"St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands" Top 5 Page for this destination St. Thomas by starship

St. Thomas Travel Guide: 471 reviews and 1,307 photos

St. Thomas ~~ Pirates or Pearls?

Photo ~ Fort Christian

St. Thomas is probably one of the best known and one of the most popular islands in all of the Caribbean. St. Thomas is a happy combination of attractions--- shopping, beaches, views and even a little history. Granted, shopping here is one of the most popular reasons for visiting St.Thomas and some people travel here for that fact alone. Prices can be much lower here for expensive items and in addition it is duty-free!! Many people come to St. Thomas (and other Caribbean islands as well) to purchase expensive jewelry, watches, makeup & perfumes, crystal & china, electronics, liquor, and even tobacco products because of the advantageous pricing. For the best shopping, try Drake's Passage In Charlotte Amalie, and the Havensight Mall.

But there are quite a few other attractions for those whose interests go beyond shopping. Personally, I prefer a little sample of all the pleasures St. Thomas has to offer--great beaches; clear blue, aquamarine water; the best snorkeling; great shopping and great views!

NOTE: Frommers has reported some increased security problems from gangs in the Cokie Beach area in 2010. (See my tip for Cokie Beach for more info.)

A Dream Day in St. Thomas

I find that arriving in St. Thomas by cruise ship is and will always be the best way to enjoy this island for ME. As you may know if you have visited my pages before, cruising is one of my travel passions. Seeing Charlotte Amalie harbor in the early morning when the sun fairly dances off the water and glides over the steep hills rising above the harbor is a scene I will never forget. For me, staying in St. Thomas for more than one day would certainly take away that delicious feeling of having only one perfect day in which to enjoy this island. Crazy??--maybe, but not for me.

I've visited St. Thomas approximately 4 times, each time for one day. Each time I've discovered a new way to see & enjoy the island. My favorite plan is to take an early morning taxi ride to Sapphire or Coki Beach to enjoy the sun, sand, beach & snorkeling, followed by a great little lunch somewhere, then some sightseeing, returning to the ship for showering and then shopping to my heart's content---usually for small items & souvenirs, sometimes not!!

Sailing away from Charlotte Amalie at dusk, as twinkling lights begin to dot the hills, recalling & savoring the events of the day over a fabulous dinner----it doesn't get any better than this for ME.

A Brief History

St. Thomas has several things in common with most other Caribbean islands: its early native, Indian inhabitants; its "discovery" by Columbus during his voyages to the New World; its attractiveness to pirates as a safe haven; and its settlement and attempted colonization by a succession of European countries who enslaved the Indians and most often exploited the natural resources of the island.

The Virgin Islands were originally inhabited by the Ciboney, the peaceful Taino or Arawak, and the fierce Caribs. It was Columbus who sighted these islands during his 2nd voyage to the New World in 1493 and named the islands, "Las Islas Virgenes" in honor of the legend of St. Ursula and the multitude of "sea-going" virgins of Christian mythology.

In a repeat of the scenario on other islands, the Arawaks were enslaved & forced to work in mines for the Spaniards. The Europeans introduced diseases previously unknown in the islands, and this factor in combination with harsh treatment and lack of food caused the Indians to eventually vanish from their rightful homeland.

"Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirates' Life for Me!

During the 1600's and early 1700's, as in the Bahamas and other islands, Pirates indeed used St. Thomas as another of their temporary "hideouts." St. Thomas was attractive to the likes of "Blackbeard" aka treacherous and merciless Edward Teach because of its deep, natural harbors, its proximity to regular trade routes of heavily laden sailing ships, and much needed natural resouces. Blackbeard was widely feared by ship capitans and crews, but he did everyone a favor by dying around 1718. It is said that Sir Francis Drake, a famous English navigator AND PIRATE, would hide in the spot now known as "Drake's Seat" in Magen's Bay while watching ships of the Spanish Armada sail by. The pirate "Bluebeard" actually never existed, but grizzly tales and legends of him still are spread by word of mouth. True piracy gradually died out in the 1700's and pirates, hounded by the British authorities, became less feared smugglers.

After Spain, France, England, The Netherlands, and Denmark all tried to possess these islands, the islands of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix were purchased from Denmark in 1917 for $25,000,000 by the U.S.

Virgin Islanders were granted full U.S. citizenship in 1927.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beaches, snorkeling, shopping and the views!
  • Cons:Nothing that would keep me from visiting over & over again
  • In a nutshell:Some of the greatest beaches in the world!!
  • Last visit to St. Thomas: Oct 2015
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (13)

Comments (14)

  • windoweb's Profile Photo
    Jan 1, 2012 at 6:01 AM

    We will be cruising here in February 2012. Is it expensive to get a taxi to Coki Beach from the cruise port?

  • lynnehamman's Profile Photo
    Nov 28, 2010 at 5:49 AM

    This looks like a great destination for a beach holiday, Sylvia. Excellent informative tips & pics. The beaches are stunnung.

  • VeronicaG's Profile Photo
    Jun 25, 2009 at 12:25 PM

    Just dropping by to see your update....I think tours are valuable for showing you the lay of the land and for highlighting all the important sites and perfect when one has a limited amount of time to sightsee!

  • csordila's Profile Photo
    Jun 22, 2009 at 4:46 PM

    Great, that cruising is your travel passions, thus I can take a cruise.with your pages. Also the well-known Hungarian composer Béla Bartók had probably visited St. Thomas, because he has an opera "Duke Bluebeard's Castle". Best. L.

  • JLBG's Profile Photo
    Mar 10, 2009 at 10:55 PM

    Great page ! A ride to Paradise point must be a special experience! It is always interesting to see behind the screen or in this case, the other side of the island. I always look for this kind of aspect.

  • easterntrekker's Profile Photo
    Oct 3, 2008 at 5:39 PM

    Love these pages. We stopped here briefly on our way to our boat charterin the BVI's . Wonderful Place!!

  • scottishvisitor's Profile Photo
    May 3, 2008 at 3:34 PM

    Nice relaxing spot with good beaches & great shopping with discounts what more could one want!

  • TheTravelSlut's Profile Photo
    Oct 16, 2007 at 11:53 AM

    Lots of great tips and photos & brings back lots of good memories. I'll be there again in Dec. Thanks! Ann, The Travel Slut

  • agapotravel's Profile Photo
    Sep 23, 2007 at 2:34 PM

    Another interesting page, Sylvia! I think your photos are just stunning! That blue water is calling me. :-)

  • LoriPori's Profile Photo
    Mar 19, 2007 at 9:27 AM

    OK so St. Thomas isn't perfect, but it is still beautiful esp. Magen's Bay, crystal blue waters, coral reefs & wonderful snorkeling. Banana Daquiris - mmm good!


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