summer months. Specializing in natural luxury, Cariloha produces clothing and textiles made from cool, soft bamboo. With a selection ranging from bedsheets to activewear, Cariloha’s fabric averages three degrees Fahrenheit cooler than cotton alternatives. Their national and international recognition ensures that you can purchase with confidence, and enjoy a cooler, softer vacation.
- Little Switzerland: Few shops possess the quality and variety available at Little Switzerland, and none match their reputation. Knowledgeable staff will help you choose from a selection of world-class luxury brands such as Patek Phillippe, Breitling, David Yurman, Omega, TAG Heuer, John Hardy, Cartier, Roberto Coin, Movado and and more. Little Switzerland stands apart by extending preferred no-interest financing plans allowing up to 36 months to pay for a purchase. At Little Switzerland, you are guaranteed more than just duty-free prices — as an authorized retailer for all of these fine brands, you can purchase confidently, knowing you are getting the best quality for the best price.
Get Top Watch and Jewelry Brands at Little Switzerland
St. Thomas has something to offer for everyone, from pristine reefs to premier Caribbean shopping. For the largest selection of jewelry, come to Little Switzerland. The Caribbean’s most trusted provider of luxury watches and jewelry since 1954, Little Switzerland offers only the best in quality, price and service. We have over 30 locations throughout the Caribbean. Contact us online or call to talk to a Personal Shopping Consultant about discounts or to place an order.