As a hotspot for tourists, especially cruise travelers, there are plenty of things to do and see on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. With limited time ashore, how will you squeeze everything in?
The itinerary we've sketched out below is a complete island experience squeezed into eight hours to help you maximize your time in port and get a taste of all that St. Thomas has to offer. If this is your first visit to this tropical paradise, it will certainly leave you wanting more.
A bird’s-eye view of your ship
You will have an amazing vantage point of St. Thomas and your cruise ship when you take the 700-foot ascent to Paradise Point (see above). Don’t worry, you don’t have to walk up the hill; the aerial gondola will assist you. This attraction is within walking distance from the Havensight Pier and makes for a great way to start your day in St. Thomas. For the ride up and down with a brief photo stop, you should budget about an hour. If you want to spend more time at this attraction, you can grab a drink and enjoy the view from the mountaintop restaurant or venture off on the nature trail. (Length: 1.5 hours with travel)
A morning of shopping & some landmarks
No stop to St. Thomas would be complete without a tour of the downtown shopping area. Less than a 15-minute drive from Paradise Point, the central shopping area is home to many local and name brand stores. While you're in the area, be sure to visit Emancipation Gardens and the exterior of Fort Christian, the oldest standing structure in the Virgin Islands. Just a few blocks north, history buffs can capture some of the island’s most iconic sites. The 250-year-old 99 steps carved into the hillside are a must for any amateur or professional photographer. If you made it this far, you should also visit Blackbeard’s Castle. With self-guided tours costing around $15 a person, you can roam the grounds for an hour or so as you're transported back to the 17th century. (2.25 hours with travel)
An afternoon in the sun
After spending a morning in the St. Thomas heat, you're sure to want a refreshing drink, and there is no better place than the Mountain Top, home to the world-famous banana daiquiri. The highest peak on the island, Mountain Top sits 2,000 feet above sea level. On a clear day, you can see 20 neighboring islands from here as well as get a postcard-worthy photo of Magen’s Bay Beach. On the 15-minute ride here from downtown, you can also pass Drake’s Seat, aka the green bench, named after explorer Sir Francis Drake. Folklore suggests that he used this vantage point to scope out potential targets. While at Mountain Top, you could choose to extend your stay with a tour of the nearby St. Peter’s Greathouse & Botanical Gardens. But if you're like us, you'll want to save some island time for the beach! (1.5 hours with travel or longer if you decide to trek through the Greathouse)
Take a beach break
Magens Bay is often voted as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. All that publicity has some downfalls. Unless you get to the beach early in the morning, you're going to be hard pressed to find a spot in the sand to claim as your own or a beach chair to rent. If you're so inclined, Magens is about a 15-minute ride from the Mountain Top and has a small entrance fee.
For a more casual and laid-back beach experience, we suggest heading farther east to Sapphire Beach. This beach tends to be less crowded but still offers amenities including non-motorized water gear and a restaurant, not to mention the sapphire-hued water. The nearby condominium complex also has a marina with motorized sports and additional restaurants that are within walking distance of the main beach. If time is in your favor, you should have about 2 hours to spend relaxing on the beach before you head back to the cruise terminal. We suggest budgeting 45 minutes to get from the beach back to the cruise port — and always plan to be back to the ship 30 minutes prior to the all aboard time. (2.75 hours with travel)
Cabs are here!
Taxi rates are regulated in the U.S. Virgin Islands. If you were to take an individual taxi to and from most of these points, you could rack up quite a bill. We would suggest a custom tour instead with either a tour provider or a private taxi service for the entire day. If booked in advance, you can negotiate a rate to see all of these sites for a set price per person.