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St Thomas Port
Most visitors arrive at the US Virgin Islands via St Thomas Port, and the place knows how to make an impression as you slowly sail into the pretty yacht strewn harbour. A verdant green canopy rises high above the town of Charlotte Amalie covering the surrounding hills, dotted with red-roofed houses. The island has a myriad of stunning beaches for you to enjoy alongside forts and historic houses. You can hike, bike or take the sky tram up to Paradise Point for stunning views. Take a stroll through the historic centre of the capital Charlotte Amalie or visit the pirates of St Thomas at the Pirates Treasure Shipwreck Museum
Where do cruise ships dock?
There are two main cruise ship piers in St Thomas.
Havensight is the best situated of the two piers as it’s situated very close to Charlotte Amalie itself and you can walk into town within about 10 minutes. Havensight itself is a little mini town. Situated to ensnare spend happy cruise passengers with a multitude of stores and duty-free shops.
This is St. Thomas’ newest cruise port. It was at one time a naval base. The ships dock on either side of a single finger pier. As at Havensight, guests enter and exit the ships via gangways through the shell doors. Beyond the gates of the port, there is a small shopping mall and a welcome center. It is quite difficult to walk from Crown Bay to downtown. However, taxis are found waiting in a designated area.
Things to do in St Thomas cruise port
St. Thomas is mountainous and offers beautiful views. One of the most popular lookouts is Drakes Seat, offering a fantastic view over the island to Magen’s Bay. Drake’s Seat was built in 1933 by Arthur Fairchild. Named after Sir Francis Drake who is said to have kept watch over his fleet from this vantage point.
Bluebeard’s Castle & Frederiksberg
Nestled on top of government hill sits this five-storey masonry watchtower. Said to be the lookout of the pirate Edward Teach otherwise known as the pirate Blackbeard. Whether this is true or not is open for debate but again it is a place that offers stunning views over the island. Easily reached by climbing the 99 Steps if you are feeling energetic (see below).
Charlotte Amalie is unique for step streets, or frigangs as the Danes called them. Built in the mid-1700 dozens of step streets cut through nearly all the hills rising from the Charlotte Amalie harbour area; the 99 steps are the most popular. They are likely the most photographed as well; the picturesque stairway has colourful flowers on either side making it an easy choice for a photo. Brought over from Denmark as ballast in the hulls of sailing ships the 99 steps original name was Store Taarne Gade which means Greater Tower Street. The 99 steps are actually 103 steps. They actually lead up to Blackbeard’s Castle (see above).
Settled by immigrants from the French Caribbean island of St. Barthelemy in the late 1800s through mid-1900s. The area became a fishing village. The French community has preserved a high degree of cultural identity including their fishing traditions. In the early morning, you can watch fishermen coming in with their small fishing boats, or cleaning and selling their catches from the dock and from the Quetel Fish Market. In the middle of Frenchtown is a hill crowned by St. Ann’s Catholic Church. The small French Heritage Museum in Frenchtown is worth a stop if it’s open. Frenchtown is a popular spot for its assortment of bars and restaurants, from casual to chic!
Paradise Point Skyride
One of the most popular trips on the island. In part because of its close location to the Havensight Cruise Terminal and the fact it offers stunning views over the island. Cable Cars whisk passengers up 700ft to Paradise Point, a scenic outlook. The ride takes about 7 minutes. At the top is a bara gallery of shops and a nature trail walk. Try the amazing Bushwhacker Bailey drink whilst you gawp at the amazing views below.
St Thomas beaches near cruise port
This is one of St. Thomas’ most beautiful and unspoilt beaches. It is part of a protected 21-acre area called Smith Bay Park. The captivating, crystal clear & azure water is perfect for swimming. Heading west, the swimming area gives way to another area of the bay, a very shallow shelf with tide pools. The shore is covered in white sand with a touch of pink. Stroll along the shore enjoy the fantastic view of St. John and the British Virgin Islands.
Snorkelling can be enjoyed on the right side of the beach. The right side has a coconut grove and the left side sea grape trees if you are looking for some natural shade. The middle area has very little shade as the tree line is mostly low lying brush. Amenities include lifeguard, picnic tables and bathrooms. It’s perfect for a few hours away from the crowds
This mile of sugary sand is St. Thomas’ most popular beach and for good reason, she is a beauty. The water is usually very calm, great for floating along and for swimming. The bay deepens gradually from shore making it perfect for small children. It’s not the best beach for snorkelling (for that see Coki Point Beach below). A water sports booth rents paddle boats, kayaks and sunfish. Beach chairs, floats and snorkel sets are also available for hire. Lifeguards are on duty every day.
There is also a bar and restaurant that serves burgers, pizzas and other snacks, a gift shop and a hair braiding stand. On days where there are a few cruise ships in port, it can get very busy. Most beachgoers pick a spot close to the restaurant area, so typically if you walk down the shore you will find fewer people. On weekday afternoons you will find residents relaxing after work and getting in some exercise. On Sundays and holidays, the beach is a favourite destination for residents, and parties ranging from small picnics to loud gatherings are common on those days.
Coki Point Beach
This is a small, picturesque beach with calm, clear waters and a rocky reef area that makes it ideal for snorkelling as there is a lot of fish action to be seen. It’s quite a lively little beach so if you don’t mind some music playing in the background, which adds a festive atmosphere, this is the place for you.
One word of warning. This is one of the few beaches on St Thomas with touts who will soon become your ‘friend’. A polite ‘no thanks’ will usually send them on their way to the next person.
Hull Bay is a serene little beach on the Northside of St. Thomas. The water at Hull Bay is typically clear and calm. The seafloor is fairly rocky so please bear this in mind if you have children as it’s not ideal for them. The beauty of Hull Bay is in its tranquil, natural feel. It’s a little beach, laid back and crowd-free.
There is a small bar/restaurant present and you can buy a bucket of beers to take to the beach or dine in. There are restrooms at the restaurant and there is also a dive shop whose hours vary. There are no chair rentals, umbrellas, gift shops or resort amenities.
Located on Water Island this gorgeous beach is the most popular place to visit. Water Island sits just a stone’s throw from Charlotte Amalie and is sometimes referred to as the 4th Virgin (after St Thomas, St John and St Croix). With only around 100 residents and very few cars or shops it feels very remote. It can be reached by water taxi from Crown Bay Marina to Water Island which takes roughly 10 minutes and costs $14 for the return journey. Honeymoon beach is a short walk from the ferry dock, just follow the road uphill from the landing. When the road forks, go right and down the hill to the beach.
It offers fine swimming and snorkelling in calm, shallow waters. There are a couple of beach bars selling drinks and sandwiches, one of which rents snorkel gear and kayaks
Not exactly near to the cruise port but it’s worth the trip if you like a beautiful beach. You can find Trunk Bay on the neighbouring island of St John and is widely known as one of the top beaches in the world. Travel between the two islands on a scenic ferry ride, hopefully, accompanied by the odd dolphin or two and then step ashore on St John to begin your beach time. Relax in the sand on this stunning beach, soak up the rays or rent snorkel gear to explore the underwater world. See the well-preserved coral reef and the schools of tropical fish flitting about. This is an ideal trip if you have visited St Thomas before and want to explore a little further afield.
- Guava Tarts – Head to ‘My Brothers Workshop Cafe & Bakery’ in Charlotte Amalie to experience these delicious fruity tarts. They come in other flavours too such as pineapple, mango & strawberry & coconut.
- Dumb Bread – Sweet and full of coconut, dumb bread can be enjoyed as a snack or dessert. Dumb bread may be simple to make (that’s actually how it got its name!) but it’s a smart idea to try some while you’re on the island.
- Johnny Cake – Sweet Fried Dumplings. In the Caribbean, Johnny Cake is as common as french fries are in the United States. Slightly sweet and deliciously fried, you only need three words to describe these well-loved cakes: Simple, classic, and yummy. Enjoy them on their own as a snack or pair them with your meal.
- Bullfoot Soup – Yes, you read that right. Bullfoot soup (sometimes referred to as Cow Heel Soup) is a favorite comfort food among locals. Don’t let the name throw you off, this is basically the yummy Caribbean equivalent to chicken noodle soup.
St. Thomas is full of taxis, both official and non. Non-official taxis (gypsy taxis) can be found outside most grocery stores & malls. Gypsy taxis are unlicensed so leave these taxis for locals to use.
It’s super easy to get a taxi on St. Thomas in any high traffic area. Indeed, on busy cruise ship days, it’s nearly impossible to avoid repeated solicitation for a taxi to go, “back to ship”. Please bear in mind the driver may stop to fill up empty seats with other passengers so you may end up sharing the cab with strangers.
St. Thomas has a safari bus system heavily used by locals. Safari buses (often referred to as ‘Dollar’ buses) are those fun (or scary) open-air taxis built onto the back of a pick-up truck. They pretty much operate with consistent routes and rates. The routes run most of the main thoroughfares. Wave your arm to flag them down and they will usually stop. To get off simply press the buzzer
Good to Know
Do not try and hitch hike in St Thomas
Avoid the back streets of Charlotte Amalie. Especially at night but it will be unlikely that your ship will be around much after sunset. Just stick to the main thoroughfares.
- Currency: US Dollar
- Language: English, French, Spanish
- Money: ATMs widespread. Banks are open Mon-Fri
- Visas: Not required for citizens of the US, EU or Australia